Favorite Haunts

Guidebooks make things simpler for those seeking local ghosts and ghoulies.



10/01/06 - Pioneer Press

'The first thing I recommend is: Bring someone with you."

That's what Chad Lewis says about hunting for ghosts.

He should know. Lewis, who lives in Minneapolis and Eau Claire, and co-author Terry Fisk, of Eau Claire, have written and published "The Wisconsin Road Guide to Haunted Locations" (2004), "The Minnesota Road Guide to Haunted Locations" (2005) and "The South Dakota Road Guide to Haunted Locations" (2006).

"Iowa should be done any day," Lewis said. "Our main goal is to do every state."

Lewis, 32, has long had an interest in things that go bump in the night. For his master's degree in applied psychology, he studied people's beliefs in the paranormal.

And in the past 13 years, he estimates he has been to 2,500 sites where something weird is supposed to have taken place, including Area 51 in Nevada, Scotland's Loch Ness and Transylvania.

Fisk, 51, also has a longtime interest in the paranormal. When he joined Lewis checking out sites in Wisconsin that had reputations for being haunted, they often found themselves getting lost. They decided a guidebook was needed for the sightseer searching for spooks.

For each state, the authors solicited tips of good places to explore. They researched historical records and traveled to each location to interview local residents. They also sometimes tried to capture paranormal activity at the sites with video recorders, cameras and electromagnetic field detectors. Lewis said the two have logged about 50,000 miles a year for their investigations.

"This is what I mainly do right now," said Lewis, who was a grant writer for a nonprofit organization.

The Minnesota guidebook includes segments on haunted restaurants, theaters, mansions, hotels and even a Laundromat and a skating rink. But there are also lots of spooky outdoor sites for the fresh-air ghost hunter. For example:

Bertha's grave, in the Lakeside Cemetery in Coleraine, the reputed resting place of a witch whose headstone supposedly moves around.

Haunted train trestles in Moose Lake on the Willard Munger State Trail.

Sturges Park in Buffalo, reportedly home of the ghost of a wealthy pioneer man and where strange glowing balls of lights and bathroom mirrors defaced with blood have supposedly been seen.

Dead Man's Trail in Thief River Falls, where Indian spirits are supposed to wander.

Montgomery Golf Course in Montgomery, where gravestones are located at the first hole.

Ross, Minn., where a windigo, a cannibalistic Indian spirit, is said to roam.

Washington Street Bridge in Minneapolis, legendary for supposed spirits of suicide victims.

The Minnesota State Fairgrounds, where a phantom pig is said to haunt the swine barn and a bird that is the reincarnated spirit of a former Fair worker supposedly visits the Ye Old Mill ride.

The ghost guides describe what the authors found and give directions for readers who aren't content with giving themselves goose bumps in their armchairs.

"There's a large segment of the population that wants to go to these places. They want to experience something first-hand," Fisk said.

"Maybe something's going to happen. Maybe not," Lewis said. "I recommend people be patient. I compare it to fishing. It's a lot of sitting around and waiting. But you're not going to find anything unless you have your pole in the water."

Lewis also says to take a companion with you. Then, if something spooky happens, it's less scary and there is someone to corroborate the ghostly goings-on, Lewis said. A camera can be helpful, as well as "a sense of curiosity." But don't trespass and don't cause any damage, Lewis urged.

Lewis said they've sold about 25,000 copies of the Wisconsin guide and about 6,000 of the Minnesota guide. "They've been runaway successes," he said.

He and Fisk are also planning to publish books by other authors, starting with a guide to UFOs in Wisconsin.

Despite all of his searching, Lewis said he has yet to see a ghost. He's not even sure he believes in them.

"I don't know. I believe people believe they've seen them," he said.

"I've seen strange things. Experienced strange things. Heard strange things," Fisk said.

Among the most unusual, he said, was seeing a nebulous orange presence that appeared in a room at the same time a door mysteriously opened on its own.

But it didn't happen during one of Fisk's ghost-hunting expeditions. "Actually, it was in my own home."

Richard Chin can be reached at rchin@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-5560.

What: Numerous versions of "Road Guide to Haunted Locations" by Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk

Cost: $14

For more information: www.unexplainedresearch

Authors appear: Lewis and Fisk will appear at "The Unexplained Conference" at 7 p.m. Oct. 14 at the St. Cloud Civic Center, 10 Fourth Ave. S., St. Cloud. Admission is $9.

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