Bena, MN Big Winnie Store

In November of 2014 and March of 2015 the Midwest Paranormal Files investigated the Big Winnie store and RV park located in Bena, MN.

You can find them online here.

The store is a registered historic site and has been serving customers since 1932. The area has a rich Ojibwe history as well as well as being a logging and resort community.

Near the store are the remains of a POW camp. Opened in February 1944, 220 German POWs moved into a CCC camp that borders the property. All that remains now are some remaining basements and foundations. The property had 80 acres with over 30 cabins, and at one time, a mess hall where loggers and trappers could eat a meal. That mess hall is now part of the store.

This is an excerpt from a paper written by the Germans at the time.

“Bena, in the northern part of Minnesota, was shaken out of its peacefulness by the arrival of about 220 POWs in early February of this year. The aforementioned POWs were supposed to find accommodations in the former Civilian Conservation Corps camp in order to follow the lumber trade from here out into the giant forests. The camp sits about 150 meters to the right of the road which runs from Deer River in the direction of Cass Lake. The north side is bordered by Lake Winnibigoshish, while the woods stretch for miles on the east and west sides. As usual we had to have a major cleanup upon arrival, in order to bring the camp to a condition which one would call cozy at home. If one recalls the 28-degree [Fahrenheit] temperature on arrival day, and how everything was wrapped in a thick blanket of snow, then one can recall the mood of the time, which was the result of this sudden weather change from the hot camp in Concordia Kansas to the rough, inhospitable climate in northern Minnesota.” (This from Drahtpost #2 translated by Marty Pauley)

The Big Winnie store is a unique store West of Grand Rapids done in the Bavarian style. There are rumors that the architect Frank Lloyd Wright may have been involved in its design since he was staying on Lake Winnibigoshish during the early 30s.

Arnold Dahl, along with his partner, Matthew Wooley, purchased the store from Dahl’s father in 2004.

It had fallen into disrepair when they decided to take on the massive project and renovate it to the way it is today. Arnold and Matthew attempting to preserve as much of the original character as possible.

Arnold’s great-great-grandfather, Ernest Flemming built the store in 1932. Many generations of Arnold’s family have managed the property which may have led to some of the paranormal activity we were there to try and document.

Claims at the property involve hearing footsteps, catching the sounds of disembodied voices, and smelling perfume. They even caught some suspicious activity on the security cameras which they were generous enough to share with us. They took video of the monitor with their phone so they could show us. We tried hard to debunk this. We put a meter that is sensitive to vibration on the shelf. Then we jumped, tried shaking it, waited for the train, nothing would set it off. Nor did it result in any bottles falling off. It looks as if it came off the shelf with a bit more force than gravity alone. There are a lot of bottles and collectible glassware on this shelf. Why would only one bottle fall off?

We came out in November of 2014, shortly after they were wrapping up their haunted attraction and resort for the year. Each year they also host a Haunted Trail called Nightscreams.

Check it out here.

Nightscreams is kept at an affordable admission price, that way more people can attend. Some of the proceeds from the haunted attraction go towards charity. (We are looking forward to experiencing the trail ourselves.)

This happened within 5 minutes of placing a recorder in the basement of the store. We aren’t sure what might have bumped the recorder. It was resting, as you can see, on a cement pillar against some pipe. It is possible but unlikely it slipped. Unlikely since this picture was taken hours later and it hadn’t moved.

This happened at 12:42 pm on the first investigation. We left a recorder in the basement of the store. You can hear people, but they are way to quite and far away to be able to “sigh” this loud.

We also did a follow up investigation in March.

We were greeted by the owners and management and investigated the store, the living quarters above the store, the home on the property, one of the cabins and the woods behind the property with the old POW camp foundations.

We captured several similar EVPs in the basement of the store and at one point possibly also heard footsteps upstairs.

This happened at 9:41pm of the second investigation. We left a recorder in the basement of the store. The only one down there was a stuffed bear called a Boo Buddy. It would ask questions and sense temperature changes along with EMF. You can hear people, but they are way to quiet and far away to be able to “sigh” this loud.

This happened at 11:25pm of the second investigation. The only one down there still was a stuffed bear called a Boo Buddy. You can hear people, but listen to the volume of the laughter compared to the gentle “sigh”.

We enjoyed investigating the Big Winnie store and property and meeting those involved with preserving its history.

Everyone there is very friendly and helpful, and they really have almost anything you could need all in one place. (Including tacos, which everyone knows we’re fans of.)

Be sure to stop out and visit if you are in the area or if you are just passing through…I’m sure they may even share a ghost story with you!