Hauntings of Northeastern Wisconsin uncovered

10/30/03 - Fourth Estate

By Karen Kolasa

A cold chill. A mysterious odor. Footsteps when no one else is around. Sounds like a scary movie, doesn’t it? These could be signs that an unexplainable force is haunting a site.

But are hauntings real or are they rumors? Some people may speculate about ghosts or paranormal activity, but there are some who will go so far as to investigate locations.

A few years ago, there was even talk of a haunting at UW-Green Bay.

In the March 5, 2000, issue of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, a news article titled “School Spirits: Legends of Dormitory Ghosts Haunt UWGB and St. Norbert” named UWGB’s Byron Walter Hall as the site of a haunting.

Tom Haevers, resident director at that time, had said the hall was haunted, or at least according to the rumors it was.

The rumor started six or seven years before the article was published. Reported incidents during the “haunted” years of Byron Walter include a ghost sighting and the unexplainable triggering of fire alarms.

Residents at the time thought it might have been Byron Walter himself haunting the building, while others thought it was the ghost of a man whose grave was disturbed when the building was built. However, this theory has already been debunked—there were no graves on the site before the building was constructed.

“There used to be a disclaimer on the resident hall site saying that there was no ghost in the building,” said Richard D. Hendricks, a paranormal investigator. “I found it comical.”

There haven’t been any recent reports of ghosts or unusual happenings in Byron Walter.

Other stories of paranormal activity have been reported in the Green Bay area.

Working as a paranormal investigator for 10 years with Terry Fisk, Chad Lewis has investigated numerous paranormal activities in Wisconsin. He has worked to uncover the truth about many occurrences in the Green Bay and Fox Valley areas.

One location that Lewis has researched and that is still under investigation is the downtown YMCA in Green Bay. An apparition supposedly haunts the upper levels of the building.

Shawn Wolfgram, executive director of the YMCA on Broadview Drive, said he doesn’t know if there is any truth to the rumors.

Lewis has done investigative work at the YMCA and had a mixture of opinions from workers about whether the building is haunted.

“I’ve come across workers there that have said that the place is haunted," he said. “Then again, I find people that have worked there for years and years and have not heard of anything of the sort.”

Sandy Atkins, executive director of the downtown YMCA, said she has been there for 15 years and is unaware of any paranormal activities.

Lewis worked on some of his favorite paranormal cases in the Fox Valley area. One of them is the Curling Club in Appleton.

He said when he was investigating, witnesses told him they saw apparitions and heard noises that sounded as if the old members never left.

“There was a tobacco smell that would come and go that was linked to a type of tobacco an old member had smoked,” Lewis said. “Also, there was a member that had a walking disability. People reported hearing footsteps above them when no one was on that floor. It sounded exactly how that particular member used to walk.”

There are other locations outside of Green Bay and Appleton that have apparent hauntings associated with legends.

The Grand Opera House of Oshkosh was well known for its hauntings. Percy Keene, a deceased stage manager, is one of the most common apparitions that appear at the theater.

Troy Taylor, founder of the American Ghost Society, said many sightings of Percy have been reported.

“In 1977, a film crew reported that they saw a man standing in the balcony looking down at them with a friendly smile,” Taylor said. “The apparition matched the appearance of Percy Keene from his haircut to his small, round glasses. He had been the stage manager at the theater from 1895 until his death in 1967. He is said to still be watching over his beloved theater.”

Lewis said the theater is considering creating a haunted tour for visitors to go through.

Another destination students may be interested in checking out is Door County. Many hauntings have been observed throughout the county from lighthouses to pubs and taverns.

The passageway between Door County and Washington Island was called Porte des Morte by early French explorers, which is called Death’s Door today.

“Many boats have been shipwrecked between the mainland and Washington Island,” said Lewis. “People have even reported seeing phantom boats.”

Going to the Internet may be an easy way to find haunted locations, but this may not be the best way to find accurate information. Some sites simply post a location if someone suggests it, even without any investigation.

“Books about hauntings can be vague,” Lewis said.

“‘Haunted Wisconsin’ has not updated information like they should, and they have information about hauntings that have not occurred in many years.”

Lewis, along with his field partner, will have a book published in the near future describing 150 sites in Wisconsin that have had hauntings investigated and documented. He described it as a road guide to the real haunted Wisconsin.

When looking for hauntings or any other paranormal phenomenon, remember not all information may be true. And if you decide to be your own investigator, remember there is a possibility of being caught trespassing on private property. Receiving a fine may be the only scary thing you observe while on a ghost-hunting adventure.

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