Confessions of Ely: Post Secret + Northern Exposure

Iron Range newsThe other day I saw a Facebook community show in my feed out of nowhere, something from “friends” of “friends.”

Confessions of Ely

Miner’s is a grocery store ¬†lake by the way. They’re not talking about miners. Or are they?

Confessions of Ely” is like many online confessional projects (Post Secret, e.g.). The difference: Confessions of Ely is all about the people and sometimes bizarre, sometimes banal, always oddly fascinating activities of the people of this Minnesota Iron Range town.

Confessions of Ely

I don’t know who runs Confessions of Ely. I don’t know why they’re doing it. They are maintaining people’s anonymity by collecting confessions on an open GoogleDocs page.

For a whole afternoon, people fessed up to pooping places where they shouldn’t. Another run had people wondering what happened to the lunch lady and who left the beer cans in the jail. People who left for the cities say why. People who stayed say why. It’s specific to Ely, but there’s a human element here that might appeal to anyone — certainly anyone who knows life in a small town, particularly one in northern Minnesota.

Confessions of Ely

The comments on this confession reveal the identity of the guy with the Jeep. He’s a good guy, apparently.

Check out Confessions of Ely.

UPDATE: I’ve heard from a number of readers upset that I’d call attention to this website, which, as you will see, includes a lot of gossip, vitriol and profanity. I suppose I should clarify that I’m not endorsing the site, I merely found it interesting. I think that it represents an element of our communities in northern Minnesota — again, not an element I endorse or hope to emulate, but one I think everyone should be aware of.

In the early days of Iron Range internet (1998-2002 or so) there was a website called “” that performed a similar function. Like “Confessions,” it struggled with ways to moderate the inflammatory or derogatory comments that often emerge from anonymity. But I still think there was value in that site. It certainly reflected attitudes that existed in town that had to be reckoned with to accomplish progress.


  1. I was shown this page last week. It is pretty sad. Adolescent garbage at best. You have a lot of followers Aaron. You should be careful what you post. More often than I would like to see, Ely embarrasses itself. This is another of those times. Ely doesn’t need your help in this… That said, except for this one occurrence, I always enjoy your posts…

    • John – My reaction was different. Yes, it’s certainly got more than it’s share of juvenile nonsense, but there’s an element of reality behind it, too. You could make a site about Hibbing or Virginia or any town around here and see the same kind of thing. This one just so happens to be about Ely. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I teach at the college and interact with students that causes me to appreciate seeing the unreported world of young and low income people made public for everyone to see and understand. It’s not complimentary, no, but I took an interest. I expect the site will flame out after a few weeks, but it’s an interesting sociological experiment.

      • John Huisman says

        Thanks for clarifying. Sorry to have stated it so roughly. I was shocked when i saw the site, but I do see what you are saying and I know it could be any town… A sociological experiment.. that is a good way of looking at it.
        I have only lived here for about 30 years so I am not quite a local but having four kids and seeing them come from birth to adulthood here I have developed some sense of what it might be like to grow up in ELy and generally I am pretty realistic with my expectations…
        I enjoy reading your stuff because of it’s practical, realistic thoughts about the Iran Range by someone who grew up here… Keep up the good work. I also enjoy your radio show occasionally now that they have a translator here. I have been a KAXE fan since possibly before you were born but I have missed it since my days living in the woods around Effie…

  2. Actually Miner’s is the lake south east of Shagawa. The pathways back in the wooded areas look a lot like the areas in cities that warrant heavy police patrols.

  3. Aaron Namie says

    Site’s “much of a muchness” , in the best possible way .

  4. At the Ely hockey game, burger isn’t the problem today, just watched the cheer coach push away four cheerleaders, two cheerleaders now stand alone not loud, what a coach !

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