'Destination Fear' shows off Nopeming's chills and thrills

"This was the first scary place we knew about," the show's star says of the former sanatorium.

Dakota Laden of "Destination Fear" toured Nopeming on an episode that aired Wednesday on the Travel Channel. (Photo courtesy of the Travel Channel)

A crew of thrill-seekers from the Travel Channel opened the second season of their paranormal road-trip reality show with a visit to one of ghost hunters’ seemingly favorite destinations in northern Minnesota: Nopeming Sanatorium.

The episode of “Destination Fear” aired Wednesday on the cable channel and is available for purchase from iTunes and Amazon. On it, siblings Dakota and Chelsea Laden team with Tanner Wiseman and Alex Schroeder to spend a winter night at the shuttered sanatorium.

“Growing up, this was the first scary place we knew about,” said Dakota Laden says on the episode.

He and his castmates are from the Twin Cities area. Part of the show's shtick is that they travel by RV to destinations unknown. Dakota Laden keeps the site a secret until they get there. Though, the crew easily guessed the destination while traveling 177 miles north on Interstate 35. Some of them had already tested Nopeming in 2016, but didn't make it into the building.

On the episode, Nopeming's project manager Tanya Graysmark shares the history of the property, and Harold Lowaq, a former delivery driver who had an inexplicable encounter there, tells his tale.


The “Destination Fear” crew is greeted with icy floors, paint curling from the walls, dust and debris. They confront rumors of a late maintenance worker, who is said to haunt the buildings, and visit a fourth floor perch billed as a “suicide balcony.”

Both spots offer spooky moments, including revelations from an entity named Carol.

A clatter upends the Laden siblings, who are stationed in a lower level.

“I can’t tell if that was paranormal or if the building is collapsing,” Chelsea Laden says.

Nopeming was built in 1912 as a sanatorium for people with tuberculosis. It reopened in the 1970s as a nursing home and St. Louis County closed it in 2002. It was purchased by the nonprofit Orion, Inc., in 2009. In recent years, despite the lack of electricity or water, its keepers have offered tours that have drawn paranormal enthusiasts, the makers of creepy films and people with ties to Nopeming.

The Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Residential Care and Lodging Team closed the facility in 2019 after it was cited with dozens of safety violations.

The team from "Ghost Adventures," another Travel Channel series, visited Nopeming in 2015 . Dakota Laden has worked with that crew, led by Zak Bagans.


Nopeming was built as a sanitarium to treat tuberculosis in 1912. It began offering tours to the public in 2016. It was featured on an episode of the Travel Channel's "Destination Fear" on Wednesday. (File / News Tribune)

Christa Lawler is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
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