Haunted houses or simple folklore?

By Sarah Horner
12/10/05 -  The Fergus Falls Daily Journel

If you've ever spent a weekend tucked inside one of the historic dining cars at the Whistle Stop Inn Bed and Breakfast in New York Mills, you might have been unknowingly dining with an uninvited guest. Visitors to the bed and breakfast in years past occasionally reported hearing odd noises during their stay, or mysterious footsteps. One woman even claimed to smell an unexpected whiff of cologne while relaxing in her whirlpool. Perhaps these tales are nothing more than coincidences. Maybe they are stories that were twisted and exaggerated over time. But maybe there is something to them. Maybe the Whistle Stop Inn is haunted.

Owner Jann Lee doesn't seem to think so.

“Sometimes you hear things, but it never turns out to be anything,” she said. “If there is a ghost it's friendly. But I don't think we're really haunted.”

Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk, authors of the recently published book “Minnesota Road Guide to Haunted Locations,” wanted to find out for themselves. So they armed themselves with ghost-hunting equipment and open minds and headed straight to the source. Their visit didn't prove the ghostly tale, but Lewis said it didn't disprove it either.

In the book, the authors provide readers with the site's history and compare it to its folklore. They also include conversations with employees and town residents who comment on the spooky stories.

“We provide the evidence and leave it up to the reader to visit and experience,” Lewis said.

The Whistle Stop Inn is one of many supposedly haunted Minnesota locations the authors highlight in their new book. Lewis said the pair actually visited each spot and only chose locations that had reported hauntings in the past 20 years.

Among the lot are the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, the Old Broadway Food and Spirits restaurant in Alexandria, and the Palmer House Hotel in Sauk Centre.

The book provides specific driving directions for anyone interested in hunting down the hauntings.

Lewis has traveled much of the world searching for ghosts and other unexplainable phenomena and has yet to come across hard evidence, but that doesn't discourage him from believing it exists.

“I have spoken to too many credible, normal people who have had something happen to them,” he said. “It can't all be hoaxes, psychological disorders, misidentifications, or mass hallucinations.”

Besides, Lewis said actually witnessing a haunting is only a tiny piece of his passion.

“Even if you never have a ghost encounter,” he said, “you'll have an adventure.”

The authors welcome anyone interested in sharing their own ghost story to access their Web site at www.unexplainedresearch.com.

The site also provides information about obtaining the new book.

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