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‘Hauntings’ planned for 1883 courthouse

You tentatively walk down the broad wooden stairs to the basement of the historic 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse. You’re faced with the dilemma of which way to go: a dungeon on the left, or a dimly-lit corridor to the right. Just imagine ghosts from the 135-year-old jail stepping out from holding vaults, prisoner’s hands grabbing the heavy squeaking doors … as strangers entering their realm run in terror back up the ancient oak steps to the safety of the doors out … only to be greeted by a ghostly sheriff … who bids them adieux and sends them on their way …  with sweets. OK, that’s not so bad. Well, “bad” is a relative term, and if you’re a wee one, “bad” may just be what you cannot possibly know, especially when entering one of the oldest buildings in Jamestown.

The little ones and their families will be greeted from 5 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, by members of the 1883 Stutsman County Courthouse committee and some pretty spooky spirits from the past. Candy and harmless fright are part of the experience, but so too will be a little history of the Dakota Territory’s oldest courthouse. Youngsters are encouraged to stop in with adults and enjoy a tour of the “frightening” underbelly of Jamestown’s past. Guinn Hinman, the State HIstorical Society of North Dakota’s Northern Sites manager, will be on hand to help scare the wits out of parents and Timothy Bratton is on the docket to conjure the better angels to earth to help improve your tomorrows.

The 1883 courthouse over the summer of 2018 had five musical concerts, a wedding, a retirement, some receptions and open houses. It was a very busy season, and one well represented by Jamestown residents, foreign and out-of-town visitors. Its 2017 haunted house was well-received by families, and requests for a 2018 version will see additional spooks to help make the time fun, educational and certainly spooky for the youngsters.

There is no cost to go through the haunted house, but a donation of $5 is encouraged. The 1883 Courthouse Committee is trying to garner funds to restore the courtroom itself. Part of its objective for Jamestown residents (and others) is to preserve the location where county business, adoptions, weddings, passports, land registration and licensing took place more than 130 years ago.

Since its formal opening in 2015, it has seen families return from afar in search of their immigrant roots; adopting parents who brought their adult children to see where their names were first recorded as family; couples returning to show their grandchildren where they were married; and school kids coming back through the “shortcut” to the nickle “Coke machine” then  bolt out the back door for home. Some of those same “kids” brought their own grandchildren to last year’s haunted house.

If you are an older teen or adult seeking something really scary, stop at the Buffalo City Scream Team’s 2018 haunted house, located at 1620 8th Ave, behind Newman Signs. Don Everson said the cost of entry is $5 plus a non-perishable food item. All proceeds go to local charities and nonprofits. This haunted house goes on Oct 19 and 20 and Oct 26 and 27.