Old Montana State Prison, Deer Lodge - Montana - June 2019 Events

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Event Start Time: 9:00pm

Event Finish Time: 7:00am

 

Welcome to the Fortress, known as Old Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge.  We have exclusive overnight access to this very haunted and foreboding location. With access to the most haunted areas including the Death Tower, The Administration House, The Clark Theatre,  Maximum Security, The Hole and The Chapel. 

The darkness, pain and sinister suffering is still embedded into the walls of this very haunted prison. As featured on Ghost Adventures, 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?

Your time will be spent ghost hunting in the most active areas and we have exclusive overnight access to the main key areas of this prison.

Full bodied apparitions, disembodied voices and items being thrown is just a small amount of the reported paranormal experiences captured here.

Will you be brave enough to venture a lone vigil in the depths of darkness that swirl around this former prison?!?

Like other fledgling territories in the 19th century American West, Montana had become wild when the gold rush attracted not only those wishing to find their fortunes, but also thieves, gamblers, and murderers. For several years following the gold discoveries of 1862, the Montana Vigilantes took it upon themselves to punish these many offenders in the lawless land of Montana. Finally, seeing a need for more organized forms of law enforcement, the Montana Territorial Legislature requested funds for a prison during its winter session of 1866-67. The United States Congress agreed that the territory needed a prison, approved the request for funding, and Deer Lodge was chosen for the site of the new Territorial Prison.

However, they soon found that the funding was inadequate causing revisions to the plans and many delays. Construction finally began in the spring of 1870 with convict labor, and the prison finally received its first convict on July 2, 1871. 

Almost from the beginning, the prison was deemed inadequate and overcrowded, a condition that would result in slow, but continual construction at the prison for the next fifty years. When Montana became the forty-first state on November 8, 1889, the prison became Montana's responsibility. Finding it expensive to operate, the Board of Prison Commissioners contracted out the entire Prison operation in 1890. Colonel Thomas McTague and Frank Conley of Deer Lodge received the contract, which paid them seventy cents per prisoner per day.

Frank Conley became the new warden, a post that he would continue to hold until 1921. Over the next thirty years, Conley shaped the philosophy and appearance of the prison. Believing the prisoners should work, Conley began to update the prison by first replacing its twelve-foot wooden fence with the massive sandstone wall in 1893. Four and a half feet thick, the wall formed a solid perimeter for the prison. He also began to build a new log cell house to reduce the prison crowding.

As a further measure to reduce crowding, put the prisoners to work, and generate income from the prison, outside prison camps were established where prisoners would live and be "hired out” for both public and private work. This worked so well that by the late 1890’s approximately one-third of the prisoners worked outside the prison. At these camps, which housed about 75 prisoners each, inmates enjoyed a relatively high degree of freedom with neither chains nor cells restricting them. However, "outside work” was a privilege, and the slightest infraction of the rules would immediately send a prisoner back behind prison walls.

By the second decade of the twentieth century, about fifty percent of the inmates were working outside the penitentiary, traveling throughout Montana erecting numerous state buildings, paving more than five hundred miles of roads, and working on eleven different ranches that provided food for state-owned institutions.

In 1908, the prison witnessed one of its most tragic events when two prisoners by the names of George Rock and William Hayes attempted to escape. Fleeing from the Federal Building, their failed attempt resulted in the death of Deputy Warden John Robinson and Warden Frank Conley was required to get 103 stitches in his back and neck from stab wounds he received from the inmates. As a result, George Rock was hanged inside the prison yard that very year, and William Hayes met a similar fate the following year.  They were the only inmates to be executed in the prison.

Not all the inmates were so violent however, and one was down right liked by the guards and prisoners. At the age of 40, Pete Eitner was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in 1918.

A model prisoner, he was assigned to tend to the prison turkeys and soon garnered the nickname of "Turkey Pete." As he aged, he began to lose some of his mental facilities and when a man stopped one day to admire his turkeys, Eitner sold him the entire flock for 25 cents each. This ended his turkey tending days, but that was ok, because he soon fantasized a new "job" as the owner and administrator of the prison. Prison officials humored him, "allowing" Eitner to "run" the prison from his cell. Fake checks were printed for him, with which he paid the prison expenses and payroll. He would also tell anyone who would listen that he had the coffee crop in Brazil one year, sold pink alligators, ships to the navy, and grasshopper legs to Fidel Castro.

When Turkey Pete died in 1967 at age 89, his cell (#1) was retired. His funeral was the only one ever held within the walls of the prison. Today, Cell #1 displays photos of Turkey Pete, as well as his few belongings. 

Inside the prison walls, construction also continued with the building of a women’s prison, additional dormitories for the men, a store building, laundry, and dining room. In 1919, a 1,000 seat prison theater was built with funding donated by Senator William A. Clark, Jr.

Protests from labor unions and security concerns put an end to outside work in the 1920s; however, food production continued at the thirty-thousand-acre prison-owned ranch. Work inside the prison continued in various industries including cobbler and upholstery shops, and a garment industry that made clothes for state wards. A state license plate factory began production in the late 1920’s.

Though Conley’s administration made drastic improvements to the prison, it continually suffered from overcrowding through the decades.

On April 16, 1959, the prison suffered a major riot when two inmates by the names of Jerry Myles and Lee Smart, Jr. led some 12 inmates in an escape attempt. In the melee,  Deputy Warden Theodore Rothe was shot and killed, and Warden Powell was temporarily held hostage.

The hostages were held for three days while the riot raged on. After the National Guard was brought in, the two ringleaders died in a murder-suicide, When Myles shot Smart and then turned the gun on himself.

Finally, the old and overcrowded prison was closed In 1979, and its prisoners moved to a new facility, five miles west of Deer Lodge.

Your ghost hunt at Old Montana State Prison includes the following:

  • Overnight Exclusive Access,
  • Access to the most haunted areas of this prison,
  • Psychic Medium Vigil* (if psychic present),
  • Group Vigils With Experienced Investigators,
  • Lone Vigils,
  • Overnight Ghost Hunt,
  • Use of our equipment which includes, trigger objects and EMF Readers,
  • Free time to explore this location and to undertake your very own private vigils,
  • Unlimited Refreshments, Including Coffee, Tea, Hot Chocolate, Bottled Water and Soda,
  • Selection of snacks.