A spooky little town as many people know it, and there’s a reason. At one time, a thriving growing community, at least four murders in its short life mar the history of Wheelock. It was a town destined for distinction and death.
Wheelock first showed up in Williams County, North Dakota about 1901 and became a formal community a year later. Compared to the vacant prairie, Wheelock was so large and affluent, less fortunate people moved down the road a couple of miles and established the town of Epping. It was said at the time that property was too expensive in Wheelock. It’s population hovered around 115 in the mid 1930’s and by the 1950’s it reported as many as 400 people in town.
While there is more than a handful of residents here, it looks as though their property value has declined. The town seems haunted by its past. The solid structures of town dissolved in the last 10 or 15 years, a few old farm shacks and barns remain, but no commercial buildings.
By the 1970’s fewer than 24 people lived in Wheelock. In 1994, the town died and was formally dissolved. (Meanwhile, that poor little town down the road, Epping continues and even has its own webpage.) http://www.epping.govoffice.com/
Here’s why it seems haunted — murders: As happens with popular bustling towns, it attracted quite a bit of good and bad attention. Business was so robust that by the time it celebrated its 25th birthday, it was home to a hotel, general merchandise store, lumber yard, pool hall, drug store and a bank — and that’s where the first murder happened, at the bank. It’s that brick building in the center of the three buildings in the photo above.
The bank was profitable, and was isolated, miles from any law enforcement. That could be why three armed men took over the bank in 1926. Before they ran off with all the money, they murdered the banker. They avoided capture, until one man was caught in Kenmare, North Dakota. He died in prison.
Of course today, Main Street doesn’t look like it would attract a bank robbery.
About 30 years later Guy Hall jumped off the train on the south edge of town. He wandered around the decaying town. It obviously had seen better days, but he might find a bite to eat here.
He picked a house that he seemed drawn to. There was no rational reason why this was the house to choose, it was the voices that told him “This one.”
Hall had a rough time in his life ending up in a Washington State Prison. When he was released, he jumped a freight and headed east. Now in Wheelock, his inner chaos was screaming.
At the house he picked, he banged on the door and the woman told him to go away. She had her own two sons to feed. Hall got mad, left and returned.
She still would not let him in. He’d picked up a crowbar at a construction site on main street and swung it to get in to the house. He killed her. Her sons tried to protect her, and he bloodied them up mercilessly, hitting them repeatedly. He killed them. No one knows for sure why he attacked her, except for what he later said in his own words..
A few days later, he was found dead. He’d shot himself and left behind a note that said, “Please excuse me for I am insane.”
Wheelock has been on a downhill slide ever since the 1950’s. A few attempts at cleaning up and building up the town never seem to get very far.
Interestingly, a drive through town, and you’ll see an essential item on the shacks: a satellite dish.
The Bakken boom created a bit of interest in the town, but then when the boom was over, the town became ghostly once again. It sits in the shade of its much larger neighbor to the west, Williston. Epping, the little town built from those who could not afford Wheelock, is still functioning. To the east, the towns of Ray and Tioga thrive in the new economy of oil.
Death has centered on Wheelock. Each time we return, it’s less and less of a residential collection of homes, and more of a ghost town. People who visit say they feel “creeped out” by the town. Some write of their experiences as being very quick — they have written they felt an evil presence in town.
What is your experience when you visit Wheelock?
Not been there yet? Drop a comment here after you have visited Wheelock to tell me what you think.