Before we get into the haunted sites in Hill City, first , let’s take a look at the controversy that this little town experienced that involved Sue Hendrickson, an American paleontologist who was employed with the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research. On August 12th, 1990, Hendrickson discovered the fossil that would later become known as the most complete skeleton of a T-Rex that was ever found. The fossil was nicknamed “Sue” after the woman who received the honors.
After the discovery, the fossil was excavated and taken to a facility residing in Hill City, which is when controversy brewed as to who really owned the rights to the fossil. Interested parties include the owner of the land (Maurice Williams), tribal affiliations, the federal government, and the Black Hills Institute. On May 12th, 1992 the FBI was moved to seize Sue from the Institute over the course of three days. The fossil was taken to the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.
A long-winded court battle emerged and it was decided that Maurice Williams was indeed the rightful owner of the fossil. Many counts and charges followed in an indictment that placed the Institute at fault. In South Dakota history, this would become the longest case they had ever seen. The president of the Institute was later charged with two counts of customs violations, where he actually was sent to federal prison for two years. As for Sue, she was auctioned off at a Sotheby’s auction house and later sold by Maurice Williams to the Field Museum located in Chicago, Illinois. The total price was $8.3 million.
If you are wondering what ever happened to Sue Hendrickson, she went on to find a host of other important fossils and artifacts situated about the world. In 1992, she became part of a team of marine archeologists that entered numerous diving expeditions. Some of the remarkable under her belt includes searching for the Royal Quarters of Cleopatra, as well as finding the lost fleet of Napoleon Bonaparte that was involved in the Battle of the Nile. She later published an autobiography that took a look at her life as an explorer. Today, she resides off the coast of Honduras, where she has set up shop on the island of Guanaja.
As for Peter Lawson, he is still the president of the Black Hills Institute for Geological Research, where he consults on exhibits and displays. He also serves the public as an expert in dinosaurs. He did lead the team that excavated Sue and would later co-write a book titled, “Rex Appeal,” which tells the tale of how the United States government handled the business with the infamous T Rex skeleton after the excavation. Larson is known as one of the first people to work with the pathology regarding T Rexes and is considered one of the most knowledgeable on the subject of T Rex fossils.
In the last installment of this piece on Hill City, South Dakota titled: “Haunted Places in Hill City,” you will encounter the sites about town that are known as haunted.