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Old Pine Point, Minn., school is site of otherworldly happenings

PONSFORD, Minn. -- Within the walls of the old Pine Point School, there are endless memories stored from the thousands of students who have attended classes through the decades since it opened in 1895.

The old Pine Point School
The old Pine Point School now serves as a Boys and Girls Club. Classes are no longer theld there, since the community has built a new school.

PONSFORD, Minn. -- Within the walls of the old Pine Point School, there are endless memories stored from the thousands of students who have attended classes through the decades since it opened in 1895.

Many past students can tell you their fond memories of attending Pine Point School, but there are also stories of another version that have been told and experienced throughout its history.

For many of the past students, teachers or Pine Point-Ponsford community members don't believe you are alone when visiting the old Pine Point School.

Stories are abundant of people seeing full-body apparitions, hearing disembodied voices, noises that shouldn't be there and seeing old relatives far after they have passed on.

"It's all in your personal beliefs, but it's safe to say that most of the people here believe Pine Point is haunted by spirits," said the Pine Point Chairman of the Community Council and Spiritual Adviser Mike Swan. "I heard stories of it when I went to school here (in the 1960s)."


The Midwest Paranormal Files group became the first paranormal research team to investigate the many claims of Pine Point School during two separate evenings. The MPF team conducted two different investigations, the first lasting eight hours, the second over 12 hours of video and audio footage in an over-night stay.

The evidence collected and analyzed quickly proved one thing -- that the hundreds of stories that have emanated out of Pine Point School are not all false.

There are some unseen entities that still call Pine Point School home, and they have made themselves known throughout the years to the living.

"It just reinforces what most people already knew," said Swan of MPF's evidence, which

was revealed to the council earlier this summer.

Even the most hardened skeptic has to appreciate the history of the Pine Point School.

The community of Pine Point sits on the White Earth Reservation, which was established in 1867, as 824,000 acres were set aside for the Ojibwa tribe.

There were three groups of the Ojibwe that eventually settled the White Earth Reservation, including the Pembina Band, the Mississippi Band and the Otter Tail Pillager Band.


The Pembina Band settled the extreme southwest of the reservation, while the Mississippi Band took up the area around White Earth Township.

The Otter Tail Pillager Band clustered around the village of Pine Point.

The first Europeans settled the area in 1890, where they took up residence mostly in the community of Ponsford, which was named after O.D. Ponsford, the principal of the Episcopal mission school there in 1890-91.

The natives lived mostly in Pine Point, which was derived from the original American Indian word Ne-jingwakokawadjiw -- meaning "Pine Point Mountain," which is located some three miles southeast of Ponsford.

With that came the attempt to convert American Indians to Christianity, with two churches constructed. In 1888, the Breck Memorial Episcopal Church was built, while St. Theodore Catholic Church was built in 1917.

The Midewiwin religion, also called the Grand Medicine Society, also was present at Pine Point.

After the U.S. government took over the mission school, which was called Gilfillan Mission School, money was appropriated to build a new facility.

In the Becker County Record dated Friday, Jan. 14, 1955, an article on the Pine Point School was published.


It stated, "An educational program was launched for the Indian children at Ponsford nearly 70 years ago (1885) with the building of a log cabin by J.F. Siegford of Osage, Minn.

"...it remained until 1894-95 before a large school building was erected. That building was destroyed by fire in 1936, and the present school was built a year later. The new school opened Dec. 2, 1937, with an enrollment of 90 students."

The superintendent of the new Pine Point School from 1903-1911 was N.B. Hurr. In his journal entry dated Feb. 14, 1929 (obtained in "The Ponsfordian" at the Becker County Historical Society), Hurr recalls a neglected facility.

He wrote, "I found the school plant in a neglected condition and in need generally of repair. The plant was composed of three frame buildings. Two log houses and a church building adorned the front yard. Sanitary and health conditions were not very good, and the subsistence storage was very poor.

"A cleared space of ground about an acre and a half in extent composed the school grounds."

In 1904, Hurr received funds and permission from the Office of Indian Affairs to make improvements to the school.

"I immediately overhauled the three frame buildings and tore down the eyesore log huts and removed the Episcopal Church from the front yard to where it now is located.

"During the beginning of the school year in 1904, I increased the school attendance and enlarged the employee force to two teachers, two matrons, one cook, one night watchman and a chief of police and four policemen."


After the fire of 1936 destroyed the original structure, the current school was constructed in 1937, with several additions made throughout the years for its current state.

In 1952, the gymnasium was built, along with an addition, then in 1978, the current "Circle" area was constructed, which resembled a turtle.

The auditorium, which is located in the basement of the Pine Point School, was used for plays and movies. Just off the auditorium are the boiler room, a classroom which used to be the art room and another room which acted as an office and storage area.

"I remember seeing my first movie on the big screen in that auditorium," Swan said. "Movies like that never got around here much. The first movie I saw in the auditorium was "Flicka" and then I saw "Thunderbolt" another horse movie in black and white."

Seven years ago, the new Pine Point School opened and the students moved to their new digs.

Now, only the 1978 addition of the old school is being used -- by the Boys and Girls Club -- while the circle area is still used for gatherings and funerals.

More than 20 funerals annually are held in the Circle, which adds to the mystique and stories that have haunted Pine Point School for many decades.

With the paranormal, there is no rulebook.


So, what sparked the stories of ghostly apparitions and noises in the halls of Pine Point School?

No one knows, but one thing is for certain, there are more than just a few odd happenings inside the walls of all the additions of the school.

The Midwest Paranormal Files group's evidence coincides with several accounts that happened in the Circle.

An easy explanation of why the Circle has frequent paranormal activity reports comes from the many funerals held in it.

"To the Ojibwe people, a circle is very significant in life," Swan said. "A circle represents life's cycle. Our ceremonies are done in a circle, our ancestors lived in Round Houses, and so the Circle at Pine Point School is fashioned after that."

In Pine Point, it's traditional for family members to hold a long wake, and they often spend the night with the deceased.

One evening during a wake at the old school, the family members were sitting in the kitchen area, located just off the Circle where the casket stays.

One of the family members looked over and saw a little boy sitting on the casket. They notified the other family members, who all saw him just sitting there.


When they decided to approach the little boy, he disappeared without a trace.

This was witnessed by a number of family members, and the little boy was not recognizable to any of them at the time.

The story of the little boy was verified by evidence collected by MPF. In three different electronic voice phenomena (EVPs) recorded from the Circle, two of them sounded like a little boy.

An EVP is heard on audio recording devices, but is not usually heard by the live ear of the person present.

One of the EVPs contained the words "Who is that?" after one of the investigators asked a question, while the second EVP sounded like a little boy humming a children's tune.

All evidence can be heard on MPF's website located at www.paranormalfiles.org .

The Midwest Paranormal Files will also be presenting their Pine Point School evidence in full during the first-ever Paranormal Convention on Nov. 5 at the Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen, Minn., starting at 1 p.m.

The third piece of evidence captured, and most compelling out of the two investigations at Pine Point, also came out of the Circle.

With no investigators present, an infrared video camera, which was set up in the Circle, captured a bright flash from off-screen. Right after the flash, a blood-curdling scream was captured.

Shane Bellanger, who is the Boys and Girls Unit Leader, spends much time inside the Pine Point Circle area, where many of the activities take place.

He has had many different unexplained happenings occur.

"We started hearing more noises after (MPF's investigation), so I think it stirred something up," Bellanger said. "Just a couple of weeks ago, we were cleaning in the kitchen and the big hallway doors opened. No one was there. Then I heard a clear "Hey! Hey!" I asked the other person who was in the office if they said that, and they said 'No, I thought you did.'"

At one overnight gathering for the Boys and Girls Club, many of the kids were staying inside the library area, which is located right off the circle.

Late that evening, everyone who was staying there could hear drumming similar to pow wow music emanating from the ceiling area.

Most visitors are comfortable in the Circle, where many different gatherings are held, but suggest that they go into the back area where the old school part is, and there is usually a resounding "No way!"

"People are not nervous about being in the Circle area, but many don't go back there," Swan said, pointing back beyond the two hallway doors which lead to the old addition.

But for many, their experiences in the Pine Point School is no laughing matter.

Something is there.

History abounds at the old Pine Point School, but something else does lurk around the old hallways, as well.

It's the unknown that has haunted people over the decades of Pine Point School.

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