The “Romance” of the Pony Express and Haunted Hollenberg Station

The Pony Express has been romanticized by Hollywood, although it wasn’t glamorous; however its ghostly riders astride their horses haunt Hollenberg Station.

The Pony Express stretched from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California, ia route in which there was no glamour for the riders and their horses.

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The station was built on Gerat Henry and Sophia Hollenberg’s Kansas ranch which already contained a store, tavern, unofficial post office and living quarters for the future station keeper and his family.

There are many haunted sites in the Old West States, including hotels, forts and saloons. Most phenomena are residual hauntings, ghosts without intelligence, and poltergeists.

The Pony Express

In 1860, railroads and telegraph wires ended in St. Joseph, Missouri. From there, the mail went to California via stagecoaches or wagons, a journey that took over three weeks. A more efficient mail service was needed, so the Pony Express was created. Horsemen could take the mail to California in a one-way trip in about ten days.

The dangerous, grueling route went through, what is now, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California. Riders had to cross the Missouri River by ferry boat and journey through the Rocky and High Sierra Mountains. Hazards included nasty weather, AmerIndian, outlaw and animal attacks and treacherous terrain.

Qualifications to be accepted as a Pony Express rider were stringent. Applicants had to be sinewy males, no more than eighteen-years-old, weigh less than 125 pounds and expert riders who were willing to risk death.

Orphans were preferred. According to legend, Bronco Charlie Miller, the youngest rider, was eleven years old. Over 100 riders were hired. The pay was $25 per week. Unfortunately, many riders didn’t survive the treacherous journey.

Half of the riders rode east; the other half, west. Relay stations were every ten to fifteen miles apart. A rider would yell when he sighted a station, so he could quickly switch horses. A new rider would relieve him at about every third station – after the boys and men rode about seventy-five to one-hundred miles.

Pony Express Rider’s Record Setting Journey

One famous Pony Express riders was fifteen-year-old William “Buffalo Bill” Cody who set an amazing record. He made the longest non-stop run from Red Buttes Station to Rocky Ridge Station and back after he discovered his relief rider was killed.

William F. Cody (aka Buffalo Bill Cody) (1846-1917),
William F. Cody (aka Buffalo Bill Cody) (1846-1917)

The distance was 322 miles on one of the most dangerous parts of the trail. He used 21 horses on his journey and accomplished the trek in 21 hours and 40 minutes.

Cody, later, gained fame for his Wild West Show that featured fabled extravaganzas of the Old West.

Hollywood Glamorizes Pony Express Riders

There have been movies and television series about the mail service that romanticized it. One example is The Young Riders, a “romantic western” TV show, set in Sweetwater, Kansas.

The themes are the hardships the riders faced and relationship difficulties that the housemothers tried to help them with. They endured adversity, but did they have housemothers and time for relationships and romance?

There’s a popular misconception in some films. They include Wild Bill Hickok as a rider. According to history, he wasn’t; however, it makes fictitious movies more interesting and increases audiences.

Hollenberg Station

The Hollenbergs capitalized on the wagon trains that passed by their property on the Missouri-California Trail. Originally, their six-room building had a mercantile, tavern and unofficial post office. Three years later, it became a Pony Express station and, later, a stage coach stop, with rooms for the drivers.

The Pony Express lasted for a year and a half. In October 1861, telegraph service was expanded to send messages to the West coast, so the Pony Express was no longer needed.

After that, many of the stations were abandoned and fell into ruin, but the Hollenberg station didn’t. The inhabitants of Hanover, founded in 1869, raised funds to restore the station.

Haunted Hollenberg Station: Pony Express Ghosts

The paranormal activity, consisting of residual hauntings and poltergeist activity, at the station is most active in the summer.

Visitors and staff members heard sounds of reverberating hooves and male voices calling as their spectral horses approached the station during both night and day.

Many people reported seeing the ghosts of the Pony Express riders, wearing cowboy hats and chaps, astride their steeds.

Witnesses reported hearing strange inexplicable sounds and feeling cold spots inside Hollenberg Station Some claimed seeing Gerat Hollenberg’s ghost in the station.

There are people who believe that his specter moves objects inside the building. It’s said that a rider who was killed by an AmerIndian’s arrow haunts the station and its grounds.

Today, the station is a national historic landmark managed by the Kansas State Historical Society. The visitor’s center has a theater, a museum and a gift shop.

The picnic area on the station’s grounds is open when the museum is closed. The historic landmark attracts people who are interested in the Pony Express’ history.

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