Ghost Stories at
the Landmark Center
- The elevator is said to move without known cause
- An apparition is seen throughout the building
- Disembodied voices and laughter has been heard in the building
- Photos taken in the building sometimes carry unexplainable anomalies
- People report being touched by unseen forces
- A spirit reportedly steals alcohol and knocks over drinks at parties
- Doors are said to open and close on their own
Landmark Center’s Long History
Few buildings live up to their names as directly as the Landmark Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. A sprawling and ornate stone palace in the heart of the city, the Landmark Center enjoys the life of a humming arts and cultural center, and as a landmark itself.
Its imposing towers and creative attention to detail exude culture, making the Landmark Center an architectural art exhibit. But, long before it was home to art galleries and private parties, the Landmark Center stood as an unshakeable hall of justice and government service.
And though the city around the building has changed a lot since the Landmark Center’s courthouse days, some spirits within seem fixated on living out the past alongside the revelry of the present.
Timeline of Landmark Center's History
Swipe or use timeline points to see Landmark Center through the years
Completed in 1902, the building that would one day become the Landmark Center started as a US Post Office, Federal Courthouse, and Customs House. Its design was grandiose, and the price tag was steep, coming in at $2.5 million. But no expense was spared over the ten years it took to build.
First work was done in 1892, when renowned architect Willoughby Edbrooke was hired to design the building. The project took so long to complete, Edbrooke wasn’t even alive to see the finished product. But it proved to be as glorious as its cost demanded.
With two looming towers, mahogany and marble throughout, and stained glass gracing many window panes and skylights, the St. Paul Federal Building was not your average government office. But, it served its purpose well. In the early half of the 20th century, the court building tried a few infamous names of the era.
One famed criminal tried in the building’s court was that of Evelyn Frechette, John Dillinger’s girlfriend and one of his many partners in crime, convicted in 1934 of harboring a criminal by hiding Dillinger from authorities.
Unfortunately, time was quite harsh on the old stone building. Government rules and office space standards also did their number on some of the building’s most enjoyable features. Marble and hardwood walls were painted over, skylights were covered, combination gas/electric light fixtures were replaced with fluorescent eggshell lighting, and dark linoleum was laid over the wood flooring almost everywhere.
By the 1960s, the historic structure was just another government office building. But it wouldn’t stay that way for long.
In 1972, with the government moving out, a group of locals tried to save the old building from demolition. With community support and fundraising, the building was refurbished to undo the damage done by government redecorating. It reopened six years later as the Landmark Center, and has since greeted thousands of visitors to its art exhibits, weddings, and events.
But though it’s known today for its art and culture, some relics of the building’s courthouse past remain – none more well-known than the resident Landmark Center ghost.
Ghost of Jack at
the Landmark Center
For such a large building, it may come as a surprise that the hauntings at the Landmark Center are said to be the work of only one spirit: Jack Pfieffer. Legend has it that, in the early 1930s, Jack ran a local speakeasy called the Hollyhocks. Rumors swirled that it had close mob ties, and it wasn’t long before johnny law came knocking at Jack’s establishment.
Tossed in lockup at the then-federal court building and told he was facing decades in prison, Pfieffer opted for a different sentence. He poisoned himself in his jail cell the same day. And, though the building’s courthouse days are well in the past, some speculate Jack Pfieffer still lingers around.
Apparitions at the Landmark Center
Pfieffer’s smokey apparition has been seen sauntering and loitering throughout the building, though he is said to have a few favorite spots. His figure has been seen riding the elevator with visitors and lingering down halls.
But, he is most commonly reported in the second and third floor women’s bathrooms, where his apparition is known to appear suddenly, as if he aims to startle and scare.
Landmark Center’s Prankster Spirit
Alongside his visible apparition, Jack Pfieffer’s spirit is known to play pranks and cause mischief throughout the building. It’s said he sends elevators to random floors and makes swing doors open and close, sometimes even slamming the doors with remarkable force.
Jack is also said to be a repeat photobomber, purposefully casting his ghostly shadow into visitors’ group photographs. He is also known to startle people with his disembodied voice and sudden, loud laughter, especially around the bathrooms.