The standard definition of a ghost – also described as spirit, specter, apparition, presence and the like – is that a person’s spirit exists separately from their body and may appear to the living after the body dies. Haunted places seem to be associated with something from the ghost’s past, like their former home, workplace or where they died. In addition to actual encounters, reported hauntings range from cold air spots or breezes in a warm house, strange noises, lights and unexplained smells, to mysterious footsteps, voices or objects moving or disappearing.
Among the earliest recorded ghostly encounters are found in a letter to a friend, by the ancient Roman lawyer, author and magistrate Pliny the Younger (67-c113 AD). He mentions three ghosts, including a beautiful woman and a long-bearded, emaciated old man rattling chains as he haunts a rooming house.
Along Lake Superior’s North Shore, there are plenty of stories about spirits and haunted places. According to an online article by Chris Allen on Kool 101.7 (July 28, 2011), the five most haunted places in Duluth-Superior are: (1) the Great Lakes freighter at Canal Park, the William A. Irvin (reported ghosts include a woman in white walking the ship, a ship’s captain still doing patrols and two others); (2) The Depot (couple of ghosts reported, most connected to the trains, but one is allegedly a little girl found to be named Georgia by paranormal investigators who died after accidently ingesting poison copper nitrate; the St. Louis Historical Society hosted ‘haunted’ tours earlier in 2015); (3) the 42-room Fairlawn Mansion (reportedly a friendly ghost that offers to help visitors); (4) infamous Glensheen Museum (though officials insist it is not haunted); and (4) the Duluth Denfeld Auditorium (lights go on/off, phantom backstage voices and unexplained overnight stage cleanups).
In Hibbing, there’s a walking spirit reported at the Greyhound Bus Museum. In Two Harbors, local stories tell of phantom footsteps, a lady in white, cold air presence of spirits and paranormal activity at Black Woods Grill and Bar. And at the historic Split Rock Lighthouse, there’s the tale of a man going to retrieve his lost wallet and seeing an older man staring at him from atop the outside-locked lighthouse. The next day, the staff told him there was no one in the building.
One of Thunder Bay’s most famous alleged hauntings is at the waterfront Prince Arthur Hotel which opened in 1911. To be precise, Room 203, where a long-time hotel resident once lived. Decades later, people still report the smell of cigar smoke on the second floor. Apparently when the hotel staff took down photos of him from the walls, the room flooded and didn’t stop until the man’s pictures were put back on the wall.
Another haunted place is Silver Islet, stretching back to the rich silver mining days during the 1870s-1880s. In a 1957 article in the Port Arthur News Chronicle, John McPherson said the one big thing he remembered about his boyhood days at Silver Islet was the ghost scare. “Night after night people reported having seen a white-garbed figure on the dock and stop at the watch tower of the stamp mill. … It was said ‘the ghost’ lived in the old assay office.” McPherson commented that while landing a boat one night with three others at Silver Islet, he, too, saw the apparition.
One never-before-published ghost story took place in a house built in 1905 on Archibald Street South that once belonged to a mayor of Fort William (now part of Thunder Bay). It was purchased in 1986 by a young, single woman named Rose who called it her dream home with all, “the elements of a grand estate.”
She used the back bedroom in the southeast corner as a guest room. “It was always freezing in there. And people who slept there would report having terrifying dreams, describing a demonic, dark character who would leave them literally scared out of their wits.”
But strangely, her animals liked the room. “Dogs would sit for hours staring into the small walk-in closet and the cats would sit and stare at the walls, sometimes jumping against the wall.”
Rose became used to the “constant footsteps and the sound of furniture dragging upstairs” in the house. However, in 1989 when her new husband moved in, he found the house cold and unwelcoming. He began having frightening, dark dreams. A local medium who was hired to ‘cleanse’ the house warned them that “there were things there that could hurt me and we should get out” and, unaware Rose was already pregnant, told her never to bring children in the house. Two months later and twenty-four hours after her husband’s prophetic dream of a demon taking the child, Rose lost the baby. They eventually moved out, but before selling the Archibald home in 1990, they brought in paranormal investigators who confirmed the signs of haunting—temperature drops in the back bedroom and photographed images of a floating ‘mist’ in the rooms.
The most chilling discovery for Rose was in that cold back bedroom closet of the guest room, where she found an old Ouija board built right into the back wall. “We never spent another night in that house,” she said.