The Phantom Bellman
A Yellowstone Ghost Story
Excerpted from Spooky Yellowstone
Retold by S.E. Schlosser
I gasped a bit as I wheeled my heavy bag toward the white-trimmed double doors leading to the hotel lobby. I was having some trouble adjusting to the altitude in Yellowstone after living my whole life at sea level. My husband Frank, on the other hand, took to the elevation as one mountain-born, much to my annoyance. He'd already dragged the rest of our luggage inside the hotel and was checking in at the front desk as I doddered my way into the lobby and collapsed in a chair near the fireplace.
"Come on, slowpoke, we are on the fourth floor," my husband called happily, and dashed down the hall carrying a load of luggage as expertly as any of the bellmen. I struggled out of the chair, which was very comfortable, and aimed myself somewhat erratically for the hall. About halfway down, a compassionate bellman overtook me and claimed my heavy bag. Relieved, I hitched my handbag over my shoulder and followed the bellman. We chattered about my trip all the way up the elevator, and the bellman had some great suggestions for hikes we might take along the lakeshore, and where we might see wildlife.
The elevator let us off on the fourth floor, and we walked to the end of a long, rather spooky hallway. I shivered a bit, feeling uncomfortable and not understanding why this was so. But the friendly bellman distracted me with his gentle conversation. He left me in front of the open door with my bag, bowing slightly like an old-fashioned gentleman in a movie. I fumbled in my handbag, looking for my wallet, then realized I'd given it to my husband so he could check us in.
"Wait a moment," I told the friendly bellman and hurried inside the room, calling to my husband. Frank was locked in the bathroom, but my wallet was on the bedside table. Pulling out some money, I hurried to the door, only to find that the friendly bellman had vanished.
"Were you calling for me, honey?" my husband asked, coming out of the bathroom.
"I was looking for my wallet to tip the bellman that helped me with my bag," I explained. "But he disappeared while I was looking for it."
"We can leave a tip for him at the desk in the lobby," my husband said.
"Great idea," I said. "Don't let me forget. He had some great advice for our trip. Told me to drink lots of water to help me adjust to the elevation and recommended the hike out to Storm Point. Apparently, the view of the lake is lovely!"
Frank's face lit up at this suggestion. He loved to hike.
We turned our attention to unpacking our bags. We were staying at the hotel for two nights before heading up to Canyon. Frank was going fishing for lake trout tomorrow, while I took a tour around the lower loop, learning all about the Yellowstone volcano and looking at the geysers and other hot springs.
Our room was quite lovely. It was at the end of the hall on the back side of the hotel, but I could see the lake out of the side window. Still, something about the room felt a little strange, as if someone was watching. I had goose bumps all along my upper arms as I unpacked. "What nonsense," I said aloud, trying to make the feeling go away.
"What did you say?" Frank asked, looking up from his fishing tackle box.
"Nothing," I said hastily. "Let's go down to dinner."
We had reservations for 7 p.m. at the hotel dining room, and it was almost that time now. I grabbed my wallet, remembering that I wanted to tip the friendly bellman. The being-watched feeling returned full force as we walked down the spooky hallway to the elevator. I shivered, and my husband suggested that I go back for my sweater. "No I'm fine," I said hastily, not wanting to be alone in the room.
We descended in the elevator and walked down the lower hall to the lobby. I paused for a moment at the bell desk, hoping to see my friendly bellman. A nice young man greeted me with a smile, and I asked about the man who'd helped me with my luggage, explaining that he'd vanished before I could tip him.
"Do you know his name?" the young man asked.
"I'm sorry, I don't," I said. Then I spied the picture on the desk, showing a group of bellmen.
"That's him," I said, pointing.
The young man's smile slipped a bit. "That is an historic picture, taken many years ago," he said cautiously. "None of those men work here now."
"Really? That's strange," I said, feeling cold again. "The bellman who helped me looks just like this man."
"That man was the bell captain," the young man said. “He’s since passed away.” Face devoid of expression, he added: "I'm sorry, I don't know who it was that helped you today."
"Oh well, maybe I will see him again," I said with an uneasy glance at the photo on the desk. Strange that the man who helped me looked exactly like the former bell captain.
I shuddered and hurried over to my husband, who was examining some of the lovely photographs displayed round the lobby.
"All done?" he asked, taking my hand and leading me toward the dining room.
"Not really," I said uneasily, and told him about picture.
"So you’re saying a ghost helped you with your luggage?” Frank asked when I finished. Hearing it put that way sent cold shudders down my spine.
“Pretty much,” I said. “I’m not sure I want to spend the night at this hotel. What if the ghost comes back?”
“If the phantom bellman comes back, we’ll ask him to take our luggage down to the car,” said Frank. “That way, we can make a fast getaway and we won’t have to carry our bags. Works for me!”
“Get out of here,” I said with a reluctant grin.
He smiled back and took my hand. “Let’s go to dinner,” my husband said.