Ghost stories of North Dakota
Driving through North Dakota’s rolling hills, ominous abandoned shacks and cars can be viewed in the distance and old historic buildings teeming with history lie in our wake. Many wave their hands and turn their heads, but not today as we uncover some of the best ghost stories and legends of our great state.
San Haven Sanatorium, Dunseith
North of Dunseith lies the San Haven Sanatorium. Built in 1912, the sanatorium was originally built to be a tuberculosis hospital. It functioned like this until the late 1940s when it transitioned to be a home for people with developmental disabilities, where treatment was allegedly less than ideal.
San Haven closed its doors in December 1987, and has been abandoned ever since. According to the website substreet.org, there is not a window unbroken or a door on its hinge.
It is said that apparitions appear in the windows and
the sound of babies crying appear to be coming from the site, all of which coming from the spirits of those who died there. Author of “Spooky Creepy North Dakota,” Lori Oster says that at least 1,000 people died at San Haven, with many buried on the property in unmarked graves.
It has recently claimed the life of a 17-year-old boy who fell down an elevator shaft in 2001. The sanatorium has also been featured on the show Ghost Adventurers, on the Travel Channel.
It is said that not even the local police like to travel to the sanatorium due to its eerie aura.
Devils Lake Monster, Devils Lake.
“It has alligator jaws and glaring red eyes. Its tail is about 80 feet long. The serpent usually appears in August and about sunset. The red glare of the sunset sky is often reflected in the eyes of the serpent like mirrors and the flashes of red light that go darting here and there as the serpent turns its head strike terror into the hearts of those on whom they fall.” This is an excerpt from the Oct. 21, 1894 edition of the New York Sun, one of the earliest accounts of the Devils Lake monster.
Another account from an August 1904 edition of The Wichita Beacon reads: “The serpent’s body was very thick, and covered with huge and horribly loathesome-looking black scales. Its head was of snake-like formation, with a flashing, darting tongue, and two angry eyes as big as goose eggs, glowed in the monster’s head.”
Accounts date back even further through Native American legends of a Loch Ness-type monster slithering around the Lakota-named “Lake of Spirits.” There is a Sioux legend that says the Chief of the Sioux warriors gathered members in full war regalia to face the monster. Underestimating its power, the monster swallowed up most of the men one by one, while a few made it back to their camp to tell the tale. The Sioux hypothesized that the monster traveled to the lake through an underground river, which in turn swallowed up all the fish. This legend was reported by the Devils Lake Tourism.
More recent accounts of the monster haven’t occurred for over a hundred years. Whether you believe the tale or not, the enormous body of water does give those who visit an unsettling feeling.
North Dakota State University, Fargo
There are said to be two different buildings hosting spirits on the NDSU campus. The first is Ceres Hall, which was the first women’s dormitory on the campus, built in 1910. The second is Minard Hall, built in 1902 as the Science Hall. Now it is home to the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Studies.
There are two areas of Ceres Hall that are said to be haunted. The first is the third floor of the building where it is said that that a man hanged himself from a heating pipe toward the end of World War II. According to Lori Oster, there hasn’t been an actual ghost mentioned, just an overall sense of being watched and ominous “weird happenings.”
In addition to the hanged man, there was a girl who hanged herself from a pipe once she realized she was failing all of her courses. Her spirit is said to be very active as she will open and close doors and windows and makes both banging and vocal noises at night. No one has seen apparitions of this student, though her presence is known.
The second area is the basement that houses a dark, evil spirit. Though no one knows where this entity came from, it is reported that entering the basement triggers a strong fight-or-flight instinct.
There have been investigations into the hauntings at Ceres Hall conducted by FM Paranormal investigators Shawn, Charles and John. Though they didn’t catch any sightings, they did find cold spots on the third floor (though they didn’t say to a specific degree) and an ominous red light, almost like a flame, in the basement they are speculating is some kind of demonic entity. This investigation took place on Halloween in 2007.
Minard Hall hosts a dark, creepy tale that has the fourth floor teeming with paranormal activity. According to hauntedrooms.com, the fourth floor was used for a dance hall in the 1920s. The morning after an event, a janitor entered the room and found two bodies. Police suspected a double homicide but the case was never solved. The floor closed in the 1960s but students still try and sneak up there today, noting an eerie feeling of not being alone. Apparitions of the couple have yet to be seen.
Harvey Public Library, Harvey
The story of the haunting at the Harvey Public Library starts in 1931, long before the library was brought into existence. Before the site was a library, it was a residence belonging to Sophia Eberlein-Bentz and her husband. It is said that as Sophia slept beside her husband one October night in 1931, Sophia was bludgeoned to death, allegedly by her husband.
Later on, the house was torn down to make room for the Harvey Public Library, where staff began moving into the new building on the 59th anniversary of poor Sophia’s death. The room Sophia fell to her demise is now the location of the library director’s office.
Since the staff moved into the building around 1989 or 1990, lights would flicker on and off, which was odd as the building was brand new. After finding no source of the flickering, other strange happenings occurred more frequently.
It seemed Sophia would steal keys, move small objects around the building, and mess with the doors. She would lock, unlock, open and close doors while no one was watching or no one was there. Once the library staff learned of the site’s eerie past, they’ve attributed all the odd happenings to Sophia.
In an interview with the Grand Forks Herald in 2009, library director Marlene Ripplinger told the reporter, “We have issues when we’re ready to go home and suddenly keys are not there. You backtrack. You look and you look. Finally, you just say, ‘OK, Sophie, I need to get home now.’ And all of a sudden, there are the keys. You just thank the Lord and you take off.”
Ripplinger also spoke of a woman who visited the library around 2005 with old family heirlooms from her first husband whose family had been from Harvey. The crazy thing was, this woman’s first husband was allegedly the grandson of Sophia. When her current husband entered the library, he said he had felt a presence that was not fond of men and that the hairs on his arms stood up.
October 2017 marks the 86th anniversary of Sophia’s death, and marks a great time to go and check out Sophia’s ghost for yourself.
Chateau de Mores, Medora.
Antoine Amedee Marie Vincent Manca de Vallambrosa, or the Marquis de Mores, was an entrepreneurial Frenchman who claimed a six square mile area of Little Missouri riverbottom in April of 1883. He founded the town of Medora, named after his wife, Medora von Hoffman, whom he had met in France and later married in Cannes. Marquis de Mores decided to build a hunting cabin for his family that was regarded as the Chateau, or castle, to his neighbors. Though it had a massive, modest exterior, the interior was decorated in European luxury. Marquis de Mores died in 1896, 10 years after his meat-packing business failed.
Von Hoffman frequently visited Medora until 1896 to hunt and visit the estate her husband had built until he died. The entire family moved back to France, though they left the estate with caretakers. Von Hoffman’s final visit to Medora occurred in 1903, after which she spent the rest of her life back in France with their three children.
Caretakers looked after the estate until 1936 when the de Mores heirs donated it to the state. It became a State Historic Site and was returned to its original beauty with the help of the couple’s youngest son, Paul.
According to Lori Oster’s “Spooky Creepy North Dakota,” it is said that Medora returned to the estate one last time after she died and is where her spirit now stays. Tour guides have found the impression of a body on Medora’s side of the bed she shared with her husband in the morning and her silver brush set is frequently rearranged. Visitors often feel cold spots and the lights are known to flicker on and off regularly.
People who live in town say that they see lights on at night and a woman in a white dress standing on the porch that wraps around two sides of the Chateau.
The Chateau de Mores is open year-round in Medora so you can witness this phenomenon for yourself.