Atlas Obscura is organizing trips! Join us on an adventure »
Today Only: 50% off Atlas Obscura books and calendars at Barnes & Noble »
The Perfect Gift for Travelers: Our #1 New York Times® best selling book »

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Buffalo Ridge 1880 Cowboy Town

This Wild West attraction is alive with glitching automatons. 

Not to be confused with the nearby 1880 Town which features actual buildings from the gunslinger era, the Buffalo Ridge 1880 Cowboy Town is a rusting robot replica of Wild West iconography.

Built around the 1960’s as an added attraction to the Songstadt family’s gas station, the “town” consists of a single street of buildings full of creaking robots. Among the iconic structures are a saloon, a fort, and a Chinese laundry meant to capture the essence of the Old West if not the history. The mechanical figures inhabiting the buildings range from trapped miners to barmen to President Abraham Lincoln himself. At the push of a button or the triggering of a hidden floor plate, the robots spring to half-life to deliver lectures (in the voice of creator Dean Songstadt) about their times, and perform what limited action their gears will allow. Some of the more fanciful highlights include the “haunted” mine, and Comanche the Ghost Horse who can be seen through a small plexiglass window.  

Unfortunately the robots’ creator, a family friend of the Songstadts, is only able to visit once a year to make repairs and most of the automatons have fallen into an unsettling state of disrepair. The Songstadt’s perform what makeshift repairs they can throughout the year, covering broken eyes with hats pulled down over the inhuman faces, and permanent positioning for any of the figures which have quit moving altogether. However weather, time, and neglect have left the town covered in dust, broken windows, and peeling paint.

Tours through the town are self-guided although Dean Songstadt will proudly tell visitors about the town he created, fiercely defending each and every close-enough-to-the-truth display. If robots had ghosts, the Buffalo Ridge 1880 Cowboy Town would be the most haunted attraction in America.