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Dining with Ghosts at Forepaugh’s: Minnesota’s Most Haunted Restaurant

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Early in October, I visited Minnesota for the first time. I was a guest of the Roseville Visitors Association who invited myself and a few other bloggers and influencers to explore the area around the twin cities: Minneapolis and Saint Paul. They planned a three-day itinerary full of sites, attractions, and local businesses for us to discover. Everything from museums to breweries to a hockey game. Of course, among those fun activities were plenty of great dining options as well: a hip brunch spot in downtown Minneapolis, a delicious Italian restaurant with family-style dining, and an elegant, historic mansion, Forepaugh’s, which offered meals cooked with local ingredients, great service, and ghosts.

Yes, ghosts.

After all, Forepaugh’s Restaurant is known to be the most haunted restaurant in Minnesota.

forepaugh's haunted restaurant

I have a weird fascination with ghost stories. I find them really interesting and often intriguing but, at the same time, most of them freak me right out. Not so much during the daytime, but at night when I’m by myself, in the pitch black, and my dark and twisted mind starts going all kinds of strange places. To the point where I end up having to sleep with a light on.

I’ve never had any ‘experiences’ with the supernatural. I’ve been on a few ghost tours, and usually just end up with goosebumps and a weird chill. Only once, in the underground vaults of Edinburgh, did I experience something strange: a sort of wrong, bad feeling that made me want to run out of the room. But, I’ve never seen or felt anything that’s really made me believe. That being said, despite my (irrational) fear of the supernatural, I can’t help but wonder.

So, when I found out that the fancy Victorian mansion restaurant we would be dining in one night came with a side of ghost(s), I didn’t really know what to think. Part of me was excited about hearing the stories. Another part of me didn’t even want to go inside because I knew I’d only freak myself out later (spoiler alert: I had to sleep with the lights on). However, my curiosity got the best of me and I was a guest of the tourism board, so I decided to suck it up.

Despite knowing the haunted history of Forepaugh’s, I couldn’t help but stare dreamily at the old Victorian mansion when we arrived. As much as the idea of ghosts freaks me out, I love places and buildings with that romantic old-world charm, and this building fit that requirement just perfectly. A picturesque roof-top terrace, a warm, wooden interior with fireplaces, chandeliers, and a to-die-for wine cellar. It could have been my dream home except for the not so tiny fact that it is, in fact, very haunted.

So what’s the story behind Forepaugh’s? What makes it the most haunted restaurant in Minnesota? Well, it turns out that there isn’t just one story, but several.

The best-known tale involves the original owner of the mansion, Mr Forepaugh, and his household. Mr Forepaugh started to build the house in 1870 and it became the home for himself, his wife, his children, and some serving staff which included a young Irish maid known as Molly.

During the time that she worked for the Forepaugh’s, Molly and Mr Forepaugh became entangled and young Molly ended up pregnant. Upon discovering this, Mrs Forepaugh moved her whole family away and left young Molly, pregnant and alone, behind. In her grief, Molly hung herself on the third floor of the mansion.

A tragic tale, but not the end of the story.

Mr Forepaugh did, in fact, move away with his family but they returned to Saint Paul years later where he built a new home that actually looked over the old one. However, in 1892, nearly 30 years after Molly’s suicide, Mr Forepaugh committed suicide himself. It is unknown why he shot himself in the park though most say it was depression. Some claim he was worried about his business, but other say he mourned the death of Molly and his unborn child all those years before.

As for the original Forepaugh mansion, it began to deteriorate over time along with the neighbourhood and it became a boarding house in the mid-1900s. A man by the name of George, a WWI and WWII veteran, was charged as the boarding house’s caretaker and took pride in his job until one unfortunate day where he was attacked and gravely injured. So injured that he was forced to leave his job and the place he called home.

Later, a private company bought the home and in 2007 it became the beautiful fine dining restaurant it is known as today. However, historic furniture isn’t the only thing that stayed. It seems that the spirits of Molly, Mr Forepaugh, and George did too, giving Forepaugh’s restaurant the title as the most haunted restaurant in Minnesota.

Based on appearance alone, you would never guess that Forepaugh’s is haunted. The historic mansion-turned-restaurant is an elegant affair. There are no dusty cobwebs, creaky doors, or skeletal remains as one would expect in a typical haunted house. However, if you are lucky enough to talk to the staff and get a tour, then you will quickly come to learn just how deceiving looks can be.

In-between my courses of fresh Caprese salad, perfectly plated scallops, and creamy cheesecake I had the chance to explore the mansion with the general manager, Mimi Doran. She showed us everything from the original tables that belonged to Mrs Forepaugh to the fireplace that it said to be where the spirits enter, and of course, up to Molly’s room and the door leading to the stairwell where poor Molly hung herself.

Throughout the tour, we were regaled with a dozen or more tales of the goings-on within this seemingly normal building. Tales of lights in Molly’s room that flicked on despite being turned off several times, of tingly touches, figures in mirrors, footsteps, and even a ghostly arm in a wedding photo. Perhaps eeriest of all was the tale of a break-in where the police dogs completely panicking and refused to enter Molly’s room. It turns out there was nobody to be seen in the building, despite the abundance of activity registered by the alarm system.

The stories continued throughout our meal, this time from the mouth of the assistant general manager, Ben Bush. Ben had also had numerous experiences with the ghost inhabitants, especially with George. Since he was, essentially taking over George’s role of caretaker, he has come to know George pretty well. As Ben tells it, George didn’t exactly go easy on him at the start. After all, George used to take care of the place and now that Ben held that role, George wanted to make sure he did a good job of it. Now, however, Ben considers George to be a friend and says that they even watch sports on tv together in the office.

While we only had the opportunity to speak of two of the staff members at Forepaugh’s it’s no surprise that everyone who works there has had their own experiences. After all, according to Mimi, something happens at Forepaugh’s nearly every single day. However, despite the hauntings the staff here have stuck around, many of them considered to be long-term employees. While Forepaugh’s may be the most haunted restaurant in Minnesota, these ghosts have never caused anyone any harm. Just a bit of mischief. Both Mimi and Ben believe that the ghost of Molly in particular just wanted her story known, and all of the staff have commented on the house feeling lighter since the reading where her story became clear

Unsurprisingly, all of the ghostly activity at Forepaugh’s has attracted the attention of several paranormal investigators all looking to spend the night with their equipment. It’s only been recently that a few groups have been invited in, allowed to do a reading, and their findings have been pretty spectacular. Everything from lights turning on and off when asked, to human-shaped figures showing up on screens when nobody was visible. Molly, George, and Mr Forepaugh have all identified themselves to paranormal investigators, but as many as seven ghosts have actually been discovered during a reading in the building.

So, did I have any spooky experiences at Forepaugh’s restaurant myself?

Forepaugh's restaurant

Nothing that stood out, though I will say that I did have an odd feeling while standing where Molly is said to have hung herself. But, was that was a feeling of sadness that this poor young woman was abandoned and alone to the point where she felt she had to commit suicide? Or a supernatural touch?

Then later, as we were eating, I felt chills up my spine when Ben was sharing his experiences and told us that he could feel George touching him right there in front of us. But again, were those goosebumps because he was a good storyteller? Or something else?

The real question at the end of the day though is; is Forepaugh’s Restaurant really haunted? I’m no expert but I heard enough convincing stories that I have no reason to believe otherwise. And, despite the fact that I definitely spooked myself out later that night, I would go back again. Both for the stories and for the delicious food.

PS: If you are wondering why I don’t have a ton of photos I (unsurprisingly)was a bit freaked out when we were told that some photos taken here have ended up have strange figures in them. So I didn’t take any because, well, I’m a big baby. 

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