The Unexplainable in Downtown Bozeman
Kathleen Johns | Tuesday Sep. 30th, 2014
After working a hectic and busy evening wait shift the last thing I wanted to do was close the restaurant. Closing involved time consuming duties like counting out the till and cleaning and mopping all the floors. I was exhausted by the time I begun to mop-it was almost midnight and I still had a long drive home on slick, winter roads to contend with. I recall being very careful that night about mopping the floors in such a way that I was turning the lights off as I went towards the exit so I wouldn’t have to walk back across the wet floor to let myself out and ruin the work I had done. As I finished mopping the last section of flooring I heard a crisp “click” and a hum as the lights in the very back of the building flickered on. I thought perhaps another employee with a key had come back for something forgotten and I called out a loud hello. No one answered. Miffed that I would have to re-mop over my footprints, I walked back and flicked the back lights off, re-mopped over my prints, put the mop in the now empty bucket and put my hand on the doorknob to leave when I heard the sound again. Click. Hum. Back of house lights flick on. “Is someone playing a prank on me?”, I thought as I called out hello again only to get no answer for the second time. “All right!” I shouted in my most convincing tone. “Quit messing up my floor. I want to go home. This isn’t funny!” I waited a minute and still got no reply from any prankster hiding in the shadows. As I walked back to the rear of the building the hair on my neck and my arms started to stand on end and I had a queasy feeling in my stomach. I shrugged it off as being over-tired. I figured the building had a breaker or wiring issue. Back to the front I went, mopping over my prints. I finished again, hand on the doorknob and CLICK! The lights in the back hummed on. By now I am just plain mad and I start to yell something like “I have had enough…” Just as I stop to draw a breath I look down to notice a second set of footprints on the freshly mopped floor going in the opposite direction of my tracks. These prints were much larger than mine. I look up to see the figure of someone walking away from me towards the very back of the building near the light switch. He was a tall and slender gray haired man, dressed in some kind of dark cover-all uniform like a maintenance person would wear. I had never seen this man before and figuring he was doing some kind of repair work that the building owners had forgotten to notify me about I called out to him “Can I help you? Are you here to fix the lights?” The man in coveralls continued on towards the very back of the building and without acknowledging me or turning around he VANISHED into the wall.
Understandably I was pretty shaken up after witnessing someone disappear before my eyes so after I locked up I called one of my co-workers to tell them what happened. Before I could even spit the whole story out of my mouth my co-worker tells me that this is why he is no longer available for closing shifts. He saw the man in coveralls too.
Over the coming weeks I questioned others who worked in the building with me and I begun to hear of more strange stories. Stories of babies crying and what sounded like women sobbing late in to the night when the building was empty. Stories about hearing the faucet turn on in the restrooms and the toilets flush only to find the restrooms empty but the water running. Stories about items going missing in the kitchen only to show up later in the exact spot from where they had vanished. For the remainder of the time I worked at this restaurant weird goings on like the light-switch incident happened to me and to others every once in awhile.
Photos used with permission from the Gallatin Historical Society
Years after I had moved on from that restaurant job I mentioned my experiences to a friend of mine who was working in the offices in the upstairs portion of the same building. “Have you ever noticed anything “weird”?” I asked. She told me that on many days when there was no one but herself in the office she had felt a definite presence. Someone was watching her. Her hair would stand up on the back of her neck and a breeze would brush past her for no logical reason. She said that over time she figured whatever it was it wasn’t going to go away so she decided to accept and befriend it. She named the presence “Stanley”. Her agreement with Stanley was that he was allowed to stay as long as he wasn’t creepy about it and by her account she and Stanley ended up getting along quite well together. Stanley was a tall and slender gray haired man dressed in dark clothing from the early 1900’s. As I ended my conversation with my friend I couldn’t help but notice that the description of “her” Stanley sounded eerily similar to the man in coveralls I had watched walk through the buildings’ rear wall years before. At the time of my initial experiences in the restaurant, I was a novice in the realm of paranormal understanding. The hair standing up on my neck, the electrical play with the light switch and the second set of footprints on the wet floor (all “classic” paranormal scenarios) should have clued me in much sooner to the fact that what I was experiencing was a glimpse beyond to the “other side” or an alternate dimension where ghostly energy resides. I have since found that when paranormal activity is happening around you the initial response is to try to “de-bunk” or dismiss the activity as anything but paranormal. The brain often does not perceive accurately what it does not fully understand.
The building is located in Downtown Bozeman at 123-125 West Main Street and is known as the Charles Lundwall Building. Today the building’s lower floor is home to John Bozeman’s Bistro. According to Bistro owner Perry Wenzel he and his staff have experienced a few unexplained instances of possible paranormal phenomena like items going missing only to suddenly reappear in plain view and creepy, unexplainable noises. A member of the kitchen crew who works in the building often late at night has heard the bathroom door open and shut only to find no one there.
Perhaps the psychic energy or residue that causes the paranormal activity that lingers on here could have something to do with the building history itself. Built in 1905, the building has been occupied by several different businesses through the years including a plumbing business, a motor supply company and a mortuary. According to info supplied by the Gallatin History Museum, from the years 1913 to 1931 the building held the H.F. West Funeral Home. It also functioned as theCounty Coroner/Undertaker offices for a while. During this span of time the flu epidemic of 1918 hit the Gallatin Valley hard and an estimated 87 people fell ill and died. Many souls would have passed through this building in preparation for burial or to bid farewell to the departed. Could some of the energy connected to the flu epidemic tragedy still be residing within the walls of 123-125 West Main Street? Was “Stanley” among those that took ill and perished so suddenly? Or perhaps he is the specter of an employee of the motor supply company or a plumber that worked in one of the businesses that occupied this address?
Haunted or Not? You decide.