WEST FARGO-A crew from Horsley Specialities arrived at Bonanzaville Monday morning to start work on cleaning up the steeple of the more than century old South Pleasant Church. Raul Turrubiates Jr. and his workers climbed the stairs to the steeple tower and started. Then they heard someone walking on the wooden main floor below.
With access to the church is limited to a makeshift entrance constructed from scaffolds and two shaky step ladders, Turrubiates called down to see who else climbed into the church.
He got no response.
The men went back to the main floor, but found no one. What they found was a set of footprints in the dust made by bare feet. Some footprints led to the altar, while others led away. The prints were not there when the crew started working, and some could be seen over boot prints likely left by the men.
Turrubiates thought it was odd, but the men brushed it off. The crew continued to work on the main floor until a small shadow movement caught the eye of Turrubiates' father.
The shadow, which Raul Turrubiates Sr. estimated to be shaped like a small child about 7 years old, appeared to run past him and around the corner of the doorway. When he peered around the corner to check on what he saw, no one was there.
But he noticed another set of barefoot prints that were small, like a child's, in the corner of the pews where he thought the shadow had crossed.
By that time, the men had seen enough to know they didn't want to work at the church after dark.
"I told my supervisor, 'I'm out of here by 5 (p.m.),' since it starts getting dark then," Turrubiates Jr. said. "We've worked on many old buildings, many, but this has never happened before. It's a little creepy."
Bonanzaville Executive Director Brenda Warren said another supervisor told her the men were spooked. Warren, who has seen her own signs of ghostly activity around the Bonanzaville grounds, doesn't discount the sightings.
Monday was the first time in awhile that a crew has been inside the South Pleasant Church since it was moved from Christine last summer to replace the St. John's Lutheran Church, which was destroyed by fire in 2014.
Later Monday morning, a cleaning crew saw a large, unplugged 20-gallon shop vacuum move on its own across roughly 4 feet of carpeted entryway.
"We checked and there is no incline at all," Turrubiates Jr. said. "There is no way it could have moved on its own.This is a heavy vacuum."
The pioneer village, which is home to many old buildings and artifacts, has had its fair share of possible hauntings and was host to a sold-out ghost tour last weekend. But before Monday, Warren had not heard of the church possibly being haunted.
"It's a strange occurrence, that's for sure," she said.
Warren said she has not heard from members of the former South Pleasant Church who might shed light on the presence that apparently can still be felt inside the church built in 1890. There is a cemetery just outside the church's former site.
After the church was moved to Bonanzaville last September, the Cass County Historical Society, which operates Bonanzaville has been raising money to cover the cost of the move and remodeling the basement with modern bathrooms, a kitchen and handicap accessible spaces. After the steeple was reattached to the top of the church, Horsley Specialties Inc. was hired to begin the cleaning process before work continues on the inside of the church.
Warren said she hopes to have the church open to the public by April 1.
Donations can be made to the church or general Bonanzaville projects online at www.bonanzaville.org or in person at the village.