ROCK CREEK • Lucy Stricker took an ax. Gave her husband 40 whacks.
She dragged Herman’s bloody body from their bedroom and down the staircase of their Victorian mansion. The staircase screamed bloody murder for decades.
Or so the story goes.
Rock Creek Stage Station
Stricker Ranch has long been a hot spot for paranormal activity and research.
The ranch grew up at the Rock Creek Stage Station — part of “Stagecoach King” Ben Holladay’s stage route out of Kelton, Utah, and the first settlement in the Magic Valley — so it’s natural that ghost stories and urban legends surround the 150-year-old site tucked away in a stand of trees along the Old Oregon Trail.
Over the years, visitors have reported seeing ghostly apparitions inside the home and lanterns swinging in the darkness near the old cemetery that sits a short distance to the west.
But the craziest story of all centered around a stain on the staircase leading from the upstairs bedrooms to the parlor below. The stain, which was smeared down the staircase, sparked wild tales of conspiracy and murder.
Herman Stricker, a German emigrant, purchased the Rock Creek Store at the stage stop in 1877. The store was the first trading post between Fort Hall and Fort Boise on the Oregon Trail.
Stricker later married Lucy Walgamott and the two operated the store and saloon, and rented out rooms in their home. Lucy nursed to health many sick emigrants who passed by, and buried those who didn’t make it.
For a decade before the Idaho State Historical Society took ownership of the site, the Stricker mansion, built in 1900, sat empty.
“There were overgrown bushes in the yard and ivy had overtaken the house,” said Stricker great-great-grandson Curtis Johnson. “It was creepy.”
During that time, young thrill-seekers would break into the old home through a back staircase to examine the “blood” stain on the stairs and hold seances.
“We had to take down the back staircase to keep them out,” Johnson said.
Herman died in his sleep — and without Lucy’s help — in 1920.
“He was 79 when he died,” Johnson said. “His death was peaceful — uneventful.”
Lucy, who was much younger than her husband, lived at the Victorian mansion for nearly 30 years after Herman passed. Lucy died in February 1949, during the worst winter storm known to hit the Magic Valley. Her body “was laid out in the parlor for 14 days, until she could be buried,” Johnson said.
Their daughter Gladys lived in the home until the mid-’70s. Since the state took over the site in 1984, caretakers have reported being startled by ghosts.
Gary Guy has lived at the house for six years, overseeing the site for the historical society. Guy says Brittany, his Scottish Terrier, alerts him to visits from a young girl wearing a long white dress. The girl never speaks, but disappears into thin air as soon as he turns away. Others have seen the girl too, he said.
The legend of Herman’s murder is easily debunked because the couple’s bedroom was not on the second floor of the mansion.
Johnson got a good laugh out of the fictional tale, and so did his great-aunt Shirley Puckett.
Lucy, Puckett told Johnson, “would have loved it.”