Event Start Time: 10pm
Event Finish Time: 6am
The horrifying reality of government run sanatoriums in a dark place in our human history. It’s intriguing and terrifying to learn the stories of those who suffered and died of the terrifying disease, pulmonary tuberculosis. The Nopeming Sanatorium in Duluth, Minnesota, is a beautiful architectural reminder of this period in our past. As featured on the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, paranormal investigators and enthusiasts from all over the world have wanted to have a peek inside.
The first building was constructed in 1912 and received its first 50 patients suffering from tuberculosis in May of that year. Over the decades the campus would continuously expand to meet the needs of the tuberculosis epidemic housing several hundred patients and staff with over 31 buildings.
Thousands upon thousands of patients died and were cremated at Nopeming Sanatorium. Most succumbed to tuberculosis or mind debilitating diseases but suicide was also an epidemic that infected the population. Because so many patients chose to jump from the upper levels rather than facing the slow painful death of the disease, they had to build cages on the balconies to prevent suicides.
If illness and death was not enough, there is also the story of John Wintoniak. At the Mothers’ Day Celebration in May of 1940, the 35-year-old patient, John, carried out a plan he had been devising for years. According to the notes that the police found in his pockets, he had slowly contemplated and calculated how he would shoot 45-year-old Alex Sufruk five times with a .32-caliber revolver. After assuring the man was dead, John turned the gun on himself and took his own life.
What was the purpose of the murder-suicide? Was there something scandalous going on to encourage John to take the life of the orderly? Was he simply deranged? Such a violent death with so many unanswered questions is bound to leave a lasting impression on a location!
Shadow figures, full-bodied apparitions, cold spots and strange wind, doors banging opened and closed, whispering, footsteps, strange shuffling noises, running, squeaking chairs, items being removed from closed bags and randomly appearing in other places, nurse call alarms activating of their own volition, knocking, disembodied voices, chilling EVPS (electronic voice phenomena), scratching noises, shadows crawling on the ceiling and walls, crying, screaming—Nopeming Sanatorium is a hotbed of activity that needs to be investigated, documented and explored.
The only question that remains—will you be brave enough to undergo a lone vigil in this daunting building!?
Nopeming Sanatorium was built in a secluded area of the woods about ten miles from Duluth and opened in May of 1912. The Government run facility accepted the first 50 tuberculosis patients who had made the muddy trek in a caravan of horse-drawn carriages. The Ojibwe, or Chippewa, word Nopeming means “out in the woods,” a place ideal for patients suffering from TB who needed to be far from the industrial pollution typical of the time.
The main building, Hart House was completed in 1912 and the Children’s Cottage was completed soon after, featuring an open-air school on the second floor. With limited knowledge of how to prevent or treat tuberculosis at the time, many believed that fresh air and sunlight was the best means to treat the illness. You can also see in the architecture that the buildings were designed to let in a lot of light and clean air. As the campus was still under construction, many patients had to wait until there were enough beds to accommodate their needs and they did so by sleeping in tents on the grounds.
Early in Nopeming Sanatorium’s operation the patients and staff were threatened by the “Great Fire” of 1918. The wildfire that destroyed much of Northern Minnesota took over 500 lives and displaced 50,000 people. As it circled the hills that cut off the Sanatorium from the rest of the general population, the patients and staff made their escape and set up refuge in a nearby High School in Duluth. The campus fortunately survived but due to the close-knit quarters, an influenza epidemic spread the population of patients that required several to be quarantined until they were allowed to return to Nopeming.
By 1922, Nopeming held over 200 patients and their onsite staff had doubled as well. The need to expand led to the Chateau being completed in 1926. This building was a state-of-the-art hospital that would remain open until the 1980’s. As the patient population grew, the need for expansion continued. By 1930, the campus consisted of 31 buildings which included doctor and nurse housing, cabins for patients to rest when exercising on the grounds, a steam plant, a water filtration plant, a sewage treatment plant, tennis courts and a large cafeteria with a stage where many productions were held for and by the patients.
The following decade placed a lot of stress on the people who called Nopeming Sanatorium home. Beginning with the Mothers’ Day Celebration in May of 1940, tragedy struck. 35-year-old patient, John Wintoniak, shot and killed 45-year-old orderly, Alex Sufruk. He was shot five times with a .32-caliber revolver before John turned the gun on himself and took a bullet in the right temple. Investigators found notes in John’s pockets that showed he had been planning the murder-suicide for years. Such a violent death is bound to leave an eternal impression on the grounds.
Soon after, the United States finally entered into World War II. The patients at Nopeming Sanatorium numbered between 200 and 300 but suddenly they found themselves with much fewer staff and their supplies cut in half because they were sent overseas. The death rates rose, and it became common place for suicides to occur. Because so many patients were jumping from the upper stories, they built metal cages to prevent anyone from going over the side.
With the God movement so rampant in the 1950s, Nopeming saw the addition of a chapel where weekly services and funerals were held. The success rate of new medications and preventative treatments, the Tuberculosis epidemic was slowly ebbing out. By 1971, Nopeming was reclassified as a nursing home. The rising cost in care and the estimated $5 million required to bring the facility up to code led to the decision to close the doors in 2002. The 151 patients, most of who suffered from Alzheimers disease or dementia, were transferred to another nearby facility.
Thousands upon thousands of patients took their last breath within the walls of Nopeming. Many succumbed to tuberculosis, others to mind debilitating diseases, but whenever that much death surrounds a location there is bound to be those spirits who have refused or cannot make the journey past this world. From the brutal surgeries to break ribs in order to remove lungs to the terrifying confrontation with mortality, the patients of Nopeming Sanatorium still have unfinished business. They need to share their stories with the world, are you brave enough to listen?
Your ghost hunt at Nopeming Sanatorium includes the following:
Guests are strongly advised to bring appropriate clothing and a flashlight! Event will take place even if bad weather.