1880 Cowboy Town: Spooky Destinations Part 4

This is the last of our spooky destinations posts, and if you have a fear of mannequins, quit reading now.

Z and I took one last extended trip as child-free adults when I was pregnant with D in mid-summer. We decided to drive and explore South Dakota for a few weeks. As we planned our trip, I searched for weird or unusual places we could check out on our travels, and I came across a blog post for 1880 Cowboy Town, a tourist attraction off the highway west of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Z and I stopped at 1880 Cowboy Town on our way west out of Sioux Falls in the morning. As we pulled into the parking lot, there was only one other car in the gravel parking at the large wood building in front of the billboard proclaiming “Welcome to Buffalo Ridge, 1880 Cowboy Town.” After a brief conversation with the older gentleman in the store/main building, we bought our tickets and were directed to walk outside and up the path towards the wood palisade walls to enter into the cowboy town.


Storefront to buy tickets for 1880 Cowboy Town.


Walking up the path to enter the town.

I knew from reading about the attraction online that it was a small recreation of a town from 1880 with animatronic scenes. That did not quite prepare us for what we found inside the walls. We walked past the small herd of bison in the field in front of the entryway, and found a small fake cemetery lining the walkway inside. We wandered up to the first scene, which was a Native American who spoke about life on the plains before it was settled by white people. Pretty straightforward, right? Well, the thing is, the animatronics were old, so the character moved in jerks and fits, and the audio was almost impossible to understand at times. There were loud screeching noises as the character moved, and the overall impression was equally hilarious and terrifying.


First animatronic scene: Native American chief.


A few bison along the way.

We continued to explore the town, and many of the scenes were similar. Old animatronics, loud, screechy audio that was sometimes audible, and sometimes just noisy. So far, this was mostly just odd, and somewhat funny. Well, except for a few factors. Z and I were the only ones in the town. One family passed us as they were leaving just as we were walking in, and they had been the only other car in the parking lot. So, we were on our own. Also, the whole place had an air of disrepair. From the bathrooms with a broken child-sized doll laying on the ground outside, to the red paint that had been splashed and splattered all over some of the scenes, things were not in very good shape. And animatronic people are creepy even when they are well-maintained, and these ones, well, check out the pictures below.


Here’s the bathrooms! Wait, what’s by the door?


Oh, it’s a hairless girl mannequin, missing an arm, laying on its side. On the ground. OK…


A singing scene.


Abraham Lincoln giving an unintelligible speech.


Old Abe up close. Little bit more terrifying. By a lot.


Red paint all over, including footprints in the paint.


Viewing the scenes through chicken wire fencing also adds a little je ne sais quoi…

We had a lot of fun exploring the scenes and different areas of the town, laughing at the animatronics and weird set-ups. Well, it was fun until we went up the lookout tower. In the far corner, there was a lookout tower that was several stories tall, and we wanted to see the surrounding area, so we began to climb. A little more than halfway up, I got tired and decided to wait for Z. He was gone for several minutes, and the solitude was getting to me a little bit. I called to Z, and he came down a few minutes later. Z showed me what he had found at the top of the tower: a deflated air mattress, and a cane with a nail sticking out of the bottom. There was not anyone else up there, we were still alone. But the images freaked me out a little more.


Z’s find at the top of the lookout tower. Weird.


Picture from halfway up the lookout tower, prior to creepy discovery.


Having fun and playing around.

We had a few more scenes to see, so we checked out the “Magic Show” which was a scene of a magician cutting through a female assistant in a magic box with a saw, complete with loud, prolonged screaming from the assistant. There was also a scene of a man getting his leg amputated at the doctor. So, calm, reassuring scenes. Not. At this point, I had my fun at 1880 Cowboy Town, and I was ready to go. Z reluctantly looked at a few more things and we started to walk out. But then, Z noticed one more creepy detail to top it all off.


Here’s the magic show! How fun! Wait, is that screaming? Yes. And it’s still going. and going. umm, let’s keep walking.


And here is a joyful scene of a man getting his leg amputated at the doctor’s office. Just another day.

As we were walking out, Z spotted a mannequin sitting in a second story window, overlooking the town’s main street. It did not have any hair, and did not appear to be part of any scene. It was just there, in the window, looking down on us. I pulled Z along to get out of there as quick as I could, convinced I would have nightmares. Or that I would be followed by terrifying mannequins. It was quite the place to see, and if you’re driving along the highway near Sioux Falls, check it out. Maybe with a big group of friends. And only if you’re not afraid of mannequins, especially animatronic ones.


What’s up in that window?


Oh, a hairless mannequin looking out into the street? Ok. Time to run!


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