Founded in 1880, the Occidental Hotel quickly became one of the most renowned hotels in Wyoming. Located near the Bozeman Trail at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains, the hotel was visited by many famous people, including Buffalo Bill Cody, Teddy Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Calamity Jane, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (often stopping at the Occidental from their hideout at the Hole-in-the-Wall). Legendary frontier sheriffs Frank Canton and “Red” Angus were regulars at the saloon. The Netflix series “Longmire” (books written by Craig Johnson) is based on the author’s experiences in Buffalo, Wyoming. The Busy Bee Diner is a fixture that remains true to the original hotel.
While this beautiful hotel retains its original styling and the rooms have been kept as original as possible, it’s the history of the hotel and location that led us to want to investigate here. Haunted Hotels of America put together a stellar event. The celebrity lineup included Ty Gowen of Haunt ME, Karl Pfeiffer and Connor Randall of Spirits of the Stanley, and the investigation was augmented by the Wyoming Area Spirit Posse (a local duo of ladies that investigate haunted locations in Wyoming). We were intrigued by the stories of original bullet holes in the ceiling, the fact that the hotel was turned over to the second set of owners after the original owners lost a poker game, and the legends of rowdy spirits in the former brothel and a spirit girl named Emily who had grown famous for her love of cats.
When we arrived, we were lucky enough to have been put in the Herbert Hoover Suite. The former President, having stayed in the hotel for a few weeks, had the room extended to include a sitting room for him, combining two rooms through a pass-through bathroom (with original clawfoot tub). We were impressed with the huge welcoming lobby with a giant fire roaring in the fireplace, and vaulted ceilings. Our hosts welcomed us, and then led us upstairs to a meet and greet sponsored by Wyoming Whiskey. Thrilled to learn that the hotel had been reserved exclusively to the small group in attendance (there were 32 of us), we visited the library, met the celebrity investigators, said hello to old friends, had a sip of whiskey, and heard some hotel history. That night, there was a live band, dancing (more whiskey), and general all around visiting until around midnight, when the hotel closed and locked the front door!
The next day, we had a fantastic breakfast in the attached Busy Bee Diner – the steaks at this hotel are fantastic – and then went back to the library to attend our first presentation by Ty Gowen. He has a humorous but compelling presentation about his rules of paranormal investigation (Rule #1 – Don’t Die), with clips from his team’s web series “Haunt ME”. While I had already binge-watched the series (really, it’s THAT good), I was happy to hear about some interesting episodes coming up. He discussed combining the metaphysical with paranormal investigation, and spoke about the crystals he carries, the rune readings he now does, his team’s different and diverse talents, and how enhanced the investigations have become with including the metaphysical. His slides contained hilarious “Supernatural” references that had the audience laughing, but intrigued. We learned a lot!
Next in the speaker line up was Connor Randall. I first met Connor at the last paranormal investigation allowed at the Stanley Hotel. I watched he and Karl and their team member Michelle communicate with a spirit box in a process now dubbed “the Estes Method” (see their web series “Spirits of the Stanley”). For this event, Connor gave a very interesting, somewhat techy, talk about EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) and history surrounding the use of ITC (Instrumental Trans-Communication). He explained how the trailblazers in Electronic Communication (including Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and surprisingly Fathers Gemelli and Ernetti of the Roman Catholic Church) helped lead us to today’s methods of catching EVPs. The most interesting part of the talk (to me) was about researchers receiving phone calls from the dead, helping them in very scientific and specific ways to build ITC devices, including the correct electrical configurations. The phone calls were recorded and available on YouTube, and the clips that we heard were very compelling.
After a lunch break, we regrouped to hear from our next presenter, Karl Pfeiffer. Karl and Connor are a very dynamic speaking duo – Connor first presents the history of EVPs, and then Karl comes in with the actual technique that they developed at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado (which is why the technique is called the “Estes Method”). Karl explained the process that went into developing the technique, with the goal being to isolate the person working with the spirit box from outside sensory input. To avoid the possibility of possibly overhearing someone in the room, reading lips, body language, etc., they began working with different blockers, including noise canceling headphones, blindfolds, etc. The clips we saw of the early beginnings of the Estes Method were really intriguing, and we were promised a chance to experience the Estes Method ourselves later that evening. We saw different images of “celebrity investigators” using the Estes Method, most famously Amy Bruni and Adam Berry on their show Kindred Spirits.
Our final presenters in the series were the ladies of Wyoming Area Spirit Posse. They have a unique, fun loving method of investigating, and have produced some shows on YouTube. With high energy, humor and a happy mindset, they feel that they are successful in engaging with spirit because they have such a fun method. They oftentimes will talk and joke with one another, while occasionally inviting spirit to join in their conversation, and have had some phenomenal results. They spoke of a few places they have investigated, stating that the history of locations is what attracts them to the places they visit. They reminded us that paranormal investigation doesn’t have to be serious, morbid, or depressing and that sometimes the best results happen when bringing life back into the area. They explained the different tools that they use, how they work, and gave a brief overview of getting into the right mindset before the investigation began.
After dinner (and a brief mini grid intention-setting in our hotel room using the crystals and tools that I had brought with me), our host from Haunted Hotels of America, Clay Johnson, then briefly reviewed the events to follow – the rooms that we would be investigating and some of the history of the hotel – who we might encounter, who we might “talk” to, and their stories. We broke into groups, secured our gear, turned on our flashlights and made our way to the first room of the night.
To Be Continued in “Our Haunted Adventures – The Historic Occidental Hotel, Part II”