Last updated on August 16th, 2019
In the heart of St. Paul, down by the river, there are a few party goers that just don’t want to stop the party. In the glamor of old Hollywood, who would want to? But there is a whole other reason for their strange behavior at the Wabasha Street Caves.
The Wabasha Street Caves started out as a man-made cave created to grow mushrooms. But after a few ownership changes, they’ve been a roaring nightclub, a speakeasy, and a disco. Today they are small event venue. But what draws most of the guest to the establishment, has more to do with the haunted past and the event that happened in during its speakeasy days.
The History of the Wabasha Street Caves and The St. Paul Gangsters
In 1933 the Castle Royal nightclub was the most exclusive club in town. Their menu prices ensured that only the extremely well do to visit their place. In that day, the well to do mostly consisted of the more unsavory character. Dangerous characters like George Baby Face Nelson and Alvin Creepy Karips were frequent guests.
One night a young woman behind the bar was waiting to close up and an argument broke out between a few of the guests. It got so bad, that one individual got out his Tommy Gun and mowed the other three individuals down. After seeing what had just happened, the bartender locked herself in the office and called the cops. The cops told her to wait outside until they arrived. They arrived 30 minutes later, with the guests still in there. The cops went in for about an hour. When they came out, they told her not to prank call the Police again.
She was in disbelief. She had just seen a vicious murder. They brought her in and the place was immaculate. She was not aware of the fact that the police and the organized crime had an understanding. Thanks to police Chief O’Connor, it’s believed that the police helped to cover up the crime. The caves had a bunch of unused tunnels of loose soil. We think that is where the bodies were buried.
The Haunting Inside
Over the years the club has gone through many changes. Today, the former speakeasy is an event venue for smaller parties. Partygoers have stated that they have seen a few extra guests. One person described the guest as someone dressed like a gangster from the 1920s who just roams around. This man is translucent and was seen going through a cave wall.
After a wedding reception was held in the Wabasha caves, a young guest told his Mom how much he enjoyed playing with the gangsters. But the mom knew there were no gangsters dressed up that night.
The staff doesn’t feel that the spirits have any ill will towards anyone. Many have reported that while in the back section of the caves, they will often hear their names called out. After investigating, they find that no one is there. Some tour guests have even gotten their own encounters. When stopping to take some pictures or visiting the bathrooms, they have reported hearing muffled sounds of a 1930s big band starting up.
Wabasha Street Cave Tours
After hearing about this, I wanted to check it out myself. The tour guides take guest throughout the different rooms and fill your heads with tales from the past, including of the infamous night at Casino Royal. They do a great job of keeping the group together and engaged. They show things like the location of the shootout and where they believe the bodies may have been buried within the caves. You can see the spots on the fireplace mantel where the Tommy guns unloaded at the guest.
Lost Souls Tours
The standard walking tour is the most popular, they have also added on a Lost Souls Tour on the last Sunday of the month. This tour focuses more on the different sightings in the cave. You’ll hear the stories and stand where the mysterious occurrences happened. I consider myself someone that loves a good haunting, I opted for a traditional tour. They talk about the ‘incident’ but don’t get into the current day hauntings.
Inside you’ll see some of the unique types of architecture and eclectic styling from the years past. Even though the place gets reinvented every few decades thins like the original entryways in a mushroom shape remain behind. The bar is a mix of neon and the ballroom is like a mix of old Hollywood with a little darkness to it.
One thing I found really interested was that the caves have been used to film a few movies. There were some carvings and other memorabilia left behind that you can see.
Other Things to Know
The caves are currently open up to the public thought the Wabasha Street Tours. They run year round and cost $8 per person, 5 and under are free. Check their website for more details. On the tour, you will hear stories about haunting and so much more.
The Wabasha Street Cave is located at 215 Wabasha Street South in St Paul. It is south of the Mississippi River, so if you don’t like driving in St. Paul’s Crazy streets, not to worry. It easy off a main road. They also have parking in a lot in front. If its full, there is additional parking around the corner in a much larger lot.
Tips for your visit
- Reserve your tickets ahead of time to ensure you get in. The weekends during the summer are the busiest times to go and you might be waiting a while if you try and pick them up at the gate.
- The tour is all underground so bring a light jacket with you. While they are not as cold as a traditional cave, you may want the extra layer.
- If you love the history of the 90s, check out the Paul Gangster Tours that are offered by the same company.
- I love that Minnesota has so many truly haunted locations to check out every time of year. For more great hauntings in St Paul and around the Twin Cities, check out: 13 Truly Real Haunted Places In MN. If you are really looking for a haunted tour, try taking one of their candlelight tours.
St. Paul is filled with crazy histories and hauntings. So much so that you can make a whole day of visiting some of these haunted locations. But for more information specifically on the corruption during the Gangster era, check out John Dillinger Slept Here: A Crooks Tour Of Crime And Corruption In St Paul 1920-1936.
Other Things to Do Around Wabasha Street Caves
Other Attractions to Visit
Aside from the Gangster Tour, there is a lot to do around the Wabasha Street Caves. My favorite has to be the events on Harriet Island, including the annual Irish Festival held every August. You could walk to the festival from the street caves parking lot.
The Landmark Center is a great stop if you are looking to extend some of the haunted feel from the cave. It was another place known for its corruption. They offer tours of the facility. It’s rumored that some photographers have noticed a few extra images on their film after their visits.
If you have kids on your adventure, you can also stop at the Minnesota Children’s Museum. It’s a little further in town but they have some of the best activities to keep their minds going. They recently remodeled and are always rotating out exhibits.
Where to Eat Nearby
The Wabasha Street Caves is in a business area of town, so you don’t have to go far to eat. But what’s even better is that they have a coffee shop right on site. If your tour just got out or if you are patiently waiting for yours to start, stop in and a Coffee, Italian Soda or Smoothie. They also have muffins, sandwiches and more.
Another great place to eat in the area is Cossetta’s Old World Italian. This one will require you drive over the river, but they have some of the best Italian Food served fast you’ll ever find. Even if you don’t want to eat there, drop in and get some Cannolis to go. They have free parking in the back of the building.
Where to Stay
If you’re looking to stay overnight to do more in the area, you are in luck because St. Paul has some of the best hotels. The closest one is the InterContinental Hotel, just across the Wabasha Street Bridge. But if you want to stay with some ties to St. Pauls Gangster past, you’ll want to stay at the St. Paul Hotel. The hotel was the headquarters for all business deals with the notorious Leon Gleckman. Today, its one of the top-notch hotels in the heart of downtown.
If you only have an Hour
Definitely, do the walking tour of the Wabasha Street Caves. It last’s an hour and if you love history, corruption and more, this is your tour. I enjoyed it so much and learn more about St. Paul than I ever knew. I’d love to go back and try their haunted tour to get a few more first-hand accounts.