The federal government wants to give you free food, free housing and a job. No, it's not a scary story that libertarians tell each other around the campfire. But there is a spooky catch to the arrangement.
Garnet, Montana, is the state's most intact ghost town, and some people maintain that it's actually haunted.
The remote mountain town grew rapidly in the late 19th century following the discovery of gold and silver in the area. But by the 1940s, the mines had run out and the boom went bust.
Garnet emptied out, and now the only people who spend any time there are tourists and volunteers selected by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The volunteers give tours, sell souvenirs and help out with site maintenance. The job comes with certain perks -- a furnished cabin, a food stipend and freedom from modern amenities like running water and social media.
"It’s primitive, to say the least,” ranger Nacoma Gainan told The Montana Standard this week in an article about Garnet's volunteering opportunities. “It’s for people who love the outdoors and want to give back. There’s no electricity, no Wi-Fi and no running water. But there are trails to explore, artifacts to inspect. Volunteers are really left to their own devices after the visitors are gone.”
But at least one state historian claims that once the sun sets in Garnet, the spirits of the town's historic residents come alive.
According to a 2010 article about Garnet in the Helena Independent Record:
Ellen Baumler, the Montana Historical Society’s resident ghost whisperer and author, wrote that at midnight, people have heard ghostly fingers striking piano keys, with the music floating across the empty buildings. She said that especially during the winter months, Garnet visitors see visions and hear unearthly noises.
“Late at night, the spirits of Garnet come out to play in the moonlight,” Baumler wrote in Montana Chillers. “Sometimes, in the deep winter quiet, a piano tinkles in Kelley’s Saloon and the spirits dance to ghostly music. Men’s voices echo in the empty rooms. But the moment a living, human hand touches the building, the noises stop.”
[...] Winter visitors tell of transparent figures, clad in old-fashioned clothing, wandering the streets and footprints in fresh snow leading into buildings but never come out from them.
“They cause no trouble and anyone who visits the deserted town in the dead of winter should be prepared to meet them,” Baumler wrote. “They hide in the shadows, laugh in the wind, and come out when you least expect them.”
Baumler told The Huffington Post that Garnet's ghostly lore is common knowledge among historians who have researched the town.
"I have heard several people tell about experiences in the hotel. [Bureau of Land Management historian] Allan Mathews and others have seen a woman [in] one of the upstairs rooms in the hotel, gazing out the window," Baumler said in an email. "Folks have to judge for themselves."
The town's website doesn't mention any paranormal residents, instead focusing on Garnet's remarkably well-preserved tableau of American history. Still, the town's historical authenticity and its closeness to nature are enough to entice some volunteers to come back year after year. According to Examiner.com, three volunteers have spent every summer there for more than a decade.
If you're looking to fill a volunteer spot, you're out of luck for now. In an email to The Huffington Post, Gainan said that all volunteer positions have been filled for the season.
The town does rent cabins to people daring enough to visit during the winter. But beware: Baumler writes that winter is when Garnet's ghosts are most active.