Who doesn’t love a good ghost story on Halloween. Well for this edition of Checking Inn, I thought I’d share an eerie real life motel one I encountered last summer with you here.
Now to be fair, I didn’t see a ghost. And there is no motorcyclist whose head bursts into flames like Marvel Comics’ Ghost Rider . But this true life motel tale from my Sleeping Around in America journey may make you want to crawl and hide under the covers.
Winding my way through the rocky mountainous pass leaving Yellowstone National Park, I am on a long lonely stretch of highway taking me to Cody Wyoming when I see the sign for my next destination – the Green Creek Inn and RV Resort. The property is nondescript. And typical of many motels, the owner’s house doubles as the office. In behind there is a single strip building with sixteen rooms; eight doors on either side. The parking lot is empty. Then I see it.
I look up and sitting high on top of the hill behind the motel is an ominous dark structure that stands some seventy plus feet tall. The wooden building looks like it is part giant Jenga game, part Scooby Do haunted house and fully something out of Mad Max. The hodgepodge structure looks deserted and in fear of crumbling down on the motel where I am about to stay. As I dismount the bike to check in I see a sign with an image of the house, a red circle with a line through it, telling you not to enter. So you can imagine what my first question was to the motel owner!
It turns out the owner of the house was a man named Francis Lee Smith. A a local engineer who worked in Cody, he fell in love with Yellowstone National Park and proceeded to build his dream house on the hill. With no power tools he began construction in 1974. It seems he was never quite done either. For the next eighteen years he continued to add to it. Day after day, he would continue to work on it piece by piece. But on one fateful day, April 25, 1992, he fell tragically from the top of the structure to his death.
When I check in the motel owner tells me the story. Since his death, the building has been vacant and just eerily sits there. It isn’t safe to walk around. So to prevent curious guests from going in, the motel owner erected the sign. Curious, dubious but very tired, I graciously accept my key, eager to pull off my dusty leather riding suit and take a shower.
My room is nothing special and it perfectly matches the exterior of the motel. I am on the backside of the property and in the shadow of the vacant house. The first thing I notice when I enter my room is a reprint of the newspaper article reporting Mr. Francis Lee Smith’s fate. I eagerly read the story to get more information and wonder if he somehow haunts the place.
After my shower I try to turn on the television but it doesn’t appear to be working – only grey fuzz appears. I check my phone for messages but cell and internet service are both sketchy at best and my signal varies from one bar to no service. If this were a horror movie, you know what would happen next!
Now again I am not saying this place is haunted. But I will point out that I was so tired after the day’s ride, that I slept hard and through the night. So if there was a ghost who came to wake me up, I just didn’t hear him. Nor did I hear any blood curdling screams. But if you wanted to write a good ghost story you can pick up the story from here. It’s the perfect setting. And for those who choose to stay at the Green Creek Inn, you can’t say I didn’t warn you. Because as long as the ominous house on the hill is there overlooking the motel, it may give you chills at check in and you may cower under the covers during your stay!