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Until very recently, I had lost faith in locally produced ghost story anthologies, largely because of one I saw a few years back that was produced by a group of ghostbusters. It took them seven years from start to finish and it was still riddled with mistakes that should have been caught.
Then I saw Keith Hopkins’ Gravedigger Dave’s Halfway House, which anthologizes stories from the Northland with a Cryptkeeper-like host, and was, frankly, charmed by the work.
Matt Rasmussen has great energy and drive in the role of Gravedigger Dave. He has a creepy charisma that makes for an excellent glue to hold together the unconnected tales of the paranormal.
Those tales, we are told, are a mix of true and fictional accounts of paranormal encounters, featuring locations as diverse as the Ely Steak House, Norshor Theater, the Lake Superior Railroad Museum, former U.S. Steel cargo ship William A. Irvin, and the Greyhound Bus Museum in Hibbing, all of which are purportedly haunted.
The segment on the railroad museum at the Duluth Depot includes a photo of an uninvited young guest cowering in a corner at a wedding held there.
We are also invited into a couple of private homes for creepy encounters. One of those is clearly a fictional tale of a crabby roommate who finds an old Royal typewriter with an “Undo” key that undoes her bad behavior. Unbeknownst to her, the Undo button can only undo 10 situations for each owner, and a creepy finger countdown tells us how many she has left. Her 11th bad deed has fatal consequences.
We are also introduced to several members of the Duluth Paranormal Club, a group of hobbyist (meaning unpaid) investigators of the strange. We learn of several investigations they’ve conducted, including aboard the Irvin and 48 hours spent at the Nopeming Sanitorium, which opened in 1912 to treat tuberculosis patients and operated as such until 1971 when it was converted to a nursing home for the aged. It was closed in 2002 and since then has been the subject of many paranormal investigations.
For me, the weakest segment is the final piece with maritime author Frederick Stonehouse, who wrote Haunted Lakes. It seemed anti-climactic. I guess I was hoping for a shocking, wham-bam-thank you ma’am ending and Mr. Stonehouse was far too reasonable for that.
Shortly after watching the movie, I saw that Matt Rasmussen was interviewed on Rise of the Podcast, which airs on Youtube. In that interview, Rasmussen talks about his lifelong love for the Ghostbusters movie, and how he is founder of a Ghostbuster group that investigates the paranormal and also entertains at parties and parades.
In an effort to keep the conversation going, Rasmussen was asked by host Jeremy about the Paulding Light of Paulding, in Upper Michigan. Rasmussen said he has been to see the light and it does exist. He said some believe it to be the lantern held by the ghost of an old railroad brakeman, but added that’s an old story told everywhere. But, he said repeatedly, there is no explanation for the lights.
Well, the truth is that a group of Michigan Technological University students solved the mystery of the Paulding light in 2010. It’s car headlights from U.S. 45, which runs north and south near Paulding. Despite finding the definitive solution, people refuse to believe the lights could be anything so prosaic as car headlights, and they continue to visit the Paulding area to see what they like to believe is something paranormal.
Still, if you like to believe in the supernatural, the 72-minute Gravedigger Dave’s Halfway House should be just the ticket. You can rent it ($2.99) or buy it ($9.99) via Amazon Prime’s streaming service.
Director Hopkins promises a second Gravedigger Dave film is in the works.
“I’d like the sequel to be much bigger in its scope,” he told The Reader. “I plan to tell ghost stories from Minnesota, but also take submissions of paranormal short films from filmmakers around the world. The best submissions will be selected for inclusion in the sequel, and will serve as stories told by Gravedigger Dave to the viewer.”