Dakota Datebook

Ghost Story

Friday, October 31, 2003

Today is Halloween, a good day for ghost stories, and North Dakota has no shortage of them. Legends have been floating around for years of the “Kindred Lights,” the “Grim Reaper” in a Baptist church near Fredonia, the “Fatal Stump” near Belfield, and the “Gas Chamber” on the deserted Oss farmstead near Hatton.

In Grand Forks, in the Altru Hospital, a staff elevator seems to make unexpected runs on its own, stopping at routine floors on and off throughout the night. Custer’s wife is said to haunt her former home at Fort Lincoln in Mandan, and at Fort Abercrombie, many believe they’ve seen the spirits of soldiers and Indians who died there.

A Minot legend contends that three different ghosts haunt a four-story house that was later turned into a gift shop. The first is of a man who drowned in the river that runs behind the house, and at 4:39 a.m., it’s believed one can see his accident re-enacted. Another ghost is of an older man who hung himself in the attic, which is blocked off, but people believe that a cold draft by the door is evidence of his presence. It’s also been reported that candy jars have had their contents moved without leaving fingerprints. The third ghost is that of a little girl who can sometimes be seen looking out of the window.

The Liberty Memorial Building, on the grounds of the State Capitol, is said to be haunted by a ghost known as the “Stack Monster.” The state historical society used to be located in the building, in which thousands of Indian and pioneer artifacts, skeletons, and old books were stored and displayed; it’s thought that one of the items had a ghost attached. It’s reported that voices, feelings of dread, unexplained shadows and footsteps affected workers there for years.

The Memory Gardens Cemetery east of Valley City has a floating orb known as the Blue Boy, and a cemetery near the State Hospital in Jamestown has spawned stories of rattling gates, unexplained footsteps and sensations of being grabbed.

In a tunnel that connects UND’s dining hall to five dorms, there have been several sightings of the ghost of a girl with short dark hair. It’s said that in 1988, three students saw her and described her as about five feet five and wearing a nightshirt. The apparition has been linked to the tragic death of a young woman who froze to death in 1962 when she was on her way to the dining hall in the middle of the night. It’s believed she slipped on the ice – this being before the tunnels were built.

One story is said to have been featured on Unsolved Mysteries concerning a glowing cross that can be seen at night in an empty church near Absaraka. Be forewarned, the locals aren’t happy to have curious folks poking around their community at night – which is understandable. But those who have managed to see the image describe a glowing cross that hovers in mid-air within the sanctuary, and that no matter what angle you view it from, it’s always a front-on view. The cross cannot be seen from inside the church, only by looking through the windows, which are by some accounts boarded up… or not. The locals have explained that the cross is nothing more than the result of light passing through a special feature in the window glass; but that’s not much fun.

For further investigating, try the Web site of the Paranormal Research Group of North Dakota, which has posted a number of great photos. Happy hunting!

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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