Mandan News

Fort Abraham Lincoln’s Haunted Fort is sure to scare

The Haunted Fort at Fort Abraham Lincoln is host to more than just spirits of this world. With paranormal evidence pilling around the fort, even skeptics find it hard to turn a blind eye. This ghostly atmosphere is played up during the Haunted Fort, beginning Friday, Oct. 11, at 7 p.m. at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park, seven miles south of Mandan.

The Haunted Fort prides itself on having frightened even the most skeptical thrill-seekers. One of the most “active” buildings is the Custer House, built for Lt. Col Custer and Libby Custer, who only lived in their house together for less than two years, before the Battle of Little Big Horn, on June 25 and 26, 1876.

The Custer House at Fort Abraham Lincoln

The Custer House at Fort Abraham Lincoln

Fort Abraham Lincoln was in the middle of nowhere and housed military officers and their families. When Lt. Col. Custer and his men, including a brother and nephew, lost their lives that day, they left behind their mourning families.

Eventually the widows and their families moved back home, and new cavalry troops and officers were sent to replace their loved ones. However, the post was decommissioned and left to the elements in 1891, by order of Congress, after a new Fort Abraham Lincoln was built on the other side of the river.

It wasn’t until 1932, during the Great Depression, that the buildings began to be rebuilt. The Custer House wasn’t rebuilt until 1989, historical objects from the original inhabitants were placed on the property, and paranormal activity put the finishing touches on the historical home to make it come alive.

Perhaps thrilled to see the renovations, staff dressed in period clothing, and personal memorabilia, Libby and Lt. Col. Custer have returned together.

Ben Jacobson, staff member at the Custer House.

Ben Jacobson, staff member at the Custer House.

On August 7 and 8, of 2009, Dakota Paranormal Investigators of Fargo did an investigation at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park. During a walk-through with the group, an investigator asked if any household items originally belonged to the family. While holding a plate known to be Libby’s, and taking a picture, this conversation was captured on an electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) recording suggesting an otherworldly presence,

“No Pictures”! Said a female voice.

“Couple Pictures.” Said a male voice.

However, the EVPs suggest the ghostly spirits are only there to help the staff conduct tours or heckle them.

Dakota Paranormal Investigators said, the staff members were well liked by the ladies. During the tour staff members had women directing kind comments on the EVP recordings. One women with a southern drawl said, “Love ya’ll very much.”

According to dakotaparanormalinvestigators.com, “You will hear a female voice, very clearly say ‘I love you Matt,’ and then you will hear the second EVP from the same female voice, very clearly say “I want you”. Matt who is the Fort Lincoln staff member with the investigators at the time was a very sought after man this night.”

Volunteer actors dress in halloween costumes and jump out from behind corners to scare Haunted Fort participants.

Volunteer actors dress in halloween costumes and jump out from behind corners to scare Haunted Fort participants.

Others have seen apparitions of the looming spirits, felt cold spots, doors opening and closing and lights turning on then off on their own, heard hooves stomping, women wailing and guards footsteps on patrol.

People have said they seen the entity of Lt. Col. George Custer caught lurking throughout the house. Others have said they saw a woman wearing a black dress, looking out the second-floor window of the Custer House, believed to be Libby.

Custer valued this relationship above his job, and was willing to be suspended for a year for an unscheduled visit with his wife. After only being able to live in the Custer House together for two years, maybe the two kindly spirits are enjoying their yesteryears.

Believers say the friendly ghosts undoubtedly haunt the fort, while skeptics may still dismiss the evidence. However, the public can make their own assumptions when participating in the Haunted Fort.

The Haunted Fort began in 2001 as a walking tour of Calvary Square. The staff would take participants through the haunted areas explaining all demise of Custer and the battle of Little Big Horn. All the while, participants were also educated on the strange happenings and possible hauntings at the fort.

As the event grew, the Haunted Fort became more of a modern haunted attraction, letting groups walk through on their own to find serial killer clowns or a zombie apocalypse lurking around every corner.

The haunted buildings open during the event are the granary, Custer House and barracks. Each building has it’s own mortifying, surprise theme. However, to limit on wear and tear, the Custer House plays on its own Victorian mansion theme. Nonetheless, with the most paranormal activity happens in the Custer House, leaving more to the participant’s imagination.

The Haunted Fort is always looking for volunteers as actors during the event. The park provides Halloween make-up and masks. To register at www.hauntedfort.com/volunteering.html. Volunteers will receive a t-shirt, one free pass to attend the event at later date, and free food and refreshments.

The Haunted Fort is not just an event for the adults. On Fridays and Saturdays the suggested age is 13 years and up. However, this is up to the parent’s own discretion.

The officer's quarters are outlined in stone next to the Custer House.

The officer’s quarters are outlined in stone next to the Custer House.

“Some four year-old come through the haunted maze thinking it was awesome, said Matt Schanandore, Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation assistant executive director and co-director of Haunted Fort.

“However, some 30 year-olds cannot finish the haunted tour.”

Kids Bash, a downgraded haunt for children, is scheduled for Oct. 20 and 27 from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Children can wear their Halloween costumes and participate in carnival games, candy prizes and Custer House tours. Tickets are $5 for children and free for adults.

The ticket office for the Haunted Fort opens at 7 p.m., gates open from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Dates for the event include, Oct. 11 through 12, 17 through 19, 25 through 26, and 31, and Nov.1 though 2.

General admission tickets are $12, with VIP tickets available for $32, which allows patrons to skip the line. For more information call 663-4758, or visit www.hauntedfort.com.

Video, audio clips, interviews and photos from paranormal investigations can be seen at hauntedford.com an on their YouTube site linked on their home page.

The Custer House with a tour waiting outside.

The Custer House with a tour waiting outside.

Fort Abraham Lincoln is known as one of the most haunted places in North Dakota – That is if you are a believer. However, the friendly ghosts at the Haunted Fort welcome patrons and help the staff celebrate Halloween and their legacy.