Paranormal researcher offers up ‘Haunted Wisconsin’
By LeAnn R. Ralph, Reporter


10/25/06 - Dunn County News

The ghost of a young woman named Mary haunts the Elk Lake Dam.

Apparitions and strange lights appear at the Mabel Tainter Memorial Theater.
Cold spots and shadowy figures inhabit the Caddie Woodlawn Park.

These and a hundred other stories of ghosts and apparitions have been collected by paranormal researchers Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk and published in “The Wisconsin Road Guide to Haunted Locations.”

Lewis, who currently resides part-time in Eau Claire and part-time in Minneapolis, earned a master’s degree in applied psychology from UW-Stout.

“The stories in the book are only one-fifth of what we collected,” Lewis said.


Since then, Lewis and Fisk have collected hundreds of other stories from around the state.

As an undergraduate student, Lewis became interested in UFOs and alien abduction stories.

“If it was really happening, what would that mean for us as humans, for our religion and for our place in the universe?” Lewis said.


“If it was not happening, what does that say about our belief systems?” he wondered.

Two other questions, Lewis noted, are universal to human beings: “What happens when we die?” and “Are we alone in the universe?”

All of those questions make a perfect fit with applied psychology, Lewis said, which is exactly what it sounds like — applying psychology to the everyday questions of life.


Looking for a book

After Lewis met his colleague at a conference and the two of them teamed up to develop a Web site about haunted places in Wisconsin, they wanted to find some of the places.

“We found out that a lot of the history was made up and that the directions to get there were horrible,” Lewis said.

“So we started looking for a book to help us find those haunted places,” he said.


As it turns out, no book was available anywhere.

And that’s when Lewis and Fisk struck upon the idea to write their own book.

“We shopped the idea around to various publishers who liked the idea but who also said they wanted us to do this or that with the book,” Lewis said.

Eventually Lewis and Fisk formed their own publishing company, and the Unexplained Research Publishing Company was born.

In addition to the Wisconsin road guide, Lewis and Fisk have published a Minnesota road guide to haunted locations, a South Dakota road guide, and an Iowa road guide.

Lewis says that he and his colleague neither believe nor disbelieve in ghosts.


A neutral state of mind, he said, is essential for carrying out a proper investigation.

Lewis and Fisk receive 100 e-mail messages every week from people around the country and around the world who have stories to tell.

Caryville Church

In many of the cases investigated by Lewis and Fisk, local lore about a reportedly haunted location is abundant, but when they research the history, they cannot find a factual basis.

For example, one story is that the Caryville Church was built by a priest named Jacob who later hung himself in the belfry and that people have seen an apparition in the bell tower.

The Caryville Church, however, is actually the Spring Brook Lutheran church. Lutheran churches do not have priests. Lutheran churches have ministers. And furthermore, longtime residents in the area refute the story that anyone ever killed himself in the church, Lewis said.

Mary of Elk Lake Dam

That’s not the case with Mary of Elk Lake Dam.

On Feb. 15, 1974, a young woman hitchhiking across Wisconsin named Mary K. Schlais was murdered and her body was later found near the Elk Lake Dam.

Her murder has never been solved.

But since then, numerous people have reported seeing the ghostly figure of a young woman around the area of the bridge and the dam.

Lewis and Fisk interviewed two men who may have encountered Mary one day.

The two men were sitting by the dam. One of them turned around to look behind them and then turned back to his friend and said, “There’s a glowing white woman behind us.” His companion said, “I know, but I’m not turning around.”

When Lewis and Fisk asked to see the spot where they had been sitting, one of the men refused to accompany them.

Later on, while Lewis was conducting a conference about paranormal research, a woman told him about her mother, who lived near Elk Lake Dam.

The woman’s elderly mother told her that every day a young woman walked out of the river and would come and have tea and cookies with her.

The mother said her visitor was named Mary.

Initially, the woman thought her mother was “seeing things” and was suffering from some form of senile dementia — until she heard about Mary at the conference.

According to the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department, Mary’s body was dumped half a mile from the dam, Lewis said.

The young woman, who fought back against her attacker, was stabbed repeatedly but was not sexually assaulted.

The case has gotten so much publicity recently that the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department. has decided to re-open it, Lewis said.

Several longtime residents in the area say they believe the murderer lived in the area, Lewis said.

“Is the murderer still alive? Is he still out there?” Lewis wondered. “That was 30 years ago, but every time I do a conference (in this area), I look at the audience, and I wonder if he could be out there. Or I wonder if someone who knows something about the murder is still out there.”

Mabel Tainter

Although some people claim the ghost of Mabel Tainter is haunting the theater, Lewis thinks it is unlikely, seeing as the theater was built by her parents as a tribute after Mabel died.

“People who work at the theater wonder if it could be Mabel’s mother haunting the place,” Lewis said.

At any rate, staff members at the theater have reported that alarms have been set off, but when the alarm is investigated, nothing or no one is found to account for it.

A weird ball of light has also been seen in a storage room.

And people have driven by at night and have reported seeing figures moving around inside the building or people standing in the windows and looking out at the street.

“We stayed at the Mabel Tainter overnight for our investigation, but nothing happened,” Lewis said.

The absence of any paranormal activity during their investigations is not unusual, he said.

“I always tell people that if they are afraid of ghosts, hang out with a ghost investigator because we never see any,” Lewis said.

By the same token, Lewis said that he and Fisk have worked with psychics and with people known as “intuitives.” Strange things have happened in the presence of the intuitives and psychics, according to Lewis.

“Sometimes when we bring intuitives and psychics on our investigations, we get to the place, and they refuse to go in. They’ll just say they’re going to stay in the car,” Lewis said.

“It’s a good indication that we’re at a place where there might be something,” he said. “And when they say they’re not going in, we say, ‘that’s where we’re going.’”

Other reportedly haunted places in the area

• Devil’s Punchbowl — People report seeing strange balls of light and also a gnome-like figure.

• UW-Stout JTC Residence Hall — According to rumor, a student hung himself in the dorm. Stout officials will not release the young man’s name, but students and staff say they have heard voices in empty rooms and that doors lock and unlock themselves and that equipment in the cafeteria is misplaced or tips over for no apparent reason.

• Caddie Woodlawn Park — Visitors say the old cabin is a spooky place with cold spots and the sound of someone walking around on the second floor when no one is there. A sense of eeriness pervades the grounds, and people have also reported seeing shadowy figures in the park.

• Lookout tower at Mound Hill Park — Footsteps are heard coming up the stairs at the look-out tower but no one appears. People also report hearing ghostly children playing in the woods. The newest story is that a dragon is buried in the hill under the tower.

• Meridean — the ghost of a young girl named Mary Dean is said to haunt the island and the boat landing, and some visitors have reported hearing the growling and snarling of hellhounds after dark and seeing glowing red eyes in the woods.

If you visit

Lewis and Fisk like to remind people that if they visit any of these reportedly haunted places to remain respectful of both public and private property.

“Dunn County has probably collected thousands of dollars already for no-trespassing tickets,” Lewis said.

Eerie Eau Claire conference

Lewis is one of four paranormal investigators who will be speaking at the Eerie Eau Claire Conference on Saturday, Oct. 28. The conference will be held at the Plaza Hotel, 1202 West Clairemont Ave., and begins at 7 p.m. Doors are open at 6:30 p.m. The cost is $9 per person, at the door.

For more information about the conference or the books, visit www.unexplainedresearch.com, or call the Plaza Hotel in downtown Eau Claire at (715) 834-3181.

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