If you’ve ever been Trollwood Park in North Fargo and ventured toward the Northeast edge. You might have stumbled upon something a bit odd for a children’s park. Tucked between some hills of willow trees. You’ll find a large stone, marking a cemetery. This dates long before the play equipment, stage or walking path was built. As this 28-acre park holds more history than most know.
In the late 1800s the Cass County Hospital and Poor Farm was built at the location of today’s park. According to multiple records, this operation housed the sick who couldn’t afford another hospitalization and a mental asylum, a large quality of its residents being children. The hospital eventually closed down in the 1960s, serving a few years as Golden Acres Haven nursing home before it officially closed and the land became the Fargo Park District’s property, leaving behind multiple cemeteries with many children and other residents buried in unmarked graves.
In the years since the hospital building was torn down, due to natural erosion, there have been bones and coffins uprooted and washed into the park. In an effort to respect the remains of those buried there, the three cemeteries are marked and are still there today. When they began, we don’t know, but rumors began floating around about whispers from the farmland, of a woman in a blue dress dancing by the willow trees, or of children’s spirits roaming the park; so we checked it out.
A few members of our editorial team visited Trollwood Park for a few hours after sunset to see if we could spot anything paranormal. Now, we aren’t experts by any means, but we are a curious bunch. Upon arriving, we decided to take a walk throughout the park to get a feel for the land and to make our presence known to anything else that might be hanging around the park.
The first hour or so was spent exploring the trail, the wooden bridge and, of course, the willow trees. We spent time around two areas, first the willow tree and blue bench along the northern edge of the trail and then at the group of willow trees and yellow bench at the northeast corner of the park, along the river.
At that time, we didn’t see or hear any signs of paranormal activity, but I will note that the air was thick. Was it due to the anxiety and adrenaline of “ghost hunting,” or was it coming from some ancient history? At some point after spotting the rock marking the cemetery, we decided we would take a break and began walking back to the main park area. It was at this point that I saw something in the distance.
A short, round-ish figure ran across the play equipment area, so quick that I thought there were kids playing at the park. But it was nearing 10:30 pm, and we didn’t hear anything. Not wanting to admit that their may have been something from another plane than ours, I tried not to give it much thought. The rest of the night was spent walking through the willow trees and making an attempt to find something substantial for the story. Eventually, we made our way home.
I didn’t think much of the shadows at the park until I met Kristen Nelson.
Kristin Nelson has always had an interest in the paranormal, and moreso history, but her interest never went beyond curiosity and into experience; until she visited Trollwood Park with a friend who claimed to be a medium.
Note: A medium is someone who claims to have a connection with spirits, energies or whatever otherwise referenced. They often say that the spirit can communicate through them by showing themselves or speaking to the medium!
Kristin, a few friends, and her daughter, Alex, had spent some time at the park in the evening when her friend who was a medium told her that she could see two young children running around and playing with her daughter.
Kristin Nelson and her daughter, Alex, sitting near the spot where they say they encountered paranormal activity in Trollwood Park.
“She was saying that Alex was playing with a little girl and a little boy, the little girl had pigtails and the little boy had a loose tooth,” Kristin explained. “I think she said [they were] six or seven. Knowing that there were kids buried here, we always try to be really respectful, nice and sweet. Obviously, we’re encroaching on their space because they’ve been here for over one hundred years.”
Alex was around two years old at the time, so she doesn’t remember “playing” with the children, but she does remember the park. And Kristin remembers seeing what she thinks were the children as they were getting ready to go.
“They were small and they were kind of like a little shadow-like blob running from those [willow] trees all the way over [to the park]. We had been told before that they like to hang out over [by the trees] and go to the playground to play,” Kristin explained. “So, we said goodbye to them [at the trees], they knew we were leaving, so they left ahead of us [to the park]. We left right after that.”
When meeting with Kristin, there was no mention from me of the small, dark shadow I saw at the park, but instead a story of the same small, dark shadows she saw when they were leaving. I had a gut feeling we had seen the same kids playing at the park.
Kristin made sure to reiterate that this experience, while maybe a bit of a thrill, was not one that made her or her daughter feel unsafe or unwanted at the moment. Fueled by her passion for the history of the land and the people who spent time there, she said she made sure it was known that she respected the environment and those in it while visiting.
This is not a scary place. This is not someplace where people can’t be, just be here respectfully.”-Kristin Nelson
After our experience at Trollwood and hearing Kristin’s explanation of hers, I personally found a lot of similarities. The feeling of anticipation and adrenaline may have come across as fear at the moment, but there was also a sense of innocent curiosity. Other than the general fear of being in a park, at night, with no lights around us, there wasn’t really a fear of safety from any “ghosts.”
As far as the spirit that we may have seen in the form of a dark shadow at the park, yes, it could have been a squirrel, a shadow from a tree or even my own imagination running wild from the spooks; but after hearing about the eerily familiar description from Kirstin, I am leaning more towards the idea that we may not have been alone that night.
And as far as if this convinced the editorial team that ghosts are real… well, let’s just say we had some more investigating to do.