Halloween is almost here, and it's the perfect time to hit the road for some paranormal thrill-seeking. Minnesota has a rich history of hauntings. In virtually every corner of the state, you'll find reports of ghostly apparitions, spooky sightings and mysterious phenomena.

So skip the kitschy haunted houses and lame hayrides. By comparison, those are child's play. These are the real thing.

Phelps Mill

Where: Underwood (Otter Tail County)

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Don't let the picturesque setting fool you. Inside, you'll find the eerie skeletons of a bygone era: rusty equipment, dilapidated stairways and rotting wood beams.

A century ago, you'd find a booming flour mill, a hub of industry in the Fergus Falls region. After shuttering its doors in the 1930s, it's since become a county park.

 

But some say the ghosts of workers are still toiling away. One visitor reported feeling a hand on his shoulder, only to turn around and find himself alone. And at least one person has drowned in the dam outside the door. 

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Anderson House Hotel

Where: Wabasha

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This historic B&B has been around since before Abraham Lincoln became president. One of the longest-running hotels this side of the Mississippi, it's more than just a Wabasha landmark. It's also a hotbed of paranormal activity.

Legend has it that one of the hotel's guests, Sarah, jumped out a window to her death when her husband failed to return from a fishing trip. She apparently leaves dimes around the house for guests and employees to find.

 

The place is also well-known for another reason: Over the decades, it was home to dozens of resident housecats. Until it changed ownership in 2009, guests could request one of the friendly felines to keep them company. (And stave off spirits?)

 

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Ness Church

Where: Litchfield

 

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This tiny country church is said to be haunted by the spirits of settlers killed during the Sioux Uprising of the 1860s. In the nearby town of Acton, a handful of young Wahpeton Indians shot and killed five settlers, including a woman and a 15-year-old girl. All five are buried here.

The incident sparked a violent conflict that ended with a mass execution of 38 Dakota Indians in Mankato - a dark chapter in Minnesota's history. 

 

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Wendigo Territory

Where: Roseau

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Forget Bigfoot. The Native American legend of the Wendigo is much, much scarier. For centuries, American Indian tribes have told stories of the "the evil spirit that devours mankind." The creature is said to dwell in the frozen forests and tundra of northern Minnesota and Southern Ontario.

 

According to some legends, the Wendigo is the spirit of tortured souls who were forced to resort to cannibalism to survive the frigid winters. The creature is typically depicted as 15-feet tall, with a skeletal face and antlers - plus an insatiable hunger.

 

During the 1800s, the terrifying creature made frequent appearances in Roseau, a small hamlet near the Canadian border. Each sighting was allegedly followed by the death of the witness or someone they loved. 

So when you're walking through the woods of Northern Minnesota on a moonless winter night, beware. What you think is a deer - a rustle in the trees, a pair of antlers emerging from the brush - might be something far more nefarious.

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Nopeming Sanatorium

Where: Duluth

 

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If you've ever driven from Minneapolis to Duluth, you've probably seen this ominous-looking complex perched on a hill overlooking the freeway just south of town. Built in 1912, it served as a quarantine and treatment center for thousands of tuberculosis patients - many of whom succumbed to the illness. Today, it's owned by a nonprofit organization that offers historic and paranormal tours.

The place is creepy even in broad daylight - which is probably why it's been the subject of numerous paranormal investigations, including a Ghost Adventures episode. It's also Instagram gold. You'll find a chilling photo op around every corner - but your hands might be shaking so badly that you can't keep the camera steady.

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Soudan Mine

Where: Tower

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Clausterphobic? You may want to bring along a spare pair of pants for the 27-story descent into this deep, dark mine on the shores of Lake Vermillion. At one time the deepest in America, it's the oldest iron ore mine in Minnesota.

At least 140 workers lost their lives in the mine during its eight decades of operation. According to nearby residents, ghosts can be seen wandering around town at night, still dusty and dirty from a day in the mines.

Now a state park and National Historic Landmark, it's open for tours. You can take a creaky old elevator down to the lowest point. A half-mile below the surface, you'll find a laboratory that has conducted experiments on neutrinos, dark matter and other mysteries of the universe.

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SS William A. Irvin

Where: Duluth

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What's cooler than a haunted house? How about a haunted ship. Permanently docked in the Duluth Harbor, creepiness abounds in this old ore freighter. Legend has it a lady in white walks the decks at night, wailing for her lost lover. Visitors have reported hearing the screams of a seaman killed by scalding steam from an exploding boiler in the 1940s. And the ghost of a weathered old captain has been sighted at the helm.

Now a museum, the ship typically holds haunted tours every fall, and the place will really scare your socks off. Unfortunately, it's currently closed for renovations. But you can still marvel at the ship during a nighttime walk along the pier. Who knows? Maybe, gazing up at the deck, you'll catch a glimpse of a ghostly passenger.

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West Hills Orphanage (Minnesota State Public School Orphanage Museum)

Where: Owatonna

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Creepy is an understatement when it comes to this place. More than 10,000 abandoned, neglected, orphaned and abused children once called this sprawling complex home. 

 

For many children, this place was a pitstop on their way to permanent adoptive homes. But some never made it off the grounds. Several hundred children died while living there. The causes of death ranged from downing and diphtheria to measles and failure to thrive, and the average age at the time of death was only four years old. Nearly 200 graves - marked only by the patients' numbers - fill the eerie cemetery.

 

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Glensheen Mansion

Where: Duluth

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One of the most famous murders in the history of Minnesota took place in this turn-of-the-century mansion. It was the illustrious home of Chester Congdon, a lawyer who made his fortune in mining and steel. He lived with his family in the luxurious 17-acre estate on the shores of Lake Superior.

 

In the 1970s, the family's youngest daughter and heiress, Elisabeth Congdon, was the sole occupant of the mansion along with her nurse. The elderly Elisabeth had a troubled relationship with her adopted daughter, Marjorie Caldwell - who happened to be a diagnosed sociopath. Marjorie stood to gain an inheritance worth over $8 million upon her mother's death.

 

The murder played out like a game of Clue. One summer night in 1977, somebody broke into the mansion and bludgeoned the night nurse with a candlestick on the grand stairway. The assailant continued upstairs and suffocated Elisabeth in her bed with a satin pillow. Although the details of that night are still a mystery, Marjorie eventually pled guilty to second-degree murder. 

 

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Palmer House Hotel

Where: Sauk Center

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Widely considered the most haunted place in Minnesota, ghost sightings and paranormal activities abound at this 1900s-era hotel: Doors closing by themselves. Voices of children who aren't there. Faucets turning on and off. Loud, unexplained thuds in the middle of the night. Stay here for the weekend, and you're sure to be spooked.

 

Nobody knows why the place is haunted. The original building was destroyed in a fire, but nobody was killed in the blaze. The owner claims to have found human rib bones under a floorboard in the basement - perhaps the victim of foul play. After the bones were unearthed, however, they mysteriously disappeared.

The hotel's website includes guest descriptions of strange happenings they experienced while staying there. The place was also featured on the Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures."

 

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Split Rock Lighthouse

Where: Near Beaver Bay

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Perched atop a cliff overlooking a foggy inland sea, this well-known landmark certainly has a dramatic - and ominous - look about it. The lighthouse long warded off ships from running aground on the rocky shores.

Now, its beacon lights up only one night per year. On November 10th - the anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald - the lighthouse holds a commemorative ceremony and rekindles the lantern. The famous freighter (and subject of the Gordon Lightfoot song) sank in stormy seas in 1975, killing all 29 on board. 

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The ceremony is open to the public. You can even stay the night and camp near the lighthouse - if you dare. Rumor has it you may hear the distant wails of the 29 lost souls whose bodies remain at the bottom of the lake. Or maybe it's just the wind? We'll let you decide.

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Ruins of an old insane asylum

 

Where: Faribault

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Abandoned insane asylums are, by definition, creepy. And this former state hospital will leave you shaking in your boots. Formerly known as the Minnesota Institute for Defectives and the School for the Feeble-Minded, it's no surprise that countless horrors took place here during its 100-plus years of operation. Patients underwent lobotomies, electroshock, solitary confinement and dubious medical experiments.

Those who dare to venture into the graffiti-covered ruins have reported feeling strange sensations, hearing voices and seeing apparitions. Perhaps the tortured spirits of former patients remain.

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Historic Calumet Inn

Where: Pipestone

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As seen on"Hotel Hell," this striking inn has a long legacy of tragedy. The original hotel burned to the ground in 1886, killing a Baptist ministered who was desperately trying to rescue others. The local newspaper at the time gruesomely reported that his body “burned to a crisp.”

Then, in 1944, tragedy struck again. Another blaze killed another guest. The hotel was quickly repaired and reopened, but has since been troubled by decay, both physical and financial. 

Here, phantoms regularly walk the halls - among them, a well-dressed gentleman who may have been the Baptist minister. Employees have heard piano music when nobody was at the piano. And all manner of paranormal activity has been reported in room 308 - where the second guest suffocated in the blaze.

 

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Quarry Hill

Where: Rochester

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Thousands of graves lie beneath the serene meadows of this nature reserve. The former site of the Rochester State Hospital - an institution for the severely mentally ill - it was also home to a quarry and a cemetery for patients who died there.

 

Today, you'll find remnants of the asylum throughout the park: An old stone fireplace where residents once gathered for games and socializing, and the barred entrance to a maze of sandstone caves where they once grew vegetables. Take a moment to linger on Dead Man's Bridge, where a distraught man hung himself in the 1960s. 

You might even see apparitions of deranged patients still wandering the grounds. Ghost-hunters consider it to be one of the most haunted sites in Southern Minnesota.

 

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