I'ts been a loooong, long time since I've made a lengthy ghost-subject post. Recently I've been reading a book about various 'haunted' locations, and this being one of the most interesting- so I thought I'd share & write a bit about it since nothing has been written about this facinating haunt here in GP yet. Enjoy!
In northern Minnesota, about 80 miles northwest of Duluth and located on the iron-range, a medieval-looking castle rises from the horizon. At first glance, you wouldn't know the spires and elaborate protrusions of the facade actually enclose a high-school- the most opulent school building that money could buy in 1920. The extravagance doesn't end on the outside, from marble staircases and brass railings to the art-deco walls, this isn't a typical utilitarian high-school you might normally expect. But if this educational facility has a crowning jewel, it has to be the auditorium modeled after New York City's "Capitol Theater"- many details of this great room, such as its elaborate woodwork, intricate engravings, rich artwork, and crystal chandeliers, make this a place to take your breath away. The auditorium is also the home of legends- both the musical kind as well as the ghost of the infamous 'seat j47', who has been known to make an occasional ghostly appearance for cameras.
Hibbing, Minnesota, is a blue-collar town. Generations of families have toiled pulling iron ore from the ground in the area's steel mines ever since mining explorer Frank Hibbing set foot on the land in 1892. Within a year of it's discovery, people were moving to town in droves for the job opportunities of working in the mines. By July of 1893, a 2-square-mile town site had been laid out and was given the name of Superior. The little town was on the fast-track to growth. The name Superior was changed to Hibbing in honor of its founder less than 15 years after its incorporation. The town residents were grateful to Mr. Hibbing for his discovery that led to steady work for so many.
By 1914, Hibbing's economy was booming- it had been called the 'richest village in the world' with assessed valuation of the town in excess of $84 million. This steel town was getting most of its luxuries from the profits of the Oliver Mining Company, a subsidiary of U.S. Steel Corporation.
Hibbing is also known as the town that moved. As 1920 arrived, large deposits of iron ore were being discovered in the midst of residential neighborhoods. The mining company bought all the property it could around the town, but eventually whole neighborhoods were going to have to be moved. Houses were moved at the expense of the Oliver Mining Company, but also because of the inconvenience of moving its working families, the mining company also proposed building a new 'grand' high school to appease the displaced citizens.
Initial construction on Hibbing High School began on April 28, 1920, when a building contract was awarded to Jacobson Brothers Construction. The initial cost of this elaborate new high school was a mind-boggling $3,927,325! In 1922, a stage manager named Bill was brought from New York to run the impressive auditorium. Bill loved the theater and loved overseeing the performances in this piece of New York, cloned & placed in northern Minnesota.
The Hibbing auditorium held vaudeville performances, symphony orchestras, and of course school plays. The school was initially built in the shape of a capitol "E" and would house school grades ranging from kindergarten through a two-year junior college. It also housed several spirits who still haunt the building but seem to focus mostly on the auditorium.
*The Hibbing High School auditorium today. ^
Ghost stories are not the only legends that come from the Hibbing High School auditorium. Folk singer Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman) made one of his first public appearances on the auditorium stage during a talent show when he was a student there. Dylan (Zimmerman) was a graduate of the Hibbing High School class of 1959!
A certain Chuck Perry has been the Stage Manager at Hibbing High School since 1979, and has also lived in the Hibbing area for most of his life. He has heard of the ghosts even before he started working at the high school. He is well known in the community, but a bit hesitant to talk about the ghosts there.
Some of the rumors behind the ghost stories have gone around the high school include someone falling off the balcony and dying, one of the chandeliers falling on a person in the seats below, a physically disabled student with health problems expiring in the auditorium, and the death of the auditorium's first stage manager, Bill. Mr. Perry has verified the story of the disabled girl dying in the auditorium to be true, and Bill did pass away in the 1940's...the other stories he wasn't able to verify.
Hibbing High School is a mecca for Bob Dylan fans, and during summers, the town even has a 'Dylan' festival. Mr. Perry recalled one incident in the early 1990's during a summer festival, when a devoted Dylan fan & apparent 'New-Ager' walked into the auditorium. Mr. Perry said, "She walks around rows of seats, and she mentions something about a chill. And I said, 'Yeah, okay, sure.' Pretty soon she starts talking about this seat j47 specifically. She says she can feel something there."
Mr. Perry dismissed the event until shortly after he saw a special on an educational cable channel about people who go into graveyards trying to photograph ghosts. Mr. Perry thought he'd try his hand at spirit photography and use seat J47 as his test. Perry said, "I took and old Polaroid camera that I had backstage- basically it was a prop. I went and bought some film for it, and I set it up on a tripod right next to seat J47. I took some pictures, and basically nothing happened. I tried it a few more times and took about 50 pictures total. Six of them came out with something in them."
The first story Mr. Perry ever heard about ghosts in the auditorium involved the backstage area. Perry said the encounter took place in the mid-1970's, before he started working at the high school. He said, "We have 10 dressing rooms, and one of them is really large. Supposedly this gal was back there getting her makeup on before the show. Somebody walked in the dressing room she assumed was in costume, she looked up, and they just kind of were gone. And that happen two or three times in that room."
People from all over Minnesota have heard about the ghosts in Hibbing High School. One Hibbing resident who has actually investigated the haunting is town resident Brian Leffler. Leffler is the founder of the Northern Minnesota Paranormal Investigators, and his group explored the auditorium in January of '04.
Leffler explained a specific sense he gets when he's in the presence of a ghost. He said, "I'm not really psychically sensitive per-se, but what I get is what feels like a chill. It's almost like a small electrical charge. Like when you were a kid, did you ever put your tongue on a 9-volt battery? It feels like that, but it starts in my neck and runs all the way down my spine to my butt. I get that chill when I'm in the presence of a spirit. When that chill-meter goes off, something's going on, and they're around me."
Leffler got that chill when he walked into the main dressing rooms backstage in the auditorium. He said, "I walked in there, and my chill shot up into my jaw and my neck. That means pretty much that I'm being touched by one (spirit) at that point. What I could see almost looked like a red, hazy outline of an upper body right in front of me. It was weird; it was only there for a second. It was almost like a fog. It was at the very instant when I got my chill."
Leffler had his 35mm camera with him, ready to try and capture the ghost on film. He saw that the bright-green 'flash-ready' light was on, so he lifted up his camera and tried to take a picture of the red mist in front of him. He said, "I snapped the picture, and the flash did not go off. The camera advanced, but the flash didn't go off. When I got the picture back, the picture has the date on it, but it is full of lines. It's not black, it's full of lines like interference on your TV. Normally in a dark room without a flash, it would just be black."
In addition to taking pictures and videotaping the investigation, NMPI also set up audio recording devices to try to record EVP- audio captured via a process where paranormal researchers allow a tape recorder to record a quiet room. Leffler said, "In the first minute of taping, we have half a dozen distinct voices that aren't us. One of them says, 'We're waiting for Frank.' It's just amazing. The place is haunted by quite a few spirits."
This video is of a globular black shadow ghost that was also captured in the fall of 2004 by NMPI at the famous Hibbing High School Auditorium up in dressing room #10 where there has been a lot of activity reported over the years. With Brian Leffler, was investigator Phil that was using the pendulum to try and make contact with spirits, a dark shadow moved across his arm and away. It only lasts a few seconds so watch quickly.
Here is the 'Official' Hibbing High School site: http://www.hibbing.k12.mn.us/2hhs/hhs_welcome.htm
Some great recent Hibbing High School photos can be found here: http://www.hibbing.k12.mn.us/2hhs/hhs_info_pix.htm
So... has anyone heard about this haunted place? Any Minnesota residents here?
Bob Dylan fans?...