(KMSP) - Afternoons at the Freeburg house are as textbook as they get. Jessica helps her three kids with homework as they munch on snacks. In fact, when it comes to her family life, Jessica, who’s also an author, admits she couldn’t write a more charming story line. It’s also why, as a writer, she has to go totally rogue for inspiration. (Cue the creepy music).
It’s sunset at an old rail yard in St. Paul. It’s barren and it’s eerie. It’s exactly the kind of place Jessica is likely to find her literary mojo, as she writes about ghost stories and creepy legends for a living. A few years ago she turned her fascination with history and the paranormal into a writing group called Ghost Stories, Ink. It’s made up of other creative types, looking for unconventional inspiration.
Jessica says, “We’re not really trying to prove that there are ghosts or disprove that there are ghosts. We just want to know who lived here, what were their stories and how can that inspire our work and how can we share those stories through our work.”
Back at those rickety tracks in St. Paul, the group begins an investigation. This is where legend has it wealthy socialite Joseph Forepaugh shot and killed himself in 1892, reportedly after a love affair gone wrong.
One of the hunters from Ghost Stories, Ink is holding a black box contraption. He starts talking into it, “Ghost Stories Ink is here we’re looking for Joseph Forepaugh. If you’re here, sir, can you talk to us through this black device?” There’s silence and then an audible ‘blip’ that sounds sort of like someone saying, ‘OK’.
You can see how this could become addicting. Was that a voice? Will it happen again? And what about that random red balloon that keeps floating across the tracks? At every turn there’s just enough idiosyncrasy to pique the group’s interest, but not quite enough to go all in. And as the night goes on the plot thickens.
Next stop in the investigation: Joseph Forepaugh’s old home in St. Paul which is now a popular restaurant. It’s believed to be one of the most haunted locations in Minnesota. Employees tell stories of lights being turned on after closing, windows opening and hearing footsteps in the stairwell. Tonight is a big deal because it’s one of the few times they’ve let ghost hunters in to do a reading.
“I feel a lot of energy here tonight. I think the spirits will come out to play,” Jessica said.
Armed with their historical research and some cool-looking equipment, the crew takes the hunt into the creepy basement.
Within minutes, the equipment starts lighting up.
“Just sitting in a space without anything around it, it shouldn't light up,” Jessica said.
It’s one thing to see lights going off. But then the group starts asking the lights to turn on and then off. The lights respond, not all the time, but enough to give you the heebie-jeebies.
Then, upstairs, in the front parlor, same thing. No one is in the room, but images are mapping into their computer systems.
“That's one of my favorite pieces of evidence because we can see. We all know how that works because the kids play the video games and there needs to be a human body for something to map in. When a human body maps in and there's nothing there, it's pretty cool,” Jessica said.
Then there’s the curious moment when the group’s lead historian, Natalie Fowler is in the middle of talking to us about why she has empathy for the ghosts and our stand-alone light kit drops and collapses.
Jessica, who was also in the room at the time, isn’t ever scared by anything she sees.
“The thought of it is terrifying, but I always tell people when you go to a place and it has a haunted history and you’re asking the ghost to interact with you and it does, it’s kind of nice. I mean you just ask it to turn the flashlight on and by golly it just did. How can you be scared by that?” she said.
And at the end of the eerie day, it’s that fascination with the unknown, the thrill of the chase, that keeps the creative juices flowing and these inspiration-seekers coming back for more. Because sometimes the best story line is the one that's lurking around the corner.