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Bumps in the Night

Alyssa Waters
Eau Claire Leader-Telegram
Sunday, February 10, 2002

Is a 117-year-old Chippewa Falls landmark haunted? The new owner isn't ready to say so, but the odd creaks, weird noises and bizarre string of events make a convincing case.

Chippewa Falls News Bureau

CHIPPEWA FALLS -- The floors creak. The lights flicker. Frigid air is felt on the way up to the third floor.

But does that mean that the James Sheeley House Saloon and Restaurant is haunted?

Owner Jim Bloms says it's all in what you believe.

Former Sheeley House owner Joel Seidlitz, who now works for Bloms as a bartender, said he is convinced something strange has been happening in the bar and restaurant for years.

Seidlitz bought the building in the early '90s to use primarily as a bar. The second and third floors were not used, except for the third-floor cooler, which held the alcohol.

Many of Seidlitz's workers were aware of doors opening, shutting and locking on their own, but when one of his bar staff walked down the stairs as white as a ghost, Seidlitz knew something was up.

The bartender went up to the cooler to grab some alcohol when the cooler closed and locked from the outside and the light went out.

Seidlitz said the bartender thought the staff was playing a joke on him.

A half-hour later he realized it was no joke. He fumbled around in the dark cooler, found a pointed object and managed to pop the lock.

But Seidlitz's stories don't end there.

His former workers have heard footsteps, gone upstairs to check it out and found no one.

Items have been moved.

"It's little stuff," he said. "You'll be standing and something just falls off the walls."

Bloms, a Birchwood businessman who has owned a restaurant in Rice Lake, has worked hard to add his own personal touch to the Sheeley House since he bought the establishment in August 2001.

After changing hands twice in three years, the Sheeley House closed in 2000. It sat empty until Bloms, who owned the Country Inn in Rice Lake from 1980 to 1995, bought it and made plans to restore the historic building.

But as he has worked on restoration, Bloms has noticed some strange happenings.

Before he took over the building Bloms noticed a mural that was painted on the wall in the foyer of the second floor.

He said it wasn't something that went with his motif, so he sanded it down, worked to get the colors off the wall, primed and repainted it.

"The roses in the garden scene keep bleeding through," Bloms said.

But he said that can be attributed to the specific paint used.

"I don't believe in the supernatural paranormal," Bloms said with disinterest. "I think a lot of it has to do with how much you believe in it."

Kim Slaby, who is in her second stint as a server at the restaurant, says the spooky tales weren't as frequent when she worked there in 1983.

"Things kind of just evolved," she said.

Slaby said one girl got locked in the bathroom. Another time Slaby was on the second floor when spoons came out of nowhere and fell to the ground.

"I'm fascinated with that part of it, but it's not like I've experienced (sightings) firsthand," she said.

When she heard the bar and restaurant would be reopened, Slaby said she wanted to return to the job she loved.

Although Slaby said there is a feel of spirits in the old house, the difference housing spirits and actually being a haunted house is a big one.

"I don't think it's haunted," she said. "If it was an evil haunted, that would drive people away."

John Paul, who operated a boarding house one block west, erected the building in 1884.

Paul's public house contained a ground floor saloon, first floor public dining and family living quarters. The second floor consisted of sleeping quarters.

James Sheeley and his wife, Kate, purchased the house in 1905. The Sheeleys and their three children, Anna, William and Howard, prepared meals and did housekeeping for the sleeping room.

Kate Sheeley kept the boarding house going after her husband died in 1913, and Anna took over after Kate died in 1934.

The saloon closed in 1967, and Anna rented rooms until the late '70s.

In a history of the house, Dave Raihle Sr., who bought the house in 1981, said Anna had become reclusive. She resided only in the dining room and the kitchen.

Raihle said Anna Sheeley was a proud and independent woman who traveled uptown on a regular basis to see friends.

After 76 years, Anna left her home and was placed in the Golden Age Home. She died in 1991.

Both Bloms and Slaby said many of the stories that circulate in Chippewa Falls attribute the strange happenings to Anna Sheeley.

"People say, ĎAnna must have taken it,' " Bloms said of any missing items. "That's the standard joke."

But Bloms has a hard time blaming Anna for large men's footsteps that appeared out of nowhere on the top two stairs of the house.

Bloms was working on refinishing the treads on the stairs. He got new wood and was varnishing it. Suddenly large footprints appeared on the top two steps, clearly under the varnish, after the process had been completed.

No one was walking on the stairs during the refinishing process, Bloms said. He said it's possible that someone walked on the new wood with some type of chemicals on the soles of the shoes.

"It's easy to make something out of nothing," Bloms said. "It's a novelty that's used in conversation."

But Bloms said if there is a spirit in the Sheeley House, it hasn't shown itself or harmed anything.

"If we do have one, I'd say it's a friendly ghost with a sense of humor," he said.

 

Waters can be reached at (715) 723-0303 or alyssa.waters@ecpc.com.                              Source: Story Courtesy Alyssa Waters


Designed by Terry Fisk
Revised: September 14, 2004

Designed by Terry Fisk
Copyright © Unexplained Research. All rights reserved.
Revised: September 14, 2004