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The Griggs Mansion, debunked
Most local paranormal enthusiasts can name the locations of St. Paul's allegedly most haunted locations; among the locations are Forepaugh's restaurant, the Fitzgerald theater, the Wabasha Street caves and the Chauncy Griggs mansion.
Unfortunately, their paranormal bubble is about to be burst: The Griggs mansion, 476 Summit Avenue, isn't haunted.
Former Roseville resident Olga Zoltai lived in the home with her husband Tibor and youngest daughter Lili for nearly three decades. "We lived there 27 years and have never had any experience of it being haunted," she noted.
However, Minneapolis author Chad Lewis, whose new book "Haunted St. Paul" was released this month, thinks the house may still have a ghost or two. He details the mansion's alleged hauntings in his book and offers the story of a young maid who hung herself inside the home in the early 1900s.
"I think (the Griggs mansion) is right up there with the most haunted places in St. Paul," he said. "It has such a history of weird stories that something must have happened there."
Although the Zoltai family never encountered a ghost in their home, they encountered plenty of curious -- and often annoying -- human visitors. In fact, on Oct. 30, 1982, the day the Zoltais moved into the mansion, the Pioneer Press published a front page story on local haunted houses, and the Griggs mansion topped the list. That day, the Zoltais had removed the homes' filthy curtains to wash them, and found themselves nose to nose with a throng of curious onlookers.
This was not the family's only encounter with those who believed the house was haunted.
"When we first moved in there were people who would cross to the other side of the street to pass the house," Olga recalled. "One even threw a piece of Christ's cross into the yard."
But the Zoltai family never believed the house was haunted. As a joke, they hung an "emergency kit" on the wall; the kit contained a crucifix, a clove of garlic, a mallet, a wooden stake and a bottle of holy water.
At one point, the Zoltais did host some of Dracula's relatives. The Zoltai family was well known for boarding refugee families (which was a main reason behind the purchase of the mansion), and for a year they sponsored a family from Transylvania. The family was related to Bela Legosi, who played Dracula in the original 1931 movie of the same name.
Several mediums have visited the mansion over the years to see if they could "feel" the ghosts.
"After going through the house, no one ever felt anything," Olga said.
Olga's daughter, and Roseville School Board Member Kitty Gogins, believes that a lot of the home's ghostly history was manifested by Carl Weschcke, who owned the home from 1964 until 1975. Weschcke, who is also a warlock, is the owner and chairman of Llewellyn Worldwide, a publishing company that specializes in New Age and occult titles. According to Gogins, Weschcke enjoyed holding séances in the mansion, and then opening his bookstore immediately after.
"It was good business," she said. "It was very effective."
Weschcke also decorated his home with an occult theme, according to Gogin's book, "My Flag Grew Stars." The book, which tells a fascinating tale of her parents' escape from Hungary during World War II, also mentions the state of the house when her family acquired it:
" In the master bedroom, the warlock had gone for effect: silver metallic wallpaper covered with intertwined naked bodies printed in black."
The Zoltai family also found cat caskets and a pentagram painted on the basement floor.
It was during Weschcke's residency that a team of Pioneer Press reporters spent the night in the house to see for themselves if the ghost stories were true. They experienced strange noises and the sounds of footsteps, but spooked themselves to the point they fled the home in the pre-dawn hours.
According to author Chad Lewis, believing equals seeing.
"If you go into a (ghost-hunting) situation thinking something is going to happen, it probably will. You're more likely to believe something did happen."
Having said that, Lewis still thinks there have been unexplained, and possibly ghostly happenings, in the Griggs mansion.
"I think the stories (about the mansion) are true," he said. "I don't think people are making them up or hallucinating or suffering from mental illness. I think something happened there, but what happened there I don't know.
"Maybe (the ghostly activity) is dying down," he mused. "or they're waiting for fresh blood."
Olga, who was 13 years old when Americans bombed her hometown of Sopron, Hungary during World War II, recently decided the four-story home was more than she could maintain. The mansion is currently for sale.
Heather Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.