The Haunted Chippewa Valley

Paranormal conference speakers discuss ghosts, werewolves

As a young boy, paranormal researcher Chad Lewis said his older brother often saw a man in their house with what appeared to be a strange rash around his neck. It was not until after his family moved out that their mom told them a previous owner hung himself.

This experience sparked an interest in Lewis about what happens when people die and the possibility of ghosts being real.

Lewis will be one of three speakers at a paranormal conference at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Plaza Hotel, 1202 W. Clairemont Ave. The other speakers will be paranormal investigator Rick Hendricks and Linda Godfrey, who wrote "The Beast of Bray Road: Tailing Wisconsin's Werewolf."

Lewis said he never directly had an experience before he started investigating the paranormal. His work as an undergraduate in psychology at UW-Stout started his desire to look futher into such occurrences.

Lewis also has a graduate degree in applied psychology from Stout.

Senior John Schaffer has been on investigations with Lewis and plans to go to the conference, which he's attended three times in the past.
The investigation Schaffer went on with Lewis involved exploring a house the owners claimed was haunted. The house, Schaffer said, was located next to a railroad and the owners had nine dogs. Excessive growling was the main sound they both heard in the house. While upstairs, Schaffer said he heard a growl, but after thinking about it, he wasn't sure if it was a dog or something else. In cases such as these, he said, the researchers are objective and don't have expectations for the investigations. In addition, he said, sometimes they aren't trying to prove that something is true, but trying to disprove it.

As a skeptic of the paranormal, Schaffer said he appreciates the research that sometimes proves there are more questions out there and that researchers focus more on that than just finding answers. He said he started going to paranormal conferences because they prove humans can't understand everything and that we never will know everything about scientific discoveries.

"It's always fun to hear what the speakers have to say," he said.

All three of the speakers plan to localize the research they have done to be pertinent to the audience and to the Chippewa Valley. Lewis said he is presenting a slide show about the haunted Chippewa Valley, and he plans to focus on new cases from places in the community that few people know about.

Approaching the information he gets from both sides is one technique Lewis said he uses when he hears a story from someone about paranormal activity. When he was undergraduate at Stout, he wanted to know if these experiences were happening and how they affect the human race.

The Paranormal Conference
Time: 6 p.m.
Date: Saturday
Place: The Plaza Hotel, 1202 W. Clairemont Ave.
Cost: $7

"I am trying to sort out fact from fiction in my investigations," he said. In his presentations, he always sets up the history and investigations of stories he hears, and then leaves it up to the people to decide if they think it is true or if the place is haunted. He also said he offers tips for people who plan on going to places he talks about, telling them to get permission or go with other people and bring flashlights.

Lori Rowlett, associate professor of philosophy and religious studies, has been on Lewis' TV show, "The Unexplained," on CVT-11 to talk about voodoo related to spiritual possession.

"I think he's curious about everything that can't be explained in ordinary ways," Rowlett said.

Hendricks, a UW-Eau Claire alumnus, said he plans to talk about encounters with ghosts, aliens, monsters and fairies, as well as ghosts appearing in showers.

Hendricks' interest in the paranormal came from when his mother ran a haunted saloon in Ladysmith where there were ghosts who moved things around, he said. Since he knew most of the customers who went to the saloon, it made him wonder why certain people have experiences and some don't, he said.

"I'm not out to convince people these things are real," Hendricks said.

Rather, similar to Lewis, he presents the data, and usually can tell if it's a hoax. From there, however, some difficulties in researching the paranormal occur.

Sometimes things only happen to some people in a subjective sense, he said. Something may happen specific to their life involving someone they know in their house, for example. This makes it difficult, Hendricks said, to go in as an objective person to try and have the same experience happen.

Lewis also expressed some difficulties in his research when trying to gauge how much time to devote to investigations. Lewis said he has heard stories that have been true, but hasn't found anything when he investigated them. That doesn't mean, though, that the place isn't haunted, he said.

Wasting time is also a frustration for Lewis. You have to be there for something to happen, he said, but it is frustrating when something could happen one night and then not happen for years.

But these frustrations don't change Lewis' or the other speakers' fascination with the paranormal.

Sometimes getting interested in these topics comes unnaturally. Godfrey was always interested in the human spirit because of her dad, but never thought about werewolves until she had to write a newspaper article about people possibly seeing one near Elkhorn, she said in an e-mail.

"That sort of thing will pique anyone's interest, quickly," she said.

Godfrey will be talking about her newest book, as well as the relationship between it and her first book, "The Poison Widow: A True Story of Sin, Strychnine and Murder," she said.

Similar to Lewis and Hendricks, Godfrey remains somewhat skeptical in her research.

"I do believe there is a spiritual world beyond our usual five senses and that human beings can have the ability to perceive some things from this world," she said. "I always examine people's stories closely, and try to play devil's advocate on behalf of my readers. I always try to report fairly on what people say, and then look at surrounding circumstances to see if their statement can be supported."

Both students and the speakers are looking forward to certain aspects of the conference.

"I've had people come to the conference and tell stories they haven't told to anyone for 20 to 30 years," Lewis said. "That's by far my favorite part of conference. It's amazing the stories you hear when people find out who to tell."

If not to tell stories of personal experiences, there are other reasons to go.

"Anybody who comes will have a great time," Hendricks said.

Rowlett, who never has been to a conference, said she is very open to going and has always wanted to go to one. You don't have to truly believe in the paranormal to have fun at a paranormal conference, she said.

Schaffer said the speakers are very professional, and the topics of the conference are things students won't necessarily hear about at school. When compared to other social activities, like going to the bars, Schaffer said it's a good alternative, especially to get people in the mood for the Halloween season.


Designed by Terry Fisk
Revised: September 28, 2004