Investigation / Research / Documentation

Initial Summary:

The Palmer House Hotel has quite an interesting history behind it. The original building that stood on the location of the current hotel was known as the "Sauk Centre House", and was built in 1863 by Alexander Moore. In it's early days, it is believed that the Sauk Centre House lent itself as a strategic lodging place for the U.S Army during the late 1860's-1870's as soldiers made their way to the Dakotas to suppress the Sioux uprisings. It is also believed that the Sauk Center house served as an infirmary during this time period, due to many diseases such as diphtheria, which were sweeping the country. Many are believed to have died at the location during this time, including a young boy who was said to be playing on the stairs and accidentally fell to his death. People still claim to see the apparition of a young boy playing in various locations of the hotel to this day.

In the 1880's, the Sauk Center House was believed to have operated mainly as a brothel and gambling parlor. Many of the spirits at the hotel are believed to be from this time period due to murders and abuse that took place at the location. In June of 1900, the Sauk Center House burned to the ground under what people claimed to be "mysterious circumstances". In 1901, Ralph L. Palmer stepped forward and decided to build a new hotel on the location, and anointed it the Palmer House Hotel. This was one of the more luxurious hotels of it's time, and was the first building in Sauk Centre to have electricity. It is interesting to note that Mr. Palmer built his new hotel on top of the existing substructure and basement of what was the Sauk Center House.

Many notable people are known to have stayed at the Palmer House Hotel. It is documented that Cole Younger of the Jesse James gang stayed at the hotel on at least one occasion. It is said that he sat in the lobby and told lengthy stories of his outlaw gang, the banks they robbed, and the people they killed. It is also well known that the first American Nobel Prize winner for Literature, Sinclair Lewis, actually worked at the hotel as a bellhop and night clerk in 1902 and 1903. It is said that he was very clumsy, and took more to his writing than he did to his duties at the hotel. Lewis wrote about the hotel in his novel Main Street, where he referred to it as the "Minniemashie Hotel". It is believed that Lewis spent a good deal of time in the basement writing, and that his spirit is still haunting  the hotel.

There are many other well documented claims of paranormal activity at this location. Possibly the most prevalent is the story of Lucy, a woman who is believed to have been a prostitute at the Sauk Center House in the late 1800's. It is believed that she resides in Room 17 of the hotel, and that she was murdered by her pimp, Raymond, who resides right across the hall in Room 22. Many people have claimed to see or feel Lucy's presence while staying in Room 17, while people have also claimed to experience an angry male presence while staying in Room 22. It is also believed that the ghost of a man who hung himself in the bar area still resides at the location today. Glasses will slide across the bar on their own, and odd shadow figures can be seen moving around in that area of the hotel. People have also claimed to hear voices and footsteps when nobody else is around. 

The basement, however, may be the most notoriously haunted part of the Palmer House Hotel. Many people have claimed to see full bodied apparitions, shadow figures, odd light anomalies, hear disembodied voices, children playing, and even dogs- which are believed to be the Palmer Family pets.

Kelley Freese and her husband now own the Palmer House Hotel. We were lucky enough to have her share many of her own experiences with the paranormal during a tour of the location. She gave us in-depth insight into things that she has experienced, the experiences of others who have stayed at the hotel, and historic details that could possibly be linked to why and how the spirits of the Palmer House seem to be so active.


Equipment Setup:

Investigation Start Time:          Approx. 9:00pm

Investigation End Time:             Approx. 4:00am

People Present:                            Kelley Freese (Owner)

                                                          Justin Miner (JPG), Adam Swanson (JPG), Brian Miner (JPG), William Hill (JPG)

                                                          Kara, Katie, Brianna, Jodi (Guest Investigators for approximately half the night)

Weather Conditions:                   75 Degrees, Overcast, Thunderstorms at Approximately 2:00am, Thunder, Lightning, Heavy Rain


Interestingly enough, our investigation began as we were finishing up our diner in the bar area of the hotel. Kelley had offered to give Kara, Katie, Brianna, and Jodi a tour of the basement before we started our equipment setup for the night. Upon approaching the door to the basement, Kelley and the girls witnessed the door unlatch and open by itself. After this experience, Kelley asked us if we wanted to join them on the tour due to activity currently taking place in that area. I (Justin) went and grabbed one of our Phantom Lite IR cameras and we proceeded to the basement. At one point, in the back of the basement by an old stair case, a group of us were listening to Kelley telling a story. At the same time, three of us heard the voice of a little girl come from somewhere close to us. We couldn't tell what was said at the time, but after reviewing the footage, you can clearly hear the voice of a small child- seemingly female,  saying "help". Listen at the three second mark of the clip labeled "Little Girl- Help" . We continued the tour of the basement, and it seemed that there were some other odd things happening at that time. On a few different occasions, one of the members of the group claimed to see strange light anomalies. The anomalies appeared to be quick flashes of light that resembled green or yellow electrical sparks. Unfortunately, we were not able to document these anomalies on camera for review. After approximately an hour, the tour ended and we all went back up to the main level of the hotel.

We decided to continue our investigation by setting up our cameras in some of the more notorious locations of the hotel. Adam and I were staying in Lucy's room (Room 17) for the night, and decided to set up a stationary IR camera filming inside the room. Brian and William were staying across the hall in Raymond's room (Room 22). We decided to leave an audio recorder running in room 22 for the remainder of the investigation. As Adam and I were setting us the camera in Lucy's room, William came from across the hall to grab another piece of equipment. The three of us were standing in Lucy's room discussing camera placement in the basement, when we heard Brian come out of Room 22 and head down the hall toward the main staircase. We felt that this was odd because we had just planned to head to the basement together, so we were wondering why he decided to leave on his own. The three of us finished prepping our cameras and stepped out into the hallway. Shortly after this, Brian came back up the staircase asking where we had gone. Apparently, while Brain was setting up the audio recorder in Room 22, he heard footsteps walking down the hallway toward the main staircase. He said that it was loud enough that he was sure that we had left for the basement without him. Adam, William, and I never heard these footsteps, and after further inspection, we found that we were the only people of that floor of the hotel during that time. Unfortunately, we were not able to capture these footsteps on our audio recorders.

Upon returning to the basement, we decided to set up a camera in what is known as the "door room", one in what is known as the "snowman room", and one was designated as a mobile camera to move around the area with one of us at all times. Brian and William started in the back of the basement, while Adam and Justin sat in the snowman room. They decided to conduct an EVP session while using a flashlight and EMF meter to also try and communicate with potential spirits in the area. At the start of their session, Brian is trying to set up the flashlight on a small table next to where they were sitting. At the six second mark of the clip labeled, "Palmer House Dog Growl" you can hear what sounds like a dog growling as Brian approaches the corner of the room (you will need headphones to hear this). Once they started their session, they ended up getting some pretty interesting responses to their questions via the flashlight sitting on the chair in front of them. These clips are labeled, "Palmer House Flashlight 1 and 2" and are at the bottom of the page. After approximately thirty minutes, Adam and I joined Brian and William in the back of the basement for the end of their EVP session. Adam joined the session as I continued to investigate other areas of the basement on my own. At one point, it seemed that Adam was able to communicate with a spirit that may have been a prostitute. The clip labeled, "Palmer House Prostitute Compilation 1" seems to have some interesting responses via the flashlight. Unfortunately, we were not able to pair these flashlight responses with EVP's or EMF spikes, which would help verify their accuracy.

 After the EVP session, we decided to go back up to the rooms we were staying in for the night and leave the cameras in the basement running. During this time, we ended up catching an EVP on the camera located in the snowman room. At the seven second mark of the clip labeled "Snowman Room EVP", you can hear what definitely sounds like someone sneezing from somewhere in the basement (you will need headphones to hear this). We also caught an EVP on the camera located in the door room. At the three second mark of the clip labeled "Child EVP 1" , you can hear what sounds like a little girl say the word "Daddy" (you will need headphones to hear this).

After approximately an hour, we decided to head back to the basement. We also decided that it would be beneficial to invite Kara, Katie, Brianna, and Jodi to come with us in an attempt to try and elicit more responses from the spirits that might be lingering down there. I decided to have Katie, Brianna and Jodi sit in the door room while Kara and I went to the furnace room. Brian, Adam, and William returned to the back room of the basement. We ended up capturing some interesting EVP's while Katie, Brianna, and Jodi were in the door room. At one point, Brianna seems to hear or feel something beside her chair. At the sixteen second mark of the clip labeled "Door Room EVP 1" , you can hear a voice respond "Yes" to Jodi's question of whether the spirit enjoys having company. Shortly after this, Brianna decided to use an App on her phone that included a phonetic word generator. It is basically a word bank that a spirit can supposedly access in order to communicate. Katie had decided to start saying room numbers aloud that they had keys for. Immediately after she says "20", you can hear a voice whisper the word "income". Oddly enough, a few seconds after the whispered voice....the word "income" was generated by Brianna's phone! You can review this footage on the clip labeled "EVP-Income".

After approximately two hours, we all decided to head back up to the main level of the hotel. The girls retreated to their rooms for the night, while Brian, Adam, William, and I decided to spend some time in the main lobby. The thunderstorms were in full swing at this time, so we decided just to sit and observe the room for a while. After a while I decided to sit at the top of the first flight of steps on the staircase so I could film a good portion of the lobby. I also decided to take still pictures with my camera phone at the same time. At one point, I managed to catch an odd shadow move in the reflection of the glass case sitting in the lobby. In the clip labeled "Odd Shadow", you can see Brian sitting in the chair in front of the glass case. William is sitting on the couch to the left of the screen shot. Adam is standing by the entry door behind the couch that William is sitting on. At the eight second mark of the clip, you can see the reflection of an odd shadow move in the glass of the case behind Brian. It is important to note that we do not know what causes this. This is simply something that caught our eye, and we don't have a clear explanation for it at this time.

At the end of the night, Adam and I made our way back to the basement in order to break down the cameras and equipment. As I entered the door room to disassemble the camera, we ended up catching an EVP of what sounds like a small child playing or laughing. You can hear this EVP start at the four second mark of the clip labeled "Child EVP 2".


Conclusions/Thoughts:

The Palmer House Hotel is an extremely interesting location. There are so many claims of activity from so many people, that I feel like I could spend a lifetime investigating there and still be left with questions. It is quite possibly the most well documented and well known haunted location in Minnesota. The location has seen and been a part of so much history, that you can feel it the moment you walk through the door.  After our night at the Palmer House, its obvious that there are some very interesting things happening there. I have no explanation for how we captured children's voices in the basement...especially when no children were staying in the hotel that night. It is also extremely interesting to me that we captured an EVP on our camera audio, and a few seconds later, the same word came out of an electronic word generator. All in all, we had enough unexplainable things happen at the Palmer House Hotel for me to say that there definitely seems to be paranormal activity going on there. I'm sure a lot of others would agree when I say that I'd love to make it back to the Palmer House Hotel in the future, in hopes of gathering more evidence to support the multitude of claims.   

The Palmer House Hotel

August, 2014