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8 of the Spookiest Sites in Minnesota

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Palmer House Hotel, Sauk Centre

8 of the Spookiest Sites in Minnesota

By Ashlea Halpern

Anoka may be the Halloween Capital of the World, but it’s not the only spine-chilling destination in Minnesota. Paranormal encounters have been reported in every corner of the state, from the belly of a Duluth ship to the Minneapolis concert hall where Prince made his shimmering debut. Even people who don’t believe in ghosts have detailed unusual sightings and other hair-raising experiences at local theaters, hotels and historic landmarks. Here are eight spooky spots to get your thrills—if you dare.

Twin Cities

  1. First Avenue, Minneapolis
    Interior of the First Avenue stage, lit in purple

    First Avenue music venue in Minneapolis

    First Avenue, Minneapolis

    Before it was a famous “danceteria,” First Avenue was a Greyhound depot. Legend has it that one of the bathrooms in the 1,550-capacity concert hall is haunted by the ghost of a woman who hung herself in the bus station after her lover—a World War II soldier—didn’t return home. Workers have reported screams and cries emanating from the fifth stall; others claim to have seen a full-body apparition with a noose hanging around its neck, and warn one another not to enter the restroom with the lights off. DJs and concertgoers have also seen the dead woman bogeying down with other specters in the dance lounge upstairs. Curiously, neither the woman nor any member of her frightful entourage has legs.

  2. Mounds Theatre, St. Paul
    Mounds Theatre, St. Paul

    The 99-year-old silent movie house and vaudeville theater in Dayton’s Bluff was boarded up for 35 years before it roared back to life in the early aughts. The subject of paranormal TV shows and professional ghost-hunting investigations, the theater is allegedly haunted by a trio of ghosts: a happy little girl who bounces a ball onstage, a cursed old man that lurks in the shadowy corners of the projection booth and a crestfallen usher who lists up and down the aisles in search of his lost love. Immersive ghost-hunting tours are held here every October; past attendees have described flickering lights, strange smells and inexplicable cold spots.

Duluth

  1. William A. Irvin
    William A. Irvin

    The historic William A. Irvin spent 40 years ferrying iron ore and coal across the Great Lakes; today the imposing ship moonlights as a museum. After undergoing a hull restoration in 2018 and 2019, the vessel returned to its berth in Canal Park and reopened for daily tours in May. This October, however, it’ll transform into the wildly popular Duluth Haunted Ship. From Oct. 7 through 31, intrepid visitors can explore the boat at night, feeling their way through the dark engine room and unnervingly empty (or are they?) hallways. Several paranormal groups have conducted investigations here: While some proved inconclusive, others documented bizarre shadows and the sound of footsteps.

  2. Enger Tower
    Exterior of the Enger Tower in Duluth

    Enger Tower in Duluth / Lisa McClintick

    Enger Tower

    The 82-year-old watchtower at the heart of Enger Park is more than a local landmark—it’s supposedly haunted by the ghost of an unidentified man who plunged from its 80-foot summit in 1948. Visitors have reported seeing a mysterious figure circling in the windows on the fifth floor, yet when they enter the tower to get a closer look the man all but disappears.

  3. Greenwood Cemetery
    Greenwood Cemetery

    It’s easy to miss this unmarked graveyard, tucked behind a prison and a nursing home off Rice Lake Road. But follow the overgrown footpath across Chester Creek and you’ll stumble upon an expanse of rolling green with a harrowing history. Here lie the remains of 4,705 individuals interred between 1891 and 1947—most of them too poor to afford burial in a proper cemetery. The plots were originally marked with wooden crosses, not stone, so few identifiers remain. But as a small, weathered plaque explains, “Many of these were immigrant miners, sailors, farmer, and lumberjacks whose labor helped develop St. Louis County. They were the real pioneers.” Come during daylight hours if you’re curious about the history—but come after dark, say paranormal enthusiasts, if you crave a far eerier experience.

Farther Afield

  1. Palmer House Hotel, Sauk Centre
    Exterior of the Palmer House Hotel

    Palmer House Hotel, Sauk Centre / Kerry Peterson

    Palmer House Hotel, Sauk Centre

    This haunted hotel has been visited by paranormal enthusiasts from across the country, including the crew of Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures and, more recently, Dave and Bruce Tango from the Syfy program Ghost Hunters. Room 17 is supposed to be the scariest, inhabited by a phantom prostitute named Lucy who, rumor has it, was murdered at Sauk Centre House, a brothel that burned to the ground more than 120 years ago. (The swanky Palmer House Hotel was built atop its grounds one year later.) Room 22, meanwhile, is haunted by Raymond, Lucy’s mean-spirited pimp. Good news for amateur investigators: The hotel owner speaks candidly about guests’ most chilling encounters.

  2. Lakeview Cemetery, Buhl
    Lakeview Cemetery, Buhl

    Considered one of the most haunted graveyards in America, Lakeview Cemetery opened in 1913—around the same time that Shaw Hospital was built. When patients there died of tuberculosis or mental illness, they often were buried in this potter's field, many with little more than a cast-iron cross to mark their grave. Lakeview is surrounded by forest on all four sides, adding to its spookiness. Brave souls who’ve visited describe seeing apparitions in 1920s attire walking amongst the plots, hearing sounds of disembodied voices and footsteps in an otherwise pin-drop silent graveyard, feeling breath on their neck, smelling wretched odors, experiencing flashes of light and having the unsettling sense of being watched.

  3. Crazy Annie’s Bridge, Henderson
    Crazy Annie’s Bridge, Henderson

    The seemingly ordinary bridge at 270th Street is anything but after nightfall. The bridge earned its nickname because locals say it’s haunted by Crazy Annie, a World War I widow who drowned her three children in the nearby creek before hanging herself from a tree. Visitors who ventured here after 11 p.m. have heard ungodly screams, seen faces floating in the darkness and figures fleeing through the woods and found handprints on their vehicles after returning home. (They also report cops busting them for loitering, so tread with caution.)

Ashlea Halpern

Ashlea Halpern is a contributing editor at Condé Nast Traveler and co-founder of Minnevangelist, a website dedicated to all things Minnesota. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @ashleahalpern and @minnevangelist.