Rolette County, North Dakota is home to the city of Dunseith. The city of Dunseith was plated in 1882 and named for Jeanette Dunseith Eaton, mother of the town’s original founder, William Eaton. Ironically, Dunseith comes from a gaelic word, “Dùnsìth“, which means “City of Peace” from the words “dùn” which means “fortress” and the word “sìth” which means peace. Unfortunately, those familiar enough with the small town know that there is nothing peaceful about this quaint city.
Dunseith, maintaining a population of just under eight hundred people is best known for its proximity to the International Peace Garden and was incorporated in 1908.. The Peace Garden is a park on the international border between Canada and the United States. It was established in 1932 as a symbol of the peaceful relationship between the US and Canada. The port of entry at the Peace Garden is one of three ports in North Dakota. Dunseith is also home to the world’s largest turtle sculpture, the “Wee’l Turtle”. The turtle is composed of over two thousand wheels which are painted green.
While a city so small, especially one named after peace, is unlikely to be the place of darkness or horror, Dunseith is especially known for those things. Many stories circulate amongst its long time residents about the dark past of the city, long before efforts were made to share themes of peace or unity with North Dakota and neighboring places. One especially dark place is home to a majority of those stories.
Camp Mondak is located in Dunseith and was initially built and utilized as a reform ranch for boys. They were sent there to learn about destructive decisions and actions and begin work to prepare for the future and gain tools to start to rebuild relationships with their families. They were encouraged to participate in activities designed to learn discipline and respect. They commonly had assigned chores and duties to help them burn energy and learn to be a part of a team. The safe and nurturing environment was established in an attempt to nurture the boys and help them become successful members of their communities. The camp was later known as House of Hope.
Despite the camp founders’ great intentions and the support garnished from the community, the camp only ran successfully for a few short years before tragedy struck. One night, a young boy woke a juvenile friend and the two snuck out from the camp. Not knowing where to go or what to do, they walked down the road away from camp for a few miles. They stumbled upon a darkened home and entered inside.
Unfortunately, the home belonged to an elderly couple who the boys, in their panic, brutally killed. They waited there for the night and were caught just a few hours after leaving when the camp noticed they were gone. Something about that tragic night lingered on throughout the camp and the elderly couples’ home.
Ongoing issues plagued the camp after it continued to catch fire year after year. Some force seemed to want to destroy it and prevent it from reopening. Even after rebuild after rebuild, the camp continued to meet a fiery end. One superintendent, known for his following cloud of cigar smoke, met his own tragic end when a coal burning stove erupted into flames. Another young boy died. From that point on, cigar smoke could be smelled from his room in the cellar, often sending people running to the room, only to find a cloud of cigar smoke and a lit cigar… from behind the door of a locked and empty room. Lights flickered when no one was in the facility and tools went missing. Some heard moans and other unidentifiable sounds. Visitors described feeling watched and stumbling across cold spots throughout the camp.