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Homegrown Hauntings

 

10/25/07 - Minnesota Daily

Author and haunted locale researcher Chad Lewis helps map out some of the most haunted places in the Twin Cities and tell their cryptic tales.
 
the paranormal - it's all a crock, right?

I'm sure paranormal researcher Chad Lewis must hear some version of that question all the time. It seems the public is both fascinated by and skeptical about the existence of the paranormal and just what it means for whatever comes next for those of us who leave this world.

It certainly isn't your average job, or your average life for that matter. Lewis spends his time traveling the country, investigating the usual unusual mix of ghosts, UFOs, crop circles and unidentifiable creatures.

His childhood was spent in Wisconsin and he earned his master's degree in applied psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Originally, Lewis was intrigued by why people believe what they believe, and what exactly was it about human belief systems and perceptions that allowed some to believe in ghosts, while others scoffed. His interest spiraled into what he does for a living today, traveling the country, collecting and investigating stories.

He has compiled his cases by state, creating road guides for the most haunted places all over the Midwest and some parts of the rest of the country, resulting in nine books. "The Minnesota Road Guide to Haunted Locations" explores locations from all corners of the state. He wrote this guide along with Terry Fisk, another paranormal investigator.

Even for someone who's dedicated his life to this activity, Lewis is unsure about the paranormal in general.

"After 14 years of doing this, I'm left with more questions than answers," he said. "It's the curiosity of not knowing that keeps me moving.

"I believe there are ghosts out there. I just don't know what they are," he said. "I've talked to too many people to think it's all a hoax or misidentification."

And so he brings his research to you. Whenever he hears about a case, he goes to the location to investigate it. First he and his team compile the history of the place. If they hear rumors of a murder or a suicide, they set out to prove or disprove the rumor. Then they talk to witnesses, as many as they can, to get every story about unusual experiences. Sometimes witnesses even come to them, wanting to tell their story.

Ten of these locations are right here in the Twin Cities. You might have heard of some, and some you might have never expected. You're more likely to go to a wedding there, or see a rendition of Hamlet, than hunt after ghosts. That's the beauty of it all, he said. Ghosts are where life and death happens, and sometimes that's right in your backyard.

1. Swing Dancing with Dead Gangsters

•Wabasha Street Caves, 215 Wabasha St. South, St. Paul, www.wabashastreetcaves.com, (651) 292-1220
•Ghosts and Graves Tour, 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Oct. 26 and 27, 90 minute tour, $18
•Ghosts, Graves and Caves Tour 5 p.m. Oct. 26 and 27, two hours, $22
•Swing Nights, Thursdays, doors at 6 p.m., live music 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., $7

"Ghosts of gangsters dressed in 1920s attire have reportedly been seen in the caves on numerous occasions."

1. The Wabasha Street Caves have a relatively long history, and the Caves easily lend themselves to the eerie. From a mushroom factory to a speakeasy for gangsters to a dance hall, the Caves have been a hotbed of activity for most of the 20th Century.

According to Lewis's research, gangsters were gunned down in the caves, and those might be the very same ghostly presences seen haunting the Caves to this day.

Ghosts of gangsters dressed in 1920s attire have reportedly been seen in the caves on numerous occasions. A bus boy appears to lean against a table, but he always seems to disappear, and the ghost of an unidentified woman has been seen wandering the caves. Guests have heard big band music when no band was playing. Mists have shown up in wedding photos that took place in the caves, and employees have reported seeing strange globes of light floating around the bar area.

Though the reception received from employees was icy at best, the Caves promotes its reputation for being haunted by hosting cave tours featuring ghosts and graves, but only in the month of October. If swing dancing is your thing, the Caves host a swing dancing night every Thursday. On your break from dancing, hang out around the bar and wait for the bus boy.

2. Coquille St. Jacques with a side of suicide

•Forepaugh's Restaurant, 276 South Exchange St., St. Paul,
www.forepaughs.com, (651) 224-5606
•Dinner, Monday through Saturday 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.,
Sunday 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Lunch, Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Brunch, Sunday, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

"'There's a woman singing lullabies upstairs right now.' Reid went upstairs to see if anyone was there and found nothing."

2. Located in what used to be one of St. Paul's most lavish residential areas is Forepaugh's restaurant - a big and beautiful old house: A gothic, elaborate mansion that is dripping with history. As the name suggests, the house used to be owned and lived in by the Forepaugh family.

According to Lewis' research, Joseph Forepaugh was a successful businessman who, busy though he was, still found time to dally on the side with the maid, Molly. When his wife learned about the affair, she forbade him from seeing Molly, and Lewis writes that this might have been the cause of Forepaugh's downward spiral. In 1892, Forepaugh took his own life with a revolver, doing so out of either distress for his lost love or for his ailing finances. Before ending his life, Forepaugh believed himself to be broke, though in actuality he had an estate totaling $500,000.

Prior to Forepaugh's suicide, Molly was rumored to be pregnant; after he died, she hung herself from a chandelier in a bay window on the third floor of the house.

Employees have reported seeing an arrogant man (believed to be Forepaugh) striding through the restaurant, looking as if he owns the place. The chandelier where the maid killed herself has been seen rocking back and forth, despite hanging heavily away from the window and any other apparent disturbances.

Trish Reid has been working as a bartender at the restaurant for a year and has heard all of the stories. She showed us a photo from a wedding in 1989 where what appears to be an arm reaches out from the staircase. But it is somehow transparent, floating above what looks like the hem of a white skirt. Were you to dine at Forepaugh's today, the employees would politely seat and serve you, rushing about in black bottoms and white tops. The only skirts would belong to you or to other guests, at least they should.

Reid told us about an experience a few weeks ago. A doctor who was new to the area came into the bar early in the evening for a drink, she said. He went to the bathroom and when he returned, she said, no pun intended, "he was as white as a ghost."

"You know you have paranormals," he said. "There's a woman singing lullabies upstairs right now." Reid went upstairs to see if anyone was there and found nothing. She said the man quickly finished his drink and left.

"I do have to admit it freaked me out," she said. When she works on the second floor bar of the restaurant, she yells hello to Molly, to let the maid know she's coming.

"If she's gonna come out, I want her to be nice," Reid said.

3. The Hipster Who Never Left

•First Avenue, 701 First Ave. N, Minneapolis,
www.first-avenue.com, (612) 332-1775

"People have reported seeing apparitions out of the corner of their eyes in the bathroom, but nothing is there."

3. Yes, Prince's music club is haunted. How fitting.

People have reported seeing apparitions out of the corner of their eyes in the bathroom, but nothing is there. Employees have reported being tapped on the shoulder or hearing music playing while they are closing up, when no bands are playing and all the radios are turned off.

Though no concrete ghost story has emerged as to the identity of this haunter, employees speculate it could be the ghost of someone who loves the club so much it just doesn't want to leave.

4. Washington Avenue

•Washington Avenue Bridge
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

"The bridge is rumored to be haunted by the very souls that choose its height to end their lives."

4. Last February, a debate was sparked over whether the city should fit the Washington Avenue Bridge with safety barriers to prevent suicide jumpers and accidental falls. Much attention was given to the bridge's unfortunate attractiveness to jumpers, and the tragic consequences. It is really no surprise that the bridge is rumored to be haunted by the very souls that choose its height to end their lives.

Students reported to Lewis and his team that they heard footsteps following them late at night, but when they turned around no one would be there. Others reported seeing someone walking towards them; then that someone would disappear right before their eyes.

There are also rumors of a runaway psychiatric patient haunting the bridge. Lewis' investigation found that a psychiatric patient had died after jumping off the bridge, though the patient was released from the psychiatric ward, not an escapee.

5. Meet Ben, the ghostly handyman

•Fitzgerald Theater, 10 Exchange St. E., St. Paul
http://fitzgeraldtheater.publicradio.org
(651) 290-1221

"He always appears to be doing work or maintenance on the theater. The staff has even jokingly given Ben his own timecard."

5. The place where Garrison Keillor broadcasts his Prairie Home Companion show each week isn't simply filled with the presence of the larger-than-life comedy writer.

Two ghosts are said to haunt the Fitzgerald Theater. One of the ghosts is named Ben, rumored to be a former worker of the theater at the dawn of the 20th century. Whenever anyone encounters Ben, he always appears to be doing work or maintenance on the theater. The staff has even jokingly given Ben his own timecard.

Another ghost of a woman is said to haunt the stage. Employees report hearing beautiful singing coming from the stage, but no one is singing; no one is there. The theater is empty.

6. May I show you to your seat?

•Guthrie Theater, 818 South Second St., Minneapolis, www.guthrietheater.org, (612) 377-2224
•Rush tickets available 10 minutes before show times, $15 for previews, $20 for weeknights and matinees, $25 for Friday and Saturday nights and openings, cash or check only

"The Guthrie Theater may have moved, but they didn't leave behind one of their most dedicated ushers, who followed them from the grave."

6. The Guthrie Theater may have moved, but they didn't leave behind one of their most dedicated ushers, who followed them from the grave.

Lewis's investigation found the story about a boy hired as an usher at the Guthrie at age 16. He attended the University and lived in Territorial Hall. He didn't have many friends and was considered a geek. After receiving bad grades and suffering a skiing accident, he apparently had enough. He shot himself in his car, wearing his usher uniform, which he requested to be buried in. There are rumors he might have even been fired from his ushering job at the Guthrie, the one thing he valued in his life.

Someone has been seen patrolling the theater after the lights have gone down. Weird figures have been seen in catwalks, elevators and tunnels. Lights, props, seats and doors have been seen to move and notes from a piano have been heard, all on their own. Guests have even reported being shown to their seats by an usher dressed in an usher's uniform straight out of the '60s.

7. Which floor, ma'am?

•Landmark Center, 75 West Fifth St., St. Paul,
www.landmarkcenter.org, (651) 292-3233
•Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,
Thursday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.,
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday Noon to 5 p.m

"A hallway on the fourth floor is always cold, no matter what time of year, whether the heat or the air conditioning is on, and throughout all the of the halls, clanging chains can be heard."

7. The Landmark Center now serves St. Paul as a cultural center for dance, theater, music, public forums and special events. In the past, the building served as a federal court house and a post office. Some of the city's gangsters were tried and convicted in that court house, and according to employees, a few of the most obstinate gangsters decided never to leave.

The elevator doors open without provocation, according to one employee who declined to give his name for fear of being fired. He said you can press the button for the fourth floor and end up on the 11th. He also reported seeing a wedding photograph in which a man wearing a hat and an army jacket stands uninvitingly next to the ceremony's young ring bearer. A hallway on the fourth floor is always cold, no matter what time of year, whether the heat or the air conditioning is on, and throughout all the of the halls, clanging chains can be heard. Doors in the women's bathroom swing open and shut and toilets flush when no one is there. The employee claims this ghost likes the attractive women.

Employees attribute all of this activity to Jack Peifer, a gangster who worked his way up through the ranks to be a gangster banker from the humble origins of a bellhop.

In 1936, he was tried and convicted on charges of kidnapping. He hung himself in his cell on the sixth floor of the building, and employees say he never left.

8. Phantom birds and pigs, oh my!

•The Minnesota State Fair, 1265 Snelling Ave. N, St. Paul,
www.mnstatefair.org, (651) 288-4400

"A phantom pig is reported to haunt the swine barn ..."

At the Ye Old Mill ride, one of the oldest rides at the fair, a phantom bird is said to show up year after year, allegedly the reincarnated sprit of one of the workers at the ride. A phantom pig is reported to haunt the swine barn, but Lewis and his team were unable to find any witnesses.

8. The Great Minnesota Get-Together is exclusive to the living.

According to Lewis' book, the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press have run stories of people who have witnessed ghosts at the fair, mingling in the crowds and near the grand stand.

9. Childish Whims

•Gibbs Farm Museum, 2097 West Larpenteur Ave., St. Paul,
www.rchs.com/gbbsfm2.htm,
(651) 646-8629
•Tuesday through Sunday, Noon to 4 p.m., weekday mornings by appointment
•Adults $6.75, Seniors $5.75, Children, ages 2 to 16, $4
•Closed mid-November to mid-April

"A rocking chair rocks inexplicably, footsteps have been heard and toys locked in a toy chest appear strewn on the floor the next morning."

9. The Gibbs Farm Museum is supposed to offer a glimpse of pioneer and Dakota life in Minnesota in the 19th Century. But some guests get more than a history lesson.

The reported haunting all occurred in the old farm house, refurbished and roped off to provide a path for visitors. The Gibbs family owned the home for 100 years up until 1949. After a fire in the farmhouse, the family's child died a few days later of smoke inhalation, and is said to haunt the home. A rocking chair rocks inexplicably, footsteps have been heard and toys locked in a toy chest appear strewn on the floor the next morning. An employee has seen a child's face through the windows when the house was empty. A former manager reported seeing impressions in beds when he opened up the house in the mornings.

Kristy Van Hoven, the assistant site manager for the museum who has worked there for 12 years, has heard the stories of haunting, but said neither she nor any of the other employees had experienced anything. She didn't know where the stories came from, and she said the site manager, working on-site for 17 years, would give the same answer.

10. Ghostly government

•Minneapolis City Hall, 350 South Fifth St., Minneapolis
www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us
(612) 673-6000

"... But as they approach, the person seems transparent and then disappears."

10. People have contacted Lewis with reports of seeing someone walking through the center for Minneapolis' city government and police department on South Fifth Street, but as they approach, the person seems transparent and then disappears. Others have reported the sense they were being watched or followed, but they couldn't explain why.

Lewis has heard the rumor someone might have hung themselves in the building, but he hasn't had a chance to substantiate this claim.

He hopes to be able to delve into the history of the building after the chaos of the Halloween season subsides.

For now, this case remains open for your own investigation.

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