Ghost Stories of the Whitefish Chain

This fall, as you sit before a crackling fire on the shores of the Whitefish Chain, listen closely to the sounds of the night. The wind through the pines, the hoot of a midnight owl, and perhaps the wail of a pack of wolves. Listen, too, for something more... could it be a ghost of the Whitefish Chain past?

ghostly moonrise

Shh... What was that? Did you hear it? It must have been the wind in the trees... Or was it? Photo by Bryce Johnson

The following ghost stories come from A Taste of History, a collection of Crosslake area history written and published by the Crosslake Area Historical Society. The book, full of photos and rich with history, is available at Judy's House of Gifts in Crosslake and at the Lakes Area Frame and Gallery in Crosslake Town Square. Special thanks goes to the historical society for the use of these stories.

The fodder for ghost stories around the Whitefish Chain is rich- from ancient burial grounds to gangster murders to questionable creatures rambling through the woods. But today we'll explore the stories of haunting around the city of Manhattan Beach, just north of Crosslake.

Manhattan Beach Lodge has its share of fascinating tales, given its long-standing history in the area. But this story, which takes place in the big band era, is a mystery.

A touring band visited the lodge and played a night of music- all was well. The next morning, though, the band's bus departed only to find that the saxophone player wasn't on board. Thinking they'd left him behind, the bus turned back to get him, but no one could find the man. In his room, all his clothes and possessions were exactly how he'd left them. And to this day, no one knows that happened to the man- he disappeared into thin air.

What's strange is that there have been reports of people hearing a strange sound echoing through the lodge- the sound of a saxophone!

According to A Taste of History, former lodge owner John Zesbaugh was interviewed about the history of the lodge and asked about stories of days gone by. He was asked if he ever heard the sound of a saxophone.

"Sometimes you can hear the wind whistle through the window cracks," Zesbaugh is quoted as saying. "And that's probably just what it is... But gosh, if it doesn't sometimes sound just like a saxophone!"

There's more. Photos taken at the lodge sometimes seem to have odd light shadows in them. There are reports of doors slamming in succession, or of strange sounds that can't be accounted for. One staff member reported hearing a group of people- but looked out and didn't see the number of cars she'd expect for such a raucous. When she went into the room where she'd heard the group, there wasn't a single person inside.

Another story centers around the same area, but across the street from the Manhattan Beach Lodge. At one time, there were a few motel rooms where the long-time caretaker for Manhattan Beach Lodge had a place, and he was well known to the locals as Wally A-Frame. Wally died of a heart attack early in the 1980s. Later, in 1984, the buildings all burned to the ground in a fire. Several firefighters who took on the blaze reported a mysterious sighting- they say that sitting among the flames, smoking either a cigar or a pipe, was unmistakably Wally A-Frame.

Are these stories true? Do some spirits still linger, mostly invisible, among the living? As Halloween approaches, ghostly tales- just like spirits- come out of the woodwork. As for their veracity, we'll let you be the judge.

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