Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Annie Mary still remembers me on Halloween October 31, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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THAT ANNIE MARY TWENTE is getting a tad forgetful is to be expected. She would, after all, be 134 years old if she had lived past age six.

The little girl from Hanska was buried alive in October 1886 after presumably falling into a coma and thought dead by her parents. But she wasn’t. Dead, that is.

Stories featured in Ghostly Tales of Southwest Minnesota.

Stories featured in Ghostly Tales of Southwest Minnesota include “Annie Mary’s Restless Spirit.” Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

As this southwestern Minnesota ghost story goes, Annie’s father went a bit mad after exhuming his daughter’s body and finding scratch marks inside her coffin and locks of hair pulled from Annie’s head.

I can only imagine. The very thought of burying one’s child alive would make anyone crazy.

I first learned of Annie Mary more than 30 years ago, when I lived in a community near Hanska. My Aunt Marilyn grew up hearing the story from her mother, Stella, who grew up just across the lake from the Richard Twente farm.

So when I moved to St. James, near Hanska, my aunt reminded me that I now lived in Annie Mary’s backyard. She told me about the fenced cemetery with the lone gravestone and somewhere in her storytelling Marilyn mentioned Annie swinging in a swing knotted to a tree branch. Legends seem to take on a life of their own, meaning it’s often difficult to separate fact from fiction.

A card I received from Annie Mary on a past Halloween.

A card I received from Annie Mary on a past Halloween. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

But one fact remains constant. Every year for about the past thirty, I’ve received a Halloween card from the little girl who was buried alive. It’s always signed ANNIE MARY in an awkward childish print of block letters.

Up until this year, Annie also wrote, “I MISS YOU!” That always sent shivers up my spine, even though I don’t believe in ghosts and knew my Aunt Marilyn had penned the message. This year she forgot the “I MISS YOU!” part.

But she made up for the omission by finding a card with a bare branched tree shadowed in the background inside a fence. And when I look closely, I swear I see the face of a little girl and a swing dangling from a branch.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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17 Responses to “Annie Mary still remembers me on Halloween”

  1. treadlemusic Says:

    Buried alive!!!! How many ‘thriller’ movies have used that as a premise!!!! Yikes……and I am slightly(?) claustrophobic!!!!!!

  2. Dan Traun Says:

    🙂 What a great aunt.

  3. Beth Ann Says:

    What a great tradition even if it is a tad bit creepy! 🙂

  4. So creepy and funny at the same time. I can’t imagine what that family went threw.

  5. Creepy traditions on Halloween are the best! Happy Halloween, Audrey! Have a Boo-tiful day.

    • Ah a Boo-tiful day to you also, Kathleen.

      Can you believe I got a second card from Annie this morning. I deduced that my cousin sent the one yesterday because she thought her mom (my Aunt Marilyn) would forget. And, yes, Dawn drew a swing and a girl on the card. I was not seeing things.

  6. Larry Says:

    I worked with a folklorist and National Geographic photographer and we interviewed a relative of the girl in question. We also took photos of the grave site. The next day he called me into his studio and showed me the negatives on a light tray. All the photos appeared on the negative except for the seven we took at the grave site that were black. Just black. No image.

    • OK, that is really rather spooky.

      What explanation did the photographer offer?

      Were these photos taken at the Hanska gravesite or Annie Mary’s final resting place in central or northern Minnesota? I can’t recall where her body was moved.

      I would love to see your story. Can you send me a copy or direct me to the publication?

  7. Jackie Says:

    I love this little (creepy) tradition, such a cool aunt 🙂 That story gives me the creeps!

  8. hotlyspiced Says:

    What a story! I can’t imagine anything more frightening than waking up in a coffin buried six feet under and having no way of escape. How shocking. And I can’t believe you receive cards on Halloween! That’s very freaky xx


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