Chad Lewis has heard his share of haunted dares in his time as a paranormal researcher.
In fact, he’s traveled the world to destinations such as Transylvania and Puerto Rico to take a few himself. Yet there are more than enough dares and haunted places to go around right here in small town Minnesota that many folks may not know about or even want to think about.
The Rush City Public Library Monday night welcomed Lewis and his presentation on some of the most haunted locations Minnesota has to offer, along with a few of his own experiences in the field. A lecturer and author for Unexplained Research LLC, based in Eau Claire, Wis., he also signed copies of his books and even brought his very own vampire hunting kit.
In his presentation — with the use of photos, case history, eyewitness accounts and ghost lore — he took the audience on a journey to some of the most haunted places in Minnesota, including Rush City’s own Grant House. He talked about places where one could sleep in a haunted bed and breakfast in Wabasha, hear ghostly wails in a theater, swim with mischievous spirits, have a drink in a haunted pub, see gravestones move on their own and experience wandering spirits in the north woods.
“No place is without its own haunting,” he said.
Citing specific cases, he dove right in with a discussion on Bertha’s grave in Coleraine, Minn. Questions have lingered: Is the grave of a witch hiding in the Lakeside Cemetery in Coleraine? Does the witch’s headstone move about freely at night? Does it really disappear at Halloween? These are all urban legends that circulate among the local townsfolk there, he said.
So Lewis investigated, finding the headstone reflects the final resting place of Bertha Maynard, who was born Jan. 26, 1872, and died Jan. 27, 1910. He discovered the history of the grave and the cemetery that had shifted over time due to flooding. At one point, he noted, the caretaker removed the marker to prevent further vandalism, but the headstone was eventually restored.
As for the stories about the marker moving on its own, Lewis said paranormal investigations revealed it actually remained stationary the whole time the team was in the cemetery. Still, it is said recordings have caught ghostly voices believed to be from Bertha herself.
Other strange stories are told about the apparition of a female that wanders about the cemetery at night. Could this be Bertha trying to find rest?
Lewis discussed another cemetery where people, with their ears to the ground, have claimed to hear the faint cries of a “phantom woman” calling for help after being buried alive there many years before. According to urban legend, he said, sickness could result in people being mistaken for dead and thus buried alive. It was said one person had “popped up” at his own funeral, he said.
A similar case was told of Olof Swensson, of the Montevideo area, whose daughters began succumbing to diabetes. He buried them in his front yard, and legend has it he constructed tunnels from his basement to the graves in case they needed help, Lewis explained.
From locations across the ocean to those in another part of Minnesota, Lewis told the Rush City audience that they don’t have to trek very far to find another haunted ground. That, of course, is the Grant House Hotel and Eatery, where people have claimed to observe flying objects, moving furniture and other unsettling sights and sounds with no explanation.
“Don’t take my word for it,” he said, “You can pop in right down the street.”
Lewis talked about the Montgomery Golf Course, where golfers can play a round over an old cemetery where pioneers were buried. “People claim they see a man appearing from 100 years ago, and then he disappears right before their eyes,” he said.
He shared more history and legends of hauntings at Forepaugh’s Restaurant in St. Paul, the Palmer House Hotel & Restaurant in Sauk Centre, the old Heritage House in Embarrass, the Fitzgerald Theatre in St. Paul and a mysterious doll house in Janesville.
Lewis took a turn in his presentation and discussed the true to life monsters of Ed Gein and Jeffrey Dahmer, who committed their unthinkable crimes in the Wisconsin cities of Plainfield and Milwaukee, respectively. Afterward, “people destroyed their residences and pretended it never happened,” he said. “It’s a different story in Minnesota…”
It was then when his next slide showed the Glensheen Mansion in Duluth, where murder has no question played a role in its success as a tourism attraction.
Near the end of his presentation, Lewis encouraged folks to go on their own adventure if they’re willing and able to accept society’s dare and find their own ghost story.
And he closed with one final message.
“When you go to sleep tonight, ask yourself, how much do you really know about your house?’” he said, causing a stir in the audience. “You might live in a haunted house, too.”
Lewis holds a Master’s of Science degree in applied psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. And it was from his studies and people approaching him with questions about the strange and unusual, that he started to explore “the other side” of life and travel the world in search of answers and, of course, adventure.
For more information about Lewis and his paranormal research, books and presentations, visit www.chadlewisresearch.com or www.unexplainedresearch.com.
The East Central Regional Library credits Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund for funding this project.