MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Ramsey County Poor Farm is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It was built in 1918 on White Bear Avenue in Maplewood. Some of the original structures included a nursing home and cattle barn. The barn could fit up to 75 cows and was a full production dairy farm at one point.
Now most of the buildings are gone except for the massive brick barn that is partially vacant most of the year. The lower level is used by Ramsey County and it is also an extension of the University of Minnesota.
Every October the upper level is the “Fright Farm Haunted House,” getting up to 1,000 visitors each night on Fridays and Saturdays. Below the barn are series of tunnels that connected the nursing home and other structures that are now closed off.
What you may not know is the haunting there is real, according to Brad Camitsch, Fright Farm executive director and commander with the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office.
“This place is the real deal,” Camitsch said. “And there’s a lot of history here.”
Camitsch says the Poor Farm is where people went if they were indigent, didn’t have money or were outcasts from society. People who showed up to the Poor Farm had to work to earn their keep. And some who came never left.
“Potter’s Field, which is about 200 yards from the barn, is where there’s a very large amount of people buried in an unmarked grave,” Kevin Davy, assistant director of Fright Farm and sergeant with the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, said. “Again, they were people who couldn’t afford funerals and burials. There’s just a little plaque that marks where they are along White Bear Avenue.”
Cmdr. Camitsch says there are several thousand people buried in trenches nearby. When White Bear Avenue was widened years ago, the county hired an undertaker in case crews found human remains, but they never did.
Now people who work in the building share stories of ghosts and apparitions.
“People report seeing … they call him ‘The Cowboy,’ a tall man with a trench coat and a cowboy hat,” Camitsch said.
A hermit lived in the abandoned tunnels in the 60s. He would stay underground during the day and come up at night to steal food. This went on for two years and people did not know what was happening.
“They caught him eventually,” Camitsch said.
The tunnels were then closed off and it was not until many decades later they were discovered by Camitsch and few others.
“We used some ropes and ladders and climbed down,” he said. “And sure enough we found an apartment from this hermit that lived down there. There was this mattress down there, some primitive furniture that he built. Old coffee cans with candles in them stuck in the side of the wall, scrolling of gibberish on the walls.”
Many still feel uneasy working in the building, and if you go to Fright Farm you will hear the stories first hand.
Tickets to Fright Farm are just $10. All proceeds benefit the nonprofit Ramsey County Sheriff’s Foundation, which supports important public safety and community programs.
It is open Friday and Saturday nights in October from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.