The ghost of
a young woman named Mary haunts the Elk
Apparitions and strange lights appear at
the Mabel Tainter Memorial Theater.
Cold spots and shadowy figures inhabit
the Caddie Woodlawn Park.
These and a hundred other stories of
ghosts and apparitions have been
collected by paranormal researchers Chad
Lewis and Terry Fisk and published in
“The Wisconsin Road Guide to Haunted
Lewis, who currently resides part-time
in Eau Claire and part-time in
Minneapolis, earned a master’s degree in
applied psychology from UW-Stout.
“The stories in the book are only
one-fifth of what we collected,” Lewis
Lewis and Fisk have collected hundreds
of other stories from around the state.
As an undergraduate student, Lewis
became interested in UFOs and alien
“If it was really happening, what would
that mean for us as humans, for our
religion and for our place in the
universe?” Lewis said.
“If it was
not happening, what does that say about
our belief systems?” he wondered.
Two other questions, Lewis noted, are
universal to human beings: “What happens
when we die?” and “Are we alone in the
All of those questions make a perfect
fit with applied psychology, Lewis said,
which is exactly what it sounds like —
applying psychology to the everyday
questions of life.
for a book
After Lewis met his colleague at a
conference and the two of them teamed up
to develop a Web site about haunted
places in Wisconsin, they wanted to find
some of the places.
“We found out that a lot of the history
was made up and that the directions to
get there were horrible,” Lewis said.
“So we started looking for a book to
help us find those haunted places,” he
As it turns
out, no book was available anywhere.
And that’s when Lewis and Fisk struck
upon the idea to write their own book.
“We shopped the idea around to various
publishers who liked the idea but who
also said they wanted us to do this or
that with the book,” Lewis said.
Eventually Lewis and Fisk formed their
own publishing company, and the
Unexplained Research Publishing Company
In addition to the Wisconsin road guide,
Lewis and Fisk have published a
Minnesota road guide to haunted
locations, a South Dakota road guide,
and an Iowa road guide.
Lewis says that he and his colleague
neither believe nor disbelieve in
state of mind, he said, is essential for
carrying out a proper investigation.
Lewis and Fisk receive 100 e-mail
messages every week from people around
the country and around the world who
have stories to tell.
In many of the cases investigated by
Lewis and Fisk, local lore about a
reportedly haunted location is abundant,
but when they research the history, they
cannot find a factual basis.
For example, one story is that the
Caryville Church was built by a priest
named Jacob who later hung himself in
the belfry and that people have seen an
apparition in the bell tower.
The Caryville Church, however, is
actually the Spring Brook Lutheran
church. Lutheran churches do not have
priests. Lutheran churches have
ministers. And furthermore, longtime
residents in the area refute the story
that anyone ever killed himself in the
church, Lewis said.
Mary of Elk Lake Dam
That’s not the case with Mary of Elk
On Feb. 15, 1974, a young woman
hitchhiking across Wisconsin named Mary
K. Schlais was murdered and her body was
later found near the Elk Lake Dam.
Her murder has never been solved.
But since then, numerous people have
reported seeing the ghostly figure of a
young woman around the area of the
bridge and the dam.
Lewis and Fisk interviewed two men who
may have encountered Mary one day.
The two men were sitting by the dam. One
of them turned around to look behind
them and then turned back to his friend
and said, “There’s a glowing white woman
behind us.” His companion said, “I know,
but I’m not turning around.”
When Lewis and Fisk asked to see the
spot where they had been sitting, one of
the men refused to accompany them.
Later on, while Lewis was conducting a
conference about paranormal research, a
woman told him about her mother, who
lived near Elk Lake Dam.
The woman’s elderly mother told her that
every day a young woman walked out of
the river and would come and have tea
and cookies with her.
The mother said her visitor was named
Initially, the woman thought her mother
was “seeing things” and was suffering
from some form of senile dementia —
until she heard about Mary at the
According to the Dunn County Sheriff’s
Department, Mary’s body was dumped half
a mile from the dam, Lewis said.
The young woman, who fought back against
her attacker, was stabbed repeatedly but
was not sexually assaulted.
The case has gotten so much publicity
recently that the Dunn County Sheriff’s
Department. has decided to re-open it,
Several longtime residents in the area
say they believe the murderer lived in
the area, Lewis said.
“Is the murderer still alive? Is he
still out there?” Lewis wondered. “That
was 30 years ago, but every time I do a
conference (in this area), I look at the
audience, and I wonder if he could be
out there. Or I wonder if someone who
knows something about the murder is
still out there.”
Although some people claim the ghost of
Mabel Tainter is haunting the theater,
Lewis thinks it is unlikely, seeing as
the theater was built by her parents as
a tribute after Mabel died.
“People who work at the theater wonder
if it could be Mabel’s mother haunting
the place,” Lewis said.
At any rate, staff members at the
theater have reported that alarms have
been set off, but when the alarm is
investigated, nothing or no one is found
to account for it.
A weird ball of light has also been seen
in a storage room.
And people have driven by at night and
have reported seeing figures moving
around inside the building or people
standing in the windows and looking out
at the street.
“We stayed at the Mabel Tainter
overnight for our investigation, but
nothing happened,” Lewis said.
The absence of any paranormal activity
during their investigations is not
unusual, he said.
“I always tell people that if they are
afraid of ghosts, hang out with a ghost
investigator because we never see any,”
By the same token, Lewis said that he
and Fisk have worked with psychics and
with people known as “intuitives.”
Strange things have happened in the
presence of the intuitives and psychics,
according to Lewis.
“Sometimes when we bring intuitives and
psychics on our investigations, we get
to the place, and they refuse to go in.
They’ll just say they’re going to stay
in the car,” Lewis said.
“It’s a good indication that we’re at a
place where there might be something,”
he said. “And when they say they’re not
going in, we say, ‘that’s where we’re
Other reportedly haunted places in the
• Devil’s Punchbowl — People report
seeing strange balls of light and also a
• UW-Stout JTC Residence Hall —
According to rumor, a student hung
himself in the dorm. Stout officials
will not release the young man’s name,
but students and staff say they have
heard voices in empty rooms and that
doors lock and unlock themselves and
that equipment in the cafeteria is
misplaced or tips over for no apparent
• Caddie Woodlawn Park — Visitors say
the old cabin is a spooky place with
cold spots and the sound of someone
walking around on the second floor when
no one is there. A sense of eeriness
pervades the grounds, and people have
also reported seeing shadowy figures in
• Lookout tower at Mound Hill Park —
Footsteps are heard coming up the stairs
at the look-out tower but no one
appears. People also report hearing
ghostly children playing in the woods.
The newest story is that a dragon is
buried in the hill under the tower.
• Meridean — the ghost of a young girl
named Mary Dean is said to haunt the
island and the boat landing, and some
visitors have reported hearing the
growling and snarling of hellhounds
after dark and seeing glowing red eyes
in the woods.
If you visit
Lewis and Fisk like to remind people
that if they visit any of these
reportedly haunted places to remain
respectful of both public and private
“Dunn County has probably collected
thousands of dollars already for
no-trespassing tickets,” Lewis said.
Eerie Eau Claire conference
Lewis is one of four paranormal
investigators who will be speaking at
the Eerie Eau Claire Conference on
Saturday, Oct. 28. The conference will
be held at the Plaza Hotel, 1202 West
Clairemont Ave., and begins at 7 p.m.
Doors are open at 6:30 p.m. The cost is
$9 per person, at the door.
For more information about the
conference or the books, visit
www.unexplainedresearch.com, or call
the Plaza Hotel in downtown Eau Claire
at (715) 834-3181.