A search on the Internet for hauntings in Wisconsin
includes a few for
the Coulee Region. La Crosse can claim the Bodega Brew
Pub, Old Holmbo
House and Del's Bar. Coon Valley's DiSciascio's has
its own mischievous
female apparition. But surely an intrepid reporter
ought to be able to
scare up more spooky stories than that.
In an e-mail, Eau Claire-based paranormal investigator
Chad Lewis said
he has investigated a lot of cases from this area but
never came up with
A hunt for Holmen hauntings produced little. Sue
Stranc, the reference
librarian in the Holmen Area Library, said she thought
the library had a
poltergeist moving things around at night, but then
she realized it was
just janitorial staff.
Ghost stories don't get spread too widely around
Holmen, anyway. There
are a lot of conservative Norwegians in the area who
will not believe
anything unless they see it for themselves, Stranc
Mark Waldenberger agreed with Stranc. Waldenberger,
director and chief
field investigator of the Coulee Region Paranormal
Society, said the conservative nature of the area
keeps people from
talking about the paranormal.
A talk with Waldenberger, though, might make one
believe the area is
crawling with spirits.
For example, he said, one time the Onalaska Police
Department got a
report of someone pounding on the outside of a
resident's home. The
police orchestrated a sting so they could pounce on
and the sting worked - almost.
As the police waited in the garage, a thumping sound
like a two-by-four
hitting the house was heard, said Waldenberger. The
officers swarmed out
of the garage but found no one there.
The cemetery at Halfway Creek Lutheran, east of Holmen
on Highway W, and
the area around the Shefelbine orchard on Highway M
are both hotspots
for baffling experiences, said Waldenberger, including
If anybody would know about ghosts in West Salem it
would have to be
Errol Kindschy, local historian and president of the
Historical Society. And Kindschy had stories to tell,
but first he
"I don't believe in ghosts, because I have never seen
one. Until I see
one, I will never believe it," he said.
"However," he added, "there are some strange things
going on that I
Kindschy said he has been questioned about house
histories after the
most recent residents experienced strange, unexplained
Kindschy has plenty of stories about the home that
once belonged to
Hamlin Garland, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author.
Kindschy said things
began happening when they started to remodel the
homestead back to its
original shape in the 1970s and have continued since
Many of the stories involve lights coming on,
thermostats being turned
up or other objects being moved after the house had
been checked and
locked up. Most of the occurrences have been recorded.
"I have documented the time and the place and what has
is no pattern. There isn't anything that that really
shows me anything
of material aberrance," said Kindschy.
One morning, the volunteers who opened the Garland
home found something
disturbing. In Garland's bedroom, the bed had a form
of a person pressed
into the covers - nothing else was disturbed - as if a
body had been
placed on the bed then lifted off, leaving the covers
in place. The
doors had been locked. No one was left in the
Kindschy said he thinks the only reason Hamlin Garland
would be haunting
is because Garland - who did not die at the homestead
- wanted his ashes
brought to West Salem and spread on the hillside, but
this did not happen.
Recorded in the book "Ghosts Along the Mississippi,"
an interview with
Kindschy illustrates other stories about the Garland
homestead and who
the ghosts might be - if there are actual ghosts.
Kindschy also had part in stories outside the Garland
"Old Salem" is where Kindschy calls home. It is the
old Thomas Leonard
home. He said he lives in an upstairs apartment that
was added on to the
original home and sells antiques from the original
One afternoon about three years ago, a woman was in
the shop and said
she saw an apparition on the stairway.
Later that day, in preparation for a meeting of the
Historical Society, Kindschy said he had a couple over
for dinner. The
husband ran to do an errand before the meeting while
the wife stayed and
insisted on doing the dishes with Kindschy.
While doing the dishes, Kindschy said they both heard
a knock on the
door. Thinking it was someone early for the meeting,
he walked about 15
feet to open the door and no one was there.
"My cat, Snuggles, came trotting up to see what was
going on. When he
got to the door, he turned around and bee-lined it
under the bed and he
hid," said Kindschy.
There are probably a lot more ghost stories in the
area that just
haven't been heard. Mark Waldenberger said Mark Twain
was the most haunted state in the union. Maybe Twain
Contact Tony Nelson at 786-6813 or