The peeling lead paint, mold, and old tricycle sitting in a dark hallway make the building creepy enough.
But throw in a bunch of ghost stories and the Nopeming Sanatorium is downright terrifying.
The sanatorium opened in 1912 to serve tuberculosis patients. Conservative estimates say 1,500 people died there between 1912 and 2002, Substreet said.
Their ghosts are believed to be the ones haunting the rundown building that sits atop a hill off Interstate 35, just south of downtown Duluth.
The sanatorium was featured on Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures and has been the subject of a bunch of paranormal investigations, including by Duluth Paranormal, which shared its haunted footage with us, and Paranormal Minnesota, which hosts paranormal classes at the sanatorium on occasion.
We took a tour of the part of Nopeming that's safe for visitors (other areas have water damage and mold, making it unsafe to breathe)with project director Tanya Graysmark. Watch the video above.
Ghost stories from Nopeming
That creepy tricycle above? Yeah, apparently it moves. The Duluth News Tribune says in photos it will sometimes face different directions, or appear farther away from the caution tape than it does in other shots – even though nobody has moved it.
Then there's the story of a little girl. Some people have heard her giggling. Others said she mysteriously appeared in photos that were taken in that same hallway the tricycle is in, even though no girl was actually there, the paper says.
We spoke to Andy Paszak of Duluth Paranormal about their 40-hour investigation. He said they finished with 500 pieces of evidence, but ended up with just 10 that could not be explained – meaning they might be evidence of the paranormal.
Much of what they found were different, unexplainable voices caught on tape – evidence known as EVPs, which is ghost-hunting shorthand for "electronic voice phenomenons." Other pieces of evidence include video that shows an unexplained ball of light they're confident isn't dust or a bug.
Another example: During video of a big crack in the old steam tunnel, a voice can be heard saying "big crack" (watch the video below).
Other EVPs were in response to questions or statements Duluth Paranormal investigators made throughout the building, especially in the surgical wing on the fifth floor where many operations were performed on tuberculosis patients.
For more on Duluth Paranormal's investigation into Nopeming, click here.
The history of Nopeming
In the early 1900s, tuberculosis (TB) was the leading cause of death in the U.S., and there was no reliable treatment for it, the University of Virginia said. Some doctors prescribed bleedings and purgings, while others advised people with TB to get plenty of fresh air, sunshine and a healthy diet, NPR reported.
Sanatoriums started opening in Minnesota and across the country, aimed at curing the sick and preventing others from getting TB. And in 1912, Nopeming Sanatorium opened – it was the first county-run TB facility in Minnesota.
The need for beds at Nopeming grew quickly, and by the 1940s the sanatorium had 31 buildings, with the hospital averaging between 200-300 patients, Substreet said.
Over the years, treatment for TB started working (thanks, antibiotics), and by the mid-1950s fewer and fewer patients were staying at Nopeming. Instead, it started becoming more of a nursing home, and in 1971 it was designated the Nopeming Nursing Home, according to Substreet.
That closed in 2002, and the building quickly fell into disrepair – only two of the buildings are left standing, Graysmark said.
The future of Nopeming
Now Orison Inc. – a nonprofit – is hoping to turn the building that's called The Chateau into a usable space for the community. But there's a lot of work to do. The roof leaks, there's mold, and lead paint is peeling everywhere.
The other building that's still standing is called the smokestack, and it needs to be torn down, Graysmark said.
The company needs quite a bit of money for all the repairs, which is why it started offering tours of the sanatorium last year. Find out more information about tours and paranormal classes on Nopeming's Facebook page here.
And if you want to go inside Nopeming, don't just sneak past the three gates that prevent people from driving up to the building. It's private property and is falling apart – so it's dangerous.
Trespassers and vandals have been arrested in the past, with Graysmark telling GoMN neighbors keep their eyes peeled for people who shouldn't be there, and police frequently patrol the property.