Did a ghost terrify robbers?

By Kacie Svoboda

Chute Rooster Spook — The security cameras at the Chute Rooster Museum & Restaurant in Hill City captures some strange things in the early hours of the morning. This photo shows a frame of the security footage just before 2 a.m. and seems to capture a ghostly white figure. [Submitted Photo]


The unexplained activity in the Chute Rooster Museum & Restaurant seems to cover the entire spooky spectrum, from falling barstools and full-bodied apparitions to disembodied voices to strange shapes captured on the motion-sensor security cameras.

“I’ve witnessed anything from seeing people walking by who aren’t there to hearing laughter and voices,” said kitchen manager of almost two years Dustin Mefford.

Perhaps the strangest story centers around the Chute Rooster’s robbery last April by an unidentified male and female. When reviewing the security tapes with the detectives, orbs — usually spherical shapes captured in photos or on video believed by some paranormal investigators to be representations of spirits — began to float across the screen. At first, there were just a few, then more and more, until there were hundreds circling the pair of burglars.

“They were just swarming them,” explained owner Joy Peterson.

At this point, the man froze in the middle of cracking open another video lottery machine in the front of the bar area, and looked down the dark hallway that led to the rest of the restaurant. Then he and his partner in crime began to act truly frightened, quickly packed up their haul and ran for the sliding door to exit the building. The man threw open the door with so much force it closed and had to be opened again, throwing it shut behind him.

“The detectives turned to each other and said, ‘Holy cow, why’d he leave like that?’” Peterson said.

It’s particularly curious that the intruder looked down the hallway before running away, as the hall seems to be a hot spot for strange occurrences.

“There’s actually lots of activity in this hallway,” front of house manager for two and a half years Jennifer Jackson explained. “I know that’s where I’ve seen the most stuff.”

One such instance happened when Jackson was alone in the locked restaurant. While she was cleaning up at the end of her late bartending shift around 3 a.m., she saw wet footprints in the hallway. Jackson had mopped the front area around the stairs and had gone through the kitchen, coming out on the far side of the hallway. The footsteps led down the hallway and then turned toward the main entrance, only to disappear at the foot of the stairs.

“That was probably one of the freakiest things that happened to me here,” Jackson said.

Mefford’s scariest experience was a security camera recording, which captured a balloon turning the corner, floating up the stairs and disappearing out of view for a few minutes before coming back down, following the same route as before.

“You don’t see balloons do that,” he said. “Coming up the stairs, sure. That could happen. But going back down?”

That experience, however, was far from his first. During Mefford’s first shift, he smelled heavy cigar smoke in the kitchen. He then saw someone walk by the doorway to the current pool table area and walked out to see if it was a customer, but no one was there.

Mefford has also had pots and pans fall without explanation and heard a little girl’s laugh right next to his ear. Jackson has seen a lady and little girl in white dresses and had barstools fall off the bar for no discernable reason.

“We’ve tried to explain it all away, but we can’t,” Jackson said.

However, Peterson, Mefford and Jackson reiterated multiple times that they’ve never felt threatened by these strange happenings.

“It’s just more of a weird feeling, like ‘how do you explain that?’” Jackson said. “I’ve never had a feeling that I’m in danger.”

“They’ve never done anything harmful,” Mefford added. “They just like to let us know that they’re here.”

“Sometimes you do feel like you’re losing your mind,” Jackson concluded. “You’ll think, ‘did I really just see that?’”