Road trips can result in haunting memories

As you begin planning your summer vacation, why settle for the average trip to some amusement park when you could be chased by hellhounds, go camping with ghosts or sleep in a haunted bed and breakfast?

Best of all, most of these exotic trips are less than a day away and catalogued in the recently published "The Wisconsin Road Guide to Haunted Locations" by Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk, co-hosts of "The Unexplained" radio and television programs. Fisk was in Winona on Saturday signing books at Book World in the Winona Mall.

Their last three years have been spent tracking down ghost stories and investigating haunted places.

"In 90 percent of the cases, the information that people gave us was wrong," Fisk said. "They were just stories or urban legends. Oftentimes, they never gave directions, and when they did they were wrong."

That still left the other 10 percent.

For those cases, much of the ghost hunting didn't take place in cemeteries or in old, abandoned houses. Research happened mostly in libraries and courthouses. Fisk said most ghost stories center around a violent or tragic death like a murder or suicide.

"Sometimes we can show that nothing happened in a place. We're able to debunk a myth," Fisk said. "Even so, some people still believe. Then there are hauntings for unknown reasons. People create urban legends to try and explain what's happening."

Other people like going ghost hunting for a thrill, whether they believe in it or not.

"It's thrill seeking. It's like going to an amusement park or bungee jumping or going to a horror film," Fisk said.

And he looks the part of a paranormal investigator n shaved head, goatee, black suit and black pants. While he's dedicated his life to exploring the supernatural or paranormal, he's also disliked and sometimes distrusted by everyone.

"The believers believe what they want and don't like you because you don't," Fisk said. "Then the cynics tell you there's no evidence and you shouldn't even study this."

Fisk remains skeptical of many of the stories.

"If you're afraid of ghosts and never want to see them, then become a ghost investigator," Fisk said.

But several encounters have nudged Fisk closer to the believers than the cynics.

Lewis and Fisk were investigating a haunted lighthouse on Rock Island in Door County. Because no vehicles are allowed on the island, they had to hike to the lighthouse on the other side of the island. Arriving after dark, they found the lighthouse padlocked. Shortly after they pitched camp, they heard the banging of a door against the wall inside the lighthouse.

"It startled us," Fisk said. "We thought the wind could have caused it, but there was no wind. We listened again and it happened. We don't know. It's possible it could have been an animal."

That possibility of something extraordinary rattling the door is what keeps people fascinated.

"Every culture in the world today and in history has a belief in ghosts," Fisk said. "It's something inside of people. They want to know if they survive. Hauntings give us some assurance of survival beyond the grave. It does have to do with a fear of death."


"The Wisconsin Road Guide to Haunted Locations" is available at Book World in the Winona Mall, 1213 Gilmore Ave.

Authors Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk plan to write a guide to haunted locations in Minnesota. They also plan a second volume for Wisconsin in a couple years.

One spot highlighted in the Wisconsin book is in the town of Sumner in Trempealeau County at the intersection of Highway 53 and County Road H. According to the book, there have been reports of the ghost of an Indian dancer spotted at the intersection. While an Indian teenager was killed in the area more than 20 years ago, it was not at the site where the dancer has been spotted.

For more information, log on to www.unexplainedresearch.com.


Terry Fisk, co-author of "The Wisconsin Road Guide to Haunted Locations" and a co-host of the Unexplained, shares some frequently asked questions.

How do you know whether a place is haunted?

Besides seeing apparitions, Fisk said that common tell-tale signs of haunting include rooms that have a cold spot in them or will, without reason, become drafty. Many reports of hauntings include smelling a certain perfume or odor associated with someone who has died, for example, a certain brand of pipe tobacco.

Why do hauntings always happen at night?

"One theory is that nighttime is when the veil between the living and the dead gets thinner," Fisk said.

While it seems that most ghostly encounters take place at night, there are very few good explanations he's heard which cover this topic.

Are all hauntings the result of tragic deaths?

"The top ghost stories we hear always go along with hangings and accidents," Fisk said.

Whether that's the stuff of urban legends, Fisk doesn't know. His own theory of ghosts centers around spirits that are lingering and haven't passed into another world.

"They haven't passed the way they should. They may not realize they're dead. Some may need assistance. Others weren't ready," he said.

Is every cemetery haunted?

Fisk defers that question to Peter James, a noted psychic and television host, who believes that most cemeteries are not haunted. Rather, most hauntings take place at the site where something tragic or not happened.

"For most people, cemeteries are a psychological thing," Fisk said.

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