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Finding Minnesota: Sauk Centre’s ‘Paranormal’ Palmer House

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(credit: CBS) Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 year...
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SAUK CENTRE, Minn. (WCCO) – Some businesses buy costumes, fake blood and dry ice, and declare themselves “haunted” for a few weeks each year. A hotel in central Minnesota, however, has mysterious happenings year-round, and there are no costumes.

The Palmer House in Sauk Centre draws paranormal investigators, psychics and even the Ghost Adventures team from the Travel Channel. It’s been called one of the most haunted places in the state.

Kelley Freese and her husband have owned it for more than a decade.

“What I consider scary and what you consider scary might be two entirely different things,” she said.

Freese is not scared by the spirits that are said to live there.

“I usually just refer to them as my unregistered guests,” she said.

But the stories that are told about noises and movements in the guest rooms, the hallways and the pub put visitors on edge.

“A glass of tap beer, a glass of pop will slide across the table,” Freese said. “They’ll move four, five, six feet across the room. And I’ve had many guests tell me that they’re sitting here (by the pub’s bookshelf) and a book will actually just drop off the shelf.”

She said guests sometimes complain about the noisy people in the room above them, before she reminds them that they were staying on the top floor.

Freese has had psychics tell her that hundreds of spirits may be roaming the hotel at one time — adults, children, even pets. Many guests report feeling the sensation of a cat jumping on their bed or the sound of a dog barking in the hallway when there are no animals in the building.

One guest, Will Miller from Alvin, Texas, checked in to Room 13 on Friday the 13th. He’s part of a crew of workers installing power lines along Interstate 94, so he needed a place to stay for a few months.

In just the first few weeks, he said he has had several unusual experiences, including some mysterious moisture on his bed, and the door of his room slamming behind him and locking him out after he stepped into the hallway in his underwear.

“I write this stuff down as it happens to me, so I’ll know,” Miller said. “On October 3rd, me and Cara, one of the bartenders, was sitting at the bar. I heard two kids laughing, plain as day. I turned around and looked at Cara. Her eyes were about as big as mine. I walk around, there’s no kids here at all.”

He said a friend stayed in a different room recently and texted him later about a weird sensation.

“It says ‘Oh my God, or O.M.G., someone was playing with one strand of my hair last night,’” he said.

Freese’s friend, Cathy Vanderhoff, helps lead tours of the hotel on weekends. She said she has seen an apparition in the basement, but more common are the strange lights.

“Little twinkling lights of energy,” she said. “It’s the orbs that will pass right in front of you.”

Freese said the spirits are believed to be of people who once lived or worked at the Palmer House.

Throughout the hotel, symbols of Halloween are now up, but only because that’s what people expect. Haunting for them is a 365-day a year experience.

“The standing joke around here is that actually on Halloween all the ghosts take off and leave the rookies to entertain us,” Freese said.

They’ll celebrate Halloween early on Oct. 25 and 26 with trick-or-treating, live music and a gallery reading by a psychic.

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