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Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Ghost Story

                                                  True Ghost Story

First, a little history of this cemetery in Minneapolis to put the story in context. 

Minneapolis's first cemetery was established in 1857. The Maple Hill Cemetery had five thousand graves by the end of thirty years. It was located at Broadway and Fillmore. The graveyard was not cared for, the paperwork was shoddy, and some graves were only two feet deep. After a storm, some caskets could be seen. The people in the area complained of the health hazard, and efforts began to move the graves. But lack of funds halted the removal, so graves and markers were left.

In 1908, Minneapolis Park Board decided to acquire the property and make it into a children's park.

By 1916, the children's park was opened at one end of the land. But the cemetery section was still a mess.

Thirty men from the neighborhood went under cover of darkness and hitched up three teams of horses to clear the land of all the debris. They dumped the headstones and markers in a ravine.

Eight of the thirty men were implicated in the "vandalism." Two of the eight were charged but acquitted at the trial.

The Park Board decided they needed to do something, so they had the land cleaned up, and a skating rink, a warming house, and horseshoe pits were added. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts used the park and also a hockey team. In 1948, the park was renamed Beltrami Park.

Two small gravestones and a monument to forty-six Civil War veterans who were once buried there are still on the northwest side. 

                                              Now, On To The Ghost of Maple Hill Cemetery.

                                                             (Before it became Beltrami Park.)

Ida Olson slipped her arm through Ole Johnson's arm as they walked on Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis. Despite the blackness of night surrounding them, they could see the smile on each other's faces.

Ole asked, "Will you go to the movies with me next Saturday night?"

Ida opened her lips to speak as she looked at Ole when she caught a movement in the cemetery they were walking past from the corner of her eyes. "What is that?" She pointed to a white shape that rose up from the ground.

"Run!" yelled Ole. "A ghost." His long legs went at full speed up the street.

Ida froze for a moment before she began running and screaming. She saw a man walking further up the street past the cemetery and ran toward him, shrieking, "Help! Help!"

"Calm down. What's the matter?"

Ida gasped and shook and could not speak coherently.

"My name is John Adams. I work at the Columbia Heights mills. Let's go into this drugstore, and you can tell me what has happened." He led her into the nearby lighted warm store with other customers.

"Please, everyone, listen to me," said Ia frantically. "There is a ghost in the cemetery. I saw it. It chased me. A ghost!"

One customer said, "I think she is a bit looney."

"I think she has had too much to drink, " said another. The customer stepped over to her and smelled her breath. "Nope. Don't smell any booze."

"Believe me. I saw a white figure rise from the graves. It had horns and a long white beard." After describing the ghost, Ida became hysterical. 

Ole Johnson came into the drugstore. "Ida, are you all right? I've been looking for you."

"You ran off and left me. I'm never going to the movies with you."

"After I saw the ghost, I ran toward it to see what it was, but it disappeared. I thought you were right behind me. Believe me. I would never leave you alone."

"I don't believe you."

John Adams spoke up, "Mister, what's your name, and did you see this ghost she is raving about?"

"My name is Ole Johnson, and yes, I did see the ghost with my own eyes."

"I'm going to the cemetery to look for this ghost. Anyone want to come with me?" asked John Adams.

Several men from the drugstore, John, Ida, and Ole, walked to the cemetery. In the pitch darkness, they entered the graveyard carefully so they would not trip on gravestones. 

Ida stopped. "This is where the ghost rose up."

The men could see the crushed dead leaves and the dried grass, indicating that a body had indeed lain there. 

They whispered to each other and stayed together in small groups. After an extended search where nothing was found, they headed back to Central Avenue.

A gasp of horror from Ole Johnson as he sank to the ground caught everyone's attention.

A few yards away and hardly visible in the blackness, a white figure with horns and a long white beard loomed up from the ground. It made no sound.

Silence gripped everyone as they stared.

A group member drew his gun from his pants belt and said, "Speak, or I'll shoot."

The figure remained silent and did not move.

"Speak up, or I'll shoot."

The horned white shape moved a trifle and then broke the fearful black silence with "Ba-a-a-h!" It moved toward the men. "Ba-a-a-h," issued forth from a huge white goat with beautiful horns and long gray whiskers as it approached the men and began nosing around for food.

Tension broke like a dam, and laughter split the air until everyone had tears streaming down their faces. 

Ole Johnson was nowhere to be seen after the 'ghost' had been spotted, and Ida was walked home by the brave-hearted men.

It was learned later that the goat's owner had pastured it in the graveyard for the summer and had not yet come to claim it.

This true story is taken from the book Minnesota Mysteries by Ben Welter. The story was published in the Minneapolis Tribune on November 6, 1899

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