From 1913 to 1915 hunters and railroad men in the area of Fish Creek about 40 miles west of Missoula, Montana were plagued by encounters with the weeping spirit of a woman. She would soon garner the name the Fish Creek Ghost and could possibly be one of the earliest ghosts said to have been captured on camera in the United States.
The first reported sighting was from a railroad crew. They stated in August of 1913 while on a train passing by the Fish Creek area they saw “a radiant maiden strolling majestically over the foothills in tearful meditation.” Quite the description, eh? As they watched she simply “melted away” right before their eyes. They said they all just stood there wondering if they had been seeing things. A month later these same men decided to go hunting in the same area. As they sat around the campfire reminiscing of bygone days they said they suddenly saw the “melancholy maiden” walking slowly through the trees about 100 yds from their camp. They called out to her but said she completely ignored them and just kept walking on her path.
The 1st Investigation
It took a couple of years but by 1915 word of the weeping woman and haunted cabin near Rivulet, Montana started making its way around Missoula. Three men named Ed Rendleman, W.E. Fuge (or Fudge), and F.J. Alberts went to the deserted cabin on the old Gossage homestead at Fish Creek to try and solve the mysterious sightings. And then things got weird. As the three men made their way to the cabin they noted there were no tracks in the snow. F.J. Alberts stopped at a stream near the cabin to refill his canteen and was surprised to see “12 or 15 clots of fresh blood” on the snowbank. He thought that his nose had started bleeding, but wiping his face he found no blood. Now properly freaked out he called to his friends but they couldn’t hear him. He ran to the cabin to tell his friends what he experienced and when the three men returned to the snowbank the blood was gone.
The men settled themselves in the cabin, starting a fire in the old fireplace and cooked a meal. They sat so they could see the front door of the cabin as well as the doorway into another room and most of the windows. And then, they waited. Eventually the men fell asleep and everything was fairly non-eventful until Alberts was woken up by Rendleman pinching his knee. Rendlemen didn’t say a word but slowly pointed across the dark room. When Alberts looked over he saw:
“a human face, with tearful, staring eyes. If the face had a body, I did not get it. The face was in the doorway leading from the bedroom. I saw it distinctly. It was a woman’s face, and about where the head of a short woman would have been. The face was weeping, very sorrowful.”
“I plainly saw a woman. She was dressed in a bridal gown, new, of light silk. She was crying. She came out of the bedroom and stood in the door. I pinched Alberts, to make sure he was awake. The woman stood there about 30 seconds, then crossed the room to the window at our left and disappeared. She was not more than eight or nine feet from us. No, we made no effort to seize the apparition.”
The two men waited hoping the woman would reappear but to no avail. Around 3 am they woke up Fuge who slept through the entire event and made their way back down to Rivulet to catch the train home. I should point out that when the three men were interviewed, Fuge would say he believed that Alberts and Rendleman both dreamt the whole event.
The men knew they were being ridiculed for what they were saying publicly about their paranormal encounter. Two of the men wrote the following to The Missoulian on January 26th, 1915:
A great many of our citizens and others who have merely declared their intention of becoming citizens have a tendency to treat the matter of the Fish Creek specter or lady ghost with shrug of doubting shoulders and loud salvos of mirth. Perhaps, however, if they were suddenly confronted at midnight by a lovely young lady, dressed in milk-white bridal splendor, weeping bitterly but silently, wringing her little hands in abject despair, walking over the foothills in the silvery moonlight – then the matter would not be viewed in so gleeful a light.
The 2nd Investigation
Following the article of the three men’s experience in the haunted cabin, a man named Burt Duckworth decided that he was up for a challenge and would settle once and for all the question of if the cabin was truly haunted. Duckworth was described as a “good photographer” and set off for the cabin along with four others: Ray Hall, Harry Byrd, Ellis Rathburn, and Ralph Cuplin. Ralph Cuplin was said to have been an “excellent photographer” and brought with him an “electronically-equipped” camera.
The ghostly domain of this woman was said to stretch from Cyr to the Fish Creek bridge and the surrounding areas. To get to the area the men would take the westbound Coeur d’Alene train and get off at the Rivulet Station. The cabin itself was accessible only by horseback or walking. It was described as a story-and-a-half built on a flat in Weeping Woman gulch. The inside had a large room with a stairway leading up to the half story which was used for sleeping. The property also had a hay-barn, and a small chicken pen which were both on the verge of collapse.
The men arrived at the cabin around 3:30pm and were tired and hungry from the miles long trek through the hills. Ray Hall cooked their dinner and they then proceeded to thoroughly investigate the entire cabin, taking pictures as they went. By the time they got finished taking pictures of the outside of the cabin, the sun was going down and the men decided it was time to figure out where they would sleep. They set up their fancy camera near the door so it would cover as much of the room as possible. A rubber cord with a button stretched across the room to where the men set up their sleeping bags.
The men were all sleeping peacefully when suddenly Ellis Rathburn jumped up from his bed and ran out the front door jumping over two other men in the process. At the same time, one of the men, Ralph Cuplin had the presence of mind to press the button on their “electric camera” and capture a picture they said proved that there was something spooky happening in the old deserted cabin. The men said they saw standing before them the ghost of a weeping woman who promptly vanished as soon as the camera button was pressed. Burt went on to describe their feelings:
Our feelings are best described in the language of Edgar Allen Poe: We were filled with a fantastic feeling ne’er dreamed of before”
As a paranormal researcher I find this story fascinating, mainly because of how well it was documented. Typically, when researching old ghost stories, and ghost stories in general, the details are very vague. Names aren’t mentioned, dates aren’t solid, etc. Not only were the names of numerous people who experienced this ghost in the woods posted in the local papers, but they were all verifiable.
All of the men mentioned in this post were verified as living in the Missoula area during the time the events occurred. Additionally, the lore behind the cabin, although much more vague, was also somewhat verified. The papers said that the cabin was haunted by a woman who was murdered in the area years prior. The name of the owner of the cabin was said to have been Gossage. There was a man named Robert C. Gossage who owned the land that the cabin was located on. However, I could find no mention of anyone connected to the Gossage family having died in the period of time before the ghost began to be seen. Interestingly, it doesn’t appear that the Gossage family stayed at the location for very long.
Was the Weeping Woman of Fish Creek a carefully planned hoax or were there actual strange events happening in this remote area of Montana? Personally, I’d like to believe the stories of the spirit haunting the cabin, but hoax or not, it’s a fascinating tale.
- The Missoulian (Missoula, Montana) 25 Jan 1915, Mon • Page 2
- The Missoulian (Missoula, Montana) 26 Jan 1915, Tue • Page 10
- The Missoulian (Missoula, Montana) 06 Feb 1915, Sat • Page 8
- U.S., General Land Office Records, 1776-2015