Merry Widow Health Mine - Atlas Obscura

Merry Widow Health Mine

Basin, Montana

What if the cure for all that ails you was as simple as repeated exposure to low-dose radon? 

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On the picturesque drive between Butte and Helena, deep in the Boulder Mountains of Montana, near the tiny town of Basin, is a place that for decades has drawn people from around the world for its purported healing properties. Nestled in a canyon, on a heavily-wooded mountain slope, sits the Merry Widow Health Mine.

Unlike conventional spas or springs that attract people with the hope of relief from that which ails them, the Merry Widow’s secret sauce has a truly unique key ingredient: Radon.

Originally a gold mine, its healing properties were suggested by the long life spans of the miners who had worked there. On further investigation, it was discovered that naturally occurring radon gas (the product of decaying uranium in the mine’s granite walls) was present.

Based on the radiation hormesis hypothesis, it is suggested that the mine contains levels of the gas that are high enough to have an effect, but not so high as to be harmful. Although the Merry Widow’s owners can’t legally make claims that suggest huffing the mine’s radon-infused air will cure an ailment, they do provide numerous testimonials from satisfied visitors who report benefits that keep them coming back.

That said, the owners are welcoming, the visitors are friendly, the mine is cozy, and the experience is unique. Staff recommends 32 one-hour “treatments,” three times per day, over the course of 10 days. But if you just want to stop by and look around so you can brag to your friends about deliberately exposing yourself to radon, you’re welcome to do so, free of charge.

Know Before You Go

The Merry Widow is open Monday to Saturday, 8 a.m. –  p.m. between April 15th and October 15th (office closed on Sunday). Admission is $10/hour/person (Day Passes are $25), but staff will let you go inside the mine for free if you just want to walk in and check it out.

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February 20, 2024

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