— Cynthia Gallaher (@swimmerpoet) April 16, 2015
It has been more than a century since people flocked to the tiny mining town of Garnet, Mont.
But that all changed for a few days last week, when Missoula’s U.S. Bureau of Land Management office put up an online ad seeking a few volunteer residents to keep watch over the isolated ghost town this summer.
“The calls came in almost immediately,” BLM spokeswoman Maria Craig told the Missoulian. “Garnet Ghost Town Ranger Nacoma Gainan told me the next morning he already had 130 e-mails and he didn’t know how many phone calls. The phone was ringing all morning.”
“We got people asking about it from South Africa, from China, the United Kingdom, Germany and all over the country,” Craig added. “There were more out-of-state people than Montanans calling.”
Before you try adding your name to the stack, we should point out, the BLM has stopped accepting applications.
The cabins, which date from the 1890s, are hardly luxurious, but over the years preservationists have restored many of the town’s buildings, according to the Missoulian.
— BLMMontanaDakotas (@BLM_MTDKs) March 18, 2015
For the chosen few, government amenities include a private, furnished cabin with a “propane stove and refrigerator, wood stove and a food stipend,” the Missoulian reports.
Volunteers will be required to lead tours, sell souvenirs and provide visitors with information. Volunteer duties typically last until 4:30 p.m., and then they have the town to themselves, according to Fox News.
Not that it has stopped anyone in the past. A volunteer from New York spent 11 consecutive summers in Garnet and a couple lived there each summer for a decade, according to the Missoulian.
“It’s primitive, to say the least,” Gainan told the Missoulian. “It’s for people who love the outdoors and want to give back. There’s no electricity, no Wi-Fi and no running water. But there are trails to explore, artifacts to inspect. Volunteers are really left to their own devices after the visitors are gone.”
There are also, allegedly, supernatural forces at work in the town.
“I have heard several people tell about experiences in the hotel,” Ellen Baumler of the Montana Historical Society told the Huffington Post by e-mail. Bureau of Land Management historian “Allan Mathews and others have seen a woman [in] one of the upstairs rooms in the hotel, gazing out the window. Folks have to judge for themselves.”
At its height, Garnet was a thriving community with about 1,000 residents, low crime and free-flowing liquor in multiple saloons, according to the town’s history. By 1898:
There were four stores, four hotels, three livery stables, two barber shops, a union hall, a school with 41 students, a butcher shop, a candy shop, a doctor’s office, an assay office, and thirteen saloons comprised the town. Eager miners and entrepreneurs built quickly and without planning. A haphazard community resulted. Most of the buildings stood on existing or future mining claims, and about twenty mines operated.
Janet Goodall, a former volunteer from Buffalo, N.Y., spent a dozen summers living in the ghost town, which is 12 miles from the nearest main road. She told Fox that the town’s remoteness remains part of the allure.
“People who visit seem to leave behind their urban personal distance,” Goodall said. “I’ve seen visitors become friendly and helpful when unexpected things happen, like flat tires, empty gas tanks, keys locked in cars, minor injuries, and, in one case, a diabetic faint.
“Maybe it’s because cellphones don’t work and help is hours away,” she continued. “They do become much nicer.”