Judy Spooner: Seeking answers to spooky sightsI first heard the stories in the fall of 1969 from people living in Grey Cloud Island Township, which at that time included the Lower Island that was later annexed into Cottage Grove. A man told me that he knew of people who had seen what looked like a human hand floating through the air at dusk.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
I first heard the stories in the fall of 1969 from people living in Grey Cloud Island Township, which at that time included the Lower Island that was later annexed into Cottage Grove.
A man told me that he knew of people who had seen what looked like a human hand floating through the air at dusk. It could have been near the backwater of the Mississippi River, or Moore’s Lake or Grey Cloud Channel. He couldn't recall.
I know from my science class that bodies of water are still warm this time of year. In the evenings, when the air cools, layers of moisture seem to float over the water. They might have seen things in the mist.
Several township residents said they’d never heard of a floating hand, but some remembered slightly different stories. One saw a green floating hand. Another man told me he’d seen what looked like a floating hand carrying a lantern when he was a young boy.
It was transparent like it was a gas and it glowed as it moved across channel, he said.
At the time, I headed to the Park Grove Library to search local history. What event in the past might have caused a restless “spirit” to return every year? All of the sightings occurred in the fall.
There's historical evidence that Native Americans, who weren't related to the Dakota people who lived there in the 1700s and were removed after the 1834 treaty, lived on the Lower Island. They were mound builders and left a dozen or so mounds in the area. Some also include burials. Is one of them missing a hand? But that wouldn't account for the lantern.
LeSueur, the explorer, built a fort in the area in 1695 but historians have not located it. The river rises and falls and changes the landscape so it’s only a guess that it might have been on the Lower Island as he tried to re-establish French influence in the area.
Was there a soldier with him who left camp to hunt for deer or other animals to feed those who traveled with LeSueur?
When he didn't return to camp, they could have discovered he was killed by a bear that dismembered his hand. If they brought him back to camp it would have been a gruesome sight.
There are stories told by the Dakota and the Ojibwe about young women who fell in love with soldiers or fur trappers. The stories always end in death for the women who pine for lost lovers whom they could never marry. One of their spirits could be searching. The spirit of one of the suitors could be returning each fall with a lantern looking for the love of his life.
Since the time I first wrote about the floating hand and lantern, I still ask people if they've seen them. I've heard about more sightings but I don't know if they are the result of reading what I wrote back then. It's as if I told a ghost story and had it re-told to me years later as if it were true.
The stories I originally heard were true recollections as far as I know. The history is true but the speculations about spirits are mine.
Not everything we experience can be explained.