'Ghost' at Amy's Ritz?

 10/30/03 - Chippewa Herald

By Candice Novitzke

Amy Anderson was alone in her newly purchased bar at about 1 a.m. two years ago. She became sweaty mopping the floor, so she sat down for a break. Suddenly a cold gust of air hit her.

"I turned around to see if the window was open, but it wasn't," Amy said. "Then I saw him -- he was very short. He didn't have a face per se, but I could tell it was facing the basement."

She says she saw a ghost that night.

"He was not see-through or anything," the owner of Amy's Ritz at 114 W. River St. in Chippewa Falls said. "I wasn't afraid; I just sat and blinked."

Amy then turned back away for a couple seconds and looked back to the spot, but the figure was gone.

"I'm absolutely positive of what I saw," Amy said. "I wasn't tired and I hadn't been drinking."

She told her father, John Anderson, about it. He didn't discount the possibility it was true. Especially after he had a similar encounter of his own.

John was working late one night, alone in the building. He came out of the kitchen, picked up a box and started to walk with it when he noticed a customer standing on the north side of the room.

"He was a really short, completely brown man," John said. "I thought 'That isn't right,' so I stopped, poked my head around the corner for a second look, and he was gone," John said. That was about two years ago.

Amy will have owned the building for three years in January. Both sightings took place within the same six-month period during the first year of the building's purchase. No ghost sightings have happened since then, or before then.

"I was down there for 20 years and never saw anything like that," previous owner Chuck Peloquin of Chippewa Falls said.

People who hear the Andersons' ghost tales react different ways.

"I want to see it," said patron Patty "Pit" Roeske, laughing.

One of the bartenders refuses to go into the basement, even if she needs something down there.

As for Amy, she wasn't afraid then and she's not afraid now.

"I've been kind of hoping to see it again," she said.

Though there have been no more sightings of the small figure, strange things happen on a regular basis. Objects don't always stay where they were placed. And the door to the upstairs apartment seems to lock on its own.

On many occasions Amy was locked out of her apartment when she herself hadn't locked the door. Her boyfriend thought she was crazy until it happened to him one day.

Even skeptics must admit it's likely that some type of strange event occurs during paranormal activity. But for an explanation, one needs to rely purely on theory and brainstorms.

Paranormal investigator Chad Lewis explains several theories that may account for what Amy and John Anderson saw. Lewis, a 29-year-old Eau Claire man, has investigated 250-300 paranormal cases in the last 10 years.

One possibility is residual haunting.

Such hauntings are described as glimpses of a person or an event that occurred in the past but is somehow being replayed, much like a movie, in front of the witness, Lewis explained.

"It's possible she or her father were going through a situation that allowed them to see or experience some ghostly or paranormal activity," Lewis said. In other words, their minds were open to receive unusual sensations.

It's not known why some individuals are more receptive to paranormal activity than others. One idea is that if people believe it can happen, they're more likely to experience it because they're more open to it.

"It's more what's inside of you than anything," Lewis said.

Amy Anderson echoes that idea.

"I do think if you believe in that kind of stuff you're more likely to experience it," she said.

It's hard to say which theory could be specifically applied to the sightings at Amy's Ritz. Little has been firmly established about the building, but Lewis is planning to investigate after he can piece together the building's history.

Photographs exist of the building from 1886, so the structure is at least 117 years old, Peloquin said. It was made into a tavern sometime around 1933. Chuck owned the building for 20 years and his father, Swede, owned it for 19 years prior to that.

Learning about a building's history often reveals situations that may be used to better understand ghost sightings. For example, someone who died in the building may come back to haunt if they're unhappy with something that's going on in the present.

"I'm sure there are stories that could be told about things that happened on that street," Peloquin said.

Though Lewis has visited more suspected sites of paranormal activity than most people, he doesn't consider himself an "expert."

"There are really no experts in this field," Lewis said. "I am very skeptical of those people out there telling you that they know all the answers."

Lewis eventually plans to investigate Amy's Ritz, along with numerous other locations in Chippewa Falls. He's still in the preliminary stages of gathering information, though.

But don't expect the investigations to come to any conclusions.

"Every piece of evidence gathered just leads to six or seven more questions," Lewis said. "We end up with more questions than we do answers."

Reach Candice Novitzke at candice.novitzke@lee.net

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