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Welcome to the dark side: Local museum's first 'After Dark' event brings sold-out crowds

A family of five, murdered by a group of Native Americans who burned the family's rural Audubon home as they fled the scene... a brothel owner killed by a lynch mob in retaliation for his alleged crimes... a local woman who committed suicide by ingesting rat poison...

These were just a few of the stories about "the darker side of Becker County history" that were shared during a special "After Dark at the Museum" event held this past Friday at the Becker County Museum in Detroit Lakes.

During two sold-out flashlight tours of the museum conducted by its program director, Emily Buermann, members of the Detroit Lakes-based Midwest Paranormal Files (MPF) shared these "dark" tales and showcased some rarely-seen artifacts and photos — such as a shard of pottery recovered from the burned-out home of the John and Diantha Cook family after they were murdered by Indians in April 1872; or an 1886 photograph of the body of local brothel owner John "Big Red" Kelliher after he was dragged out into the street, strung up by a rope and hung until he choked to death by a lynch mob; or a box of rat poison similar to one used by a young Detroit Lakes woman, Mrs. Maud Debler, to commit suicide during an early September evening back in 1921.

"All of this information can be found in our research library," said Buermann, noting that it is not the type of information that they would normally have on exhibit, but they do have records that the public is free to browse through when the research library is open. While it is closed to the public temporarily, for repairs due to water damage, the research library is set to reopen next Tuesday, Oct. 17. (The museum itself is open to the public every Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

After the MPF members had told about a half dozen of these morbidly fascinating stories, they took the tour down to the museum's lower level, where they shared some of the evidence gathered from past paranormal investigations that they had done inside the museum.

Among the evidence they shared were several audio samples of a bird chirping, recorded near the stuffed body of a parrot that had once lived at the now-defunct Lewis Hotel; a couple of different recordings of what appeared to be a young child saying the word, "Yeah"; and an incident where one MPF member reported feeling a "sharp pain" in her shoulder. All of these files are available for viewing and/or listening at the MPF website, www.paranormalfiles.org (click on the "Evidence" tab at the top of the page).

According to Buermann — who is also one of the founding members of MPF — the group will be presenting at this weekend's Paranormal Convention, better known as Paracon, which takes place on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 13-14, at the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen. MPF kicks off Friday's presentations at 10 a.m.; they will be showcasing evidence from past investigations at the Old PIne Point School. Visit the website at www.starcasino.com for more information about Paracon, or to purchase tickets.

Midwest Paranormal Files will also be co-hosting another event at the Becker County Museum on Saturday, Nov. 18, starting at 11 a.m. This presentation on "Local Legends & Lore" will include information about the "Hairy Man of Vergas,"' the "Detroit Lake Monster," "Minnesota Ice Man," and various UFO sightings in the lakes area. For more information, please call the Becker County Museum at 218-847-2938, visit the website at www.beckercountyhistory.org, or check out the museum's Facebook page.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454
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