Thursday, March 2, 2017

He Didn't Want Her To Go - A Ghost Story

In the spring of 1888, Fort Bridger was a bustling frontier US Army post, located in a mountain valley in what is now the southwest corner of Wyoming  The Twenty-First Infantry had just arrived and was beginning to acclimate to life at their new assignment.  They had been in California and Arizona prior to this mission.  The weather was a particularly difficult adjustment.  Wyoming springtime can be quite cold.  Many of the soldiers had been more inclined to the warmer climates of the previous locations.
John “Mac” McLaughlin was one of the soldiers who came to Fort Bridger with the Twenty-First.  Following the departure of the Army in 1890, Mac stayed on at Fort Bridger.  He settled into the last of the remaining log officer’s quarters.  The others five log buildings had been sold to the local ranching community and had been moved from the location.  Little is known about Mac’s life before he came to Fort Bridger.  It is assumed that he must have had employment in the carpentry trade, as that is how he made his living following his discharge from the army.  He also worked for some of the local ranchers, including the Hamilton family.

Mac spent his life watching over the remaining buildings and the small cemetery.  Many of the families in the Fort Bridger area benefited from Mac’s carpentry skills as he worked to improve their domestic situation.  He is found in photographs of community gatherings.  There is a photo of McLaughlin with the Casto family in front of their home. There is also a photo of him when Fort Bridger was dedicated as a Wyoming State Site.
He loved the community enough to stay there until advanced age caused him to move on.  Mac had never married and had no children or known family.  When he needed care, he went to an Old Sailor’s and Soldier’s Home in Hot Springs, South Dakota.  It is at this place that he died and is buried.   According to his friends, he always wanted to be buried in the little Cemetery at Fort Bridger.  Many people who have spent time at present day Fort Bridger feel that after his death, Mac returned to Fort Bridger and has never left.
By 1930, most of the building and acreage had been purchased by or conveyed to the State of Wyoming.  Presently, this significant historic site is administered by the Wyoming State Parks and Historic Sites.
On a lovely summer evening at Fort Bridger, one of the historic site employees was walking the grounds.  This was a daily activity.  Buildings needed to be checked and cleared, doors needed to be locked, and alarms needed to be set.  This particular day, the employee approached a building that the staff had dubbed the LOQ, the Log Officer's Building. 

The log building once housed two single officers, one on each side.  There is a long hallway that runs through the center of the building, separating the two residences. Located at the end of the hallway, a small maids bedroom was located off the kitchen.  Visitors to the site can walk down the hallway and look in the doorways to see each of the residences.  These doorways are blocked by clear plexiglass doors.  This allows the visitors to see in the rooms, but not venture into them.
The staff member walked down the hallway.  She entered the kitchen area.  In the kitchen, located directly opposite from the front door, was the back door.  The backdoor was covered by another plexiglass door.  This enabled the visitor to view into the kitchen from the outside.
Pulling the back door shut and locking it, the employee turned around and walked back down the hallway.  She checked each of the plexiglass doors to make sure they were secure.  As she approached the front door, she heard a voice behind her say, “No, Don’t go!”  Stopping abruptly, she turned around.  She expected to see a visitor that she had somehow missed in her search. To her great surprise, no one was there.  She retraced her steps, checking each of the rooms again.  No one else was in the building. 
Convinced that she was merely hearing things, she approached the front door again.  Using her foot, she moved the large stone that held the door open.  She grasped the black porcelain door knob, preparing to close the door.

All at once, she heard a deep moaning “NO” and the door was wrenched out of her hand.  The force was enough to cause the door to swing back into the wall.  The plaster on the wall shattered into cracks.  Gasping, she tried to pull the door towards her again.  Once more, it was pulled from her and slammed into the wall.  The second slam caused the plaster cracks to intensify. 
The staff member was convinced that she had scared herself into believing that some unseen force was playing tug a war with her. She reasoned it was just the wind drawing through the long hallway, though it was a rare non-windy day.  On her third attempt, she prepared herself for the inevitable counter pull.  However, there was no resistance.  The door shut freely and the latch clicked.  Smiling, she pulled her keys from her pocket and reached to insert the key in the lock.
The knob on the door turned and the door shot open, slamming once again into the wall.  A large chunk of plaster fell on the floor.  The employee quickly put the key back in her pocket.  She turned her back to the door.  She started to walk away from the building.  Her calm walk slowly changed into a brisk run. 

Mere minutes later, she burst into the museum.  Her supervisor looked up from his desk.  He could see that she was clearly upset about something.
“Are you alright?”, he asked with concern on his face.
“Oh, I’m fine,” she said, “but you are going to have to lock the LOQ.  Whoever is still living there did not want it locked.”
The supervisor smiled.  "Oh, you were introduced to “Mac”, he said, laughing.  “I probably should have told you about him.”  The history lesson that followed shed some light on the incident.  The LOQ is the same Log Officer’s Quarters that John “Mac” McLaughlin had lived in for many years.

Apparently, Mac is still living there, taking care of the remaining buildings.  Perhaps he is waiting for someone to grant his final wish – to be buried at the little cemetery at Fort Bridger.  It was the home he loved and has never left.

For more information about Fort Bridger's rich western history visit or Wyoming State Parks and Historic Sites

Photo Sources: - Wyoming State Parks and Historic Sites