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Forepaughs Restaurant

Hidden History and New Ghostly Discoveries at Forepaugh’s Restaurant

 Forepaugh’s Restaurant is that special place that every town loaded with history, absolutely needs in order to be interesting. It’s a place with an intriguing whispered past, that makes a celebratory graduation dinner or special anniversary celebration that much more exciting.

The first time I set foot in the beautiful mansion-turned-restaurant was to celebrate my law school graduation several years ago. Having been fascinated by ghost stories since I was a little girl, I fully admit that I peered over my shoulder several times that night, hoping to catch a glimpse of a mysterious shadow or inexplicable glowing mist. I even found myself gazing up at the light fixture above our table wondering to myself, “Is that where the maid committed suicide?”

Years later, when I began to write my own stories (mostly mysteries and fiction) I turned to ghost story books for inspiration. It’s not possible to look up ghostly legends for St. Paul, or even Minnesota for that matter, and not come across the legendary tales of the allegedly haunted Forepaugh’s mansion.  

Legend tells about the story of a maid named Molly. She had an affair with the master of the house, Joseph Forepaugh, becoming pregnant with his baby. When Joseph’s angry wife insisted the relationship end, Molly committed suicide—allegedly, by hanging herself from a light fixture on the third floor. Not long after, Joseph Forepaugh was found near the train tracks, with a bullet in his head and a pistol in his hand.

It’s a storyline worthy of a made-for-television movie adaptation and has certainly fueled many of the ghost stories that surround the property.

When my group, Ghost Stories Ink, was invited to participate in a paranormal investigation at Forepaugh’s Restaurant, there was more than one reason to be excited.

It’s a place that hasn’t been investigated much. The staff has only recently been given permission to even discuss any alleged ghostly encounters. In addition, there was always something about Molly’s suicide that had always felt off to me, but I had never been able to put my finger on it…until now.

But also, as a self-declared research geek and history nerd, I knew I had the research opportunity of a lifetime. Nearly everyone has heard the stories about Joseph and Molly. And Joseph and Mary Forepaugh are securely established within the local St. Paul history books. Even the next owners were important—retired Civil War General John Henry Hammond lived there with his wife, Sophia Vernon Hammond, until his death (in the home) on April 30, 1899.

What was intriguing to me as a researcher and paranormal investigator, were the nearly seventy-five years of missinghistory. Because after the Hammond’s lived in the home, that entire history was summarized into two words: “boarding house.”

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