Senior Connections Senior Connections Mar 2019 - Page 8

The Devil at Lake Marion BRIAN M. HAINES McLeod County Historical Society Executive Director It was the roaring ‘20s, a time of moral deca- dence – an era best categorized by bootleggers, booze, fl appers, and jazz. Ladies’ dresses and hairstyles became shorter, music became louder, cars became faster, and liquor, which was now illegal, fl owed more freely than ever. The Great War was over, but the victory party that followed ceased to end. Rarely was there a place in America that wasn’t touched in some way by the roaring ‘20s. Minnesota, a state once thought of as a rural mecca with country values, became the nation’s top producer of illegal moonshine. The trade was so prevalent across the country- side that it caught the attention of the feds and the likes of Al Capone. All across the state, ballrooms and dance halls became the centers of 1920s night life. What were once quaint venues for weddings and ceremonies, were now fi lled with jazz music, dancing, and booze. The Lake Marion Ballroom was a beautiful pavilion-style dance hall on the shores of Lake Marion, near Brownton. Cool breezes fl oated through the screened pa- vilion, and the full moon refl ecting off the lake made it exquisite. To the north was a small outcropping of rocks, where mist from the waves could wash over those who sat atop them while listening to the music 8 Senior through the screened windows. To top off the atmosphere, a popcorn stand stood outside the ballroom entrance and fi lled the pavilion with the scent of freshly-popped corn. It was indeed a landmark of McLeod County. To some, the ballroom was a place of grandeur, yet to others, it was a den of sin and decadence. At a time when a segment of the population looked to tighten the noose around societal ills, the ballroom was often the sight of moonshine vendors, and it was rumored that “women from disorderly houses from the Cities were brought there for illegal purposes.” It was also rumored that “the dances have been rough, and that some of the dancers of both sexes get drunk; that the rooms of the hotel are all en- gaged in advance and that the cottages are broken into and the rooms occupied by revelers.” If such ill repute was indeed prevalent at the pa- vilion, it is no wonder that such deeds would sum- mon the presence of Satan himself. It was Sunday, Oct. 30, 1921, the evening before Halloween. For years, Oct. 30 was known as mischief night; the night when pranksters ran amuck with plea- sure. It was common to wake up on Halloween morning to fi nd outhouses tipped over, unhinged gates, windows soaped, or to see property vandal- ized. It was the perfect night for a sinister appearance by Satan himself, and what better place to get a good scare than in a pavilion full of people. There are many versions of what happened, the following is one of them. It was intermission at the Lake Marion Ball- room. The musicians were off-stage, taking a break, and the dancers were mingling among themselves. The weather that night was blustery; it was hu- mid, and a late-season thunderstorm was passing through the area. As the dancers reveled and laughed, a loud clap of thunder shook the pavilion and the rain started coming down. Another Earth-shattering thunder clap, and then a scream from the crowd as a strange apparition appeared next to the mirrored column in the mid- dle of the dance fl oor, and made its way to the bar. The lights in the ballroom began to fl icker, some claiming they gave off an eerie, un-Earthly- like color. Some supposed witnesses recalled that the mu- sicians’ instruments fl ew off the stage and splin- tered as they hit the ground. Then, from the ceiling, a broomstick began Connections March 2019 dancing in mid-air and made its way to the stage. A cry emitted from the crowd, “The Devil is here to get his dues. Repent on your knees. Pray for forgiveness.” Then, suddenly, in a fl ash of smoke, fi re, and brimstone, Satan himself was said to have ap- peared. Some say he came from above, while others maintained he rose from the fl oor. He did not speak, but made his way through the crowd. As he walked by, a section of scaffolding resting against a wall crumbled into a heap of iron. People screamed, people fainted, and people scrambled over the top of one another in a race to the exits. They jumped in their cars and drove away as fast as their old Model Ts would allow. Many abandoned their cars and ran headlong into the darkness. Some were transfi xed on the spot, unable to move as the dark prince strolled by. To those who stayed behind as witness, they say the devil strode out of the ballroom and walked across the water on the lake, disappearing from sight and leaving a scene of chaos in his wake. The story began to evolve over the next few days, and it gained nationwide attention. The story was told all over the state, in the Minneapolis paper, as well as a number of smaller publications. It even hit the papers in Chicago, and some recall that the story was told as far east as New York. Rumors of the perpetrator’s identity were wide- spread. Some claimed it was a prankster, some claimed it was nothing but a ball of lightning and the onlookers were exaggerating the story, yet oth- ers maintained that it was the Devil himself, com- plete with horns, tail, and cloven feet. Whatever it was, something indeed happened on that October night in 1921. At a resort in Norwood, just a few days after the episode at Lake Marion, an intense game of poker was being played in a backroom where a well-known gambler was present. While the players were making bets, tossing chips, and laying down cards, it is said that Satan again appeared. How he appeared is unknown. Perhaps it was with a puff of smoke, maybe a ball of brimstone and fi re, or perhaps he simply strode through the door. Whatever his means of appearing, it is said that he accosted the well-known gambler, and in a devilish voice proclaimed, “Now, you old rascal. I’ve got you!” More DEVIL on Pg 24 Senior Connections HJ.COM