Do you believe in ghosts? According to a 2017 poll conducted by the Huffington Post, 45 percent of Americans responded "yes." For the purpose of that poll, a ghost was defined as "the spirit of a person who has died. The physical body ceased to exist, but the internal essence, or spirit continued on." A Harris poll in 2013 put the percentage of ghost believers at 42 percent.

Stories about ghosts in what is now North Dakota began long before any white man set foot here. Native Americans had sacred places where their deceased ancestors could be at peace without any disturbance from other people, and reportedly, the spirits of the ancestors were often seen.

As immigrants from northern Europe began to settle in North Dakota, they brought stories of ghost-like creatures with them. The Scandinavians came with stories about trolls, elves, huldras and draugens, and the Germans brought stories about gespensts and poltergeists. The settlers from the British Isles had a rich history of ghost stories dating back to the time of the Druids.

In this country, young people would often get together to see who could tell the scariest ghost story. As a kid, I remember looking forward to listening on the radio to the annual Halloween broadcast of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," written by Washington Irving, about the Headless Horseman. A late night show often presented on local television stations during the 1950s and 1960s called "Shockorama" or "Shock Theater" featured classic horror movies, many of which were ghost stories.

North Dakota ghost stories got a big boost in 2005 when PBS presented an episode of America's Heartland called "Heartland Hauntings," which featured Georgia's and the Owl cafe in Amidon because of ghosts often appearing there. Soon thereafter, a paranormal group in Bismarck was founded called Midwest Spirit and they went to supposed haunted places to measure paranormal activity and try to communicate with the spirits. The group videotaped their activities and posted them on YouTube. Among the places they monitored were graveyards, the Custer House, the barracks at Fort Abraham Lincoln, the Stanley Hotel, the former governor's mansion, and the site of the Double Ditch Indian village.

Other sites often listed as having abnormal ghost-like occurrences are the San Haven Sanatorium in Dunseith; White Lady Lane in the former town of Leroy, near Pembina; several businesses on Black Tongue Hill in Fort Yates; the railroad tracks in New Town; the Children's Museum at Yunker Farm, the deLendrecies building, and Trollwood Park in Fargo; the Rough Riders Hotel, the Chateau de Mores and the Medora Fudge and Ice Cream Depot in Medora; Ceres Hall and Minard Hall at North Dakota State University; St. Joseph's Hospital in Dickinson; the Stoneyard Supper Club in Garrison; the Liberty Memorial Building in Bismarck; and the Totten Trail Historic Inn in Saint Michael.

Next week we will continue our story about North Dakota ghosts and other paranormal entities.

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