Halloween is near, and everyone is ready for a good ghost story. Especially stories that hit close to home. This story may be even spookier if you live near downtown Missoula. So gather around the virtual campfire for claims of cowboy ghosts wandering the streets of downtown.

Now, this first experience is one I have experienced personally and have never been able to explain.

As we all know, downtown and the University area are no strangers to some interesting people. You can spend any amount of time downtown, and there is no telling who you may run into. I used to live on Madison street and Pine street. Occasionally I would walk a night if I couldn't sleep. I would make a huge loop from my house down to Kim Williams trail and then back home through the heart of downtown. At 3 am, you might consider it risky to be walking around in the dark. But, I'm a big dude and was never intimidated by anyone.


Nearly every time I made the late-night loop, I would run into a drunk attempting to stumble home. But, one night, I stopped to chill for a minute on a park bench along the river. A guy I can only describe as a cowboy came shuffling towards me. Sporting a dirty hat, handkerchief, duster jacket with a flannel shirt, I remember thinking to myself "Is this guy serious?" He looked like he just walked off the set of a western movie. He approached me on the bench and asked if I could spare a cigarette. I told him I would if he would help me light a cigarette of my own. He smiled and busted out a white box of matches (not any brand name, just a plain white box). He only had one match left, and couldn't seem to get it lit. So he informed me that he was "going to go to the Merchantile" to get some more tobacco and matches. He thanked me and walked away. It took me 2-3 minutes before I realized there was no such thing as the mercantile downtown. The old Missoula Mercantile nearby was a Macy's. Last I checked they didn't sell tobacco and matches.

Was I talking to a ghost from back when the Merchantile was fully operational?

Credit: Fort Missoula Historical Museum
Credit: Fort Missoula Historical Museum
Credit: Fort Missoula Historical Museum

This isn't the only sighting of cowboys in downtown Missoula. We hear lots of claims of cowboys haunting the Oxford Saloon, from a cowboy that will talk your ear off, if you let him, to a claim from a person named Katy, who says she was in the presence of 4 cowboys that also looked like they were straight off the set of a western.

According to Katy's claim

I walked to the back of the bar. I was looking at a picture of Bat Masterson on the wall. When 4 real cowboys walked in the back door and straight to me. One was a rancher and he asked me if I knew bat he was dead serious. They were not from our time.

Have you ever run into a cowboy in downtown Missoula, and felt like something was strange? You are not alone. Happy trails pard'ner.

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