I have waited with anticipation for Michael Norman's The Nearly Departed since Alison from the Minnesota Historical Society Press clued me in via a comment on my review of Haunted Heartland last January.
The arrival of this book a couple of weeks ago pushed it to the top of my reading list. Norman, a retired journalism professor at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls living in the Minneapolis-St Paul area, put together a compilation of ghost stories that took us all over the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
For those familiar with Norman's other works, The Nearly Departed is more like Haunted Wisconsin (co-authored with Beth Scott) than his other books in that the stories contained within it are fewer in number, longer than a few paragraphs, and provide much more history and description. The stories also continue Norman's choice to not provide analysis or conclusions-he simply told the stories as he heard them while providing a historical context of the particular event or place.
As I was reading along and enjoying these fascinating stories from all over Minnesota, I came across The Mad Priest, a story about the haunting of Heffron Hall at St. Mary's University in Winona. As I was reading about the attempted murder of Bishop Patrick Heffron by Father Laurence Lesches and the paranormal activity that has occurred at Heffron Hall, my Catholic side perked up and I was struck with a notion that I have heard this story before. After consulting my copy of Haunted Heartland, the story of Heffron Hall was also in that book. Norman seems to have updated the same story he wrote in 1985 and put it in The Nearly Departed. While I appreciated the update, I could not help but wonder about the reason for putting something old in a new book. I looked at the other stories in Haunted Heartland and there were several more stories that were updated or rewritten and then put in The Nearly Departed.
I am now in a strange place. On one hand, I have the reality that about ten percent of this book is just refurbished material from almost twenty-five years ago. On the other hand, I cannot deny my interest in the new (at least for me) material, including stories about long-dead librarians roaming around the St. Olaf College library, 1930s era gangsters using the restroom at the Wabasha Street Caves in St. Paul, or the strange happenings at Minneapolis' First Avenue and 7th Street Entry. Although Haunted Heartland was listed in the selected bibliography, it was not clearly cited that these particular stores were from that book and that irks me enough to give this book a lower recommendation than I would have if it were entirely original.