Wild Bill Hickok, Deadwood, South Dakota’s most well-known visitor, rode into town one evening looking in 1876 for gold and a quick fortune. He lost his life at what is now The Wild Bill Bar and Trading Post just a few weeks later.
Wild Bill Hickok’s final poker game took place at once was originally Nuttall & Mann’s Saloon No. 10, one of the many saloons in the “Badlands” red light district of Deadwood.
While the saloon, its inhabitants, and sultry employees are a thing of the past, the legend of Wild Bill and his spirit continues to cause havoc inside the once lawless establishment.
The adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and the Wild West still live alongside the numerous spirits at Wild Bill’s Bar and Trading Post.
When James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok rode into Deadwood, the frontier town was barely three months old, and Hickok was near the end of his storied career. His time spent acting in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show had made him a national star. Stories of his heavy drinking, slick shooting, and female conquests were the stuff of legend across the newly formed territories.
“Wild Bill,” a nickname gained while serving in the Union Army, lost his father at 14. Hickok, Sr. made many enemies and was murdered for his stance against slavery and his role in the Underground Railroad.
Hickok’s inherited sense of justice followed him throughout his career as a gunslinger, becoming a sheriff and a city marshal.
But his love of booze, poker, and fast women eventually caught up to him, leading him to leave behind the law and later the stage.
Hickok escaped to Deadwood, South Dakota, in June of 1876 with Calamity Jane, a possible romantic partner whose reputation matched Wild Bill’s, and Charlie Utter. Trying to blend in did him no good. As hard as he tried to be just another poker-playing, gold-mining, drunk—an act that saw him being thrown in jail for vagrancy many times— he was quickly recognized.
On August 1st, 1876, Wild Bill played a poker game at Nuttall & Mann’s Saloon No. 10. Another ill-behaved man at the table, Jack McCall, lost it all. Hikcock kindly offered him money to get something to eat and advised him not to return to the table until he had some funds. But McCall soon fell into a rage and began to drink heavily.
The next day, Wild Bill sat back down at that same poker table. McCall then shot Hickok in the back of the head in a drunken rage. The great gunslinger was unsuspectingly and quickly killed with his back to the bar. Two pairs of aces and eights were in his hand, forever known as “The Dead Man’s Hand.”
McCall, boldly claiming bragging rights for his victory around the territory, was eventually tried for murder in 1877 and hung by the neck.
Calamity Jane, who also went on to act in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, and Wild Bill Hickok were eventually buried next to each other in Deadwood’s first cemetery, Ingleside Cemetery. Their bodies were moved to Mt. Moriah, where they now eternally rest.
But tales of Wild Bill’s spirit and other wild west holdovers attract visitors to Wild Bill’s Bar and Trading Post every year. And it appears Wild Bill’s death was not the only tragedy in the steamy saloon.
The building survived for three more years before burning to the ground in 1879. Another took its place in 1885, but that too met a fiery fate in 1895. A department store was built in 1898, but it did not take long for Deadwood’s sinful instincts to take over. The Sacramento Restaurant opened in 1908, with a “lodging house” upstairs.
This covert brothel operated alongside two others in the neighborhood for many years. Deadwood began to change as the years passed. The building became an automotive store and plumping repair shops, but the prostitutes remained.
In 1980, when prostitution was officially outlawed, Deadwood fell into a slump. Gambling was reinstituted in 1989, and the building saw a revival. It was further renovated in 2014 when Rick and Margi Oleson purchased it, turning 624 Main Street into a beloved tourist bar and museum.
Wild Bill’s death chair may be hung up down the street at 657 Main Street, but his spirit remains here. Ghost Adventures and many other popular investigative shows have contacted him through various EVP readings.
His spirit is joined by various women who once worked as laundresses in the old brothel. The phantom footsteps echo across the second floor, and a young spectral child has been seen among the many antiques lining the walls.
These antiques from around the nation may bring spiritual aspects of their own, as many spirits attach themselves to special objects. An aggressive spirit often pushes people up against walls on the first floor; many think it’s Jack McCall!
Experience haunted Deadwood from this page to the parlor. Make your next visit a spooky one with US Ghost Adventures. Our well-trained and experienced tour guides recant the tales of Wild Bill and Calamity Jane with shocking detail. Details can also be found within the world of our blog, in case you can’t make it to a ghost tour just yet.