The Most Haunted College in Winona, Minnesota – St. Mary’s College

"The boundaries which divide life from death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?"
~Edgar Allen Poe


St. Mary’s College is considered to be the most haunted college in Winona, Minnesota. There are numerous stories surrounding school spirits such as college ghosts within the United States. When evaluating Minnesota ghosts that are said to roam the halls of the haunted schools within the state, you will nearly always find that there is a story of tragedy or despair that is directly related to the school spirits. The same hold trues for the most haunted college rumored to be within the state – St. Mary’s. Throughout this guide covering haunted educational facilities, you will learn the stories and accounts related to the haunting that is said to take place at St. Mary’s College in Winona, Minnesota.

The Ultimate Conflict

The St. Mary’s haunted college got the reputation that it has today because of one major conflict that occurred between two individuals – the Bishop named Patrick Heffron and a Father of the church named Louis Lesches. When evaluating the rumored college ghosts or school spirits of St. Mary’s, the conflict between these two men always comes up. In the year of 1898, Louis Lesches was ordained for the position of “Diocese of Winona”. Throughout his career, it was evident that he had many health conditions that impaired his ability to perform as expected. Many complaints were issued because of the fact that Father Lesches was often absent from important events and functions associated with the Diocesan. Many situations regarding the Father continued to transpire until Patrick Heffron gained the position of Bishop.

Bishop Patrick Heffron was a stern individual who was often described as being extremely indifferent to other individuals that he worked with and around. When he passed, the Archbishop that was from St. Paul named Austin Downing described him as being “cold, withdrawn, apparently indifferent to others”. It was noted that the Bishop was so harsh that there were times that he relied heavily upon physical abuse in order to establish his position and overrule those around him. Right from the beginning of his tenure as Bishop, Father Louis Lesches experienced complications. The Bishop had very little tolerance of his ways and his principles. As a result, a continued battle of heated words, physical conflict, and strife developed.

The final battle that occurred between the Father and the Bishop is the one incident that is believed to have made St. Mary’s College the most haunted college in all of Minnesota. It is often conflict that results in college ghosts. This is definitely the case when it comes to the school spirits of this college. Two months prior to the final conflict, Father Lesches wrote a letter to the Bishop that explained his true frustration and emotions surrounding the issues that he had with him. In that letter, he wrote: “I don’t see any hopes – you have tried too long to crush a fellow man and suppress his daily bread…” This was written because the Father wanted to serve as a pastor over his very own parish. Unfortunately, Bishop Heffron continued to deny him the request based on the fact he considered the Father to be “too emotionally unstable”.

On the 27th day of August in the year of 1915, Bishop Heffron was engaging in his morning Mass in a solitude fashion. He was located on the second floor of the college in the chapel that was his and his alone. It was during this event that Father Lesches entered the room uninvited. When the Bishop looked to observe the individual that was entering the room, he observed a discolored Smith and Wesson revolver pointing at him that had five chambers. Father Lesches was holding the weapon. He did not give the Bishop any time at all to react prior to pulling the trigger. The first shot actually missed the Bishop, but the second hit his thigh. A third shot was fired – it did not hit the Bishop. However, the fourth shot went right through the Bishop’s chest. Despite his challenging wounds, the Bishop forced the Father from the office.

Doctors and authorities were brought to the scene and Bishop Heffron explained what happened with Father Lesches. Louis Lesches was found in the room identified as 135 – which is on the first floor of the haunted college. He was apprehended by authorities and then placed on trial for the crime that he committed. Unfortunately, the trial was relatively short. It was established that Father Lesches acted under insanity. He was then placed in a hospital identified as the “State Hospital for the Dangerous”, which was located in the City of St. Peter located in the State of Minnesota. He spent twenty eight years in the hospital before dying of a heart attack in the year of 1943. Unfortunately, Bishop Heffron suffered from many medical complications and finally passed away in the year of 1927 after a battle with cancer.

College Ghosts

Once Father Louis Lesches died in the year of 1943, St. Mary’s College was immediately rumored to be a haunted college. Many students and educators alike started experiencing noises that were strange and could not be explained. It was common for many that lived in the part of the college called “Heffron Hall” to hear knocks on their doors and the sounds of people walking around – despite the fact that no one was present. Due to the fact that no explanation could be issued for the unusual phenomenon, it was immediately presumed that the building now served as a haunted college in Minnesota. In addition to the unexplained noises, many students claimed to hear the sound of a cane moving along in the building – much like that which was used by Father Lesches when he was alive. Out of all the Minnesota ghosts said to be walking around the haunted schools of the state, the one that is believed to be Father Lesches is considered to be the most terrifying. Could the school spirits rumored to be part of St. Mary’s College be related to the horrific conflict of the Father and the Bishop?



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