Like my coworker, Hillary Sloan, my fascination with the paranormal runs deep. So when our team decided to focus our efforts this month on ghosts, spirits, and hauntings in honor of Halloween, I was immediately on board. As we went around the room tossing out our ideas, it was apparent we were all up for a good old fashioned ghost hunt… we just needed to identify a few locations to investigate.
Hillary, the longest-tenured AreaVoices team member, had heard rumors since the day she started here that the basement of our very own Forum building was haunted. She volunteered to line up a paranormal investigation to see if there was any truth to the stories. If you missed her report, go check out what they found.
Danielle, with her natural love of history, wanted to explore the old Kirkbride building in Fergus Falls, MN. The building housed the mentally ill for over 100 years, so it seemed plausible we’d find a wandering spirit or two still roaming the now empty hallways.
For her foray into the unknown, Alex chose to go down a more grisly path. Growing up near the small town of Dalton, MN, (just a few miles down I-94 from Fergus Falls), she remembers listening to campfire stories of a grotesque murder that claimed the life of a 15-year-old girl named Lilly. It all supposedly happened on a pig farm back in 1887, but the location of the farm is part of the lingering mystery. Alex took her own paranormal investigation team to track down the story.
Eventually, the discussion circled back around the room to me. It was my turn to pick a haunt. The problem was I did not grow up listening to scary ghost stories. The only spot I knew of was the supposedly haunted abandoned church in Absaraka, ND, but I had already been there. My friends and I took a late-night road trip out there back in high school. Our only spooky encounter was with a black cat who skittered across the gravel road, stopping directly in front of our car to stare back at us for a moment before running off into the darkness.
Finally, the idea came to me. The classic Halloween haunt: a graveyard. But instead of dragging along an entire paranormal investigation crew with all of their high-tech ghost hunting equipment, I decided to approach the experience in a more subdued style. This was hallowed ground, and I wanted to respect the space and those who lie there.
The group loved the idea of visiting a cemetery in the shadowy hours of late night/early morning, so I started planning the adventure. As I worked on lining up access to our cemetery of choice, Riverside Cemetery near Lindenwood Park in south Fargo, another idea emerged.
While I wasn’t planning on doing a full-on investigation with a team of pro ghost hunters, another option occurred to me as to how we could make the most of our date with the paranormal. Why don’t we bring a psychic medium along to see if he or she could make contact with any of the deceased?
This update to the plan served two purposes. First, it would add another layer of intrigue to the night and could potentially enhance the entire experience. Second, it would fulfill my own selfish desire to get in touch with the local psychic scene in Fargo, if there were such a thing. My quest to find a willing medium to join us at the cemetery turned into a story of its own that I won’t retell here. But long story short… I connected with a medium named Dean McMurray, who was eager to participate and learn from the experience for his own personal development.
Finding a psychic turned out to be easier than securing entry into Riverside. My request was initially met with sincere enthusiasm from the person I first spoke with about the idea. Then the waiting game started. After several days of hearing nothing, I finally called back and was told in no uncertain terms that absolutely would we not be allowed on premises.
So that plan had to change, and we moved on to our second option. One that did not have a gated entrance. Sunset Memorial Gardens is where my father-in-law’s remains were buried five years ago, so in a way it seemed right that this is where we ended up. I hadn’t been back since the burial, so I knew we would have one “test” for Dean right out of the gate. Could he locate my father-in-law’s headstone? I had a vague idea of where it was, but I knew I would not able to find it in the dark. At least not without some help.
Our Night Out With the Dead
I allowed myself to fall asleep after dinner that night, just to sneak in a quick nap before a long night at the cemetery. When I woke up, packed my bag and left the house, I walked outside to find the ideal setting for the experience that lay ahead.
A slow-moving rainstorm had finally moved out of the area, leaving a crystal clear night sky dotted with brilliant stars. As I pulled off South University onto the gravel road that led into Sunset Memorial Gardens, I noticed the massive storm cloud still hanging in the southern sky, illuminated every so often with flashes of lightning. The night air was still, and if you listened carefully you could hear the distant sound of soft, rumbling thunder accompanying the lightning show.
Calm, clear night cleansed with a fresh fall rainstorm. The natural energy of far-off lightning charging the air. A bright moon and thousands of surrounding stars adding just the right amount of light to illuminate our way. Three shooting stars and a brief appearance of the aurora completed the stellar nightscape. The conditions for communing with the dead were as peaceful and perfect as I could have ever hoped for.
And that was the theme of our night. Peaceful. Calm. Almost welcoming. Not to ruin the surprise, but the three of us who made it out that night (Dean, Danielle, and I) did not hear any voices or see any spirits as we alternated between sitting quietly and walking the grounds. Instead, we felt the undeniable sense of peace.
Searching for the Paranormal
After getting our bearings and allowing enough time to pass for our eyes to fully tune into the darkness, I asked Dean if he was ready to start the search for my father-in-law’s headstone. Eager to put his skills to the test, he dug out his dowsing rods from his backpack and off we went.
I didn’t want to influence Dean or his dowsing rods, so when we started off in what I knew was the exact opposite direction to the area of the cemetery the headstone was located, I kept my mouth shut. What I did do was send out a little mental message: we’re going the wrong way. Whether that made any difference, I don’t know. But soon the rods had us turned around 180 degrees and off on a better line towards the correct area of the grounds.
Unfortunately, we never found the headstone. I knew we had reached the right part of the cemetery, but it was too dark and there were too many stones dotting the ground. The dowsing rods never zeroed in, and my best guesses proved just as fruitless. Still, our night had just begun.
On two separate occasions, both Dean and I mentioned seeing out of the corners of our eyes some movement in the darkness. But no apparitions. And no clear messages from the dead. Unless what you hear on the following video I took sounds like voices to you.
I’m undecided, but in discussing it with Danielle, we both agreed that whatever we’re hearing, it’s not any of the three of us talking. Because you can hear the faint thunder and the passing car in the background, we suspect if the three of us were talking, the camera’s microphone surely would’ve picked it up much more clearly. You be the judge of whether this video might actually have caught an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon).
At one point late in the night after Danielle called it quits, Dean and I took one more walk through the cemetery, chatting this time as we went. After making the turn back to where we had set up for the night, I stopped and took a couple steps backward. “Did you feel that?” I asked Dean. “The cold spot?” he replied.
Both of us felt it, a sudden drop in temperature that both gave us momentary chills. Not creepy chills. Just a very distinct and noticeable cold concentrated in about a two-foot-by-two-foot area that otherwise seemed indistinguishable from the surrounding area of the cemetery. Interesting, but also very explainable on a fall night.
The Curious Case of the Shifting Scarf
There was just one more incident that caught my full attention that night. It was near the end, about 2 AM. I was finally getting cold sitting still in my folding chair, so I stood up and Dean joined me. As we stood discussing our shared experiences and how we felt the night had gone, the scarf I was wearing around my neck suddenly shifted… and not just a little. I had it wrapped around my neck with both ends lying on my back. One end unwrapped itself enough to fall to my frontside.
It was borderline spooky, as I could not explain on a completely calm night why just then my scarf would come undone and move from my back to my front. I asked Dean to confirm the original position of the scarf, and he agreed he noticed how I had it wrapped around my neck with both ends hanging to the rear. Something caused it to move, as I had my hands in my pocket at the time and Dean was standing a few feet away.
Was it a friendly spirit there to remind us we weren’t alone in that cemetery? Was that cold spot a sign the veil between this world and the next had grown thin? Were those whispers I caught on camera while filming the lightning actually voices from beyond? If they were, they certainly found us to be no threat and had no messages for us to deliver.
I kept asking Dean throughout the night if he was picking up on anything. He said no, that it was all just very peaceful. I kind of like that. I like that the final resting place for so many is so peaceful and so calm. For the dead, it sure beats the alternative, as thrilling as that alternative could have been for us.
Read our entire paranormal series:
Paranormal Series Part 1: A Spirited Forum Basement
Paranormal Series Part 2: The Kirkbride – A Symbol of Timeless Terror and Tragedy
Paranormal Series Part 3: The Haunted Memories of a Gruesome Pig Farm Murder