The Duluth Union Depot was built in 1892. At the height of its operation, it served seven major train lines and thousands of passengers. Today it serves as a multi-use cultural space, housing the Lake Superior Railroad Museum and Duluth Art Institute. Surely a building that old has a few ghost stories, right?
Ken Buehler, executive director of the Lake Superior Railroad Museum and general manager of the North Shore Scenic Railroad, knows a tale or two.
The first hair-raiser involved former St. Louis County Historical Society curator Milissa Brooks-Ojibway, who was sifting through artifacts in the depot’s attic when she was struck by a blast of cold air. Brooks-Ojibway looked down to see a little girl dressed in all-white garb from the 1890s standing beside her. The child was staring at a wicker baby buggy, high up on the shelves. By the time the curator looked up and back, the girl disappeared. Brooks-Ojibway was rocked by the incident, says Buehler, and she wasn’t the type of person prone to fantastical storytelling.
Buehler’s second story brings physical evidence into play. A decade ago, he received a letter from a bride who’d held her wedding at the Depot. She enclosed three time-stamped images from the reception, taken seconds apart. The first and third photographs captured her father-daughter dance, with the DJ in the background. The second picture was exactly the same, except there was a little girl in the background. She was dressed in all-white 1890s garb, clutching her knees to her chest.
By the way, the woman wrote, there were no children at our wedding.
“I’ve seen the pictures, so I know they exist,” says Buehler. But he still has no idea who the child would be.
“The paranormal people will tell you that you don’t have to have a tragic event, a mysterious murder, or forlorn love to have a haunting,” he says. “Depending on your beliefs, we are energy, and when we pass, our energy still exists. You might call it a soul. Some energy crosses over and some energy is comfortable in a place.” For the little girl, maybe that place is Duluth Depot.
The 128-year-old station has opened its doors to numerous paranormal investigators in recent years. The groups have recorded several riveting pieces of evidence, including video of a hazy silhouette turning into an orb-like apparition levitating in the Northland train car, a business-class carriage built in 1916.
Buehler has also encountered his share of phonies. He recalls a hunt involving two clairvoyants who became agitated in the old Northern Pacific Railroad boardroom. “They claimed there was a huge amount of animosity in the room—that people were arguing and it was nearly coming to blows,” Buehler says. “They said we were intruding on their work and they wanted us to leave, so the women hustled us out of the room and slammed the doors behind them. I don’t doubt that there could have been controversy in that boardroom once upon a time, but I wasn’t buying their act.”
Though he hasn’t had any paranormal encounters himself, he doesn’t doubt the stories of others. “The universe is too big,” he says. “There is a whole realm of things we will never understand, never touch, and never know. I’m not sure I’m a believer, but I’m not a disbeliever.”
Read more: Is the Duluth Public Library haunted?