Have to see it to believe it

Eau Claire hosts several allegedly haunted sites

10/31/05 - Spectator


Media Credit: Photo illustration by Sara Norgon

An old beer freezer at The House of Rock, 422 Water St., adds to the ambiance of the an old bartender's murder site.


Media Credit: Jennifer Hietpas

Elk Lake Dam is host to the death of a hitchhiker going from Minneapolis to Chicago. A local used to say the girl's ghost frequently was seen in the area, Chad Lewis said.

This year, 16 of the 23 editorial Spectator staff members took it upon themselves to investigate the allegedly haunted areas in Eau Claire. Local unexplained expert Chad Lewis said the following locations are some of the best in the area.

In each location, a group of three or four staffers took flashlights, recorders and flour to find the ghosts that haunt them (Ouija boards were optional). Each group was required to test for electronic tape phenomena. The following locations were left out of the investigation as permission or time came into play: Banbury Place, Stones Throw, The Mousetrap, Luther Midelfort Hospital, Chippewa River and Firehouse No. 10.

After each visit, the group designated a rating called "First-hand Freaky Factor" from one to 10, based on the scariness of the location.

The following events described are real and can be investigated on your own, provided permission has been granted to do so.

To hear the "ghost interviews," visit www.spectatornews.com for the audio recordings.

The House of Rock
If we were ghosts, we would haunt a bar, and The House of Rock, 422 Water St., isn't a bad choice for that. That's why our group has an undying respect (no pun intended) for Al, the former bartender who just can't get it through his head that for him, bar close was years ago.

Regulars and employees at the bar say Al worked at the establishment back when it was the Ore House in the early '80s. Apparently, Al booted a regular customer out of happy hour and suffered repercussions later when the patron returned with a gun and shot him at the bottom of the building's basement stairs.

After hearing various accounts of encounters with Al, we saw physical proof of unexplainable occurrences. Scratches on the floor, as if someone was dragging sheetrock, stretched up onto a dead-end back stairway.

A former manager of the establishment was present at the time the scratches appeared and attested the back stairway was covered with a dense network of spider webs, none of which were disturbed by whoever - or whatever - made those lines.

After hearing different stories and touring the locations of sightings, we decided to contact Al on our own.

As we stood in the dark basement, asking Al to make an appearance, our true colors showed.

"Stop yelling! You're freaking me out," Brian Reisinger squealed.

At one point, we saw a ghost-like image, but realized it was just smoke from the cigarette Reisinger puffed feverishly in one drag.

Deciding we had to show a little gumption, we walked through the basement, over the spot where Al took the bullet and to the considerably creepier-looking other side with only a weak flashlight as our guide.

Amidst cobwebs, cardboard boxes and old sound equipment, our group had a revelation.. We stumbled onto House of Rock's liquor storage. After seeing five cases of Jaegermeister, we realized this isn't scary. It's heaven.

Al declined to comment, even after repeated appeals:

"Al? We're not here to hurt you. We just want to drink with you."

Earl S. Kjer Theatre
First used in 1952 and known as "The Little Theater," the facility Kjer helped build was renamed in his honor in 1965, according to the Special Collections section of McIntyre Library's Web site.

It has been rumored that after his death, Kjer couldn't bear to leave his beloved theater and still haunts it to this very day.

Apparently, Kjer has been seen sitting in his favorite seat and has been known to tamper with lights, props and curtains, Lewis said.

He said Kjer tends to make his presence known on or near opening nights; hence, we went around 9 p.m., after the campus premiere of "Everyman."

James Smith, a custodian who works in the Campus School, unlocked the door, revealing an empty, dark gathering room and a door that led to the believed-to-be-haunted theater itself.

We explained we were hoping to gather information about Earl Kjer, and his face brightened.

"Earl!" Smith said. "He's famous here!"

He said when a projector or another item is missing, people say Earl did it. When a door rattles, Earl did it. For effect, Smith shook the door handle.

But he said though he has worked in the building for five years, he hasn't had any such personal experiences.

"The pipes make noises," he said. "I don't believe in such a thing (as ghosts)."

We entered the theater, whose floor was dimly lit, tape recorders and cameras in hands. We asked Earl to state his name, because we had been pronouncing it "ka-jer" all afternoon. We also asked him a few other questions to no avail.

As the custodian didn't know which chair was Earl's favorite, the end of the experiment had been reached.

Obviously, Earl declined the numerous requests for an interview, and who among those in attendance was going to argue with the ghost of a professor?

Lakeview Cemetery
We were scared after walking through the oldest part of Lakeview Cemetery for about an hour. But most of the frightening moments didn't come from ghosts or ghouls bumping in the night - they came from the other weirdos wandering through the cemetery.

Lewis said the Lakeview, which is located on the west side of Eau Claire, is home to some paranormal activity. Lewis has said that knocking can be heard coming from some gravesites.

We gathered at the cemetery at about 8 p.m. and headed out. While there, we encountered a man riding through the cemetery on a bicycle and a van that circled the area we were in about five times.

At one point, we stopped along one of the small roadways, turned off our flashlight and listened to see if we could hear the knocking. Most of what we heard seemed to be coming from a small wooded area and sounded more like animals scurrying around than ghosts.

Just before leaving the spot, we heard one audible 'boom' noise, but we couldn't determine if it came from any of the graves; the noise could have come from a nearby car or house.

There were small lanterns dangling over a few of the gravestones that glowed in shades of blue or orange.

During the trip, we took a number of photographs to try to capture an image of a ghost, if they were there. After coming back, we found a strange photograph of swirly green and orange blobs floating in the air. While we thought the photo could be showing these lanterns, we also wondered if these creepy streaks of color were images of spirits in the cemetery.

Based on what we experienced, the cemetery doesn't seem to be full of spirits - just a few strange hopefuls who are very much alive.

Elk Lake Dam
If there is one thing that we learned on our investigation of the Elk Lake Dam ghost, it is that nothing scares a bunch of city kids like being out in the sticks surrounded by nothing but dark woods, vacant fields and looming farm houses. Regardless of what happened once at the lake, the trip through Dunn County was enough for everybody involved to calculate which of us would die first in a horror flick.

So after a few problems locating the lake, including a close call with a possum and a fatal encounter with a cat, we parked our van and debated whether we really wanted to walk the 100 yards through waist-high weeds in the pitch black with one flashlight and two cell phones to guide us.

The back story behind the haunting of the dam is true, Lewis said. Mary K. Schlais's body was found stabbed and dumped on the road about a half a mile from the dam. She was believed to have been hitchhiking. There are many different reports of Schlais appearing on and around the dam.

We observed little that could be considered paranormal activity. After finally getting the courage to get out of the car and walk to the edge of the lake, we shivered in the cold while setting up the camera. A few deep breaths later, we began trying to contact and question the ghost of Schlais. There was no response that we could hear.

As we stood around joking about how funny we had been earlier by acting scared, we started to hear a noise in the woods to our right. Laughing it off for the first couple minutes, we started to pay more attention as the sound started to get closer. With the four of us silently huddled together, we listened intently to the crunch of leaves and movement of brush as something approached us. While watching the woods, we saw a flash of white fog about head high. It looked like when you're driving through fog with your lights on. Now, both the sound and the foggy light could be explained in a rational sense. Maybe it was an animal and a light of a house we could not see. However, it would have had to be a larger animal, and there was no fog that night.

Either way, after the horrible ride out there and knowing we had to walk past the woods to get to the car, we decided it was time to leave. Once in the car, we again laughed about being scared earlier, but we all know we will not be walking back to that lake anytime soon. We didn't record any electronic tape phenomena.

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