By Natalie Fowler
Our second investigation location for documentary film footage this past October was at what used to be a poor farm, a few miles outside of a small Minnesotan town. Research revealed that poorhouses, or poor “farms” in rural Minnesota, were one of the only forms of public assistance for the poor, mentally ill and elderly. If you didn’t have family around to help, or if you couldn’t pay your bills, you were sent to the poor farm.
As I left Main Street of the nearby town, I followed twisty roads that wove between farms and forests. It didn’t take long to feel far away from town and in the middle of nowhere. When I thought about transportation options in the late 1800s, it also became obvious that the townspeople of long ago didn’t want anything to do with the “undesirables” they committed to the poor farm. They certainly didn’t want them anywhere near town.
The never-ending driveway seemed like a foreshadow: It was hard to imagine that my night was destined to be anything but a Stephen King thriller. I was thankful the sun hadn’t set just yet. But the massive house, while foreboding, has been beautifully restored into a Bed and Breakfast. The owners have infused a sense of happiness into the place that couldn’t have possibly been there before. I walked into the foyer as my team was filming an interview with the owner.
She was talking about how possible paranormal activity had been reported in certain rooms. With a slight gleam in her eye, she refused to give any specifics, out of concern that she would influence our findings. We pointed out that we were just a bunch of writers and artists, and none of us were psychics. But she just smiled. We took some time during the daylight hours to explore the grounds and search for the forgotten cemetery.
I personally set out on my own to try to figure out where the barn had stood. I had read that the barn had been expanded the second year, because the superintendent needed a place to keep “the crazy man.” According to the owners, the barn had been demolished at least ten years before.
I’m not going to pretend I’m a psychic. But as I explored the overgrown brush behind the house, when I moved beyond a pile of construction debris and into a certain space, I was overwhelmed with a sense of sadness…to the point that I felt like I wanted to cry. Looking around, it was easy to see that the trees in a twenty square meter space were all the same height, and none of them were mature enough to have been there for more than a decade. I went back to tell everyone that I thought I had found the location of the barn. Thanks to an afternoon of research at a history center library, I have since learned that I was wrong. But in that moment, it felt real.
The night grew dark and we began our investigation.No matter how peaceful the house felt in the warm glow of the sunset, when we turned out all the lights (and I do mean all, we had the owner searching for switches she had never even used)…the history couldn’t help but ooze from the walls. I have been fascinated by ghost stories ever since I was a little girl. I’ve been researching and reading books on paranormal activity long before Ghost Adventures became a thing. I’ve always believed in the presence of spirit, somehow coexisting in our time and space. There was no preexisting doubt.
However. Never in my life, did I expect to ask the question, “What is your name?” into thin air…and get a response. But that’s exactly what happened.