Apr 29, 2004
researcher finds Wausau strange
A motivational speaker preached self-help in a large conference
room while hotel guests splashed around in an indoor pool
nearby. Nothing out of the ordinary for a Saturday evening at
the Holiday Inn Convention and Expo Center in Stevens Point.
But in a smaller conference room, a capacity crowd of 168
listened to stories of unexplained phenomena in haunted locales
"We don't often think that these things happen right in our
back yard," paranormal expert Chad Lewis said. Every year,
he organizes a half-dozen conferences in Wisconsin on the
Our haunted back yard includes a business in Oshkosh, a back
road in Portage County and the historic Grand Theater in
downtown Wausau. Strange things happen all the time, and who's
to say where urban legend ends and spooky reality begins?
29, still asks himself that question after 10 years as an
amateur paranormal investigator. He's a skeptic with an open
"I go on letting the evidence lead me one way or the
other," he said Saturday in response to a question from the
audience about his belief in the phenomena he investigates.
His presentation is half seminar, half performance, and when
speaking to a mixed audience of believers and cynics, his voice
takes on the dramatic cadence of a camp counselor telling a
ghost story around a fire.
The cast of characters includes phantom children, phantom men
with lanterns, phantom witches, phantom dogs and even a phantom
8-foot headless chicken. Lewis, who earns his living as a grant
writer for a nonprofit group in Eau Claire, punctuates his
stories with a slide show of the supposedly haunted places. The
audience braces itself for a ghost sighting with each new slide.
He said his investigations almost always fail to turn up
evidence of the paranormal, but people still swear that the
house on the corner is haunted or the fallen tree is a portal to
hell. Wausau is no different from the rest of Wisconsin.
"There's something strange about Wausau," Lewis said
later in a phone interview. "But it could be said that
every place is that strange."
paranormal problems here, Todd Roll is on the case.
Roll, 39, a University of Wisconsin Marathon County reference
librarian, has been investigating the unexplained for nearly
five years and is a member of the Wausau Paranormal Research
Society, which conducts tours of haunted sites in downtown
Wausau every October.
The society's Web site, at http://pat-wausau.org/,
identifies the Marathon County Historical Society, Wausau
Downtown Airport and Shepherd & Schaller Sporting Goods as
haunted landmarks. But the Grand Theater is Wausau's paranormal
claim to fame.
"There are many stories from the people that work there of
seeing this apparition of a man in the stage area or up in the
balcony," Roll said.
His name is Larry.
"I've met Larry," Performing Arts Foundation Executive
Director Jim O'Connell said with more than a hint of mirth.
Larry Beltz, a former stage manager at the Grand Theater, has
been dead for more than a decade. But O'Connell and others say
they hear, see or sense him in the theater.
Dorothy Korzilius, 82, is an exception. She hasn't bumped into
any ghosts during her 20 years volunteering as an usher at the
I haven't," she said, "but I have heard rumors."
City Streets appears every Thursday in the Daily Herald. David
Paulsen covers the city of Wausau for the newspaper. He can
be reached by phone at 845-0663 and by e-mail at email@example.com.