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Spirit Tailings author finds the meaning of ghost stories in history

spirit tailings
Posted at 5:51 PM, Sep 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-09 11:28:29-04

Ellen Baumler has a fascination with the relationship between history and ghost stories.

"As a historian I never tell a story that isn’t true, at least in my opinion true, but it doesn't really matter if you believe in that kind of thing or not. It’s up to you," said Baumler.

Baumler pursued this way of storytelling after an experience she had in her own home.

For thirty years the family heard the faint sound of static from a radio playing within the house. They could never find the source of the sound that would turn on and off.

Luckily for Baumler, history had an explanation.

"The person who grew up in the house in the 1910s and 20s had Helena’s first radio operation set up in the house, so you know, it taught me about residual energy and I do a lot of talking about that because I think that residual energy is one way that a lot of people experience things," Baumler said.

One of Baumler's best-loved ghost stories from Butte involves the building that is home to the Butte Archives.

"One of my favorite ones has to do with the Quartz Street fire station and Peter Sanger who was one of the survivors, one of the very few survivors of the warehouse explosion," she said.

Peter Sanger went on to become the fire chief in 1899. When the Quartz Street station was constructed in 1900, he and his family moved into apartments upstairs.

When Sanger’s first wife died, he remarried Louisa Sanger.

Louisa Sanger’s ghost haunts the old station, gazing down from her window to the streets below.

Baumler has written a total of thirteen books. This story and many others like it encapsulate five books about ghost stories across Montana.

"And if you look to the past, sometimes you can explain those things by real historical events and basically that my main thing. That’s what I really like to do. I never tell a story that doesn’t have some factual basis." said Baumler.