The Ada Witch is perhaps one of western Michigan’s most famous ghosts. It is unclear how the title “witch” got attached to her name—or even what her true name might be—but that’s what locals call the adulterous specter who is believed to haunt Findlay Cemetery and Honeycreek Road in Ada Township. Ada is a small community, located a little more than 10 miles east of Grand Rapids and first settled in 1821. It was in those early years that many believe the so-called “witch” met her tragic end, an end she may have brought upon herself.
One website dedicated exclusively to the legend of the Ada Witch claims that she died in the year 1868. It is impossible to verify that date, however, as neither the woman’s name nor the actual whereabouts of her grave are known for certain. We can only speculate.
The story says that the woman known as the Ada Witch was having an extramarital affair and would meet secretly with her lover in the marshes outside of town, near what is now Honeycreek Road. When her husband became suspicious of her late-night comings and goings, he followed her and caught her in the arms of her lover. In a jealous rage, the husband murdered first his wife and then the other man. During the struggle with his wife’s lover, the husband was also fatally wounded and died a short while later. Perhaps that’s why some people report not only seeing a mysterious ghostly woman wandering the area, but also a pair of ghostly men—maybe the men are the Ada Witch’s husband and her lover.
The woman is believed to be buried in Findlay Cemetery, but nothing is noted in the stories about where either of the two men might have been interred. Although no one can prove that the gravestone is hers, locals believe that a broken old headstone near the back of Findlay Cemetery is that of the legendary Ada Witch. Visitors often light candles or leave trinkets for her there.
Several paranormal investigators have been to the cemetery and believe that it is indeed haunted. There is evidence in the form of orb photos and other unusual phenomena that have been caught on film and on digital cameras. Of course, just as there are many people who believe the story is true, there are just as many who think the Ada Witch is little more than an urban legend.
In her book Ghosthunting Michigan, author Helen Pattskyn explores 30 of the scariest spots in the Wolverine State, all of which are open to the public—so you can test your own ghosthunting skills, if you dare.
If music can, indeed, calm the hearts of wild animals, might it not also calm the restless spirits of those who have died and wander the earth as ghosts? John Kachuba, author of Ghosthunting Ohio cannot think of any better place to find the answer to that question than at Cincinnati Music Hall.
Built in 1878, the redbrick Victorian Gothic structure rises majestically on the corner of 14th and Elm streets. Central Parkway runs parallel to the rear of the building now, but when Music Hall first opened its doors, that thoroughfare was actually the Miami Canal. Designed by a local architectural firm, the edifice is eccentric, with its garrets, turrets, gables, insets, nooks, broken surfaces and planes, and ornate rose window. Some witty Cincinnatians have dubbed the style “Sauerbraten Byzantine.”
The building is located upon the site where the tin-roofed wooden Sangerhalle once stood, a hall built by a German immigrant singing society, the Saengerbund, for its May Festivals. But there is also a more somber atmosphere associated with other former occupants of the site. The present Music Hall rests upon the foundations of the 1844 Orphan Asylum. Before that, it was the Commercial Hospital and Lunatic Asylum with its Pest House, a section for the indigent with contagious diseases. A potter’s field also occupied the site, the final resting place for suicides and strangers, the indigent and homeless of Cincinnati, as well as those who died in the Pest House. These unfortunates were buried without the benefit of coffins; they were simply bundled up and dropped into the earth. Over the years, there have been many renovations to Music Hall and human bones have often been unearthed during construction.
The famous Cincinnati journalist Lafcadio Hearn wrote about one such discovery in the October 22, 1876, edition of the Cincinnati Commercial:
“This rich yellow soil, fat with the human flesh and bone and brain it has devoured, is being disemboweled by a hundred spades and forced to exhibit its ghastly secrets to the sun…you will behold small Golgothas—mingled with piles of skulls, loose vertebrae, fibulas, tibias and the great curving bones of the thigh…All are yellow, like the cannibal clay which denuded them of their fleshly masks…Bone after bone…is turned over with a scientific application of kicks…dirty fingers are poked into empty eyesockets…ribs crack in pitiful remonstrance to reckless feet; and tobacco juice is carelessly squirted among the decaying skulls…by night there come medical students to steal the poor skulls.”
Hearn reported that the dead began to make themselves known to the living just shortly after these macabre discoveries were made. Shadowy figures roamed the halls at night, and ghostly dancers were seen in the ballroom on the second floor. One exhibitor at a business fair in Music Hall saw a young, pale woman in old-fashioned clothing standing by his booth. As he approached her, he felt a sudden rush of cold air as the figure became transparent then disappeared. Hearn wrote: “The tall woman had been sepulchered under the yellow clay below the planking upon which he stood; and the worms had formed the wedding-rings of Death about her fingers half a century before.”
Half a dozen skeletons were unearthed by workers in 1927, placed in a cement crypt and reburied, only to be discovered again during a renovation in 1969. The bones were placed inside another concrete box and reburied—and uncovered in 1988 for the third time when the shaft for the concert hall’s freight elevator was deepened. It seems the dead at Music Hall simply cannot rest in peace. Pieces, yes, but peace? No.
When my wife, Mary, and I lived in the Cincinnati area, we attended several performances of various kinds at Music Hall, but that was before we had ever heard the ghost stories, and we had never been behind the scenes. We were lucky enough, however, on a recent Valentine’s Day, to have a tour of Music Hall led by Marie Gallagher, a volunteer there for 25 years. It was a public tour, and we were joined by approximately two dozen people who were interested in seeing the grand old building. We gathered in the Main Foyer, with its checkerboard marble floor and graceful columns.
Marie knew every nook and cranny of Music Hall and regaled us with tales and anecdotes about some of the famous people who had performed there—John Philip Sousa, Richard Strauss, Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, Jascha Heifitz, Maria Callas, Andres Segovia, Luciano Pavarotti, Count Basie, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan; the list is endless.
The heart and soul of Music Hall is the 3,630-seat Springer Auditorium. Marie led us up into the gallery where we could look down at the burgundy colored seats and the stage. Even though larger than most concert halls, the acoustics in Springer Auditorium are said to be the best in the country, if not the world. Ed Vignale, Jr., Music Hall’s facilities engineer, told me in a later conversation that a person standing in the gallery of the empty auditorium could hear someone speaking from behind the stage as though he or she were only 20 feet away from the listener. Could it be that such perfect acoustics are the explanation for some of the ghostly sounds heard at Music Hall?
“I hear them when I’m on duty alone at night,” says Kitty Love, who has been part of the private police force at Music Hall for 21 years. “Footsteps, doors slamming, and music playing, and I know I was the only one in the building.”
Kitty has heard the footsteps and slamming doors in the stage area of Springer Auditorium and in other parts of the building’s south side, the side that was built over the cemetery.
As our tour group stood in the gallery of the auditorium, gazing out at the magnificent 1,500-pound crystal chandelier suspended from the dome ceiling and its Arthur Thompson oil painting, “Allegory of the Arts,” I thought of what Kitty had said and took a few pictures with my digital camera. (Later, when I download the images to my computer, I will find three beautiful but unexplainable orbs floating in the otherwise clear air above the gallery.)
Marie continued to lead us on the tour—the enormous backstage area with its vertiginous catwalks barely distinguishable in the darkness high above us, the massive workshop where stage sets and props are built, the costume room with its many rows of outfits of every description hung around and above us like an enormous dry cleaner, the dressing rooms that resembled high school locker rooms, and the more luxuriously appointed dressing rooms of the stars.
When the tour concluded back in the Main Foyer, Marie took us aside privately and brought us back into an office area. In this section was a freight elevator, the very elevator beneath which a small casket of bones from the old cemetery was uncovered.
“I haven’t seen or heard anything unusual in Music Hall and I don’t believe in ghosts,” said Marie, “but this is where a security guard said he heard strange music. He was so impressed by what he heard, he wrote it all down.”
She handed me a file folder containing a photocopy of security guard John G. Engst’s handwritten account of what he experienced on February 22, 1987. In it he tells how he was escorting three caterers from a party held in Music Hall’s Corbett Tower down to the first floor in the elevator. It was about 12:30 a.m. As they descended, the three women asked him if he heard music. He said he did not, but they asked him again when they reached the first floor and this time he said he had heard it. The women told John they had heard the same music when they went up to Corbett Tower a few hours earlier but didn’t think much of it then.
After the women loaded their truck and drove away, John went back to the elevator. The music, sounding something like a music box, continued to play a tune that John thought he recognized as “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” John stopped the elevator at different levels to see if the music would still be audible. It was. He wrote, “It was as beautiful as ever, but I’m getting more bewildered.”
John checked all the areas outside the elevator at the various levels but could not find any source for the music. He was so frightened and awed by his experiences that he wrote, “For nearly two weeks I could not approach the elevator shaft on the first floor late at night without my whole body tingling.”
In the final analysis, however, the experience was an affirming, life-altering one for John Engst. He wrote: “The experience is now all positive and will be forever, I now believe. I pray more intensely, don’t fear death and am glad to have had this profound experience.”
Kitty Love has heard similar ghostly music at Music Hall but in different locations from the freight elevator. “You hear music playing somewhere late at night when you know no one is there, but when you get there, you find it coming from some other place. You go to that place and then you hear it coming from yet another place.”
Ed Vignale said a musical greeting card had been found at the bottom of the elevator shaft, but that didn’t convince Engst that there was a rational explanation for the music he heard. Maybe John is right. Those greeting cards don’t usually last very long nor do they play continuously. Once opened they play only a few seconds before they must be closed and reopened to play again. Could a card have been heard continuously for several hours? And what about the ethereal music Kitty heard in other parts of Music Hall? Are there ghosts roaming Music Hall?
Even though Ed Vignale said that he has never seen nor heard spirits in the 34 years he has worked at Music Hall, he admits that some people have told him of seeing men and women dressed in late-19th-century clothing walking through the halls of the building. Other people have said that sometimes an extra unknown “cast member” may appear in an operatic production or that unusual looking figures may appear among the audience.
“There is definitely something strange going on here,” Ed said. “In all the time I’ve worked here, I’ve only seen two mice and one rat in the building, very unusual for a building of this size and age.” Ed went on to say that during a 1967 production at Music Hall called wild Animal Cargo, two baby snakes, a python and boa constrictor, somehow disappeared and were never found. The show left town without them and Music Hall was left with a unique system of rodent extermination.
How long do those snakes live anyway? One can only hope that, if they are still alive, those creatures have long ago been tamed by the musical charms of Cincinnati Music Hall’s resident spirits.
As you step off Bourbon Street and round the corner to Arnaud’s, you instantly feel as if you have stepped back in time and are preparing to dine like a real Creole. Founded in 1918, a French wine salesman named Arnaud Cazena built the restaurant.
A variety of private dining rooms, as well as a museum filled with New Orleans memorabilia on the second floor, are inside. The museum includes elaborate Mardi Gras costumes worn by Count Arnaud and his daughter, Germaine Wells, who reigned as queen over 22 Mardi Gras balls, more than any other woman in the history of Carnival.
Ghost Sightings at Arnaud’s Restaurant
There have been hundreds of paranormal sightings at the restaurant, including a ghostly gentleman standing near the beveled glass windows, who has been seen by employees. At first the tuxedo-clad man is noticed standing alone. When approached, he immediately disappears. Most believe that it is Count Arnaud checking in on the restaurant.
Others report seeing a woman wearing a hat exiting the ladies’ room and crossing the hall, where she then walks into the wall and disappears. There have been so many reports of this sighting that investigations were held to determine the original structure and layout of the building. It was discovered that this area once had a staircase where the wall is now placed. The ghostly woman is simply walking to the stairs from the time when she was here; in her world, there is no wall there to block her entry. Some believe this ghost to be Germaine, the daughter of Arnaud, who still enjoys the restaurant as well. She reportedly also appears in the museum by her costumes and has been seen in her ghostly form at various Carnival balls each year.
Beyond the supernatural sightings reported by local diners, tourists, and waitstaff, Arnaud’s reports that even its CPA experienced a ghostly visitation in the restaurant when he was alone one evening conducting inventory. While he was working, he noticed a strong drop in temperature in the room. As he felt the cold chill overtake him, he became aware of a presence standing behind him. Turning around, he found himself alone in the room. The CPA was in the Richelieu Bar at the time, which is one of the oldest standing structures in the restaurant, dating back to the late 1700s. In a building still standing for several centuries, there is the opportunity for a wide variety of hauntings over its incarnations. Over the years, so many different ghosts have been seen and felt at the restaurant that not all of them have been identified by name.
When dining at Arnaud’s, try the Oysters Bienville with shrimp, mushrooms, herbs, and seasonings in a white wine sauce; it’s elegantly delicious!
The Mabel Tainter Theater has been a center for the arts in Menomonie, Wisconsin, since it was built in 1889. Originally, the structure was created as a tribute to Mabel Tainter, a young woman from the area who loved theater and the arts. She died at the age of 19 in 1886, and her wealthy lumber baron parents decided to construct the theater as a memorial to her. No expenses were spared in the creation of the building. The best stone from the area was used to construct the exterior façade. The designs on the walls and ceilings were created by hand. Huge stained glass masterpieces and gorgeous marble stairs and floors decorate this beautiful building. The centerpiece of the theater is a gigantic pipe organ with 1,597 pipes in the 313-seat theater auditorium.
The theater has been in constant operation since its completion and dedication in 1890 and has seen countless employees and patrons walk through its doors. The building also contained the Menomonie Public Library until 1984, when it moved to a larger building. The only remnant of the library is the Reading Room within the theater building.
The Ghost Story
There are several places in the building where paranormal activity seems to occur. The first is the changing room area in the downstairs of the building. People have seen shadowy figures and heard phantom footsteps here. A paranormal group conducting an investigation in the building caught phantom voices on their audio recorders that they didn’t hear at the time the recordings were made. Sometimes, people in the changing rooms feel as if they are being watched or feel generally uncomfortable.
Another haunted area in the building is the theater’s auditorium, where the performances take place. Again, people see shadowy figures walking through this area, who, upon further investigation, simply disappear. The figures that appear most often are seen on the catwalks that tower over the top of the stage. People see figures on the catwalks and hear voices and footsteps coming from the catwalks despite there being no one there. Other times, while actors rehearse on the stage, they see people watching them from the seats. These figures vanish. Still other times, strange things happen with the sound boards, and the organ makes noise on its own.
The most famous ghost to haunt the theater is said to be that of Mabel Tainter herself. The apparition of a woman in a white dress has often been seen floating through the building. These apparitions are seen most often on the second floor and in the women’s restrooms. The apparition who appears on the second floor seems to just float by eyewitnesses. The apparition who appears in the women’s restroom looks at herself in the mirror and will vanish.
Visiting the Mable Tainter Theater in Menomonie, Wisconsin
The theater offers guided tours, including ghost tours. For tour times and showtimes, check the theater’s Website.
From downtown St. Paul, take I-94 East for about 57 miles into Wisconsin. Take Exit 41, the WI-25 exit towards Menomonie/Barron. Stay right at the fork to get onto North Broadway Street and follow that for about 2 miles. Turn left onto Main Street East and the theater will be on the left.
In Twin Cities Haunted Handbook, ghost hunters Jeff Morris, Garett Merk, and Dain Charbonneau explore all the best haunted locales Minneapolis has to offer, including Dead Man’s Pond, Memorial Pet Cemetery, Padelford Packet Boat Company, the Old Jail Bed and Breakfast, and St. Thomas College and the Legend of the 13 Graves.
Sally Richards, author of Ghosthunting Southern California, visits the Hale House with Psychic medium and paranormal investigator Kathryn Wilson.
The Hale House is the crown jewel of the Heritage Park Museum. It’s an amazingly active location with paranormal phenomena that you can both see and hear in real time.
The Heritage Square Museum in Los Angeles is a community of Victorian-era buildings saved from demolition and moved to their present location, where they have been lovingly restored in an effort to educate people about what life was like in the city during the 1800s.
Hale House was saved from the wrecking ball at the 11th hour by the Heritage Square folks at the cost of $1. However, it cost $10,300 to move it; $3,000 to lift the wires as it passed through town during a midnight event (the crowed roared when the fireplace remained intact); and $300,000 to restore the house to its original glory, as somewhere along the way it had been “bombed” on a movie set. Originally built at the cost of $4,000 (a small fortune back in the day), the Hale House had been moved a total of three times. The restoration work on the home is beautiful.
Now, this is one of those houses that has had a lot of living within its walls, and there seem to be many spirits in the house, including an adolescent girl. During several sessions with the PX, the home was alive with characters coming through to speak with us. The PX was sitting on a table and saying “cards,” “frog,” and “rabbit”—toy items actually on the table as one of the home’s displays.
Wilson and I felt that the house had been used for séances in the past. Throughout the event, we were hearing noises in the kitchen, as though someone was working away making a meal, but there was no one there.
In the upstairs bedroom, we heard audible breaths that came from the area of the bed, where no one was standing or sitting; I picked up some of these on my digital recorder. Back downstairs, we continued to hear the sounds of someone walking upstairs after everyone had already come down.
Is the Hale House haunted? I’d say there are so many ghosts in the home now that Mrs. Hale had to open an ethereal boardinghouse to store all the dead who’ve decided to make this place their home . . . again.
If you want to hang with the locals, catch a Saints game at Jean Lafitte’s Bar, where you’ll hear what’s really going on in the city of New Orleans. Try the Voodoo Daiquiris, which are made with fruit juice and are much tastier than some others you’ll find on Bourbon. They are so delicious that I’ve been known to try many of them—for research purposes, of course.
Some people report seeing red eyes floating over the fireplace area inside the bar. There are also tales of a woman who appears in a mirror. The charming bar is lit by candlelight, and you’ll feel transported back in time. Anyone with psychic abilities will pick up on the energy of the place. Paranormal researchers also come away with a variety of orbs and mists appearing in their photos.
The Napoleon House
When Napoleon was captured and imprisoned on the Isle of Saint Helena, a group of Frenchmen in New Orleans began to plan his rescue. They decided to acquire a yacht and sail to the Isle of Saint Helena, where they would participate in a daring rescue and bring Napoleon to New Orleans to live out the rest of his life. One of the men involved with this plan was Nicholas Girod, the mayor of New Orleans from 1812 to 1815. Girod offered his home to Napoleon to live in upon his arrival. Many meetings regarding the rescue attempt were discussed here at Girod’s home, which began to be referred to as the Napoleon House.
For more than 200 years, it has served locals and travelers alike with food and drink, while maintaining its historical significance. Regarding the haunted history of the house, more people are apt to tell you that it has been haunted more by living artists and writers.
Try the Pimm’s Cup, a gin-based drink, while at the Napoleon House. The recipe remains a secret, and it’s tradition to try one. The Sazeracs made here are wonderful as well. You can buy the mixes to make Pat O’Brien’s hurricanes and Pimm’s Cup at home, but everyone says (and I’ve tried it myself and agree) that they never taste the same at home like they do while in New Orleans. So it’s best to leave the making of these cocktails to the professionals.
Beethoven, a fan of Napoleon, composed “Eroiqua” in honor of the emperor, and the classical music is played today in the Napoleon House. The Napoleon House has appeared in movies, including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Runaway Jury.
Antoine’s is a family-owned restaurant that opened in 1840 and has been offering exemplary service and French Creole cuisine since its inception. With more than 14 dining rooms, the restaurant is capable of holding up to 700 guests at a time.
Several of the dining rooms are named after the Carnival krewes, which include Rex, Proteus, and the 12th Night Revelers. A krewe is an organization or club that puts on a parade or special event during Mardi Gras season.
One of the reasons that the restaurant is thought to have been so successful is the legend that every family member involved in Antoine’s restaurant has encountered the ghost of Antoine in one form or another. Reportedly, he looks after the restaurant and keeps a watchful eye on the operations to ensure that the finest quality is still being preserved. Guests and some staff members have also reported seeing the ghost of Antoine. By all accounts, as long as there is an Antoine’s restaurant, Antoine himself will be there to look after the staff and the guests.
To be part of the in crowd at Antoine’s, ask to be seated in one of the back rooms when calling for reservations. You will be dining with the locals. It’s the custom here at Antoine’s that if you enjoy a particular waiter, you can ask for his card to ensure that you can book a table with him on future visits.
At Antoine’s, you must try the Pommes de Terre Soufflés, which are the most delightful puffed potatoes! They come out hot and puffy, and they must be eaten immediately to savor them. Once they are cooled, they are not the same, so enjoy them quickly.
When dining at Antoine’s, the waiters will recommend that you take a tour after your meal and walk around the other rooms of the restaurant to take in the sights. Take them up on this offer, as it’s wonderful to see the history, including photographs of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Judy Garland, Pope John Paul II, Presidents Roosevelt and Coolidge, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and others who dined here.
George Vanderbilt was 25 years old when he purchased the property in the late 1880s. In 1895, he officially opened the estate with an elaborate housewarming party for family and friends on Christmas Eve. The house was his dream for a country retreat where he could pursue his “passion for art, literature, and horticulture.” In 1898, he married Edith Dresser; after their honeymoon, they moved to the estate. Even after they moved in, work continued on the home.
Edith and George were very much in love, and it was said that they complemented each other very well. They had one daughter, Cornelia, who was born in the home, and it appears that they had an idyllic life, enjoying the best the world had to offer.
In 1914, George had an appendectomy and died from complications resulting from the surgery. Shortly after his death, servants in the home noticed that Edith began spending a lot of time in the library and that, while she was in the library, she was speaking out loud to George’s spirit. At first, they dismissed this act as a woman in grief over the death of her beloved husband. They assumed that after a period of time she would move on from her grief, after finishing her discussions of things that she had wished to say to George before his untimely death.
Instead, the opposite happened. Edith continued her daily conversations with George, and during this time servants in the home began to notice the presence of his spirit, mostly in the library and in his favorite sitting room on the second floor. According to the legends, many of the servants heard footsteps and then saw an apparition of George around the home.
The ghosts of Edith and George Vanderbilt continue to converse in the library of Biltmore Estate.
After Edith died, the legends continued, as the servants reported hearing the voices of both Edith and George now conversing in the library. Perhaps now that they were joined again in the afterlife, they were able to pick up where they left off and enjoy their time together in their treasured home. Reports continue today from staff and visitors who hear voices in the library and a few other rooms.
There are quite a few ghost stories about Biltmore, which some locals shared with me during my visit to Asheville. Several employees answered my questions, as well, as long as I agreed to keep their identities off the record. Officially, Biltmore does not discuss haunted or paranormal activity in the home or on the property. Also, photography is not allowed inside the home. The only spirits that they will officially discuss are the spirits of the wine made at the Biltmore winery.
For more haunted tales from the Tar Heel State, join Kala Ambrose, author of Ghosthunting North Carolina, as she explores each site, snooping around eerie rooms and dark corners.
In the early 1920s, a man sold off a few acres of his farm to a local veterinarian named Dr. Feist, who immediately turned the area into the first pet cemetery in Minnesota. It was originally called the Feist Pet Cemetery and was privately owned until the late 1980s, when it was donated to the local Humane Society and renamed Memorial Pet Cemetery.
Throughout its many years of existence, a vast variety of animals have been buried here—mostly dogs. The headstones themselves often mention what type of dog it was and include a touching epitaph. Dogs aren’t the only pets buried here, though. There are birds, hamsters, gerbils, cats, and even a horse. The horse’s grave is currently unmarked, and historic records as to its exact location have been lost. One woman even asked the current owner of the cemetery if it was okay if her ashes were buried with her pet dog. After searching through current laws and regulations, the owner agreed to allow it, and her cremated remains were buried with her beloved pet.
Today, there is no longer any room in the cemetery, and no new burials are being accepted.
Roseville Memorial Pet Cemetery Ghost Story
While you might expect a pet cemetery to be haunted by the spirits of the animals buried here, most of the ghost stories actually involve human entities. Every once in a while, people hear what sounds like the quiet barking of a dog or a rustling through the grass, but the dogs from the local neighborhood or resident squirrels could account for these phenomena.
The most often-reported ghost in the cemetery is that of a small boy, seen alone. Often the witnesses notice him in a particular place, but when they go off exploring and then turn back to look at the little boy, he has completely vanished. Other times, those who see this young boy say that he follows them around the cemetery at a safe distance and then suddenly disappears. Still others hear the voice of a small boy but don’t see him.
The other ghost within this cemetery is that of an old woman, seen kneeling in front of a dog’s gravestone. When she is approached, she fades away into nothingness.
Visiting the Roseville Memorial Pet Cemetery
It is best to explore this location during daylight hours. One reason for this is that the cemetery is in a neighborhood, and concerned residents may call the police if someone is walking through a pet cemetery in the middle of the night with a flashlight. Perhaps a more important reason to explore here during the day, though, is that all of the ghost stories have been reported during the day.
Take I-35W North from downtown Minneapolis for about 4.5 miles to Exit 23B, the MN-36 East exit. Follow MN-36 East for 3 more miles before taking the Dale Street exit. At the end of the exit ramp, turn left onto Dale Street and then take the first left after the highway onto Cope Avenue. The pet cemetery will be on your left.
In Twin Cities Haunted Handbook, ghost hunters Jeff Morris, Garett Merk, and Dain Charbonneau explore all the best haunted locales Minneapolis has to offer, including Dead Man’s Pond, Memorial Pet Cemetery, Padelford Packet Boat Company, the Old Jail Bed and Breakfast, and St. Thomas College and the Legend of the 13 Graves.
The Cornstalk Hotel — A Story of Love and Ghosts
by Kala Ambrose
The Cornstalk Hotel was originally built as a home in 1816 for Judge Francois Xavier-Martin, who is best known in Louisiana as a former chief justice for the Supreme Court. The home was designed according to his wishes, but records show that several homes had previously been built on this property, beginning in 1730. Each of the previous homes had been destroyed by fire, most likely by the two Great Fires of New Orleans—the first that destroyed 90% of the French Quarter and the second that destroyed more than 200 buildings. The records of who owned the homes before Judge Martin are missing (some were destroyed by fire), but it is assumed by most historians that several families lived at this location over the decades.
A cast-iron fence resembling cornstalks
The tale of the haunted Cornstalk Hotel begins with a husband’s love for his wife. In 1834 Dr. Joseph Secondo Biamenti purchased the home for himself and his Iowa bride. He ordered a cast-iron fence to be installed around the property. In New Orleans, lovely homes with cast-iron balconies and fences are features found in great abundance on every corner of the city, so the chosen material on its own is not what has made the Cornstalk Hotel famous.
What causes this building to stand out in the French Quarter is that the cast-iron fence resembles cornstalks, as if one was looking out at a field of corn made completely from cast iron. Each column of the fence is anchored with a pumpkin. Climbing up each iron post are vines, leaves, and flowers, until you reach the top of the post, where cornstalks are partially open to display the kernels of corn inside.
The effect is whimsical, and the artisan must have worked long hours to shape iron into such delicate and intricate pieces, which include a butterfly landing on the front gate. The good doctor loved his wife dearly. Knowing that the swampy soil in New Orleans would never allow a field of corn to grow, he did the next best thing he could to bring an Iowa cornfield to his wife: He designed a unique fence that would remind her of home whenever she looked out the window.
Architecturally, the hotel is fascinating. It is listed in a multitude of travel guidebooks as a must-see location to photograph in the city. This hotel meets that list for other reasons, too, including the legends of ghosts haunting the building. Guests have reported hearing children laughing as their footsteps pitter-patter back and forth inside the house and outside.
There are also reports of hotel guests hearing the sounds of someone tapping on the window, only to find no one there when they pull back the curtain. They also report doors opening and closing in the middle of the night.
Cornstalk Hotel iron fence vibrates with energy
At the hotel, I was psychically drawn to spend time outdoors rather than inside. The iron fence is quite captivating, and there is something almost electric about it. Iron was used in cemeteries, as it has a reputation of keeping spirits inside the area surrounded by iron or preventing them from entering an area surrounded by an iron fence, as ancient tales state that spirits are not able to cross over iron fences and gates.
This particular iron fence vibrated with an energy that I had not noticed elsewhere in the French Quarter. The fence emanated a blue hue, as if it was magnetized with an energy field. It had the look and feel of a spell, as if someone who knew what they were doing had magically placed a charm on the fence for purposes yet unknown.
As I tuned into the fence to determine what energy had been placed there, I followed the blue auric field and saw that it surrounded the property. Protective spells had been placed in this field to shield the hotel from any harm. The hotel certainly has a warm and welcoming feel about it. If you are standing in front of the fence from the street and want to see this blue energy field for yourself, you’ll find that the left side of the fence has the most energy, as if it wants to protect itself from energy coming from that direction. On the right side, the energy field is much more open and relaxed, appearing to not detect any harm coming from this side. This right side of the property is where the ghost boys are most often seen playing on the lawn.
As I continued to study the fence and the supernatural energy attached to it, I had the distinct feeling of being watched. I looked up at the hotel and saw a woman looking out at me from an upstairs window. I gave a friendly wave to her, thinking she was a guest, until I noticed that she was wearing a dark dress with a lace collar at the neck and had her hair pulled back into a tight bun. My first thought was that she was dressed in period clothing, perhaps for an event at the hotel. This thought soon vanished, however, for as I stood there looking at her, she disappeared into thin air, except for one of her hands, which remained there at the window for a few moments longer. She appeared to me as someone who was very protective and inquisitive about the comings and goings at the hotel.
My encounter with the woman was very brief. She was quite a distance away, as I was outside near the fence looking up and she was upstairs inside the hotel, so there wasn’t a strong connection. The one thing I did feel strongly, however, was that she was not the wife of Dr. Biamenti. This woman appeared to be dressed more in the style of the late 1700s rather than the mid-1800s, when Dr. Biamenti and his wife lived in the home. Most likely she was an occupant of one of the previous homes that burned down.
When Anna and Charles Whaley decided to put down roots in what would become the heart of Old Town San Diego, it seems there was a plan to bring a bit of Louisiana to Southern California. Anna Whaley, of French descent, planted the majestic pepper trees outside her house in 1856. Her trees, and other New Orleans touches, were recognized by Mark Bihm more than 150 years later, drawing him to the next stage in his career. He was intrigued by the blind real estate ad that read “Deli in a parklike setting,” describing the historic building that shares the Whaley House courtyard.
“I wanted to open a restaurant, and I didn’t want to see concrete or cars,” Bihm says. He immediately came out to look at the property and fell in love with it; the place reminded him of his homeland—his family has been in Louisiana since 1750. “The New Orleans style of the Whaley House [see Whaley House chapter], the gas lamps, the pepper trees—it was kismet.” And the rest is history.
Creole Café is painstakingly restored and preserved
Bihm’s San Diego Creole Café is part of the historic courtyard that Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO) created from the buildings saved from demolition and painstakingly restored to preserve San Diego’s early history. The adopted buildings are now part of the group surrounding the historic Whaley House. What Bihm didn’t realize, but now knows very well, is that he was moving into one of America’s most haunted locations.
Bihm and his life and business partner, Humberto Villegas, have both experienced many paranormal events in the buildings that house the Creole Café, moved from what was one of the oldest areas of San Diego called New Town, which is now part of San Diego’s downtown area. The two wooden structures with false facades definitely have a feeling about them, and many customers comment about their own experiences there.
Bihm feels that the spirits at the restaurant don’t mind his presence there and that they have actually tried to take care of the partners in the face of danger. Customers and visitors comment constantly regarding the spirits and paranormal activity in the buildings. The paranormal stories surrounding the Whaley House and Creole Café abound—and the time of the incidents is rarely confined to the darkness of night.
“I’ve been witnessing phenomena—and I have all my life,” says Bihm. “It just seems here it’s more accentuated. We all want to believe in them, and I know without a doubt that if we can figure out how they move chandeliers—goodbye energy crises, hello world prosperity. How do they do that? As far as the spirits here—too many people have come here and had the same things happen for generations—people who don’t even know each other. How else can they come up with the same phenomena? I do believe in them—absolutely. I’m not afraid. I mean, sure, there’s bad stuff out there, but not here.”
Sally Richards, author of Ghosthunting Southern California, has visited the Creole Café in Old Town San Diego and interviewed Mark Bihm. Check out this and many more haunted tales from her eerie journey through the region.