Investigating a Haunting: Carlos Avery WMA, MN – part one

Recently, a concerned reader contacted me via my Facebook page. She wanted to discuss a sensation of being watched or followed she has experienced while working on the grounds of a local wildlife management park, as well as her confusion about why she is able to sense anything. Our conversation intrigued me, so I’ve done some preliminary research about the site and its history. I’m discovering multiple factors which may be contributing to the unsettling atmosphere of the region.

I’m learning enough, in fact, to know I will need to break my investigative progress into several parts. I hope to share my results on Fridays, throughout the spring. I will always notify readers of a new segment by sharing the link to Facebook, Twitter and G+. I will also add two-way links to each installment as it goes up here at the blog.

For today’s installment, I’ll share the message thread that inspired me to start digging, and some basic first facts about the history of the place.

2013-0326-CarlosAveryGameFarm

“Carlos Avery Game Farm” by Bobak Ha’Eri – Own work.
Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

INVESTIGATION INSPIRATION:

The following instant messaging thread has been edited for length and clarity, and to obscure any personally identifying information ‘Rebecca’ provided during our conversation.

Rebecca
March 26th, 3:33pm
I am new to the area and we own a towing company. We have been called out to the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area several times for different things. Every time we go there, I always feel as though we are being watched and/or followed by some unknown presence. I have tried to do some research on the wildlife refuge, but unfortunately am unable to find much. I have, however, discovered that a little boy was murdered back in there, which is sad. I am truly just wondering if there is any other info out there that would help me understand the feelings I get. Thanks.

The Paranormalist – Renae Rude
Mar 26th, 4:59pm
I’m not surprised by the experiences you’ve had in Carlos Avery. I haven’t done any intensive research about the place, but my family has all sorts of stories about things that happened there … mostly about gangsters during prohibition. I’m glad you brought it up. Maybe that will become my spring project. … I’d be interested to learn if there’s any particular place or time where you’ve noticed a strong sense of being watched.

Rebecca
Mar 26th, 5:03pm
Yes I could help you in your project. I’m not saying I have a sixth sense or anything, but it’s like I can feel, and almost see, what it is that is bothering me. Can’t explain it and no one believes me.

Rebecca
Mar 26th, 5:16pm
I would like to know if I do have a special ability and how to control it. One night, in a home where we lived, my fiance was unsure about why I was uncomfortable. Then he started to try to understand, and was able to feel what I felt by touching me. That night was one of the worst nights on the property, and we moved shortly after. Sorry for bothering you, but I just wonder if there is something wrong with me or if all of this is just a gift, so to speak.

The Paranormalist – Renae Rude
Mar 26th, 11:29pm
I think it’s always best to pay attention to and obey one’s instincts. [Note: I’ve clipped a few sentences of my response from this thread and moved them down to the “WHAT’S NEXT” section of this post. You’ll see why when you get there.] Your experience with your fiance is familiar to me. My husband is less open than I am to sensing the mood around him, but he can “catch” what I’m feeling if he tries. I doubt there’s anything wrong with you. And it doesn’t matter if anyone believes you. Only you know how you feel in certain situations, and only you can determine your own belief about why you feel that way. Personally, I enjoy feeling like I might be tapped into the history of a place. (And if the “vibes” are bad, I’m outta there.)

The Paranormalist – Renae Rude
Mar 26th, 11:34pm
Oops. I didn’t mean to hit enter yet, but I am pretty much done. I suspect there are lots of folks out there who are wondering some of the same things you are. May I use the text of our correspondence in a blog post? You can be anonymous or choose a name that conceals your identity.

Rebecca
Mar 27th, 8:11am
Sure, you can use our conversation. Just use my first name, but not my last. And yes, if it is anything bad, I do feel I need to get out as well. The same goes with the town where I live. [Note: The town Rebecca named here borders portions of the WMA.] There are areas within the town where I sense different things. I guess it is what it is. It’s all in what one’s individual take is on things, I suppose. I just may be a little extra sensitive. We did a tow for someone who lives on the edge of the Carlos Avery, and who is surrounded by the wood line. I didn’t have to say anything at all and this person just started talking about the spiritual activity they have experienced. Creepy, but yet I knew already.

That is where Rebecca and I left off. The next day I went to the Anoka County History Center and began my research.

FIRST FACTS:

The Child Murder:
Rebecca is correct about a boy being killed in the sanctuary. He was six years old. The murder happened in 1980, but the saga of the perpetrator’s insanity actually began in 1965-66. (Most of that story happens well outside the boundaries of the wildlife preserve, but it’s chilling.)

The Fugitive Hunt:
I discovered that I was wrong about the history of the park including “gangsters during prohibition.” In fact, the gangster incident occurred in 1957.

CA full page from book 2 (3)

The Camps:
Now, in 2015, the property is more than 23,000 acres, with 4,500 acres classified as a wildlife refuge and closed to all trespassing. The habitat is a mix of open water grasslands, marsh, and oak woods.

The property has been in production since since the 19th century. First it was logged out, like most of Minnesota’s wilderness, then a carpet company bought the land to harvest its wire grass for the making of rugs, then the state government took over and established a game farm. To make each of these endeavors possible, camps of workers were required.

Territorial Conflicts:
I’ve not found reference to any major battles within the boundaries of the Wildlife Management Area, but the history of the wider area is dense with territorial conflicts. Minnesota did not achieve statehood until 1858. From the 17th century forward, however, the wilderness was being harvested of its furs for French and British traders. During this time it was common practice for the traders to intermarry with the indigenous people, and so a new “race,” known as the  Métis, developed. In the mid-18th century, territorial conflicts between the Dakota Sioux and the more recently arrived East Coast tribe, the Ojibwe intensified. Battles between the two tribes continued for a more than a hundred years. 

WHAT’S NEXT?

I’ll share the local urban legends and spooky stories that are associated with the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area in particular, and the surrounding counties in general.  I’ll organize the historical information I’m finding, and attempt to determine the origins of the urban legends. (I foresee several more trips to local historical libraries and sites.) I hope to have more conversations with Rebecca, and–perhaps–others who have had unusual experiences in or near Carlos Avery. Of course, I’ll be going out to to the property–probably repeatedly–to explore, take pictures and experience the atmosphere of the place.

My purpose for conducting this investigation is best expressed by a passage I originally wrote within the conversation I shared with Rebecca. I’ve clipped and moved it to this spot, so that you can understand why I’m doing what I’m doing. I wrote:

I suspect that most of us have some degree of sensitivity to the echoes that linger in certain places. (And some of us are just naturally inclined to pay attention to our environments.) I don’t know what those echoes are. For lack of a better word, most of us think of such places as haunted. I suppose we each have to develop our own opinion about what it is we are sensing. I’m interested in the haunted-place experience itself, more than the cause. (I don’t attempt to either prove or debunk hauntings. I don’t think it’s possible to do so. I also have zero interest in trying to interfere with or change whatever is going on. It’s not my place to “send anyone into the light.”)

My plan is to go where the research leads me, and to report my findings here, in future blog posts.

I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

GO TO PART TWO

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7 Comments on “Investigating a Haunting: Carlos Avery WMA, MN – part one”

  1. Hunter Shea says:

    I’m with you every step of the way! This looks so damn intriguing!

    • Yeah. It’s funny how you can live in a place your whole life without really knowing it. When I started digging into the 1957 manhunt, I was so surprised, not only about what happened, but also by how much information is available about it. Some of the photos that were published in the paper are just shocking by today’s standards.

  2. Very interesting. You’ve got my attention.

  3. I love getting out the shovel and getting dirty. The discovery is as enticing as the dig. Looking forward to more.

  4. Paul Hill says:

    Renae, good luck on your investigation, it sounds fascinating. I couldn’t help but notice the last comment on your post–“I also have zero interest in trying to interfere with or change whatever is going on. It’s not my place to “send anyone into the light.”).”

    As an investigator myself, this really resonated with me. At the risk of shameless self-promotion, here’s an excerpt on the subject I wrote on my own website,
    http://www.lightinthedarkparanormal.com/howcanwegetridofghosts.html

    “Other investigators work from a religious point of view, and feel it is their spiritual duty to get the ghost to move “into the light.” My opinion is that its a bit presumptuous to think that a ghost is merely “stuck” in its present position, and with the right “push” will happily move on to the next level. I do not think we should be in the business of saving souls. We should leave that to the clergy, who can be and often are called in to help clear more serious situations. On the other hand, it is our duty to research and identify the people who lived at the site and the circumstances of their passing. Often the revelation of those facts is enough to get the ghosts to move on all by themselves.”

    Keep us posted. . .this is important stuff.


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