MANTORVILLE, Minn. -- Before leaving the Mantorville Opera House for the night, it’s common courtesy to say your goodbyes to everyone.
Priscilla Ruemping, a recurring performer and director at the Opera House, said her goodbyes to her fellow cast members as they were leaving the building, and to those who don’t leave when the lights shut off: the ghosts.
“I'll see you tomorrow,” she said to the ghost as she was about to exit the stage.
What she didn’t expect was to hear "goodbye" in return.
“I was just so tickled that they acknowledged me!” Ruemping said.
This experience, however, was tame compared to other encounters she’s had with the spirits of the Opera House.
Harold, who’s considered to be a “grumpy” spirit that resides in the basement, apparently loves to give a good fright when possible.
“He likes to scare people,” Ruemping said. “I've got to the point whenever I'd have to go in the basement, I'd always talk to him on the way and say ‘Hey now, I've always been nice to you, I always say hi. So don't scare me.’ And he doesn't. But the one time I went down there and forgot to say it, I'm going up the stairs, and he creeps me out… The one time he grabbed my ankles!”
Ruemping noted other experiences with what she believes to be a spirit named Ellen, who is apparently a “prankster” and likes to hide props and cast members’ shoes and clothes.
“One time she turned on the fog machine when it was off,” Ruemping said. “They like to let you know they’re there.”
A building that’s stood in place for more than 100 years at the corner of Fifth Street and Main Street in Mantorville, the Opera House building has hosted a variety of ventures throughout its history.
From being rumored to have an illegal speakeasy in the basement during Prohibition, to being a silent movie theatre, roller rink and city hall and to finally reclaiming its status as playhouse by the 1970s, the building has most certainly had its cast of characters throughout the years.
And some of those characters never left.
“It is extremely haunted,” Rochester paranormal investigator Hawk Horvath said. “It will not disappoint.”
Horvath, who’s been a paranormal investigator based out of Rochester for the last 15 years, said she and her team have investigated the Opera House 30 times and they’ve picked up on what they believe to be paranormal activity each time.
“We’ve caught video of lights turning on and off by themselves, which is pretty fun,” Horvath said. “We’ve also had an infrared camcorder on the stairway going to the top floor and caught the lights turning off and that was pretty awesome… then they tend to manipulate our equipment a whole lot in the Opera House. It’s what we call an intelligent haunting, meaning they want to communicate with us. We don’t have to work very hard.”
Horvath noted one story during an investigation where the spirit named Harold, who is believed to be the building’s architect, pinched the behind of one of her investigators.
“She said, ‘Harold just pinched my butt,’ and we picked up a voice right then that said ‘Yeah,’” Horvath said.
It’s not just the Opera House that’s believed to be inhabited by apparitions in Mantorville.
“I truly believe Mantorville is one of the most haunted locations in all of Minnesota,” Horvath said.
Just how many places have ghosts?
“Probably all of them,” she said.
Two of them are the Restoration House on Main Street and the Log House, both considered historic, and “they’re both haunted and they’re not going to disappoint in evidence," Horvath said.
The Restoration House, on the corner of Sixth Street East and Main Street, was built in the mid-1800s and has gone through a few restorations, but still represents how an upper middle-class family lived during the time.
During one investigation of the house, Horvath and her team picked up an electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) of what appeared to be a spirit saying “it’s stupid.”
The Log House is believed to have been built in the 1850s and was the home and workplace of a barrel maker. The building was set to be demolished in the 1970s before the Mantorville Restoration Association acquired it and restored it by 1980.
When Horvath and her team have investigated the house, they’ve picked up on several different EVPs, such as one capturing someone saying "that's her pastor." Some believe a video shows a table moving.
While Mantorville may have a ghostly reputation, there are other places in the area that are considered to be haunted.
Rochester: Quarry Hill “Lost” Cemetery
The most popular hiking trail in Rochester truly does have everything to offer.
The “lost” cemetery, near Seventh Street Northeast and Silver Creek, is also known as the Rochester State Hospital Cemetery.
Those buried there -- about 2,020 people -- were former patients at the Rochester State Hospital.
The hospital opened on Jan. 1, 1879, and was one of two state hospitals for the insane. It closed in June 1982.
Many of the cemetery's graves went unmarked until recently.
“I know that one is haunted because I’ve investigated it and have picked up voices and some screams,” Horvath said.
The cemetery may be haunted but not because patients were mistreated, she said.
“The state hospital in Rochester was known to be very humane, they were known to be very good to their patients,” she said. “They believed in work as a wonderful ethic, a wonderful way to gain mental health back. But, you know, there were violent people there. There were extremely mentally ill people there, but there were also girls who would be there because they were pregnant out of wedlock and their families disowned them.
“There were alcoholics, there were people who were just struggling with depression. So there was a whole range and a whole gamut to all of that.”
Stewartville City Hall
Horvath was contacted by the city of Stewartville to investigate the city hall building where there were "weird" experiences they couldn’t explain.
“So we had the keys to City Hall for a whole night, which is a fun thing to say,” she said.
The team caught an EVP of someone apparently saying "When ya gonna go? When ya gonna go? When ya gonna go, Bobby."
Horvath learned there had been a jail cell in the basement of the building and that gave her the idea to bring a deck of cards to the investigation.
“We went down and asked if there were any prisoners around and if anybody wanted to play some poker with us,” Horvath said. “So we had a deck of cards and kind of using flashlights where you just had to tap them to turn them on. We just kind of set it up in an attempt at a poker game with a prisoner.
“And he won.”
But how does a ghost play poker?
“We were making up most of the rules because we didn’t really know how to play, so we were saying ‘if you want one card, do nothing. If you want two cards, flash the light.’ And so we ask if he wanted one card and nothing happened and when we asked if he wanted two cards, the light would flash, so we said 'alright, here are two cards.' Somebody would look at his hand and say if you want to throw away a card, flash the light.
“It ended up he won a hand that we put a dollar on, so all I’m going to tell you is somewhere in Stewartville City Hall there’s a dollar hiding that we left there for him.”
The timing made sense to Horvath’s team last year to investigate the Chatfield Veteran’s of Foreign Wars building on Second Street Southwest.
The building had largely been unoccupied due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so when she received a call about reported hauntings there, she spent a night at Post 6913.
The night didn’t disappoint.
“Oh my gosh, we had a ton of evidence,” she said.
One piece of that evidence includes a video of what appears to be a shadow moving in the background behind the bar.
Horvath believes she was able to connect with the spirit of a former soldier.
“He was able to give his rank and his name and said he is right here with us right now,” Horvath said. “Someone from the VFW researched and found him historically.”
Also captured that night was an EVP of someone saying "she's not a real soldier," someone saying "get out" and someone saying "hey."
“We never expected to catch near what we caught at the VFW that night. We were just getting so much stuff,” Horvath said.
Kasson State Theatre and Hair Company
The Kasson State Theatre first opened its doors in February 1937 in the midst of Hollywood's glory days.
But the popularity of movies declined as television grew more popular. The declining theater was sold in 1967 to the Lutheran Church of Kasson.
The building was home to several different churches for the next 30 years before it was purchased and restored to the theatre it currently is today.
Movie tracks, however, have been reported to get switched around mysteriously. So much so that the theatre called Horvath and have her team investigate.
What they found was a spirit obsessed with Cher music.
“We played music before every movie, just some calm music where people were coming in to get their popcorn and take their seats. And one of the tracks was Cher, and no matter where we put that, it would immediately go to Cher. And we think somebody really must like her.”
Horvath said during their investigation they caught voices in the bathroom and activity in an apartment on the upper level. Horvath said that’s where it is believed the theatre’s projectionist used to live.
Mrs. B’s/Hotel Lanesboro
The 149-year-old bed and breakfast inn at 101 Parkway Ave. N. in Lanesboro has a reputation as one of the more haunted sites in the region.
Horvath has investigated the hotel that’s rumored to still host guests that still haven’t checked out from a century ago. The investigations were uneventful -- on the surface.
“It’s the most boring night of your life. Nothing happens’” Horvath said. “But when you listen back to your evidence, your digital voice recorder and when you watch your cameras back, you catch shadows moving. You catch a ton of EVPs.”
One of those EVPs was of a little girl singing “This Little Light of Mine.”
Horvath believes the spirits that occupy the hotel are not dangerous, however, and before the hotel decided to stop allowing paranormal investigations to take place, it was a popular destination for Horvath to bring students at night.
“It’s safe and doesn’t disappoint,” she said.
Video and audio clips courtesy of After Hours Paranormal Investigations.