Is the Wells building haunted?

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The Wells Family College Center is a remnant of an old Downtown Minneapolis. (Photo: Gabe Hewitt/City College News)

By Gabe Hewitt/[email protected]
Features Editor

NOTE: This article is not serious. Do not believe everything you read.

Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) has a storied history but its most intriguing bit of history may be that of the Wells Family College Center located next to the Helland Center on Harmon Place. Originally built in 1884 by H. Alden Smith for $20,000, the mansion was the death place of Smith and home to a mortuary for over 50 years.

Ever since the building was bought by the Minneapolis Community College Foundation in 1993, rumors have swirled about it being haunted. What happens after you die is uncertain but one thing is for certain: the Wells Building is no stranger to the deceased. As a lover of the Travel Channel show Ghost Adventures, Scooby-Doo and Casper, I ventured into these rumors headfirst. I was ready to meet Mr. Smith.

I’ll admit that I’ve never done this type of story before and that may be why it was so intriguing to me. Why had I heard nothing about this building in my days as a student at the college? What was happening in this building? Was there something to hide? For one night, I was a journalist turned ghost hunter.

(Photo: Sydney Foster/City College News)
(Photo: Sydney Foster/City College News)

Into the Wells

On a first glance, nothing about the building is foreboding in daylight. It’s by the far the oldest building on campus and it’s almost a window into the past. In fact, it might remind you of an old relative’s house. It’s that old house where the antagonist lives in any children’s movie.

It has that old smell to it. The woodwork looks original, impressive and shiny. I like shiny things.

The 131 year old building is currently home to a few TRiO programs, conference rooms and storage closets and these features make it look perfectly normal with the sun out.

Since the building closes to the public daily at 5 p.m., certain permissions had to be granted in order to gain access during night hours. After all, spirits and ghouls only come out to play when the sun goes down. They’ve obviously nocturnal creatures.

The brick on the outside felt very warm even though there was a chill in the outside air. Upon entering the building at 8:10 p.m., ten minutes before the sun was due to set, the Wells building definitely had a different feel to it than it did at noon. There wasn’t a human presence you could feel. A few lights were on but they weren’t humming or buzzing. It was quiet.

Even if you aren’t a believer in the supernatural, there was something off about the atmosphere.

All the lights were controlled by old-fashioned dials, the kind you use to dim the lights when you want to set the mood. The walls were adorned with off-centered paintings, possibly the cringiest sight I would see during the night.

The creaking of the floorboards underneath the soft carpet seemed accentuated. My phone still picked up the college’s wi-fi but the signal was weak. The possibility of accessing the internet by means of wi-fi were diminished at this point in time. What a nightmare.

“Scream if you see something,” I told our photographer.

The main starcase to the second floor was something else. With the dimmed lights shining on it, it was chilling. Back in the day, you know Mr. Smith hosted parties and would greet his guests while smoothly walking down these stairs in his silk robe and pipe.

They say when fear enters your body, you go into survival mode, fight or flight. I was starting to sweat but I still felt a chill. The still silence allowed me to hear just how fast my heart was beating. Even after feeling like this, I didn’t feel the urge to leave. Was the mansion keeping me here? Did Mr. Smith, the first owner of the building who died inside of it, invite me into his home to stay for good?

Vintage ceiling light cover. (Photo: Sydney Foster/City College News)
Vintage ceiling light cover. (Photo: Sydney Foster/City College News)

The upper floors of the building became more spacious the higher you ascended. Which area housed the bodies of the deceased when it was a mortuary? How many tears have been shed here?

In one of the conference rooms was one of the largest mirrors I had ever seen. The creepy thing about it was that it was pristine clean. No finger marks, no dust, even at the unreachable top point. There was also an overhead projector that I had not seen since high school. Spooky.

In another conference was a long table that you’d see in an executive office where all the important people in suits sit at. This same room had a fireplace in it and off the side of it was a room labeled W1131. A loud motorized sound could be heard on the other side of it and the door was very warm. My curiosity moved my hand to the door handle. Jiggle. Locked. What was behind this door? An appliance providing a service to the building? Surely not. There was something supernatural behind it for sure. My guess: a robotic ghost.

The bat cave

At some point during the night, a janitor entered the building unannounced and instantly increased my heart rate when seen. Here was a man who had been inside this building countless times at night hours to clean its insides.

“It all depends on the person,” he said when asked if the building was haunted. “I’ve seen nothing.”

From the outside of the building, it can be seen that Wells has an attic. I asked the janitor if we could gain access to this attic and this seem to have caught him off guard. He started to stammer. His face contorted. He declined the proposition as he carried his supplies down some stairs stating, “I’ve got work to do.”

What's in here? (Photo: Sydney Foster/City College News)
What’s in here? (Photo: Sydney Foster/City College News)

His reaction caused a brain blast, a la Jimmy Neutron. His unannounced entrance into the building, his denial of the building being haunted, his swift avoidance of the attic proposition: this janitor was either being controlled by a spirit or was a spirit himself. Something was keeping him hush about the real truth of the building. But why? What is there to hide?

The biggest revelation of the night may have came when a Public Safety officer came to the building at 10 p.m. to lock it and let us out.

“This place is creepy,” he said, sweating buckets. “I don’t like being in here ever since two bats flew out at me one night.”

This was it. This was the secret. There are man-eating, century-old bats inside the Wells building, most likely in the attic. Was the spirit janitor protecting us by not letting us up there?

Is this building haunted? The TL;DR is: yes. But it’s haunted in the least terrifying sense. Whatever is inside the building is nothing like the rude ghosts you see in horror movies. For some like H. Alden Smith, the Wells building is where their spirit left this world and potentially stayed.

Besides the man-eating bats, there was something definitely eerie about the Wells building. It’s clouded in mystery and I have many unanswered questions. Something left with me after the night. It was a feeling I could not describe. Imagine if you threw melancholy in a freezer and left it out to thaw. My emotions were defrosting melancholy.