—  A Focus On Old Hwy. 61 Blog & Photos By Gail Gates

“Some say the Community National Bank building, or whatever it’s called now, is haunted too. I worked with a woman years agowho had a picture taken of the lobby when it was first built. It looked like there were faint images of kids playing and sitting on the chairs, only it was empty when the picture was taken. It turns out that 100 years ago there was a house in the exact spot of the bank. When it burned down all 8 children were killed.”

–Cory Parsons

I awoke in the middle of the night. Why? I heard no sounds, I didn’t have to pee, and I was in that state of dopey drowsy that made thinking a chore. Just as I was about to roll over, punch the pillow into fluffy submission, and go back to sleep, I saw the thing.

A dark shadow.Man-shaped.  Vibrating like a television test pattern from the 1950’s.  Bent.  Over.  Me.  The thing, I don’t know what else to call it, seemed to be observing me, slowly cocking its head from one side to the other.

I was terrified of course, and pushed myself deep into the mattress. I wanted to look away—please, please, go away—but was too scared to do much of anything but tremble.  My voice betrayed me too.  Nothing but nothing came from the screams I heard in my head.

The image straightened, bent over me again, reached toward my face, and then was… gone. I blinked.  My eyelids worked, but breathing remained elusive.

I touched the blankets to make sure I was awake and not dreaming. Yes. I could feel the stitches that held fabric to batting, and me to reality.  Grandma had made the quilt. Grandma was love and safety.  I was awake. I was okay.

But, I wasn’t.

I remained frozen in fear until the first rays of sunshine cleansed the room of the boogey man.  Only then I felt myself relax. Only then I felt shadowy figures could no longer manifest in the light of day.

Maybe eight years old at the time, the memory of that “visit” remains as vivid today as when it happened to me decades ago.

So yeah, I’m a believer in:

  •  Spirits who are lost.
  •  Souls with unfinished business.
  • Unexplained phenomena that raises the hair on our necks, and flat-out freaks us out.

Is that the wind howling or a spirit shrieking in anguish?

 As Halloween approaches I thought it would be interesting to ask folks if they knew of haunted sites along Old Hwy. 61. To my delight I was given quite the list of spooky locations.

The places are old and full of history. They are still in use as restaurants, hotels, and public spaces. Some locations, however, are private and should not be approached without the owner’s permission.  Here goes:

Wyoming, MN: The Cornerstone Pub.  All I know is that the ghost is named Freddie. Wait staff who have worked there say they have stories. I’d suggest a visit, some great food, and some conversation!

North Branch, MN: As mentioned in the opening quote, the Community National Bank may be haunted.

Also revealed were:  the former Green Acres site, the original County Poor Farm, and the Sunrise

While not immediately off Old Hwy. 61, I was told the last three are within a 10-minute drive.

Harris, MN: Enthusiastic mentions of hauntings at The Fuse restaurant. “Talk to the owner, he’ll tell you about strange happenings,” was suggested by one person.

Another said, “ I just know that place is creepy upstairs, downstairs, and when you close [the place} and are by yourself in the bathroom…”

Rush City, MN: The Grant House. Talk with the owner and she will show you a photo with some of her unexplained guests.  Stay the night and maybe you, too, will meet the spirits who share the building.

Pine City, MN: The old Pokegama sanitarium.  This is one of those locations that is now privately owned.  However, here is an article about the place: https://substreet.org/pokegama-sanitorium/

Hinckley, MN: I was told, by the granddaughter who lived there, of a house about a ½ mile off of Old Hwy 61 that is quite haunted. I do not have the address. Maybe it’s just as well!

Feeling intrigued or uncomfortable? Both?  Either way, I hope you make a point of stopping at the haunted places along Old Hwy. 61.  And then…

Please share your stories with the rest of us!  I suspect there are more haunted locations all along the 100-mile stretch of Old Hwy. 61. If you know of any, please leave a comment!

At this spooky time of year we all want to pull the blankets a little tighter around us as darkness descends, fingered tree branches scratch at the window, and the candles flicker for no reason at all…