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History and Culture

Headless Bride Ghost of Old Faithful Inn

Yellowstone has many ghosts stories, but the most famous tale is that of a headless bride who walks down the stairs from the Crow’s Nest in the Old Faithful Inn.

The legend starts in 1915 New York. The wealthy owner of a shipping company had a teenage daughter that was a bit of a rebel. She thought of herself as a “modern” woman and rejected the arranged marriage to a young man from another well-to-do family. Instead, she wanted to marry a much older man who worked in their house as a servant.

The father really had his daughter’s best interests in mind as he tried to convince her that the servant was a gold digger, not the loving gentleman she though she knew. But there was no convincing her. The young heiress and the old servant went ahead with the wedding.

The father was heart-broken but he had a plan. For a wedding gift, he gave the couple a substantial dowry. The acceptance of the money came with the agreement that the daughter would not receive any additional support from her family and that they would leave New York forever. The father was hoping that this agreement would make the servant back out of the wedding, knowing that he wouldn’t inherit any money or get a job at the family business. However, the couple agreed to the dowry and went to Yellowstone for their honeymoon, staying in the Old Faithful Inn’s room 127. It was a fairly new hotel then, having been built in 1903-04, and it was “the” place to take a fashionable vacation.

It didn’t take much time for the husband to show his true colors. On the way to Yellowstone, he lavishly spent the money at taverns and playing poker. The couple had been a month into their honeymoon trip when they ran out of money. There wasn’t even enough left to pay their hotel bill. Staff at the Old Faithful Inn witnessed nightly arguments, loud enough to be heard outside of their private room. By now the bride had realized her misjudgment and she phoned home to her father asking for more money. The answer was no.

Then one night the argument was louder and more violent than usual. The husband stormed out of the hotel room slamming the door. This was the last anyone would see of him. The hotel staff gave the new bride her privacy for a couple of days, but then they became worried and took a peek inside the room. It looked like a hurricane had thrown every bit of bedding and clothing about the room, but the bride was not in the bedroom. A hotel maid ventured into the bathroom and her screams brought many of the staff and guests to find the bride in the bathtub, bloody, and missing her head. Although they searched the hotel, her head was nowhere to be found.

In a couple of days, attention was directed to the highest point of the hotel. Up in the Crow’s Nest is where the band played, but now the only thing that wafted to the lobby below was this horrible odor. You guessed it… Further investigation revealed the bride’s head here.

Over the years, guests have sighted an apparition of a woman wearing a flowing white dress, walking down the stairs from the Crow’s Nest, with her head under her arm.

The stairs to the Crow's Nest in the Old Faithful Inn.
The stairs to the Crow’s Nest in the Old Faithful Inn.Public Domain
Looking down from the Crow's Nest at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone
Looking down from the Crow’s Nest at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone

Is the Old Faithful Inn Ghost Story and Associated Murder True?

In 1991, then assistant manager of the Old Faithful Inn, George Bornemann gave an interview to the Deseret News. He told of a winter closing night at the Inn when there was just him and one other staff member at the hotel.

George heard running in the hallway and went out of his room a couple of times to investigate finding no one. Once, twice, and then at midnight he ventured down the hall into the balcony area. This is where he saw the ghost on the stairs for a few short moments. The only person he told of this experience was his coworker.

Later, after he had moved home to Missoula, Montana, George again confided with his coworker, I was doing research on Yellowstone and “I found that in 1915 that there had been a murder in the inn,” he says. “And it happened in Room 127. And what happened in Room 127 was they found a woman murdered in there, in a wedding dress. They found her in the bathtub. The bathtub was full of blood, and she had been decapitated.”

But the joke is on us. In the interview, George admitted to making the whole thing up in 1983. He thought the story would make the Inn seem more mysterious. He also thinksĀ that it is quite humorous when visitors repeat the fictious story back to him years later. The part about hearing running in the hall inside the deserted hotel was true though, and it’s what gave him the idea for the story.

No, You Can’t Go Up to the Crow’s Nest

The 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake near West Yellowstone did damage to the Inn. It crumbled a chimney and twisted some of the timbers supporting the Crow’s Nest making it unsafe for guests to visit. You’ll just have to enjoy the below video instead.

More about the Old Faithful Inn