West Hills

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Ghosts of orphaned children are rumored to linger in this former orphanage, laughing audibly. Witnesses also have seen the floor move and warp and smelled phantom cigar smoke. Books also have moved, temperature has been known to change drastically, and phone calls have been made to the police department from the empty building. The third floor is said to be especially haunted.

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Geographic Information

540 West Hills Circle
Owatonna, MN
United States

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44.089454990469264, -93.23843320622098
Steele County, Minnesota
Nearest Towns:
Owatonna, MN (0.7 mi.)
Medford, MN (5.9 mi.)
Claremont, MN (12.3 mi.)
Waseca, MN (13.4 mi.)
Warsaw, MN (13.5 mi.)
Morristown, MN (14.0 mi.)
Faribault, MN (14.3 mi.)
Ellendale, MN (15.3 mi.)
West Concord, MN (17.4 mi.)
Kenyon, MN (17.8 mi.)


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Comments (11)

  1. I used to work in the building behind the main building, and next to cottage 11. It is now SEMCAC Preschool. I have seen a dark shadow figure walk past the kitchen into the back offices, but could find no one and no way out. In the basement, I heard bare feet on the concrete floor, and kids laughing/talking. I also felt a small hand grasp my pinky. The closer you get to those tunnels, the creepier things get. We also had to do head count to make sure the kids that were supposed to be there were there and one day 3 teachers counted 20 kids when we were only supposed to have 19. We went through all the names on our list and still had an extra. When we realized who was our extra, one teacher went to get our extra child, but they stepped into the coat room and dissappeared. Other teachers have told me stories. One told me about a child that was drawing on the chalk board. Thinking it was a staffs child, she went looking for the childs mother. Finding no one, she walked back into the room and the child was gone, but her drawing was still there.

  2. This is the central iowa paranormal investigators me and my Co owner cory Morrison have been trying to find a good place to investigate until this one that I am looking at just need to know if it cost anything to investigate and the best way to get a hold of me is email or text me at 6412207011

    • I’ve only ever heard of them allowing one group to investigate in the past. I haven’t heard of a fee but you would have to call. The Museum phone number is 507-774-7369. They seem to be pretty strict. Maybe because everything is still in use on a daily basis and a lot of it is government or childcare. Maybe it’s just a safety thing. I wish you luck though.

  3. I’m not a pro investigator or anything. My sister used to live in one of the buildings changed to apartments. Nothing eventful happened at my stays. But children getting beat with hammers for getting up at night for a glass of water and other brutal happenings were normal occurrences. In the main buildings it’s freezing cold and just feels negative. The locker rooms are pretty creepy I have no idea what they used to be.. They also have a ladder to an attic upstairs I noticed. Lots of locked rooms, I know there has to be more. It sure would be fun to get a real view of the whole West Hills area. Books have also been written by those who occupied the buildings if you’re interested. Since my mom worked in the hospice and talked to many of them, I’ve heard my own terror of stories.

    • My gram lived at the orphanage until 18 yrs old. She said lots of times they were locked in the basement for days.We still have her orphan chair.

  4. I haven’t seen anything myself, but having grown up in the area I can tell you that West Hills creeps me out! I’ve been in some of the buildings a couple of times and always feel like there’s someone behind me or that I’m being watched, but there is never anyone behind me. I vividly remember one time when I was there that I just had a thought of “I have to get out of here quickly.” Went through the state school museum years later and had the same thought pop in my head. I always feel uneasy there, even just passing by.

  5. I went to daycare in the Little Theater building from just a few months to 7 years. I heard someone say my name in my ear when i was playing alone in the corner. I was very curious about it and walked all the way across the room to ask the child care worker if she said my name. She told me she had not and I found it odd because someone had really said my name. I was maybe 3 or 4 at the time and had no idea what a ghost was. I also find it strange that i have always always remembered this happening and actually consider it my oldest memory. Later i was outside playing with a friend. I turned around and said we should go play with the kids on the other end of the building. This confused my friend because there were no other classes outside. She could not see the other people that I was pointing to. I know she worked there in high school as a caregiver and remembers faucets turning on by themselves in the bathrooms. She was once setting up a flash card type game on a table to help kids learn the alphabet. The kids were at lunch so she was alone in the room. She turned around to grab more cards when she turned back the cards on the table had been rearranged. There is definitely an uneasy feeling in the tunnels. I spent a lot of time in the sections under the Art Center which is located in the same building as the museum. I made sculptures on the prep table in the kitchen, you can feel the history, if anything. Like an earlier commented said, there are books. Some seem normal, others recount disturbing tails. One of the more disturbing is Crackers and Milk by Arlene Donnelly Nelson. She wrote it on behalf of her mother, a former orphan. I take everything with a grain of salt though, always stay skeptical.

  6. I live in waseca and spent many years of my childhood up on the 3rd floor of the West hills orphanage building bc our gymnastics club was located there for years. I personally have never had any strange experiences but the whole building had an ominous feel to it. I just figured it was bc it was and older building or just bc I was a child. Glad I wasn’t aware of these stories back in the 80s!

  7. me and my brother in law would like to get in there we hauny ghosts to try and get answers and proof and we live right here in albert lea

  8. Hello all, I grew up in Owatonna and my mother worked for 10 years at the Art Center at the West Hills and we both had some pretty terrifying experiences. Once my mother saw a young child standing in an old closed off elevator shaft which had been out of use for decades. He was just watching her. Another time, my mother was on the 3rd floor and said she felt the air go cold and the floor warped beneath her and she felt as though something had walked through her body and she couldn’t breathe. Various times, items she had just set down on tables would mysteriously go missing and randomly reappear in the exact spot she set them down and the air would always go cold. Once she tried to grab a box off a shelf and all the boxes on the shelves around her came shooting off onto the floor. A time which I witnessed which was particularly unsettling was when we brought our dog to the Center basement to clean up after hours at night. My mom went into the Boiler Room and felt something was off so she called to our dog, my dog got nearly to the door of the Room then began whimpering and crying. She tucked her tail between her legs and started backing away from the door, still crying and yelping, then as if something pushed her flew back and ran away. She never would come near that door again, even when called to and my mother never went back into that room either. There is definitely something lingering there and I can attest to that.

  9. MaLisa Fundine  |  

    I was married here in 2013 in what was the orphanage dinning hall. Walking in by myself the morning of the service I felt there was a presence and assumed it was the children. So I addressed them and told them there would be a party that night and they were welcome to come, but had to behave. You can see orbs throughout my pictures. There was a series of pictures where they moved across the top of the wall but I couldn’t find those. In one picture you see a flash of light behind a mans leg and in the next picture it’s gone. My kids and some friends were in the museum after hours looking at a display and heard children laughing.

    I’ve heard stories of the pool where children’s footsteps appear and no ones there and of a photographer who walked away from their camera only to come back and find pictures of themself.

    It’s a magnificent place with such a sad and dark history.

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Disclaimer: The stories posted here are user-submitted and are, in the nature of "ghost stories," largely unverifiable. HauntedPlaces.org makes no claims that any of the statements posted here are factually accurate. The vast majority of information provided on this web site is anecdotal, and as such, should be viewed in the same light as local folklore and urban legends.