Mystery Deepens in Ghost Town Bought for $800,000

SCENIC, S.D. -- The saloon is long empty. The roadside jail cells, rusted and worn. Even the swing sets peek from behind knee-high brush after decades of neglect.

This tiny exclave just west of South Dakota's Badlands is officially an old ghost town. But its future is shrouded in new mystery.

"We don't know what's coming," said Kathy Jobgen, 50, the only employee remaining at the only business still in town: the U.S. Post Office.

The town of Scenic -- once a popular stop for people traveling to Rapid City from the Badlands to the east or Pine Ridge Reservation to the south -- was recently purchased by an unusual buyer for less than $800,000. The Iglesia ni Cristo church, established in the Philippines in 1914, bought the town and surrounding acreage from longtime resident and area rodeo legend Twila Merrill, who had gathered the land bit by bit over several decades.