Is the water tower haunted? You tell us

The Dispatch is accepting written entries for its haunted water tower contest.

Old handprints shown inside the Brainerd water tower
A recent discovery shows handprints underneath the pain inside Brainerd's historic water tower. How the prints got there is a mystery.
Contributed / Dave Badeaux

BRAINERD — Could Brainerd’s historic water tower be haunted?

Did some of the workers building the structure a century ago have some fun while doing it?

Or did a simple construction method leave remnants of those who poured the concrete and an unintentional memento from earlier times?

The truth behind handprints recently discovered underneath the paint inside the tower is a mystery.

About 5 feet off the ground inside the tower and the size of adult hands, the prints perhaps went unnoticed for 100 years before discovery as work began to put a roof on the structure.


Mayor Dave Badeaux noticed the handprints Wednesday, Oct. 19. He had never seen them before and had never heard of anyone else who had.

The inside of the tower has previously been used as a storage area for the attached building, which used to be the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce but is now home to the Breen and Person Law Office.

Close up of handprint inside Brainerd's water tower
A mysterious handprint is underneath the paint inside Brainerd's historic water tower. The handprints were discovered Oct. 19, 2022, with no information on how they go there.
Contributed / Dave Badeaux

Badeaux posted pictures of the prints on Facebook and learned from one commenter they could be the result of construction workers using motor oil during the building process. After the slurry is poured into forms — or molds — it is then removed to expose the hardened concrete. To help the forms off, they are often coated with a release agent, like motor oil.

While they appear to be strategically placed in a line, the idea of workers pushing off from the wall makes sense with the placement. He also said some prints are more prominent in the fingertips than on the palms, further strengthening the theory.

But other theories abound, including ones featuring Brainerd’s most well-known celebrity — Paul Bunyan.

Handprints inside the Brainerd water tower
Mysterious handprints are underneath the paint inside Brainerd's historic water tower. The handprints were discovered Oct. 19, 2022, with no information on how they go there.
Contributed / Dave Badeaux

Sometimes called Paul Bunyan’s flashlight, the tower is often figured into local tales about the legendary giant. Longtime Brainerd resident Mary Koep falls in the camp.

Koep humored Facebook users with a short, spooky narrative on Badeaux’s post.

“And on Halloween Eve, the child Paul Bunyan returns as a ghost to frolic about in the bowl of the Water tower, playing hide and seek with his Blue Ox. Sometimes the wind carries his laughter, and thumping heard outside is the sound of his feet running about.”


Enter the contest

Do you have theories on the handprints, or are you convinced Paul Bunyan played a role? If so, the Dispatch wants to hear them.

Submit a short tale about the tower, the handprints or their haunted nature for a chance to win water tower merchandise and be featured in the Halloween edition of the Dispatch.

Entries should be about 50-100 words and submitted to or mailed to 506 James St., Brainerd, MN 56401, Attention: Theresa Bourke, by 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27. Contact information should be included.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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