Western Heritage Center

Will the Western Heritage Center give up the secrets of its ghosts on Saturday, Oct. 28. members of the Montana Paranormal Research Society will be on hand to see if they can find the ghost of kindly librarian Priscilla or murdered Tony Boyle.

Courtesy photo

Are you afraid of ghosts, or just curious?

Skeptics and psychics alike are invited to the annual ghost hunt at the Western Heritage Center.

The Montana Paranormal Research Society is bringing all the latest equipment to the Western Heritage Center on Oct. 28 to see if they can find the ghost of Priscilla, the kindly librarian, or maybe Tony Boyle, the union boss who died in prison after being convicted of murder.

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Lora Mattox, Curtis Mattox and Dustin Benner

Lora Mattox, Curtis Mattox and Dustin Benner of the Montana Paranormal Research Society look over one-time union leader Tony Boyle's walking stick. A clock with Boyle's photo on it is behind them at the Western Heritage Center.

The paranormal investigators will have all their gadgets, including a night vision camcorder, electro magnetic finder, and a parabolic mic.

“Raising our Spirits: Paranormal Encounters at the Haunted Museum” is not for the faint of heart, according to organizer Lisa Olmsted, operations director of the WHC. Lights will be turned off and the Montana Avenue museum will offer three floors of paranormal research.

Even though it’s a fun night, protocol will be followed during the ghost hunt, according to the leader of Montana Paranormal Research Society Dustin Benner.

The event is capped at 100 tickets so the museum will not be too crowded during the search. Tickets are $35 and include a glass of beer. For ticket information, go to www.ywhc.org.

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Spiral staircase at the Western Heritage Center

A spiral staircase at the Western Heritage Center has a claustrophobic, if not mysterious, quality to it. Mattox said late one night during research, they heard footsteps coming from upstairs, but no one was upstairs.

There will be an opportunity for visitors to share their own stories of paranormal encounters, one of the highlights of the event, Olmsted said.

Benner has been chasing ghosts since the late 1990s. Recording video of a ghost is such a rare occurrence, he said he’s only scored a handful of video proof of ghosts since 1998.

“We don’t fake anything,” he said

One of Benner’s closest encounters with the spirit world was when he worked for the Bozeman School District. He saw a little girl around 10 at night in a dark hallway at Willson School.

“A week later there was an exhibit from the 1920s of students who had attended Willson School. There she was in one of the pictures wearing a school uniform.”

That encounter got Benner excited about ghost hunting and he said he spent the next five years “video taping dust balls not knowing any better.”

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Montana Paranormal Research Society

Members of the Montana Paranormal Research Society — from left, Lora Mattox, Curtis Mattox and Dustin Benner —are ready to take on the ghosts of the Western Heritage Center on Saturday, Oct. 28.

Some paranormal hot spots at the Western Heritage Center are the conference room in the basement and the exhibit room on the main floor. Curtis Mattox, an investigator with Montana Paranormal Research Society, said late one night during research at the Western Heritage Center, they heard footsteps coming from upstairs, but no one was upstairs. And there was more.

“One of our investigators set her bottle down on the table and the cap flew off the top,” Benner said.

There have been stories about the ghost of a young girl walking around the museum, perhaps a patron from the days when the WHC operated as the public library. There have also been sightings of the ghost of an elderly librarian walking around after dark.

“This was a library, so there are happy stories about these ghosts,” Olmsted said.

Another fascinating ghost story from the WHC is a paranormal encounter with objects belonging to Tony Boyle, a Montana native who was president of the United Mine Workers Union in the 1960s. Boyle died in prison in 1985 after he was convicted of ordering the murder of one of his rivals, Joseph "Jock" Jablonski, and his family on New Year's Eve in 1969.

Curious activity has occurred at the museum with Boyle’s walking stick and a clock with his image on it. The objects were donated several years ago by a relative. They are usually stored downstairs, but since there has been paranormal activity associated with them, they will be out on display during the event.

Kevin Koostra, executive director of the Western Heritage Center, said he is a skeptic. But he was there the night that lights flickered when someone touched Boyle's walking stick, and later when a spotlight was mysteriously pointed at the clock with Boyle’s picture on it.

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Entertainment Reporter

Jaci Webb covers entertainment for The Billings Gazette.