Whoever (or whatever) he (or she) is '85 Chateau ghost is friendly, playful
Late one night at the Arts Chateau, director Glenn Bodish happened upon three or four antique china teacups resting precariously sideways on their fine handles.
The cups were on display upon an antique buffet in the grand old home's second floor dining room.
In the next room, the tablecloth was roughed up. Upstairs, more mussed linens, and piano sheet music was scattered about the floor.
By that time, Bodish had seen enough for one night.
“ The hair on my neck was standing up and I said to myself, `I am getting out of here,”' he recalled.
The next day, he found a dead pigeon on the floor of his third-floor office, and while he thinks the bird could have contributed to the disarray found on that March 2000 night, he doubts it could have tipped the teacups.
“ It's not easy to get them to balance like this,” Bodish said recently while trying to re-create the scene for a reporter. “ It was the weirdest hair-raising experience I have ever encountered.”
It wasn't his only one, however.
When he started four years ago as executive director of the Butte-Silver Bow Arts Foundation, the group overseeing the Chateau, Bodish lived there for about a week until he found a house.
While camped out in the caretaker's room on the third floor, Bodish said nights were “ unnerving” because there was so much sound in the building, sound often resembling footsteps walking upper floors.
The noises persist, Bodish said, as do inexplicable soundings of the building's alarm system, which is triggered by a motion detector.
“ Tourists come down (the stairs) and say, `This would be a great place for a haunted house and you wouldn't need to do anything,”' he said.
Bodish is not alone in his belief that extraordinary happenings are commonplace at the Chateau. Other regulars volunteered ghost stories.
Pat Coleman has managed the Chateau's art store since August 2000 and said that one day, not too long after she started, an East Coast visitor turned to her and said, “ Do you know your building's inhabited by someone that's not from this world?”
When Coleman shook her head no, the woman replied, “ I just met her and she's friendly.”
In another instance, a 10-year-old girl touring with her parents abruptly refused to go past the third floor. “ She was fine on the lower floors, dancing around and having fun, but then all of the sudden she wouldn't go any further. She ended up sitting downstairs with me,” Coleman said.
Since those two incidents, Coleman herself has had a few brushes with the supernatural.
While closing up one night, she noticed that the Chateau puppets hadn't been put away following that day's show and made a mental note to be sure they were straightened out the next morning.
But when she came to work, there they were, all neatly put away'85
Then the exact opposite transpired, Coleman said. The puppets had been put away after a show one afternoon and the next morning she found them in a jumbled mess.
She said she's also heard the footsteps upstairs — most often coming from the ballroom, the women's bedroom and a small, octagonal room with stained glass windows just off the Washington Street entrance on the second floor.
“ I've always been more of a skeptic than anything,“ Coleman said, “ but this has kind of made me rethink my beliefs.”
Artist Marilynn Mason has taught night classes in pastel and watercolor in the Chateau ballroom and said she and a number of students have felt “ presences” in the building during class time, especially in the fourth-floor ballroom and nearby bathroom.
One student told her he felt as if he had to step back from the ballroom doorway to let the spirit(s) get by, Mason said, and one night she herself felt as if someone was in the bathroom with her while she was washing out brushes. Another time, while visiting outside with students after class, Mason said she felt someone standing at the window watching them.
Helen Cummings was a student of Mason's and is also a Butte-Silver Bow Arts Foundation board member.
She's had two encounters with the resident spirit(s), and although she said she felt “ foolish” talking about them, her experiences were real and she has no logical explanations for them.
One night, the class was working with clay — everyone but Cummings, that is.
“ My hands were so cold I couldn't work with the clay,” she said. “ It would turn ice cold and start crumbling in my hands. The instructor would get it warm for me and hand it back and then it would turn cold again,” she said. “ I was also extremely cold in the class and didn't notice anyone else who was.”
In another instance, she happened to be last in line after the ballroom lights were turned out and the class was heading downstairs and out the door.
As they descended the narrow stairs in single file, Cummings said she experienced “ an overwhelming feeling that there was someone or something up against me. It was so close, and I was wanting to get around everybody but I couldn't.”
The feeling continued down the next flight of stairs — “ like something was up against my back, not pushing at me, but wanting to get around me,” she said.
Then, as class members started filing out the Washington Street door, Cummings said something “ pulled at or touched” the sleeve of her coat.
“ Needless to say by that time I was ready to trample over the people in front of me to get out the door,” she said.
Despite her experiences, Cummings continued on with the classes and is glad she did. “ It doesn't bother me now, and I haven't felt anything else,” she said.
And although startled, Cummings said never did she feel threatened.
“ I didn't feel like it was an ominous presence. I just felt there was someone there with us,” she said.
“ Comfortable” is how Coleman describes her working quarters, and Bodish said he has no doubt that whatever shares the building with them is good-natured and likes people.
“ The more people you get into this place, the better it feels,” he said. During times such as the annual wine tasting, the Chateau resonates with good energy, he said.
“ It's a house that was meant to be shown off and filled with people — no doubt.”
Sidebar one: (goes with annual picture of John and close-up of attic scrawl)
Spirit of John Murray
might inhabit house
While one visitor claims she met a female ghost in the Arts Chateau, The Standard has uncovered compelling evidence that a teen-age boy's spirit might inhabit the stately mansion.
Butte native Tim Murray said he thought his uncle John had died in the house, but he wasn't sure and encouraged The Standard to search for Uncle John's obituary.
With help from Butte Archives Director Ellen Crain, the piece was found in the Butte Daily Post. John Stanwood Murray died in the house at age 16 on Nov. 30, 1936, following a sudden illness.
Tim Murray said the teen had contracted a strep bacteria.
John was the third of five boys born to Senator and Mrs. James A. Murray. He was a junior at Boys' Central High School and a tackle on the football team.
“ The youth was widely known throughout the Mining City and news of his death caused deep grief, not only among his classmates and teammates of the year, but at Butte High School and among the scores of friends of his parents in this city,” according to his obituary. “ He was an exceptionally good player and was noted for his sportsmanlike conduct both on and off the playing field.”
Tim, whose father was John's older brother, U.S. District Judge W. D. Murray, said that according to family lore, John came home not feeling well from football practice one afternoon, so he skipped dinner and went straight to bed. He died the following day.
A page in the 1937 Boys' Central High School annual was dedicated to his memory. “ It was hard to believe that day that Johnny, ever so friendly and ready with a joke or a wisecrack, was gone forever; that never again would we see him ambling along the corridor with that well-known grin,” a passage reads.
Tim said the Murrays obtained the Chateau from the Clark family who owed them money and used the house as payment. And what might be a humble, enduring symbol of the family's long tenure there was found recently in the attic rafters. “ .M 1934” is scrawled there, clear as ever, perhaps placed there by the penknife of a mischievous teen.
Arts Chateau has
Now a public art museum, the French-chateau-like mansion at 321 W. Broadway was built in 1898 for Charles W. Clark, eldest son of Copper King William A. Clark, and Katherine Roberts, his new bride.
The home was reportedly modeled after one the newlyweds admired while honeymooning in Europe, but according to building records at the Butte Archives, the design might merely reflect the architect's training. Nationally known architect Will Aldrich designed the home, and the French overtones likely reflect the influence of his studies in Europe in the 1880s, records say.
Regardless, the stately new mansion sported 26 rooms and numerous bathrooms. Records say a cobblestone courtyard was installed around the home because when it was built, air pollution was so bad in Butte that grass wouldn't grow.
According to a 1980 Montana Standard article written by Andrea McCormick, the newlyweds were “ lavish entertainers” and highly regarded among Butte's elite society.
Within a few years, however, the parties were over. By 1903, Charles had settled in California, and in 1904, Katherine died in New York from diabetes-related complications.
The Largey family then occupied the home for a short time, according to records, and from 1915 to 1945, the Murray family owned the Chateau. It was then sold to Leslie and Fay White, who in 1949 deeded the building to the Fez Club, a Shriner social organization. In 1976, the Butte-Silver Bow Bicentennial Commission purchased the building for use as a public cultural center.