||Ok! Already. Every web site needs a place to put things that don't
fit anywhere else. This is it: Here we've collected a few of the many
items concerning the Black Hills that fall into the little-known,
unusual, mythical and plain stupid facts and stories. Generally they
are presented without any directions or further help whatsoever:
- Secret Chamber at Mt. Rushmore: True -- There is a 50-foot
tunnel in a crevice behind Mt. Rushmore that was originally envisioned
as a "Hall of Records" where copies of important United States
documents and other artifacts were to be stored. The hall was never
completed as envisioned; however the tunnel exists and a small cache of
records was placed in a scaled-down version of the Hall in 1998 through
the work of the Mt. Rushmore Historical Society. It is not open to the
- Natural Bridges in the Black Hills: True -- There are
at least nine natural bridges in the Black Hills. The locations are not
widely known. (Allegedly there are actually twelve, but we have only
been able to confirm only nine.) The Eye of the Needles along the Needles Highway in Custer State Park is one.
- Ronald Reagan on Mt. Rushmore: False -- There is no
plan to carve a likeness of Ronald Reagan, or any other figure for that
matter, on Mt. Rushmore. There was never such a plan and this is just a
- Natural Face on Mt. Rushmore: True -- If you have a
vivid imagination, you can make out what appears to be a native
American likeness some distance on Lincoln's left. MORE
- Bill Clinton on Mt. Rushmore: ....er, Maybe -- There is
an out-crop known locally as Clinton's rock visible from Highway 244 on
the backside of Mt. Rushmore. MORE
- Unexplored Caves: True -- The Black Hills has many
unexplored caves and even most of the commercial caves and those in the
national parks have not been fully explored.
- Bears in the Black Hills: Maybe -- For many, many years
experts claimed there are no bears in the Black Hills, despite frequent
reported sightings by members of the public. Now, in recent years,
there is something of a consensus that there could, possibly, be a few
bears in the Hills. Nobody is yet prepared to confirm any sightings.
- Moose in the Black Hills: False -- There are no known
moose in the Black Hills. Tourists occasionally mistake large elk for
moose, but the latter's range is farther north. Occasionally moose from
Canada wander into parts of South Dakota -- one even wandered into
Rapid City in 2003 and was promptly shot.
- Legend of Hugh Glass: True -- It would be difficult
to embellish the true story of Hugh Glass, a mountain man who crawled more than a
hundred miles across the South Dakota prairie in 1823 after nearly
being killed by a grizzly bear. MORE
- Lost Gold in the Black Hills Part I: True -- Many Black
Hills gold mines still contain significant quantities of gold. The most
notable being Keystone's Holy Terror Mine which is said to be very
rich. Many streams in the Hills still occasionally yield up specks of
gold and some locals are avid gold panners. A large nugget was found in the Black Hills as recently as 2010.
- Lost Gold in the Black Hills Part II: Maybe --
There's a good story about a gang who held up a shipment of gold from
the Homestake Mine in Deadwood from the famed "Monitor" armored stage.
The robbers are said to have hid the gold somewhere in the Hills before
vigilanties found and hung most of them. The missing gold, some 400
pounds, was never recovered. Or, was it? MORE
- Lost Gold in the Black Hills Part III: Indeed --
Legends of lost gold mines and strikes abound throughout the West, but
in the Black Hills they actually may be true -- at least in part. First
there is the legend of a cavern in Devil's Tower that was littered with
gold nuggets and it's c ertainly not true. However the riches of the old
Holy Terror Mine remain underground to this day. MORE
- Found Gold: True
-- In 1876 a group of seven black men arrived in Deadwood to prospect
for gold. Some racist miners sent them on a wild goose chase to a
location some 15 miles west of Deadwoon in an area near the present-day
ghost town of Tinton. The idea was to get rid of them. It
backfired. The seven black prospectors discovered a previously unknown,
and rich deposit which they worked for awhile then sold the claim,
leaving the Black Hills as rich men.
- Hanging Tree in Rapid City: True -- The stump of a
large old oak tree on Skyline Drive in Rapid City is said to be the
remains of Rapid City's original "hanging tree." Whether or not that
stump is the actual hanging tree is debatable. According to historical
records, however, several people were indeed hung from an oak tree high
on Skyline Drive for all to see. In fact hangings were fairly common in
Western South Dakota in the early days.
- Robber's Graves: True -- On a gravel road near
Sturgis just off Interstate 90 about a mile east of the Black Hills
National Cemetery lies the grave of Wm. (Curley) Grimes, an infamous
highwayman who was killed in 1879 near Hogan's Ranch by a posse. MORE "Lame Johnny" (mentioned elsewhere) is buried about 8 miles north of Buffalo Gap under the tree from which he was lynched.
- Custer's Last Stand: Not Here -- Although Gen.
(actually Col.) George Armstrong Custer spent a lot of time in the
Black Hills and South Dakota in 1874, his final battle was actually
about 200 miles west in Montana in 1876.
- Black Hills Ghost Towns: True -- There are hundreds
of ghost towns (and ghost mines) in the Black Hills. Most are very hard
to find, as there is very little left in terms of physical remains.
One, Spokane, on Playhouse Road just north of US 16A, is now a park and
moderately well preserved.
- Seth Bullock's Ghost: Not Proven -- The Bullock Hotel
in Deadwood has made a nice little business out of promoting the Ghost
of Seth Bullock and other para-normal things. We're skeptical. Seth
Bullock was indeed a real person who came to Deadwood during the 1876
gold rush and was also a real sheriff and friend of Theodore Roosevelt.
He wasn't quite as depicted on the HBO television series, however.
- Calamity Jane & Wild Bill Hickok:
False -- In
later years, the woman known as Calamity Jane would have had it so, but
she was never wife, lover or even girl friend of Wild Bill Hickok. Bill
was a rather fastidious character who wouldn't have had much to do with
Jane even if he had known her, and there's some doubt that he did. The
only confirmed contact between the two was when they rode together on a
wagon delivering a group of "ladies" to Deadwood in 1876. By the way,
the pistol used by Jack McCall to shoot Wild Bill is now on display at
the Adams Museum in Deadwood.
- Al Swearengen: True -- so true. The HBO television
series "Deadwood" may be giving this character good press. In real
life, Ellis Alfred Swearengen was a mean, nasty bar and brothel owner
who allegedly had a criminal past, including murder, in the East before
coming to Deadwood in the 1876 gold rush. It's said that
Swearengen made fortune operating the infamous Gem Theatre (which was
really a brothel), but he died as a hobo in Denver when he fell
under a moving train as he tried to hitch a ride.
- World's Largest Crystal: True -- Taken from a mine in
Keystone, the crystal of lithium ore was exhibited at the Chicago
World's fair in 1896. It weighed several tons and had to be shipped out
on its own railroad flatbed.
- Sylvan Lake Resort: True -- A popular tourist
destination from the 1890s until it burned to the ground in the 1930s,
the Sylvan Lake Resort was famous as a place hosting quickie weddings.
That was back in the days when South Dakota had a reputation for quick
marriages that later passed to Nevada. In the 1930s the South
Dakota legislature passed a law establishing a waiting period for
marriages that effectively killed the quick marriage business. It was
not a good day for the Sylvan Lake Lodge, but not as bad as the day a
few years later when it burned down. A building by the same name still
exists near Sylvan Lake; and although interesting and moderately
historical, it is not the same.
- Native American Holy Site:
True, but... Yes, the
Black Hills were always considered sacred by Native Americans. First
the Crow and later the Lakota (Sioux). But it was never a place they
inhabited -- or even went into after dark. It took a very brave soul
indeed to stay overnight in the Black Hills before the Europeans came.
One who was known to frequently go on "vision quests" in the Black
Hills was Crazy Horse. Other Braves were known to enter the Black Hills
and kill lone European prospectors as a rite of passage.
- Deadwood Gold Rush: True, and more -- To be accurate
the Gold Rush of 1876 covered the entire Black Hills, from the town of
Custer to Deadwood. Deadwood was only one of several lawless mining
camps. It became the most famous only because of its name (Who could
resist a town named Deadwood?) and the fact that dime novelist Ned
Buntline featured the characters of Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and
Deadwood Dick in his novels. In fact, by some accounts, the town of
Hill City was even more lawless with its infamous "Mile of Hell" -- a
mile-long strip of saloons, opium dens, gambling halls and brothels.
Even Keystone's Etta Camp was a lawless place.
- The Thoen Stone:
Fact or Fiction -- Visitors to the Adams Museum in Deadwood are invited
to view the Thoen Stone, an artifact whose discovery (or creation)
dates to 1887 and is named for Louis Thoen, a mason, who reported that
he discovering it in a cave near Spearfish. The stone purports to
have been written by Ezra Kind in 1834 as he was being persued by
hostile Indians. The etching on the stone says a party of seven
prospectors found gold in the Hills but all but Mr. Kind had been
killed. There have always been serious doubts about the authenticity of
the stone. It may have just been a hoax. Nevertheless, there is ample
evidence that explorers and mountain men did trek the Hills as
early as the 1820s. And stories of gold in the Hills were well
circulated before the "official" discovery of gold by General Armstrong
Custer's expedition to the Black Hills in 1874.