In a historical town like Stillwater there’s bound to be stories about things that go bump in the night and places with haunting reputations. Although some stories might just be lore, groups like St. Croix Paranormal investigate the St. Croix Valley’s ghost stories.
St. Croix Paranormal started about four years ago when Steve Culp and Jill Foote started talking about horror films and ghost stories during their shifts at Lakeview Hospital.
“We had the same interests and he had mentioned that he was trying to get people to join him on a ghost hunt, so we decided to join together and St. Croix Paranormal was born,” Foote said.
The group has gone on ghost hunts to several St. Croix River Valley locations, including the former Pub Monique (now Pub 112) in downtown Stillwater, The Grand Garage and the Warden’s House Museum. They’ve also visited well-known locations such as the Villisca Ax Murderer House in Iowa, Whispers Estate in Indiana, and the Paramount theater in Austin, Minn. They also do consultations at homes people think are haunted at no cost to participants.
“We usually have six people come along on ghost hunts but in smaller private homes, we don’t need as many,” Foote said. “I kind of like going to the businesses since we can be less serious there. Because homeowners are understandably scared about what’s happening in their homes.”
A lot of research is done before the ghost hunts happen and Donna Fjelstad does a lot of that.
“I love the history of this town,” Fjelstad said.
Fjelstad, who said she began experiencing paranormal activities when she was 3 years old, believes downtown Stillwater is a paranormal hotspot due to how many people died throughout the city’s history, especially during the lumbering period.
“There are people who were hit by cars and died. I see that a lot. There were accidents and drownings. There are so many drownings on the (St. Croix) river,” she said.
Foote believes the most haunted place in Stillwater investigated by St. Croix Paranormal is Pub Monique, now Pub 112. They even had a video of their experience there used on the Bio channel.
“It’s probably the most haunted Stillwater bar,” Foote said. “You can hear audible voices in there. The owner of the building told us that they hear stories like that all the time.”
They’ve also caught shadows and faces on film and video in the bar. To capture non-physical evidence of paranoramal activities they use special equipment such as camcorders, full-spectrum cameras and electronic voice phenomena (EVP) recordings that capture alleged voices which can’t be heard by the human ear.
Foote’s favorite piece of equipment is a spirit box that searches through radio signals at 1:1,000th of a second and tries to pick up sounds and conversations between spirits. She said they’ve had some success with it.
Fjelstad said the owner of a downtown store believes her building is haunted by the ghost of a former owner.
“The current store owner thinks the owner of the old clothing store in the building is moving things, then bringing them back days later,” Fjelstad said. “She’s heard footsteps and feels them. And shadows, she sees shadows.”
Fjelstad said her niece experienced strange things while working at a popular downtown Stillwater restaurant, including a seeing a flying coffee cup in the restaurant’s basement office, lights being turned off, then coming back on in the empty office and turning off the office radio at closing, then returning the next day to hear the radio on to stations playing big band music from the 1940s and 50s.
St. Croix Paranormal experienced evidence of paranormal activity at The Warden’s House Museum, where a strong scent of flowers was present in a room, Foote said.
“I could smell the most beautiful flowers,” Fjelstad added. “On our EVP, you can hear a little girl’s voice say ‘Thank you’.”
At Whispers Estate, Foote said a team member was launched out of a closet, and other team members were touched so much by spirits they had to leave.
Evidence collected on ghost hunts is rather overwhelming, with the equivalent of 200 hours of footage being collected, according to Foote. From that initial footage, they can get 11 hours of footage that results in nine minutes of film footage. Sometimes the group shares their findings on their Valley Access Show airing on Channel 14 at 6:30 p.m. Saturdays and 8:30 p.m. Sundays.
“The ghost hunting itself is boring. It’s what comes after, after you’re looking through the footage and find things that are the most exciting. It’s a lot of us sitting around and asking questions into thin air,” Foote said.
But Foote understands that not everyone buys into the idea that ghosts exist.
“Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. If I’m out and about and people ask what I’m working on I’ll tell them I’m working on a video and nine out of 10 people will think it’s really cool while others will say ‘Oh really?’ If I hear that, I don’t go on anymore,” Foote said.
Although Sean Pallas of the Warden’s House Museum knows that the museum is reportedly haunted, he doesn’t buy into the idea.
“I guess personally, I don’t think there is a ghost. I personally have never seen or felt or heard anything, but we know it’s an attraction here and we cater to our audience a little bit. It’s obviously not our main focus but it helps,” Pallas said.
The alleged ghost is said to be the daughter of a warden who came back to watch her son grow up.
Pallas knows that he’s had people say or read in books that footsteps were heard walking around upstairs or that an antique cradle rocked on its own, but for him, it’s information collected by word-of-mouth. He added that several paranormal groups have investigated the Warden’s House and collected some interesting things such as EVPs.
“They’ll tell me here’s where it says yes, or something, but then I’m listening for it though,” Pallas said. “I guess I remain a skeptic.”
Pallas said the Warden’s House will host an Oct. 26 presentation by an amateur ghost-hunting group that will talk a little more about what they do.
Contact Avery Cropp at firstname.lastname@example.org