Monday, February 18, 2013

Montana: The Ghost of Miles Fuller

On an overcast morning in May of 1906, Miles Fuller, feeble, frightened and wearing his tattered old hat, was led outside of the Butte, Montana county courthouse jail and hanged. * 

Hundreds of locals, without invitations, climbed the rooftop and walls, to get a better view of the gallows behind the courthouse. 

This execution was the fastest one in Montana history. It only took two minutes from when Fuller entered the yard to when he was pronounced dead.

As Fuller’s casket was placed on the funeral wagon a loud clap of thunder startled the crowd, it is said that this clap was the only one heard that day. Many folks considered it an evil portent. 

After his execution, no one would volunteer to carry the coffin to the waiting wagon. At the time there was a superstition about performing such a task for a condemned man. Finally, two ministers, two city officials, and two newspaper reporters volunteered.

Miles Fuller had been found guilty of the grisly murder of Henry Gallahan, one of his fellow prospectors. These two men had been sworn enemies for a long time. 

During his trial, Fuller claimed that Gallahan laced his flour with powered glass and his sugar with strychnine, but other witnesses testified it was the other way around. 

Fuller stated that the longstanding quarrel between him and Gallahan had begun when he had stopped the other prospector from molesting a child. 

But it appears no one believed him, for Fuller was a hermit with a surly disposition who was always armed with a wicked-looking knife. The locals openly admitted they were afraid of him.

Gallahan’s brutalized remains had been found in a brickyard behind the Mckinley school. He had been shot in the head, and his throat had been slashed from ear to ear. 

Fuller never admitted his guilt. In fact, he went to his execution, stating he was innocence. Because of this, some accounts of his death, still claim he was wrongly accused. 

Regardless of his guilt or innocence, soon after his death, his ghost began to appear at the Butte, Montana courthouse, jail and jail yard.

Invitation to Fuller's
The primary witness to this haunting was a deputy sheriff, Tom Mulcahy who had witnessed Fuller’s execution. 

He reported several strange occurrences. Mulcahy had kept three souvenirs from the hanging— an invitation to the event, a piece of the hood that was placed over Fuller’s head, and a section of the hangman’s rope. 

He came to the conclusion that Fuller’s ghost appeared to be drawn to these items.

Mulcahy like many sheriffs over the years bunked in a room in the county jail. His bedroom’s window was on the ground floor and looked out over the jail yard, where Fuller was hanged. 

The galloping gallows **, as they were called, stood just thirty feet from this window. 

Mulcahy kept his souvenirs in a scrape book, which he placed in a chest of drawers near his bed. He awoke several times to see a ghostly form coming through this window.

Mulcahy described this ghost as being surrounded by a foggy, dim light. He stated it would always head to the chest of drawers where he kept his souvenirs. 

When he would turn on the light, the ghost would just vanish out the window. After several similar incidents, Mulcahy decided to take his scrapbook and place it under his pillow. 

One night he awoke when he felt something tugging at the scrapbook beneath his head.

The roommate who bunked with Mulcahy had his own encounter with this ghost. After he fell asleep one night, he was awakened when something grabbed his neck. He then saw what appeared to be a cloth and rope dangling over his face. 

At the time of this incident, he did not know about Mulcahy’s souvenirs. When the two deputies encountered skepticism about what had happened—Mulchary offered his bed as proof to anyone who wanted to sleep in it. No one volunteered.

Yet another witness to Fuller’s ghost was a janitor that worked for the county. 

One night as he was in the jail yard where Fuller was hanged, he spotted a shadow in the exact spot where the scaffold had stood. Knowing the yard was locked, he ran to investigate who might be there, but after a thorough search, he discovered no one. 

Fuller's ghost has also been seen in the basement of the courthouse, near the storage room where the heavy boards for the “galloping gallows” are still kept.

In the over 100 years since Fuller’s execution, countless others have reported seeing his ghost. 

Many witnesses-- not knowing anything about Fuller or his appearance-- have described his ghost with specific details. 

He still appears the way he looked the morning of his execution--with a grizzled beard and wearing a tattered hat. 

There is also a second ghost who haunts the courthouse. This man was a deputy at the same time as Mulcahy, I will share his tragic story in another post.

New Courthouse
* Today a newer courthouse stands on the same location on Granite Street. It is called Butte-Silver Bow County Courthouse. Construction on this more modern structure began just one year after Fuller’s execution.

** “Galloping gallows” got its name because its’ heavy boards could be broken down into pieces and transported to other counties to be reassembled for hangings when needed. 

These gallows have no trap door in which the condemned fell. Instead, a loose 350-pound weight would jerk the unfortunate victim into the air. The rope used was ordered from Chicago, which was tied into a regulation noose--with the required nine wraps and proper knot. 

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