search on the Internet for hauntings in Wisconsin
includes a few for the Coulee Region. La Crosse can
claim the Bodega Brew Pub, Old Holmbo House and Del’s
Bar. Coon Valley’s DiSciascio’s has it’s own
mischievous female apparition. But surely there are
more ghost stories than that.
In an e-mail, Eau Claire-based paranormal
investigator Chad Lewis said he has investigated a lot
of cases from this area but never came up with any
A hunt for Holmen hauntings produced little. Sue
Stranc, the reference librarian in the Holmen Area
Library, said she thought the library had a
poltergeist moving things around at night, but then
she realized it was just janitorial staff.
Ghost stories don’t get spread too widely around
Holmen, anyway. There are a lot of conservative
Norwegians in the area who will not believe anything
unless they see it for themselves, Stranc explained.
Mark Waldenberger agreed with Stranc. Waldenberger,
director and chief field investigator of the Coulee
Region Paranormal Investigation Society, said the
conservative nature of the area keeps people from
talking about the paranormal.
A talk with Waldenberger, though, might make one
believe the area is crawling with spirits.
For example, he said, one time the Onalaska Police
Department got a report of someone pounding on the
outside of a resident’s home. The police orchestrated
a sting so they could pounce on the troublemaker, and
the sting worked — almost.
As the police waited in the garage, a thumping sound
like a two-by-four hitting the house was heard, said
Waldenberger. The officers swarmed out of the garage
but found no one there.
The cemetery at
Halfway Creek Lutheran, east of Holmen on Highway W,
and the area around the Shefelbine orchard on Highway
M are both hotspots for baffling experiences, said
Waldenberger, including apparitions and unexplained
If anybody would know about ghosts in West Salem it
would have to be Errol Kindschy, local historian and
president of the West Salem Historical Society. And
Kindschy had stories to tell, but first he fessed up.
“I don’t believe in ghosts, because I have never seen
one. Until I see one, I will never believe it,” he
“However,” he added, “there are some strange things
going on that I can’t explain.”
Kindschy said he has been questioned about house
histories after the most recent residents experienced
strange, unexplained things.
Kindschy has plenty of stories about the home that
once belonged to Hamlin Garland, the Pulitzer
Prize-winning author. Kindschy said things began
happening when they started to remodel the homestead
back to its original shape in the 1970s and have
continued since then.
Many of the stories involve lights coming on,
thermostats being turned up or other objects being
moved after the house had been checked and locked up.
Most of the occurrences have been recorded.
“I have documented the time and the place and what has
happened. There is no pattern. There isn’t anything
that that really shows me anything of material
aberrance,” said Kindschy.
One morning, the volunteers who opened the Garland
home found something disturbing. In Garland’s bedroom,
the bed had a form of a person pressed into the covers
— nothing else was disturbed — as if a body had been
placed on the bed then lifted off, leaving the covers
in place. The doors had been locked. No one was left
in the building.
Kindschy said the only reason he could think of why
Hamlin Garland was haunting this house is because
Garland — who did not die at the homestead — wanted
his ashes brought to West Salem and spread on the
hillside, but this did not happen.
Recorded in the book “Ghosts Along the Mississippi,”
an interview with Kindschy illustrates other stories
about the Garland homestead and who the ghosts might
be — if there are actual ghosts.
Kindschy also had part in stories outside the Garland
“Old Salem” is where Kindschy calls home. It is the
old Thomas Leonard home. He said he lives in an
upstairs apartment that was added on to the original
home and sells antiques from the original part.
One afternoon about three years ago, a woman was in
the shop and said she saw an apparition on the
Later that day, in preparation for a meeting of the
West Salem Historical Society, Kindschy said he had a
couple over for dinner. The husband ran to do an
errand before the meeting while the wife stayed and
insisted on doing the dishes with Kindschy.
While doing the dishes, Kindschy said they both heard
a knock on the door. Thinking it was someone early for
the meeting, he walked about 15 feet to open the door
and no one was there.
“My cat, Snuggles, came trotting up to see what was
going on. When he got to the door, he turned around
and bee-lined it under the bed and he hid,” said
There are probably a lot more ghost stories in the
area that just haven’t been heard. Mark Waldenberger
said Mark Twain believed Wisconsin was the most
haunted state in the union. Maybe Twain was right.
Contact Tony Nelson at 786-6813 or