“This story is dedicated to my daughter, Mia Lawson. Thank you for being by my side enjoying so many of life’s wondrous adventures. You make them all so special and memorable. The moments spent with you are truly priceless.”— Love, Mom
It was early January 2017. I survived the wonderful chaos of the holidays, rang in a new year and finished my third article in connection to the North Hibbing Cemetery and Timpano Crypt. The articles derived from ghostly adventures and folklore my daughter Mia and I engaged in together. I wrote of our adventures and Mia captured them in photographs.
Many readers of Hometown Focus reached out to me regarding the articles. They wanted to share not only their piqued interest and fascination of the crypt, but their own recollections of North Hibbing and the families that resided there prior to the town relocating— with all wanting answers to the mystery or tale of the little girl in the basement of Timpano Crypt. During many conversations, the topic of an apparition of a little girl came up in discussion. People shared their recollections and stories of sightings of her at Bennett Park, the North Hibbing Cemetery and at the Greyhound Bus Museum.
I had never been to the Greyhound Bus Museum in North Hibbing. Out of curiosity, I started researching the location and any haunted connections. I researched many articles and was intrigued with the facts and findings.
The Greyhound Bus Museum was established on the property in 1999. Adjacent to the museum is Hibbing’s oldest cemetery, the North Hibbing Cemetery. The land where the museum sits was once a quarantine camp for a 1918 outbreak of yellow fever. It was theorized that the close-proximity to the North Hibbing Cemetery was ideal, so the bodies could be easily disposed of from the camp.
There were articles that referenced various phenomena being reported by staff members who experienced first-hand accounts of the museum’s otherworldly inhabitants. Tools would go missing, only to show up neatly stacked elsewhere sometime later. Strange noises were heard and shadows were seen darting in between buses and even on the “Nine Bus.”
For display purposes, the bus windows are set in the closed position, while the doors remain open for visitors to explore the insides. Some staff members had reported the bus doors being found closed on their own and their windows in the down position. The Scenicruiser 4501 was especially noted to be prone to its windows being opened by spectral hands.
As for the apparition of the little girl, I researched articles stating that witnesses had seen the apparition of a little girl between the ages of eight and 10 years old (the approximate age of the mystery child said to be laid to rest in the basement of the Timpano Crypt). She is said to be most active around 5 a.m. and it was noted that even local police officers have witnessed the child within the area. Fact or folklore?
So why would a newer building—built specifically for the museum—be so haunted? I read different theories. It’s possible that whatever is haunting the building has a direct tie to the buses. There are seven historical Greyhound buses on display at the museum. The hauntings could also be related to other pieces of memorabilia showcased at the museum.
After extended research, my head was spinning with different theories of the possible hauntings. My curiosity was getting the best of me. The only way find clarity and reason is to experience things firsthand. I was already planning my next adventure. I had to visit the Greyhound Bus Museum with my daughter, Mia. We share a common interest in mystery, spirits and afterlife. I knew she would embrace this adventure with an open mind. Mia and I also share the same level of excitement and anticipation when it comes to visiting historical sites. We are able to place ourselves back in time through vision, imagination and playful hearts.
I called the Greyhound Bus Museum only to hear a recording that the museum was closed for the winter season. Well, that was disappointing, but certainly not a show-stopper. I called the City of Hibbing and was able to connect with Ron Dicklich, the director of the Greyhound Bus Museum. I introduced myself and told Ron about the series of articles I was writing in connection to North Hibbing and the Timpano Crypt. I expressed my interest in wanting to visit the museum to learn more about the history of the bus line, the museum and to witness for myself any paranormal activity. Particularly, I wanted to witness the apparition of the little girl that could be the mystery child in connection to the Timpano Crypt.
Ron said that he would be more than happy to open-up the museum and give me a private tour. He knew that I wanted my daughter to take part in this adventure with me, but her school and work schedule was a challenge. Ron suggested that I meet him at the museum on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. He would let me interview him as he gave me a private tour of the museum.
Before ending our phone conversation, he asked if Mia and I would like to spend the night at the museum. He must have sensed through my subtle hints during our conversation that this is what I was truly seeking. I was ecstatic and could barely comport myself in a professional manner. My answer was: “That would be amazing and yes!!”
Ron said he would arrange to have the parking lot of the museum plowed and the sidewalks shoveled. He would also inform the Hibbing Police Department that there would be guests staying at the museum. I was to meet Ron at the museum on Saturday at 1 p.m. Mia was able to arrange to come home the following day, Sunday, Jan. 22. She and I would have an overnight adventure at the Greyhound Bus Museum.
The day finally arrived. It had been a long week of waiting in anticipation to visit and stay at the museum. When I arrived at the museum, Ron was already there. Keeping his word, the parking lot was plowed, sidewalks were shoveled, and the lights were on. Ron met me at the door with a friendly smile and warm handshake. I was so nervous and excited!
My nerves settled down rather quickly as Ron was so easy to engage in conversation with. He shared with me that he had read my recent articles published in Hometown Focus. He alluded to tales he had heard through the years regarding the Timpano Crypt. He also shared that some years back the Minnesota Paranormal Study Group reached out to him and were permitted to stay at the museum. (Nothing ever came of their investigation.)
I asked Ron how he became involved with the Greyhound Bus Museum. He said that the bus museum was all Gene Nicolelli’s vision; he then shared some history about Gene.
Gene Nicolelli, Ron said, was a regional manager at National Foods in Hibbing for many years. In 1974, he left National Foods and went into the insurance business. All the while, he had a private interest in bus history. In the 1970s, Gene began to actively pursuing grant money from the IRRRB to establish the first Greyhound Display, located in the basement of Hibbing City Hall. As donations of memorabilia began to pour in, the Greyhound Display and showcases were moved to the Hibbing Memorial Building. Gene’s vision became a dream come true when the Greyhound Bus Museum was established in 1999 in North Hibbing.
In 1974, Ron was living in St. Paul and working for the Minnesota Historical Society— he worked on documentaries related to immigrants on the Iron Range. In 1976, in preparation for Hibbing’s bicentennial celebration, Gene reached out to Ron and inquired if he would be interested in interviewing Greyhound bus drivers from 1915- 1916 and writing a documentary. A long-time friendship was formed between Gene and Ron. The documentary that Ron wrote about the Greyhound Bus Line for the bicentennial is showcased at the Hibbing Historical Society.
After our initial greeting and casual conversation in the lobby of the museum, Ron asked if I was ready for the tour. I was already captivated and engaged—we shared an interest in history and writing. As we walked and talked, Ron led the way to a display board referencing: “Hibbing—The Birthplace of Greyhound,” recognizing Carl Eric Wickman and Andrew “Bus Andy” Anderson as lead entrepreneurs in establishing the Greyhound Bus Line in 1914.
As Ron was introducing me to the backgrounds of Wickman and “Bus Andy,” he said that it was rumored that Wickman approached Tony Timpano for financial backing when pursuing the transportation business. (Tony denied him as he thought Wickman was flirting with his wife Selma!)
Ron then led the way to a ticket booth with a mannequin in place posing to greet customers and book rides. Behind the mannequin was an antique desk displaying an old-fashioned typewriter. There was also an antique phone and bus schedule on the wall displaying departure and arrival times for major cities throughout the United States.
Beyond the ticket booth was an entrance to the museum. A sign caught my eye. It said: “From Hibbing to Everywhere.”
Once through the entrance, the original 1914 Hupmobile was on display. The Hupmobile was the first form of transportation in North Hibbing. Rides from North Hibbing to Alice Location cost 15 cents. The museum housed many display boards with information on the evolution of buses throughout the years and locations traveled. It was beyond fascinating and impressive. There were many showcases of antiques and donated memorabilia, and mannequins were posed throughout the entire museum adding to the ambiance. I truly felt as though I stepped back in time.
Ron then led the way to the garage connected to the museum displaying seven buses. I can’t even begin to describe the level of energy I felt in the garage. Was I supernaturally stimulated? All the bus doors were open, and the windows closed. Ron let me explore each bus and read about the interesting facts and the year the model was built. I was so in awe of everything that I was seeing and experiencing while Ron took me back in time delivering a fascinating history lesson.
At the end of the tour, I told Ron that the set-up of the museum—and all the history that it housed—far exceeded my expectations.
I was somewhat disappointed in myself that it took my obsession with the paranormal to lead me through the doors of a truly historic and impressive landmark in Hibbing.
As I was thanking Ron for taking the time to participate in an interview and for the awesome tour, he handed over the keys to the museum. I felt as though Ron was entrusting me with the keys to the city. He told me to have fun and to behave!
Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, Mia and I arrived at the museum at 3:30 p.m. We left our belongings in the lobby as I wanted to give Mia a tour to get her up to speed on the history of the bus line and museum. Afterwards, we could figure out where we wanted to settle in for the night.
When Mia and I entered the bus garage, I asked her to go into each bus on display and try to guess which two buses were potentially haunted. There were seven buses on display. The 1948 Silverside, 1979-1987 MC-9, 1956 Scenicruiser, 1967 Buffalo, 1947 GM Coach and the 1936 Super Coach. (One bus on display is off-limits to visitors.) Mia thought this was great fun! She guessed the 1947 GM Coach and the 1956 Scenicruiser. I then shared with Mia the Scenicruiser was one of the haunted buses, along with the MC-9 “Nine Bus.” Mia asked which bus was my favorite. I liked the Scenicruiser best. That was her favorite as well. Upon climbing the steps to the bus, there were additional steps to climb as the seats were at a higher level.
We finished our brief tour and decided to set up our air mattress bed by the entrance of the museum and the displayed Hupmobile. At 4:13 p.m. while blowing up the air mattress, a dial tone over the speaker system went off. The phone never rang and there was no voice message. The dial tone buzzed for about 45 seconds. Mia and I looked at each other and had ear-to-ear grins. We agreed it was sure to be an interesting night.
With a rush of adrenaline, we headed out the door of the museum so Mia could capture some outdoor shots of the museum. From there, we stepped back in time and started our adventure.
We drove to Brooklyn location in Hibbing. I wanted to show Mia a house that A.P. Silliman built and lived in during the early 1900s. Silliman was an engineer and land surveyor. Mia asked how he was connected to the museum; I explained that Carl Erik Wickman, entrepreneur of the Greyhound Bus Line, immigrated to the United States from Sweden and worked on a diamond drill under the supervision Mr. Silliman prior to opening his own tire shop and then establishing the Greyhound Bus Line.
When we approached the house, Mia was already familiar with the home. My grandparents lived around the corner from the estate. When I was a little girl in the 1970s, I thought it was a haunted mansion! In my teen years, my mother and I moved into my grandparents’ home. My children spent a lot of time there in the years prior to my mother selling her residence as well. These were very familiar and memorable stomping grounds.
After Mia captured some photos, we proceeded to the Mine View at North Hibbing and walked the vacant streets where the town of Hibbing was first located. We talked and envisioned what it would have been like living there in the early 1900s without the amenities that we have today—one being transportation. Mia and I are so much alike. We both opt for hard work, simpler lifestyles and taking the bus!
After a bite to eat at Palmers, Mia and I headed back to the museum around 8 p.m. With Ron’s permission, we entered the museum’s office and started looking through file cabinets which were loaded with years of information. As I was crouched on the floor pulling out files on bus logs, accidents and various articles in reference the bus line and museum, Mia was exploring the storage room.
Out of the blue, Mia shouted out that she just hit the jackpot! I got up and entered the storage room to find Mia dressed in a bus uniform jacket and hat! There was an entire rack of vintage bus wear that had been donated through the years to the museum. Some of the mannequins in the museum were dressed in the same attire. We had more fun playing dress-up!
Dressed in our vintage bus attire and files in hand, we decided to head to the bus garage and cozy up in the Scenicruiser to do some reading. When we entered the bus, we both stood frozen for a moment as two windows on the bus were open. When Ron gave me a tour the previous day and I gave Mia a tour during the afternoon, none of the windows on any of the buses were open, only the doors. As reported in previous articles, the Scenicruiser was noted as being haunted— that windows would randomly open. We tried closing the windows and they wouldn’t budge.
After finding the windows open, we decided to investigate the other buses and take some photo ops. There was no suspicious behavior on any of the other buses. Prior to heading back on the Scenicruiser, we spent some time listening to audio stories told from former bus drivers from headsets mounted to one of the walls in the garage. The stories were hilarious!! Our two favorite stories were the “Pregnant Lady—No Pets” and “Hauling Drunks.”
While taking some serious and some quite silly photo, Ron sent me a text message checking in to make sure everything was going okay. I replied with a picture of myself pretending to be driving the Scenicruiser. His reply: “Look out Hotel California! Here they come!”
Finally settling back in on the Scenicruiser, we were sharing reports and articles of interest with one another. After enough reading, I started talking out loud envisioning just how many people traveled on these buses through the years—from men being drafted to war, to young adults going away to college or starting careers in destinations far and wide. What were they thinking or feeling? What conversations or relationships emerged from their travels?
It was then that Mia told me that she wanted to talk about her college plans for the next year. Mia was attending Lake Superior College at the time, completing her associates degree. Her plan for the upcoming school year was to attend the University of Wisconsin-Superior following in her older sister Nina’s footsteps. Mia told me that she was seriously considering moving to North Dakota and attending Moorhead State University, but she was apprehensive about the distance and worried about how her dad and I would feel. Her dad was living in Two Harbors at the time and my husband, Jeff, and I live in Zim—she was centrally located between her parents. It was perfect! I sat speechless with a heavy chest and could feel tears welling in my eyes.
I suddenly remembered the sign upon entering the museum. “From Hibbing to Everywhere.” My baby was ready to spread her wings and travel. I embraced Mia and told her to follow her dreams and see the world. She would have my support. This would be an opportunity to travel and experience new adventures for her (and for myself when I visited)!
I will never forget that conversation, for as long as I live. Sitting on a historic and possibly haunted bus in vintage attire planning my daughter’s future college and travel plans. The setting was ironically perfect in a twisted way and will forever be a cherished memory.
It was 11 p.m. and we decided to head back into the museum and cuddle on the air mattress and watch a horror movie, The Babadook. Yes, we are somewhat tenacious when it comes to our creepy adventures!
It was close to 1 a.m. and Mia and I were both exhausted. It was time to shut the lights out and get some sleep. I had my alarm set for 4:30 a.m. Many articles I read regarding the apparition of the little girl stated she was most active and seen around 5 a.m. and I wanted to investigate the garage and outside perimeters to see for myself. Mia wouldn’t commit to getting up that early!
I turned out the lights in the garage and in the museum. The only lights on were dim emergency and display lights. Lying quietly side-by-side, Mia whispered, “I feel like we are being watched.”
I whispered back, “We are being watched; we are surrounded by mannequins!”
We both got the giggles! I encouraged Mia to get some sleep and to have haunted dreams. A few moments later, Mia whispered, “Mom, I’m so glad you are not a normal mom. I love you.”
My sleep was restless that night. I had bizarre dreams. Mia and I each awoke at different times hearing unusual noises outside of the rhythm of the furnace. On occasion, we thought we saw shadows appear. It’s hard to say if they were apparitions or just our imaginations playing tricks on us. Based on the setting and dynamics, that would make for a reasonable explanation.
I awoke to the alarm at 4:30 a.m. Mia opted to sleep. In my pajamas, I headed to the bus garage and clicked on the lights. It was eerily quiet. I explored each bus one last time. The two windows on the Scenicruiser were still open. I couldn’t help but smile. I do believe there are spirits connected to the museum. Whether they are tied to a bus or one of the many antiques displayed at the museum, nonetheless they are harmless and add a special aura and energy level to the museum. I appreciate that they let us visit and experience a memorable adventure.
Mia and I packed up around 6 a.m.; she has college classes scheduled and I had a busy workday ahead. We never did see the apparition of the little girl. That may forever remain a mystery or tale to tell in the future as it was told to many of us in the past.
A special thank you to Ron Dicklich for not only opening up the museum to my daughter and me, but for opening up his heart. It was very obvious how passionate he is about the history of the Greyhound Bus Line, his relationship with Gene Nicolelli and his level of dedication to the museum by keeping Gene’s dream alive.
Mia and I are still hoping to acquire some vintage bus uniforms from the museum. They would make great conversation pieces for one of the best and most historic adventures we experienced together, thus far.
Dana Sanders lives in Zim, MN. She is a frequent contributor to Hometown Focus.
2018 Greyhound Museum Rally
The Busboys present “A tribute to Gene Nicolelli” in Hibbing on Saturday, Aug. 11 and Sunday. Aug. 12. The rally welcomes all buses and converted motor homes of any make or model originally manufactured by a bus builder.
The event will include vintage bus rides, a vintage bus parade, rally lunch with speakers, a bus-related swap meet, food vendors on site and event t-shirts and souvenirs.
The Greyhound Bus Museum/Gene Nicolelli Memorial Bus Origin Center is located at 1201 Greyhound Blvd. E. in Hibbing.
For more information, visit busboyscollection.org.