Haunted 307: The Virginian Hotel in Medicine Bow
Throughout the month of October, we've explored 30 haunted locations in the Cowboy State, but I saved the very best for last. The Virginian Hotel in Medicine Bow may look out of place in the small town in the middle of nowhere, you may have even driven past it before and wondered why it exists in the first place. But the Virginian Hotel is perhaps the most haunted hotel in Wyoming- with evidence to prove it.
If you’ve read Owen Wister’s novel, The Virginian, or seen any of the seven adaptations of it, you already know a little bit about Medicine Bow, WY. This railroad town centered in the ranching industry in the late 1800s served as the setting for what is regarded as the very first western novel. Wister travelled Wyoming, and based the events in his novel on a fictionalized version of the Johnson County Cattle War. The hotel was built in 1911 by August Grimm, who was also the first mayor of the town of Medicine Bow, and upon it’s completion, it was the largest hotel between Denver and Salt Lake City.
The staff and regulars of the Virginian affectionately refer to the spirits inhabiting the building as “Our Friends.” One of the more mysterious spirits in the Historic Virginian is that of “The Woman in Beige.” Predictably, she’s said to be dressed in the color beige. Her clothing is said to be reminiscent of the early 20th century. She’s described as very tall, with dark hair and a prominent nose. The local legend goes that the woman in beige was waiting in the hotel for her fiance to come from back east by the train. When he didn’t come, she was said to have thrown herself out of the third floor window. Some guests also report hearing a large crash coming from this end of the hallway, and the “Back 40” section of the saloon directly below it.
There is at least one report of young children playing in the sitting room on the first floor. One such child even scared one of the saloon regulars so badly, he reportedly went from grumpy and drunk, to stone-cold sober in an instant. Another prominent spirit is that of a former employee, Riley. Riley is a kind and calming spirit, who enjoys unwinding at his favorite bar-stool.
Finally, the most prominent of the ghosts said to still haunt the Virginian hotel. A chivalrous cowboy with a mischievous streak- None other than Hank. Hank is referred to affectionately by nearly everyone in the Virginian. He’s described as a tall cowboy with an antique hat and duster, a particular proclivity to push glasses off the table of his favorite place in the bar, a love for television, and an affinity to open doors for ladies as they reach for them.
Hank’s legend is nearly as sad as that of the woman in beige. He’s also said to be a victim of a broken heart, who died of a heart attack on the third floor while waiting for his wife to come from back east, though locals say they never get any feelings of anger or sadness from him.
I stayed the night in the Virginian Hotel, being booked in the "most haunted room" on the third floor. Due to a blizzard outside, I was the only person staying in the historic hotel. I had a couple of frightening moments, including the hallway to my room being left in a completely different state than when I left it, and at around 3 am, hearing footsteps outside my room without a corresponding shadow in the window above my door. I was told to expect Hank to pay me a visit, as he liked to sit on the antique bed in room 34 from time to time and enjoyed the television in the room across the hall.
My night in the Virginian was full of exciting conversation with the locals, happy to tell me their own experiences with their "friends" that still stay in the Virginian after death. For a piece of Wyoming History, you can stay the night in Room 34 of the Virginian and find out for yourself if Hank wants to be seen.