There’s a remote and sleepy hollow cloaked in a dark past; a force drawing you back in time with an invitation to explore its eerie existence. The historic Boyd House once filled its walls with the sounds of children’s laughter is now filled with secrets. Imagine being transported back in time to a simpler era. A time without cell phones. A time when you knew your neighbours. A time when children played face to face. A time when family secrets were kept secret.
If you drive about two and a half hours west of Minneapolis, Minnesota, you’ll experience an endless road lined with farmers' fields on both sides. Then suddenly, in the middle of nowhere, the fields unzip to reveal a small piece of civilization: the tiny city of Boyd, Minnesota. It’s a welcome visual break from the symmetrical monotony of flanking cornrows. Boyd sits upon land originally inhabited by the indigenous tribes of the Dakota and the Anishinaabe. Descendants still live there today.
Bygone Days of Boyd House
On the edge of town, on the North-East corner of Scandia Avenue and 2nd Street, you’ll find 217 Scandia Avenue, a majestic, whitewashed home with four floors and a welcoming front porch facing the Boyd water tower. On one side stands the old lumberyard. There are railway tracks behind the house which served as a community lifeline over a hundred years ago. The new owner, paranormal investigator Jill Shelley, has affectionately named it The Boyd House.
Built in 1901, the house deed goes back to 1884 when the land was owned by the Hastings and Dakota Railway Company and officially entrusted to a man named Charles F. Hatch. It is said that he committed suicide in 1889 by shooting himself. The replacement trustee appointed by the now called Wisconsin Minnesota and Pacific Railway Company, was R. C. Mitchell who soon conveyed the land to Maddie E. Hatch in 1889, as the executrix of Hatch’s will.
The land known as Lot SW ¼ Section 15, Township 116, Range 42, changed hands numerous times until it was purchased by Peter Blacksmith and Ida Krogstad, who were married when Ida was only ten years old. Ole Iverson also owned part of the land. In 1901, H. J. Haakenson and his wife Pauline bought the house.
Did Previous Boyd House Owners Leave A Spiritual Signature?
Fred Eckhardt, Jr. was born in Ontario, New York, and married to Minnie Fenske, a German Immigrant. They moved to Boyd in 1906 with their four children, Selma, Alfred, Oscar and Elsa and purchased the Boyd House in 1912. Fred opened a general merchandise store with his brother-in-law and soon became a well-respected contributor to the community. According to a book about Boyd that Jill received from town volunteers, Fred cultivated a solid rapport with his customers. He even minted his own coins for his customers’ convenient use. It has also been said that Fred was an avid gardener with some people claiming that they’ve seen his ghost tending to the garden.
Fred was also the local Justice of the Peace, a member of the school board, city council and even the fire department. He and his father built the Lutheran Church, which still stands today and can be seen from the front porch of the house on the opposite corner of the street.
The Boyd House and the Eckhardt General Merchandise store survived the Great Depression, a flood, and numerous robberies. The availability of its products was made possible by the proximity of the railroad nearby.
Is it possible that Fred and Minnie’s resilience and strong ties to the community have left a spiritual signature on the house, long after their deaths?
Jill Shelley’s Dream Come True
As a young girl, Jill Shelley had a keen interest in the spirit world. She nurtured her curiosity and brought it with her into adulthood. In 2010, she formed a team of paranormal investigators called St. Croix Paranormal. Over ten years, the team has visited numerous haunted locations all over the United States. Jill has worked as a surgical technician for the last 19 years and before that, as a veterinary technician for 18 years.
Somewhere along her journey, Jill conceived a dream. She wanted to buy her own haunted house and offer it to the public and other paranormal researchers. Determined to bring her dream into reality, Jill engaged a real estate agent and began her property search. As soon as she came across the photographs of 217 Scandia Avenue, she knew it was the one. Naturally, listings rarely include details of any reported paranormal events, so Jill relied on her intuition.
During her first visit to the haunted home, she said she felt as if she was being watched. Jill calls herself “old school” and loves the traditional investigator equipment, such as Radiating Electromagnetic (REM) pods, K2 meters, and spirit boxes. She placed REM pods in various rooms around the house and told us that the one in the purple room lit up within eight minutes of being set up. A picture of Fred and Minnie Eckhardt now hangs on the exterior wall of that room.
Book Of Boyd Evokes Nostalgic Spirits
Jill was given a book about Boyd’s history called “Memories 1884-1984 Boyd” which was put together by Boyd town volunteers. It’s full of details and photographs, including those of the Eckhardt family and their general store. During our interview, Jill reported that upon opening the book inside the house and asking the spirits about it, activity immediately increased. It is possible that spirits became emotional with nostalgia and were motivated to declare their presence when reunited with their past through those photographs.
Resident Spirits Feel At Home Again
Photos in the Boyd book indicate that the exterior has remained unchanged for over 100 years. With four bedrooms and two bathrooms, the house is a spacious 2120 square feet, and brimming with natural woodwork. Jill and her husband Justin have redecorated the house to recreate what they think it might have looked like. They added ornate Victorian-style wallpaper and antique-looking furniture and even brought in objects that are said to have spiritual attachments. Possibly, all of this might help any resident spirits feel welcome and at home again.
Jill named some of the rooms, such as the Purple Room and the Gold Room. In the kitchen, there is a sunny yellow dinner table with a grooved aluminium edge and matching vinyl and chrome chairs. The beautiful solid wood bannister and handrail of the staircase cordially invite visitors to climb the stairs with treads fitted with a dark floral carpet runner. The top floor of the house reveals a spacious walk-up attic with large windows allowing in enough light to banish only some of the shadows.
Diving Into The Deeper Layers of History
Thrilled with her new house, Jill set out to learn as much as she could about its history. She visited the local historical society and even met with the great-grandson of Fred Eckhardt, also named Fred Eckhardt. He gifted her a handful of coins from his great grandfather Fred Eckhardt’s general store. He also gave her photographs and the potato advertisement shown above. Jill’s research continues today. She has been able to dig up countless details about the haunted home, the surrounding area, and the people who lived there. Some of it, however, remains shrouded in mystery, with any secrets buried with their keepers.
Uncovering A Tragic Past
Fred and Minnie’s family grew steadily to a total of eleven children. Sadly, David and Violet and two of their other children died in infancy, with two of them reported by Jill as passing away in the Boyd House. Fred and Minnie would spend the rest of their lives in their beautiful home, both of them passing away in the house, three years apart. Minnie died of a stroke in 1955 and according to a copy of her Funeral program, is buried close by at the Zion Lutheran Cemetery. Fred died in 1958 at the age of 76. The house was later owned by Anna Maria Reichherzer and according to the deed, she was born May 24, 1887, and died October 16, 1977. Her daughter, Erica Just assumed sole ownership. Jill notes that Ms Reichherzer also passed away in the Boyd House.
None of this information appears in the real estate listing.
Are Spirits Trying to Reveal Sinister Secrets?
Many paranormal investigators have spent time examining the four floors of this haunted home, trying to capture electronic voice phenomena (EVP) and video footage of paranormal activity. None have reported experiencing any harmful or sinister events. In fact, some investigators report a calmness in the house and despite the numerous activity they claim to have experienced, none of it was threatening. However, one of the video recordings Jill Shelley has, is a voice saying “He stabbed her.” Who was stabbed? Was Minnie stabbed?
On another occasion, Jill was in the library room and asked, “Did you die here?” She describes a recording of a voice responding, “Search for the body.” Jill also mentioned that once when she checked the storage area at the end of the hallway on the first floor, she heard a distinct “Don’t hurt me” plea when she checked the recording. Jill describes feeling extremely uneasy at the threshold of the master bedroom closet. Did horrible and unspeakable events happen in this house? If so, did they happen while the Eckhardt Family lived there? Perhaps it is the children’s spirits simply playing pranks on anyone who visits.
Boyd House Brims With Ghostly Tales
I’ve heard of playful spirits before. Not all ghosts are evil. There are probably some who are mischievous and who enjoy playing tricks on visitors. You can imagine what the house sounded like with so many Eckhardt children running around. They didn’t have television or video games. They probably explored every corner of the house, played hide and seek in the closets, and stayed up late in the dark, giggling together in their shared bedrooms.
Jill Shelley told me that the spirits in the house love to play cards, especially the game 21 while she uses a K2 meter. She even has a video of a card being pushed off the edge of a table after she asked them to do so. If you have ever had a cat, you know what that move looks like. Anything remotely close to the edge of a table or counter is fair game to the intentional flick of a cat’s paw. Although no cat could be seen in the video footage, one psychic told Jill that the spirit of Samson the cat resides in the house.
Of the many paranormal investigator teams that have stayed in the house, one of them, the Northern Outer Realm Paranormal Society, gave Jill a video capturing what appears to be two shadow figures, one substantially shorter than the other, running through the kitchen. Others have reported hearing children’s laughter or being touched. One of the researchers in a documentary about the Boyd House, says he felt a finger touch the back of his head. Jill herself said she’s been touched in the house. Maybe the spirits want to play a game of tag. Maybe it’s the ghost of Samson the cat, wanting his head scratched.
Why Is The Population Declining?
Isn’t it strange that the population of Boyd shrunk to only 141 people (Decennial Census) by the year 2020? That is a significant decline. In 1920, it was a booming town of 549 people complete with a town hotel, a dentist, a veterinarian, a piano teacher and hunting season lodging. Mr Pratt, who owned the hotel at one point, was killed by a train. Does the reduction in population have anything to do with the deaths associated with The Boyd House or the paranormal events that have been reported in the house? Of course, there can be many explanations. We may never know the real answers.
Boyd House Is Open for Visitors
Jill and Justin Shelley have opened the house to visitors. Groups of up to eight people can stay overnight in the house from 3:00 p.m. to noon the next day. Recently, they added a coffee station on the first floor. For more information on booking your stay, visit the website.
“Sometimes you find yourself in the middle of nowhere, and sometimes, in the middle nowhere you find yourself." ~Unknown”
After talking with Jill Shelley, seeing the old photographs she sent, and the video footage of evidence from her and other investigators in her documentary film, all I could think of was picturing myself in the house. I would be relaxing in the wingback chair beside the piano and hoping to hear a few of the piano keys being played. I would have my computer resting on my lap while I conjured up words to fill the page with my next article.
While Jill and Justin continue to research the history of the house, many questions will remain unanswered. We may never know what secrets are buried with the Eckhardt family or the other owners of the house. One thing is certain, this grand structure holds an inexplicable charm that appeals to my love for old things and the stories they hold. Perhaps the peaceful city of Boyd will help people find themselves. Perhaps this house in the middle of nowhere will someday double as a writer’s retreat with spirits as muses who have someone to write their stories.
Relevant links reviewed for this story:
YouTube Channel St. Croix Paranormal: https://www.youtube.com/user/stcroixparanormal
Boyd House Website: https://boydhouse217.com/?fbclid=IwAR050hzXvZF2cBYNCHLyp7DVDnH3LBBYWH8tjxSHrXBjG4fmZhXkWLB1klE
Jill Shelley’s documentary on the house: https://youtu.be/mcUX0vH1QsI
Indigenous tribes: https://mn.gov/portal/government/tribal/mn-indian-tribes/
Real estate listing for the house: https://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/217-Scandia-Ave_Boyd_MN_56218_M77072-58129
Google Maps: https://www.google.com/maps/dir/Boyd,+Minnesota+56218,+USA/Minneapolis,+Minnesota,+USAemail@example.com,-95.9301867,11.5z/data=!4m14!4m13!1m5!1m1!1s0x52cb2d558f0fbba9:0x4524c68e23d79cc9!2m2!1d-95.9031353!2d44.8501625!1m5!1m1!1s0x52b333909377bbbd:0x939fc9842f7aee07!2m2!1d-93.2650108!2d44.977753!3e0
Map of Minnesota https://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/map/USA/minnesota_map.htm
Decennial Census: https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial-census/about/rdo.html