Dum, dum, dum ... we had played a rousing game of Scrabble in our room at the Palmer House Hotel in Sauk Centre until after midnight and, maybe, had been asleep a half hour.
Dum, dum, dum ... "Did you hear that?" I said to my wife after I sat up in bed. She did, but was trying not to think of what was going bump in the night.
Dum, dum, dum. It sounded as if it were coming from the hallway outside our room. I got up to go look. Nothing. We heard the series of thumps several more times, before my jittery wife, son and I fell back asleep. The next morning, I asked owner Kelley Freese about the noises -- and the hotel's fabled ghosts.
It seems that one of the hotel's otherworldly inhabitants is a little boy who likes to play with his ball in the hallway. Unfortunately, he wasn't too coordinated in life, she said, and often drops the ball and it rolls away, she said.
Besides the hotel and its frequent paranormal attractions and gatherings, there are many things to do in the area in and around Sauk Centre. On a recent few days wandering central Minnesota, we explored a few.
WHAT TO DO
Home to Sinclair Lewis' novel "Main Street," Sauk Centre features the Sinclair Lewis Interpretive Center and Museum, at the junction of Interstate 94 and Main Street, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author's boyhood home. Admission to the home is $5 for adults; the interpretive center is free, although there is a jar for donations. The home is open Tuesday through Sunday between Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend and is closed Mondays. Call the Chamber of Commerce at 1-320-352-5201 for daily hours, or go to www.visit saukcentre.com.
Itching for something to do on a weeknight in a small town? The Main Street Theatre offers several first-run movies and some darn fine popcorn. Call 1-320-352-3596, or go to www.saukherald.com/ftp/movies/default.html to see what's playing.
Those seeking more active recreation can take their bicycles and hop on the Lake Wobegon Regional Trail, which has a trailhead in Sauk Centre at Sinclair Lewis Park. The 62-mile-long, 10-foot-wide paved hike and bike path runs primarily through Stearns County, from St. Joseph to Osakis. For more information, www.lakewobegontrail.com.
Just 25 miles west on I-94 is Alexandria, home to the famous Kensington Runestone and the Runestone Museum. Our history buff son absolutely loved the museum, now home to the stone allegedly carved by Viking explorers in 1362 and found by local farmer Olof Ohman in 1898. The stone has been the source of debate and controversy ever since.
Proof of the Vikings' journey to Minnesota 130 years before Columbus found the New World or elaborate hoax? You can decide for yourself. The Runestone Museum also features historic Fort Alexandria and a giant statue of Ole, the Viking. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for students ages 5-17. Call 1-320-763-3160 or go to www.runestonemuseum.org for more information.
The old farmstead where Ohman said he found the stone entangled in the roots of a tree is just a few miles away in Kensington Park.
WHERE TO STAY
The Palmer House has 20 rooms, four Jacuzzi suites and numerous "unregistered" ghostly guests. It has been featured on the Biography cable channel. The hotel was built in 1901, on the site of an even older wooden structure that burned down. The lobby is filled with books, games and vintage photos of the hotel's history. Lewis once even worked here as a night clerk.
It's not known if he, too, heard things go dum, dum, dum in the night.
The hotel does encourage paranormal investigations -- for a $250 fee. There are no guarantees that you will encounter one of the hotel's many reported ghosts. But we heard what we heard.
Call 1-320-351-9100, or go to www.thepalmerhousehotel .com for more information.
WHERE TO EAT
We decided that convenience was the way to go and ate dinner and breakfast the following day at the hotel. The Palmer House features a pub, with a full bar and kitchen, for dinner and drinks. Breakfast and lunch are served in the bright restaurant just off the main lobby.
James Walsh • 612-673-7428