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5 Spooky Stories About Minneapolis Parks

1. Beltrami Park / Maple Hill Cemetery
Some may know that Beltrami Park used to be a a well known cemetery called Maple Hill Cemetery. In 1857, there were up to 5,000 bodies resting there, but by the late 1800s, the cemetery was neglected and soon condemned. The city decided to move 1,300 bodies and about 82 monuments over to Hillside and Lakewood Cemeteries to be reburied. However, the other 3,700 bodies remained on site. After some time, Maple Hill sat without care – even having some exposed caskets. But by 1908, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board came to own the land and finally cleaned up the site. Maple Hill Cemetery was later rededicated as Beltrami Park, with a few of the remaining gravestones still there today. Check out more on this story in one of our previous blog posts: 5 Remnants of the Past Still Visible in Minneapolis Parks.

2. Doll Buggy Parades at Powderhorn Park
Doll buggy parades were big events at parks decades ago, especially in the 1930s. These were fairly regular events, even as recently as the 1970s. While dolls are a common toy for young children to play with, there’s something slightly unsettling about seeing a group of old dolls sitting unattended in a park, as seen below in the photograph from Powderhorn Park.

3. Seven Oaks Oval Park
Minneapolis parks historian David C. Smith writes about this secluded hideaway in the Howe neighborhood of South Minneapolis. He describes the precipitously sloped 2-acre site – geologically, a sinkhole or cave collapse – as “a huge bowl full of wild greenery.” The park, which descends as much as 25 feet below street level, is the only surface evidence of a network of naturally occurring caves and tunnels that crisscross this area of the city, making it “a place to exercise the imagination, a kind of spooky hideaway, the kind of I-dare-you place kids tell their visiting cousins scary stories about,” says Smith.

Neighborhood lore, as expressed in comments on Smith’s post, says that as far back as the early 1900s, the site was known as “the ‘Boiling Kettle’ or something like that. And the kids were absolutely forbidden by their parents to go anywhere near it, for fear that they would be unable to get back out. They told the kids that dragons and monsters lived in there…just to scare them out of any notions of exploring. And according to neighborhood legend, children had disappeared into the abyss, never to be seen again.”

4. Central Riverfront
The area known for the Stone Arch Bridge and Saint Anthony Main comes with its fair share of spooky stories and was even once cited as one of the best places to actually see a ghost by Jeff Morris, author of The Twin Cities Haunted Handbook, who said, “People see things there all the time.” Case in point? His own experience: “While there wasn’t a full bodied apparition that jumped out at us, there were some strange things that we couldn’t explain. We heard footsteps and a voice behind us while walking across the Washington Avenue Bridge.”

Other places nearby that give folks the heebie-jeebies include the former National Purity Soap Company Building – more recently known as the Soap Factory – which embraced the notoriety with an annual Halloween bash and the tunnels near the Pillsbury A-Mill have had reported sightings of white ghostly bats.

If you’re looking for more ghost chasing in the area, take a tour of the Central Riverfront’s haunted sites with Real Ghost Tours. You’ll be on a tour with a real ghost hunter who combines history and theater to make for a spectacular time.

5. Longfellow House
We couldn’t let this post go without a nod to our very own Longfellow House and official Minneapolis Parks Foundation office headquarters. While there haven’t been any official recordings of hauntings at the Longfellow House, recounts from those who have worked in the building throughout the years have definitely indicated some spooky happenings. The Longfellow House was built in 1907 and served as a public library for much of the 1900’s. It was also held as a “Ghost Manor” during the early 1980’s by the St. Paul Jaycees as a haunted house attraction every year at Halloween.

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s Archivist and Records Specialist, Katelyn Morken, shared with us some fun, and some spooky, Halloween photos of the past.

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