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Sica Hollow is a beautiful woodland near Sisseton that is steeped in folklore. Photo by Chad Coppess/S.D. Tourism
Sica Hollow is a beautiful woodland near Sisseton that is steeped in folklore. Photo by Chad Coppess/S.D. Tourism

South Dakota’s Spooky Side

Oct 29, 2019

It seems every town in South Dakota has a ramshackle old house that people believe to be haunted. In Lake Norden, it was just down the street from my house. It was small and had long been abandoned. It also had what looked like iron bars on one of the windows, which I’m sure fed the legends that older kids shared with us. I never ventured very close to it, and I always gave it a sidelong glance whenever I walked past on the street.

South Dakota boasts plenty of spooky places, where voices moan in the twilight and things go bump in the night. Several years ago, we spoke to Chris Hull about strange goings-on at Sica Hollow State Park near Sisseton. Hull is a Sisseton native who works for the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. Six generations of his family have lived around Sica Hollow, a beautiful woodland known for both spectacular fall foliage and haunting legends that date back to its very first Native American inhabitants, who christened the forest “sica” (bad, or evil). Visitors have reported hearing phantom drumbeats in the distance, and seeing bubbling bogs brimming with crimson-tinted water.

Hull and some friends planned to camp in the hollow one night. One member of the party returned home to retrieve a few forgotten supplies. “We were hiking and heard him yell from down in the hollow,” Hull recalled. “He must have yelled five or six times. We wondered if his truck had gotten stuck and he had started walking.”

Hull’s group walked to the bottom of the hollow, but their friend was nowhere to be found. They returned the campsite just as he returned. “He said he was at home, and he had all the sleeping bags and things he’d gone to get.”

Guests and employees at the Bullock Hotel in Deadwood have long reported spooky encounters. The hotel is said to have been haunted ever since its namesake, Seth Bullock, died in Room 211 in 1919. A Sioux Falls television crew visited the Bullock for a Halloween story and listened intently, albeit skeptically, to the staff’s stories. Then, while in the basement, the reporter heard a woman laughing good-naturedly in her ear. But when she turned around, there was no one there. Later, when they reviewed the videotape, the reporter’s voice was the only clearly audible sound — other than unexplained static at the precise moment the reporter heard the mysterious laughter.

We’ve also written about an eerie stretch of 424th Street between Carthage and Fedora that locals call Spooklight Road. For years, people living along that gravel road have reported seeing the bright headlights of a vehicle heading north at night. As they waited for the vehicle to pass their farmsteads, nothing ever showed up. One local legend says the light is the lantern from a wagon train of settlers that got caught in a blizzard and died.

If you’re feeling brave, take a friend and explore one of South Dakota’s spooky places this Halloween season. My only advice is to keep a safe distance.

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