The Minneapolis–Saint Paul Metropolitan Area is built up around the Mississippi, Minnesota and St. Croix rivers and is known as the “Twin Cities” because of the close proximity of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, the two largest cities in Minnesota. The area is home to approximately 3.8 million people and has a history of European settlement dating back to the 1820s. At Mysterious Heartland, we have found that this region is also home to its fair share of infamous legends and lore, from the ghosts of Forepaugh Mansion, the Griggs Mansion, Fitzgerald Theatre, and more. Which place will prove to be the most haunted of them all?
10. St. Olaf College
Named after the Patron Saint of Norway, King Olaf II, St. Olaf College was founded in 1874 by Lutheran Norwegian immigrants. Its scenic campus is home to two buildings on the National Register of Historic Places: Old Main and Steensland Library. The college is also known for its scholarship on Danish existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Throughout its history, St. Olaf College has embraced its otherworldly residents. In 1887, the college newspaper, The Manitou Messenger, even reported that two ghosts were seen gliding through the upper floor of Ladies Hall. Most of the ghostly activity at St. Olaf centers on Ytterboe Hall. Originally called the Boys Dormitory, it was built in 1900 on what was reputed to be sacred Indian land. Professor Halvor Ytterboe died attempting to disinfect the hall with formaldehyde during a scarlet fever outbreak. The hall was later named in his honor, and his ghost is said to dwell there. In Thorson Hall, a young woman awoke one night to hear a child screaming. After checking with the other residents, she learned she was the only one who heard the strange cries.
9. Lakeshore Players Theatre
White Bear Lake, Minnesota
Occupying a former church, Lakeshore Players Theatre is located on Stewart Avenue and 6th Street in White Bear Lake, north of Saint Paul, Minnesota. Established in 1953, it is one of the oldest continuously operating theaters in Minnesota and serves as the premier performing arts center for the northeast metro area. The theater has occupied its current location since 1971, and the Lakeshore Players quickly learned they were not alone in the building. Ghostly activity picks up during renovations, and one employee saw the apparition of a man in overalls as he was working. Thespians have named this otherworldly visitor “George,” although no one really knows who he was in life. He is believed to be protective of females in the theater, and has been blamed for moving costumes and props.
8. Washington Street Bridge
Built in the late 1960s, this double-decker bridge spans the Mississippi River and connects the east and west bank campuses of the University of Minnesota. The bottom deck is open to vehicle traffic and the top is used for pedestrians and bikes. The top deck was enclosed during the 1970s. This bridge is rumored to be haunted by the ghosts of all the people who have committed suicide there. In 1972, a University of Minnesota professor named John Berryman jumped to his death, and after being released from the University Hospital, a psychiatric patient also died in a similar manner. Those are just two of the most well-known suicides. Today, some students have reported being followed by ghostly footsteps at night, as well as feeling like they are being watched from the shadows.
7. Forepaugh Mansion
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Currently a restaurant, this beautiful Victorian mansion was built by Joseph Forepaugh in 1870. There were at least two documented deaths in the home. In 1892, Joseph shot himself in the head, and a housemaid named Molly hung herself on the third floor. According to legend, Joseph was having an affair with Molly and sunk into a deep depression when his wife forbade him from seeing her. Some say Molly was carrying his child when she hung herself, though there is no evidence for this. Both are now said to haunt the home. Employees have seen their spirits, felt cold spots, and experienced strange disturbances.
6. Billy’s Bar and Grill
Located along Jackson Street in the “Halloween capitol of the world,” just north of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Billy’s Bar and Grill is in the perfect place to have a haunting. In fact, this former hotel and brothel is reportedly haunted by the ghosts of ladies of the evening from a bygone era. Anoka, Minnesota sits at the confluence of the Rum and Mississippi Rivers, so it was a popular stopping point for loggers moving their goods further south. In 1877, a Swedish immigrant named Charles Jackson built the Anoka (later known as the Jackson) Hotel to serve the loggers who would go there to unwind at the end of the month when they received their pay. At least one confirmed murder occurred there. In 1885, a man named W.F. Mirick shot Peter Gross outside the hotel, and Gross lingered and died in a room on the third floor. The building, however, is believed to be haunted by the ghosts of former prostitutes, as well as by Mrs. Jackson. According to legend, Mrs. Jackson was either murdered or committed suicide inside the hotel, but neither of these tales are true.
5. Gibbs Museum of Pioneer and Dakota Life
Falcon Heights, Minnesota
An old farmhouse in the urban fold of Minneapolis and St. Paul may be a strange sight, but for some visitors to the Gibbs Museum of Pioneer and Dakota Life, the strangeness doesn’t end there. Some visitors report seeing the ghost of a young boy and other children throughout the old home. Pioneers Jane and Herman Gibbs purchased the property in 1849 and erected a small sod house, where they lived for several years while improving the land. The couple eventually built a farmhouse, barn, and schoolhouse on the property. Today, it is maintained by the Ramsey County Historical Society as a museum to educate visitors on the life of Minnesota pioneers, as well as the American Indians who proceeded them. Ghostly children are frequently seen in the farmhouse, and staff have reportedly had to put toys back in a toy box even though it was locked up for the night. Doors and cupboards have also mysteriously opened and closed on their own.
4. Griggs Mansion
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Chauncey W. Griggs, a wholesale grocery tycoon, built this mansion in 1883, but did not live there long before heading west. Ghosts have been reported here for nearly a century and the mansion is often referred to as the most haunted house in St. Paul. It is inhabited by as many as seven different spirits. According to legend, in 1915 a young maid hanged herself near the fourth-floor landing after a failed love affair. Since her death, her presence has often been encountered in the form of a white mist or feelings of dread. The ghost of Charles Wade, the former gardener and caretaker of the house, has also been seen in the library of the mansion. Visitors have also seen an old, white-haired man wearing a black suit and top hat. Reportedly, in 1969 a group of journalists fled the mansion in terror after trying to spend the night. The Griggs Mansion has frequently changed ownership in recent years, and was still up for sale as of 2012.
3. Arcola High Bridge
Also known as the Soo Line High Bridge, the Arcola High Bridge is an impressive steel structure spanning the St. Croix River between Stillwater, Minnesota and Somerset, Wisconsin. Designed by structural engineer C.A.P. Turner, it was built in 1910-11 and opened on June 1, 1911. It is 2,682 feet in length and rises 184 feet above the water. Local teens and young adults often come to party in the woods at the water’s edge and stare and marvel at the structure. Perhaps, they imagine, they will see something more incredible than a train barreling across the rusting steel bridge. For years, local residents have whispered tales of a mysterious blue light that bobs and weaves along the train tracks. Some have even claimed to see the ghost of a man carrying a bright blue lantern. In one version of the story, the ghost belongs to a local farmer who murdered his family before setting fire to his own house and committing suicide. During the First World War, a night watchman on the lookout for saboteurs did fall to his death, sparking stories of a green light floating across the bridge. Most recently, in 2008, a 20-year-old woman fell to her death when she plunged through a gap in the bridge while crossing it at night with a friend. Even more so than ghost stories, the lives lost at this location serve as a sobering reminder of the danger posed by railroad bridges. The Arcola High Bridge is best enjoyed from a distance.
2. Wabasha Street Caves
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Technically man-made, the Wabasha Street Caves were carved out of a sandstone bluff near the east bank of the Mississippi River in St. Paul, Minnesota in the 1840s and were used for growing mushrooms and storing food throughout the 19th Century. It was once the largest producer of mushrooms in the United States. In the 20th Century, the caves were used for entertainment. During Prohibition, entrepreneurs opened a restaurant and nightclub at that location called the Wabasha Street Speakeasy, which saw an eclectic clientele. According to legend, gangsters like John Dillinger and Ma Barker frequented the joint, although there is scant evidence to support this claim. Never-the-less, visitors report encountering the ghosts of former gangsters deep in the caverns. Strange lights bob down the darkened corridors, and big band music has been heard echoing from someplace always out of reach. The music usually begins playing while guests and employees are in the bathroom, but when they come out to investigate, they are unable to find the source. Today, the Wabasha Street Caves are a unique event venue offering historic tours and swing dancing.
1. Fitzgerald Theatre
Saint Paul, Minnesota
The ghost of an actress named “Veronica” and a stagehand named “Ben” are just two of the spirits believed to be haunting the former home of Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. Built in 1910 and originally known as the Sam S. Shubert Theatre, Fitzgerald Theatre is located on Exchange Street in downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota, near the Mississippi River. By the middle of the 20th Century, the once magnificent theater was showing its age. Luckily, Minnesota Public Radio purchased it in 1980 and began extensive renovations. It was reopened to the public in 1985 and rechristened Fitzgerald Theatre in 1994. Moving furniture, apparitions and shadowy figures, cold spots, and disembodied voices are all attributed to the ghosts of Veronica and Ben. According to authors Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk, Ben is most often seen in the catwalk.