The Historic Calumet Hotel, located in Pipestone, Minnesota is said to be one of Minnesota’s most haunted hotels. It was also featured on Gordon Ramsay’s Hotel Hell. A friend of mine visited recently and told me I should check out the history of this haunted hotel.
The hotel that currently sits on the corner of Main Street and Hiawatha Ave is not the first to grace this corner. The fact that there have been two buildings on this site also hints to a possible cause of the spooky activity.
The first Calumet Hotel was a three-story, wood-framed building with a brick veneer. It was built in 1883, at a cost of around $25,000 ($567,000 in today’s money). During the early years of train travel, it was common for evening trains to arrive hours before the next train would depart the station. Many of those travelers would need a place to stay and the Calumet filled that need. The Calumet Hotel soon became known for being one of the premier hotels in all of Minnesota.
Image Courtesy of The Pipestone County Historical Society
A Pipestone Horror
Within three short years, the hotel was completely destroyed by fire. At approximately 1:30 am on December 16th, 1886 a fire originating from the hotel’s kitchen quickly engulfed the building. Due to a lack of water and no real firefighting equipment, the hotel burned to the ground within a matter of hours.
Numerous newspapers mentioned that one person was killed and two were fatally injured but did not die right away. I could only confirm the one known death, that of Rev. Alfred Stoddard Orcutt. Reports say he was trying to ensure that all the guests of the hotel had made it out safely when the building collapsed on him.
The death of Rev. Orcutt caused the city officials to realize they lacked the ability to fight fires in town. Within a week the town organized a fire department, started plans for local waterworks, purchased two chemical firetrucks, and a hook and ladder truck.
By September 27th, 1888, the new Calumet Hotel opened for business in the same location as the original building. This building held a bank and hotel. The bank entrance was located on the corner of the block and the entrance to the hotel was from Main Street through a Syrian arch. The “new” Calumet Hotel was much bigger than the original hotel and had 50 rooms. In 1913, a fourth floor was added which brought the total number of rooms to 90. For years the Calumet Hotel was known as the place to stay for travelers passing through Pipestone. Everything was fine until Valentine’s Day, 1944.
Man, 53, Perishes In Pipestone Fire
At approximately 10:30 pm on Monday, February 14th, 1944 fire once again broke out at the Calumet Hotel. And oddly enough, it started in the kitchen of the hotel. Even though Pipestone now had a fire department, and they managed to put the fire out fairly quickly, a guest named Chris E. Herschberger did not manage to escape in time.
The damage from the fire was quickly repaired, but over time as train travel became less popular, guests of the Calumet Hotel became less frequent. By 1978 the building was in such bad condition it was deemed to be unsafe and closed by the State Fire Marshal. It was purchased in 1979 and renovated into the hotel it is today, opening for business again in 1981.((National Register of Historic Places)) While much of the hotel was remodeled, the staircases and the lobby area have remained virtually untouched. Interestingly enough, this is where most of the paranormal activity is reported.
Ghosts Of The Calumet Hotel
Paranormal activity has been reported throughout the hotel, but Room 308 seems to be the hotbed of activity. Hotel staff says that Room 308 was the room that Charles Herschberger was staying in the night he died. A bellboy working the night of the fire in 1944 couldn’t understand why Charlie, as he’s often referred, didn’t simply climb out the window.((https://www.pipestonestar.com/articles/memories-of-a-bellboy/))
Guests staying in Room 308 have reported the lights and TV will turn off and on at random, and they often feel like they are not alone in the room. Housekeeping reports that items will be moved about the room on their own as they’re cleaning it.
Staff at the front desk report that they will get calls from Room 207 with the person on the other end asking for various items such as toothbrushes or razors. When the employee goes to bring them the requested items they find that the room is unoccupied and locked.
Apparitions & Spectral Music
The ghostly activity also includes sightings of more than one well-dressed apparition.
An older, well-dressed man has been sighted lounging in the lobby. Interesting that he is seen here as the lobby is one of few areas of the hotel that has remained pretty much unchanged since 1887. Witnesses report that he is wearing old-fashioned clothing and will sit calmly until promptly disappearing when approached. Could this be Rev. Orcutt from long ago still hanging out in the old hotel?
A woman in a bright dress (often said to be red) has been seen walking the hallways of the hotel. She usually disappears from view as soon as she realizes she has been seen.
And as if all of that isn’t enough on its own, hotel guests and staff often hear phantom piano music. While there is a piano in the dining room when the music is heard the lights are off and no one is near the piano.
It seems to me that most of the activity is residual in nature. Not surprising given the tragic history at the 134-year-old Calumet Hotel.