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In 1895, the city of Cass City, North Dakota opened the Cass County Hospital and Farm along the Red River.  It was designed as a hospital for the less fortunate.  They also provided nursing home services to its impoverished citizens.  One of its biggest opportunities was the Poor Farm.  The Poor Farm provided an opportunity for the unemployed to work on the farm, growing vegetables and raising livestock.  The fruits of the farm were used to feed the residents of the hospital and nursing home.

(images:125771319@N02/flickr) Trollwood Stage

(images:125771319@N02/flickr) Trollwood Stage

In 1947, the Cass County Hospital and Farm was hit by the economy and changing social conditions.  Due to changes in the law and healthcare reforms, the hospital was unable to sustain anything but the nursing home.  They still worked to provide services to those who were unable to receive them elsewhere.

Still functioning in 1962, the hospital changed its name to the Golden Acres Haven.  Services began to dwindle however, and management changed hands a variety of times.  After having overcome so much and providing services to so many, the hospital was forced to close its doors in 1973.  It was transferred to control by the Park district.

The old hospital lay defunct until 1978 when the Trollwood Performing Arts School opened.  Due to the degenerating condition of the buildings, it originally utilized what they could and had just a small summer camp.  Students were able to practice, give performances, and perfect their arts in the very place that had saved so many lives and provided quality care to the sick.

Unfortunately, despite the fact the hospital’s history quickly faded over the years and the rising stars created new memories on the land, some of its past residents refused to give up their care facility and employment opportunities.  Although reports initially were few and experiences were curious instead of certain, they quickly began to increase in number and occurrences.

During nearly all the performances by the Trollwood Performing Arts School at the old hospital grounds were frequently by the ghostly apparition of an older woman.  She was always clad in nineteenth century dress and only appeared during performances.  She was most commonly seen dancing around a willow tree.


(images:dancechloedance/flickr) Trollwood Tree

Even when the school moved and added a playground, disc golf, gazebos, and stages away from the area, the woman still appeared each performance without fail.  People who were brave enough to get close report being able to make out intricate details about the woman.  They also described an odd feeling in her general area.

The willow tree is rumored to be the site of County Cemetery Number 2.  It was the site of the burial grounds for the paupers who lived or worked at the hospital, who could not afford a proper burial or had no family to carry out their last wishes.  The cemetery was neglected after the hospital closed down and the land eroded.  Bodies stuck out of the ground until many of them were removed and reburied at a nearby location.  Some were remarked, but unfortunately records at the time were not good, so there was no verification all the bodies were removed or even the identity of the bodies.

Many people reported additional concerns near the old willow tree.  There were phantom touches and pushes, a feeling of being followed, disembodied voices, and whispers of the person’s name.  Another popular apparition was a farmer, who would shake a pitchfork and yell at visitors to get off!  People see shadows, hear knocking and often see lanterns bobbing along, with no explanation for their source.  Actors commonly report props and furniture moving, coming up missing, or sliding across a desk or chair on their own.  Despite the weird occurrences, shows at the Trollwood Performing Arts School must go on.


Megan Borchert
Megan Borchert
Lover of all things unusual, Megan is a staff attorney for the state of South Dakota. When she's not stuffed in an office writing case synopses, you can find her at home with her army of Schnauzers, snuggled up with some strong wine and a good book.

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