“Do you want to go on a haunted prison tour in Montana?”
Famous last words by my friend Maser, or the beginning of a spooky four-day adventure? Since I’m writing this, I clearly lived to tell about this ghostly experience my friends Jessica and Maser took my boyfriend Kyle and I on. But with my blog, you cannot have a fearful tale of haunting spirits without some brewery recommendations thrown into the mix.
Behold, a four-day road trip from Washington to Montana, with one destination in mind – the Old Montana Prison.
We began our road trip journey on a Thursday, and instead of taking the day off, I had an all day ZOOM call and countless work to attend to. My boyfriend, Kyle, lent me his Wi-Fi hot spot on his phone as I continuously responded to emails and messages on my work laptop, while simultaneously attending my 7-hour ZOOM call from my personal phone. It took my entire being not to get car sick as the day progressed. I had ghosts to see, dammit.
The first stop on our journey to the prison, Wallace, Idaho. According to Visit North Idaho, this mining town, founded in 1884, is the world’s largest producer of silver, and is considered the richest mining town still in existence. The town itself is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I loved walking around the town and I ended up not having a cell phone signal (T-Mobile customer right here), so I had no choice but to take a break from work and enjoy some beer and lunch!
1313 Club Historic Saloon and Grill
I had one of the best pulled pork sliders I have had in a long time at the historic 1313 Club, and I can see why! The 1313 Club is known for its unique food selection and the perfect location in downtown Historic Wallace. The potential story behind the name will make you smile.
“There are a couple of different stories, the most popular is the fact that the original bar area was 13 feet high by 13 feet wide. The other story is that when they opened there were already 12 bars and 12 brothels going in Wallace – making us the 1313!”
I highly recommend eating here, and they have tots on the menu. Just saying. I wonder if the 1313 is haunted by old miners?
Wallace Brewing Company
Wallace Brewing Company is a 15-barrel microbrewery, and began selling beer in January 2009.
“A collaborative effort of Wallace’s Chase Sanborn, Dean Cooper, Rick Magnuson and the Zanettis, the brewery pays homage to the town’s notorious past, creating a brand of beers with mining and bordello-inspired monikers such as ‘1910 Black Lager’, ‘Jackleg Stout’, ‘RedLight Irish Red Ale’, and ‘Idaho Select Light Lager.'”
It was highly recommended I try their Wallace Strong Ale, a beer with “an attractive copper color that leads into a smooth, caramel malty experience with hints of toasted marshmallow, toast, prune and woody flavors. Despite its high alcohol it has a relatively light body.” As I stated in my Untappd check-in, they had me at toasted marshmallow. I was in love.
I HIGHLY recommend Wallace Brewing!
We stopped for the night in Missoula, Montana, home to the University of Montana Grizzlies. Missoula is definitely a college town, surrounded by multiple mountain ranges with a super hip downtown area. I have been to Missoula a few times, but never overnight, and I was excited to check out some breweries and have some dinner after our very long drive!
Conflux Brewing Company
It was at Conflux Brewing that we all discovered the Montana brewery laws. When our server gave us cards that she marked off, we all grabbed our phones and the Google searching began. We all made an effort to understand the legal serving of 48 ounces of beer per customer if the brewery produces no more than 10,000 barrels, then we started going down loophole rabbit holes and it was indeed time to put the phones down. We decided to just enjoy the beer instead of trying to wrap our heads around the laws.
Conflux had quite a few beers I wanted to try, so I ordered a flight which included the Chili Nelson (you could definitely taste the chili pepper, so warm!), Fire Fight Irish Red (light with a caramel after taste), Velvet Danger Brown (I loved this so much, I ordered a crowler) and the Drum Kick Java Stout (tasted like I was drinking a cold brew coffee!).
Conflux had a great atmosphere and obviously great beer – I highly recommend visiting when you are in Missoula!
Tamarack Brewing Company
Tamarack Brewing was BUSY but worth the 30 minute wait for our table. With so many beers to choose from, I asked our server how many came in a flight. When she said, “Eight,” the first thing I said to myself, “There is no way I’m checking 8 beers into Untappd!” Am I getting Untappd lazy already?
Of my flight, my favorites were the Yard Sale Amber Ale, Bear Bottom Blonde, Rye Sally Rye PA, Wakeboard Wit, Sip N’ Go Naked Apricot Ale, and the Switchboard Stout. For dinner, I had the bison tacos – and as Kyle stated, the tacos are like the kind you would make at home when you accidentally overstuff the tortilla and can’t close it to eat the taco properly. Two giant, filled with ground bison meat tacos, served with chips and salsa….I was in heaven, y’all. And very VERY full afterwards.
After a night of sleep, Kyle and I walked over to Liquid Planet from our hotel for some delicious morning coffee. Kyle ordered the Turkish coffee and I ordered the Bullet Coffee. We thought about drinking outside, but the server said Kyle could only have the Turkish coffee inside. After it was ready, we could see why! And it was amazing! My bullet coffee hit the spot and was delicious, but that Turkish coffee was almost like liquid art!
Big Sky Brewing Company
Big Sky Brewing brews one of my all time favorite beers, the famous Moose Drool Brown Ale. It’s a classic, you can’t go wrong. I decided to order all my beers in the 8 oz glasses so I could try more than one (they also didn’t offer flights). To be a little different, I first tried the Huck It Blonde Ale, which had a hint of purple color and tasted very much like a huckleberry. I then had Ivan the Terrible Stout, which was a little spicy and had an almost sweet aftertaste. I finished off with my favorite Moose Drool and left happy.
Deer Lodge, Montana
After Big Sky Brewing, we began the drive to Deer Lodge, Montana, where the Old Montana Prison was located. Our prison tour was going to be an overnight tour with Ghost Hunts USA, so we wanted to get a nap and some dinner in before our ghoulish tour began at 8:30 p.m.
The Outpost – Restaurant and Casino
After a few hours of daytime napping, we headed over to The Outpost for some food, not knowing what we were going to encounter while we were there. Ghosts? No. The little restaurant and bar area were filled with locals and we never wanted to leave! The boys ordered the Royal Bacon Burger and I ordered the Mushroom and Swiss Burger with added bacon, and THEY WERE DELICIOUS! Everyone we met was so friendly, and we made a new friend named Josh, who bought us some shots called, Chuck Norris. Hanging out in that local dive bar, watching some very wise folks set up a birthday party for their 80 year old friend in the restaurant area and interacting with everyone, I just couldn’t stop smiling. Meeting locals who just want to grab a beer and catch up with their people, who are friendly to those who are clearly not from there – we seriously had the best time. Now we all want to go back for “Josh Night!” The man is hilarious. If you find yourself in Deer Lodge, go to The Outpost and ask the bar patrons if Josh is there. You won’t regret it.
Old Montana State Prison Ghost Hunt with Ghost Hunts USA
It was time to step foot into history. Ghost Hunts USA had exclusive overnight access to the prison, which has also been featured on Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures.
“The darkness, pain and sinister suffering is still embedded into the walls of this very haunted prison. Old Montana State Prison has a haunted reputation that will send a shiver down your spine.
On April 16th, 1959, Jerry Myles and Lee Smart led twelve inmates in a riot which left Deputy Warden Ted Rothe dead. They took eighteen prison employees and five stool pigeon inmates as hostages, soaked rags with flammable liquid and threatened to burn them alive.
After thirty-six hours of mounting tension, Warden Floyd Powell implemented a daring rescue attempt. The National Guard fired a bazooka at the tower where the ringleaders were headquartered. Meanwhile, a team of men burst through the door in the west wall, crossed the yard, and entered the Cell House, freeing the hostages.
Myles and Smart were found dead of an apparent murder-suicide at the top floor of the tower, is it these two lovers that still haunt the Death Tower?”
The prison itself received its first convict on July 2, 1871 and was closed in 1979. With 108 years of history, violence, torture, oppression and murder lurking within the prison walls, what were we going to find? Or, should I say, what would find us?
Our all female ghost hunters welcomed everyone into the prison on a literal dark and stormy Montana night. The constant rain hitting every part of the prison made for a very hair-raising evening. One of our hunters was a psychic medium and she could occasionally feel the presence of a ghost among us as the night progressed.
We began our tour in what’s known as Gen Pop, or General Population. Four stories of prison cells towered overhead and everyone in our group split up between the floors and stood in front of a cell. The four of us ended up at the top floor and we all stood in the silent darkness. Our guides asked the spirits to reveal themselves. A woman on the bottom floor gasped when she felt something shove at her elbow. Another suddenly felt very emotional and that she was about to cry. We heard pipes clang, which rang out down the hallways in the silence. Maser had a ghost detector radar app on his phone and it would light up red whenever he moved his phone in front of the cells. I spoke into the darkness of the cell I stood in front of and said hello, hoping I had a friendly spirit. No spine tingling revelations for us in the Gen Pop, but soon, we would hear things that made us question what we could not see.
Our next stop led us to another building where our guides asked us to all sit or stand against the walls of the hallway. There were some offices in this area, and some very dark and cold cells. With no lights overhead and only our flashlights to guide us, I can’t remember all the features of this particular area. Our guides had motion activated cat toys that only flashed lights when they were physically moved, as was demonstrated for us multiple times. They also brought a motion detector that of course, had to make the creepiest noise whenever it did it’s job. With multiple cat toys strewn across the floor we sat in the darkness and asked the spirits to show us that they were present. It felt like we were all sitting there for a long time when suddenly, one of the toys started flashing after a question was asked. And then again. We also heard the motion detector go off, with its unearthly tone piercing the darkness. We eventually left this building, and it was onto the next part of our tour.
Our group met back in the old sanctuary area, where we learned guards were positioned in the adjacent tunnels with their guns pointed at the praying prisoners through small slats in the wall. Our guides had a voice recording device that had a red light when it heard sound. The guides had different groups go into different parts of the prison and record themselves asking the spirits questions. We were told to wait 10-15 seconds between questions to give them time to respond. Keep in mind, as I stated before, it only recorded when it heard sound. The four of us went into the shower area, but I don’t think we waited long enough between questions to hear anything, and the tape ended up being full. However, for those before us….we heard some frightening sounds in response to some of the questions asked. Our guide didn’t want to say what she interpreted, because then we would most likely also hear what her suggestion was instead of hearing what we thought it was. Almost every time, we all heard some of the same responses.
Our guide then placed the recorder on the table. We would ask a question and sit in silence waiting for a response. When I say it was dead silent in that room, I mean it. And in that silence, we all sat and watched the red light stay on between our questions. Something was being recorded in the silence. And in the playbacks, you could definitely hear ominous sounds. The sounds we heard were very unnerving.
The next part of the tour brought us to an administrative area, but before we arrived, our guides asked who the bravest in our group was. My boyfriend raised his hand and he was chosen to enter Siberia. Siberia was a room with a few cells, and he was told to sit in there, alone and in the dark. He obliged and did not come back for a long time.
We all went to the administrative area armed with an EMF Radio and a motion detector that played a lullaby. This lullaby was similar to a song that played on a childhood jewelry box of mine, and I found it a little disturbing. Especially when IT WENT OFF! Maser himself was standing in the hallway, watching the area the motion detector was in, and he saw it go off himself. And it was then Kyle finally returned to us and told us what he experienced.
As he sat in the dark silence with just his flashlight on an old heater pointed at the wall, he sat on one of the old prison beds and found himself started to doze off. He was awakened by his flashlight. It had started to blink, almost like a strobe light. He grabbed his phone and started recording and eventually left Siberia and made his way back to where we were.
The final part of the tour took us to the prison library, where apparently many atrocities had occurred over the years. This part was by far, the most frightful for me. Our guides brought out some sort of response device (readers help me out here). It looked like it was on an iPad and had pre-recorded words that the spirits could respond to and make sentences. Everyone in our group sat around the device, with the exception of Kyle, Jessica, Maser and I, we stood against the wall and watched the group. In nothing but darkness with the iPad as the only source of light, the group started asking questions. While we could make out noises and some words, it wasn’t until Kyle stood above the group and started recording with his phone that my stomach turned.
A question was asked and we all distinctly heard something about looking up. Questions were asked about what was up in the ceiling, but no one in the group noticed Kyle was recording. And then we heard, “up there with the Mike.” Jess, Maser and I all looked at each other through the dark and I whispered to Jess, “did that just say up there with the mic? As in Kyle recording with the microphone?” Jess whispered back to me, “that’s what I heard too.” While everyone else started asking about a Mike, we stood in silence wondering if what we heard was a spirit talking about Kyle’s microphone on his phone. Who knows.
When we were finally done with the guided tour, we spent about an hour exploring the prison grounds on our own. It was at this time, my fully charged flashlight stopped working. I had to rely on my friends to guide me from this point on. It was 2:00 in the morning now and we eventually bid the prison a goodnight before we headed back to our hotel. We all left wondering, was it all in our imagination? Were we truly in the presence of ghosts? Do we believe? Do we just want to believe?
Lewis & Clark Brewery and Tap Room
After a fitful night of sleep (and some very ghostly nightmares), we headed to Montana’s capital city, Helena. With snow on the ground and snow that continued to fall the rest of the day and into the evening, our first stop was the much recommended Lewis & Clark Brewery and Tap Room. I seriously want to work here. We all started off with the Pumpkin Ale and topped it off with a sugar spice rimmed glass. Pumpkin heaven. I am not a fan of pumpkin spice lattes, but pumpkin beer is my jam and this was absolutely incredible.
And you want to know what was even better? Half Pumpkin Ale and Half Scottish Ale – they call it, The Headless Horseman. It was DIVINE. I would order this every single day if my liver would let me. You must visit Lewis & Clark and make it part of your Helena visit.
Blackfoot River Brewing
With a good four inches of snow on the ground, we then headed over to Blackfoot River Brewing. Before we walked in, I asked Kyle if he was okay if I was an “influencer in the wild” for just a moment as we walked into the middle of the street to take a romantic snowy picture. He’s such a good sport.
It was very crowded and after ordering our beers, we waited outside on the snowy patio for a table to open. Jessica and I chuckled because the boys were freezing and her and I were like, “this is very nice.” I had the Oatmeal Stout and it was decadent. Check out Tamarack if you can!
Ten Mile Creek Brewery
Next up, we headed over to Ten Mile Creek Brewery where I tried the Smoky Moon Imperial Pumpkin Porter. I was once again in pumpkin heaven. I must recommend Ten Mile as well, and the street it’s on is called Last Chance Gulch. Kinda fun, don’t you think? They also had a great music play list – 70’s and 80’s rock music.
I felt like I should mention here, I drink A LOT of water in between my beers. So much water, that I’m in the bathroom a lot. I’m pretty sure I have really high triglycerides at this point in my life, but my aim is never to get drunk, only to enjoy. I digress.
Nagoya Steakhouse & Sushi
You can never go wrong with a Japanese Steakhouse and we decided to grab dinner at Nagoya Steakhouse & Sushi. Hibachi never fails my taste buds and I definitely highly recommend visiting Nagoya if you are in Helena!
Sunday came too soon and it was time to go. Kyle and I woke up around 6:30 a.m. and got ready for the long drive home. With fresh snow on the ground and some time to kill before we all headed into Maser’s truck, Kyle and I walked through the quiet snow covered streets and found a little coffee shop called Hub Coffee. We were the first customers and ordered coffee and breakfast. We sat at their front window and enjoyed the views, both of us wishing we lived in Montana. I know all the locals will hate that I want to live in their state, but I can’t help it. Montana is absolutely beautiful. Everyone we met in all three cities were so friendly. And those views. It’s called the Big Sky state for a reason! I want more than anything to get out of Seattle and move somewhere much more serene and quieter. Helena has it all, the views, the snow in October, the very walkable downtown area – and Lewis & Clark, seriously, can I work there? Thank you!
We started the long journey back home, with much of the Montana portion on a snow-covered highway. We stopped again in Wallace for lunch and ate at a restaurant called City Limits. I ordered the Pulled Pork sandwich with sweet potato fries and it was so dang good! I will be eating there again!
And our last stop before we made it back home, Mule & Elk Brewing in Cle Elum. I had the Mt. Stuart Stout, and I’m very glad I did. If you are in Cle Elum, give Mule & Elk some love. And they are a dog friendly brewery too. 🙂
Another memorable trip in the books, filled with beer, ghosts and snow. I can’t wait for the next adventure.
I love you, Montana.