Is the ghost town of Kirwin haunted?
Probably, according to a recent paranormal investigation and documentary.
Haunted Hotels of America returned to the region in August to film the documentary.
Led by brothers Clay and Seth Johnson (formerly of Cody and both Cody High School graduates), Haunted Hotels teamed up with Adventure Myths of Waldorf, Md.
The crew spent four days researching, filming and investigating the paranormal activity of the abandoned mining town Aug. 17-20.
The Johnson brothers have investigated several locations in the area – the Irma, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center (now Center of the West), the Smith Mansion (west of Wapiti), and Buffalo Bill’s original hunting lodge at Pahaska.
“As a kid growing up in Cody, I loved hearing the local ghost stories,” Clay said.
Adventure Myths has produced paranormal documentaries about locations along the East Coast and Jamaica.
Kirwin was a mining town established near Meeteetse in 1894.
The town endured difficult winters plagued by erratic weather and stifled transit. At its most prosperous, the town had about 200 residents.
A mine explosion in 1905 put residents on edge, and a deadly avalanche in 1907 killed three people and sealed the fate of the town.
Kirwin was abandoned.
The land now is owned and maintained by Double D Ranch.
Few details are known about life in Kirwin and the residents who lived there. Little documentation was kept.
“One of the reasons we’re so excited is we haven’t found very much information about it (Kirwin),” Adventure Myths founder Frank Polievka Jr. said.
The few stories known about Kirwin are irreplaceable – many of them are maintained by elderly residents.
“If someone doesn’t get these stories on film, they’ll be lost forever,” Polievka added.
In deciding on Kirwin, the crew was most thrilled by the town’s remoteness.
Many instances considered paranormal activity during an investigation – cameras blacking out, sound in the background of the audio recordings, equipment shutting off or breaking – can be explained as technical interference (radio and TV signals, faulty wiring, etc.).
“If anything happens to our equipment, it would be hard to explain,” Seth Johnson said before the investigation. “There will be no electricity interference.”
Kirwin’s lack of intense investigation was another of its appealing features.
“There’s the purity of it,” Polievka said.
“Nobody has been up there (overnight) to find out if there’s any paranormal activity,” Clay added.
Polievka and the Johnson brothers were joined by Adventure Myths vice president Jonathan Ness and Polievka’s 14-year-old son Joey.
“We’re all skeptics to a degree,” Ness said. “We have to have some sort of paranormal activity to believe.”
While purchasing a filming permit and reserving the day through the Department of Agriculture, the crew was warned that, due to the location, they would have to be their own medical response team, police and any emergency service they may need while in Kirwin.
The crew hoped staying the night would mean a higher level of paranormal activity.
Cody native and paranormal investigator Jared Iler had experimented with a voice recorder during the day at Kirwin.
Iler claims he experienced electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) during his investigation. EVP is a voice caught in a recording’s static or background noise.
Polievka said that by investigating at night, the crew may have changed Kirwin’s routine, encouraging paranormal activity.
“We have our normal, and the paranormal has theirs,” Polievka explained.
“It’s an opportunity for us because most other people go for a few hours during the day,” Clay said.
The crew made camp on the second floor of the mine.
“It was a long night of pops and cracks and the scurrying of mice looking to jump in your sleeping bag for some extra warmth,” Polievka said.
The group believes a recording device captured a
“voice” calling out Ness’ name during the investigation. The device the crew used monitors EVP in real time.
The crew brought a bottle of whiskey to Kirwin.
“They (the miners) didn’t have alcohol up there,” Clay said.
The bottle was placed on a table next to a “parascope” (a paranormal investigative device used to measure energy). When the crew mentioned the whiskey, the parascope read spiked levels of energy.
A static camera was set up in the abandoned hotel, filming midnight-2 a.m.
During the footage, Polievka said “footsteps, knocking, and other strange audible anomalies (were recorded) coming from inside the building.
“It’s possible that rats were running amuck inside, however we didn’t see any, there was no food inside, and the bangs and steps and knocking seemed to be a bit much, even for a mouse,” he added.
The camera also recorded an unusual floating object.
“At first glance, I don’t think it’s dust or particles,” Clay said.
Polievka has had a chance to study the video.
“We are not orb believers by any means, but this ball has a unique flight pattern and doesn’t illuminate in the laser grid like dust would, so I am still not sure about that,” Polievka said.
“There definitely is (something in Kirwin),” Clay said. “People worked hard up there, didn’t live long lives, and most of them came out with nothing.
“Whatever is in Kirwin, I don’t think it’s there because they had a good time.”
“Kirwin: The Impossible Journey,” will focus on the history and investigation.
The crew filmed B-roll footage at Old Trail Town to be used as historical Kirwin footage.
Iler’s audio recordings will be featured in the documentary as well.
Polievka owns a drone outfitted with a GoPro camera for aerial shots.
Aerial shots of Yellowstone will be used as establishing shots.
Driving to Kirwin took the crew about three hours as they filmed aerial and roadside shots on the way.
“The adventure of the investigation is worth seeing,” Clay said.
The documentary will have a one-hour runtime.
The cost of the USDA permit was $150. Research, travel to Cody, and the trip to Kirwin, including expenses and shipping, cost around $3,000. It is expected that another $2,400 will go to editing.
The projected release date of the finished documentary is March 30, 2014.
Meeteetse Museums, currently planning to upgrade its Kirwin display, will be given distribution rights to the finished product. The museum will have access to purchase the DVDs and will keep any profits.
“It’s our way of giving back,” Polievka added.
The crew is continuing to seek other businesses that may be interested in selling the DVD, and also is focusing on TV networks.
A trailer is available at adventuremyths.com or on YouTube.