Tales of ghosts entertain crowd

Chad Lewis at Kilbourn Public Library

Anna Krejci/Events

Author and ghost researcher Chad Lewis talks with Wisconsin Dells residents Alexandra Eckert and Jennifer Harris after giving a presentation April 21 on haunted locales in Wisconsin at the Kilbourn Public Library.

By Anna Krejci, Dells Events


08/17/09 - Wisconsin Dells Events


Residents and tourists might expect a spook from a visit to the Showboat Saloon on Broadway, a Highway 12 ghost hitchhiker in Baraboo or a haunted cemetery in Portage.

About 150 people attended a presentation on Wisconsin’s haunted places April 21 at the Kilbourn Public Library. Chad Lewis, a ghost researcher for Unexplained Research, LLC who has penned several books on the spirit world and earned a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, presented his findings.

He said he’s been researching ghosts and the bizarre for 14 years, including vampires and unidentified flying objects.

“If it’s weird, I’ve traveled the world in search of it,” Lewis told his audience.

Lewis and his co-author, Terry Fisk, have documented the stories about the haunted places in the state in a 2004 book, “The Wisconsin Road Guide to Haunted Locations,” on which his presentation was based. He said he’s been to all of the places he’s written about and has never had a paranormal experience himself. He joked with the audience by saying if someone is afraid of ghosts, go with a ghost researcher because they never see anything.

Lewis spoke about cemeteries, bridges, hotels and bars across Wisconsin, each place with a bit of lore surrounding it. He’s investigated the claims for haunted locations at Nelsen’s Hall in Door County, Chicken Alley Road in Shawano, La Belle Cemetery in Oconomowoc and Little Bohemia Hotel in Manitowish Waters.

He retold a tale about the ruins of the Maribel Caves Hotel in Maribel, a place that is said to be haunted by the ghosts of guests who died in a fire there. Legend has it there is an old well made into a flower garden that serves as a passageway to hell. It’s a familiar claim to Lewis.

“Over the last 15 years, I’ve collected nearly half a dozen places in Wisconsin that all claim to be a portal to hell. I’m just waiting for that national headline to come out: Wisconsin, portal to hell.”

But as far as Lewis’ research has taken him, he’s found no talk of mysterious doorways to the underworld in the Dells area. Instead, legend has it that at the Showboat Saloon a girl named Molly lived on the second floor and her spirit has been haunting the premises. It’s been claimed that the doors upstairs open and shut on their own, Molly’s ghost tampers with the appliances in the upstairs kitchen, ghosts in early 1900s garb appear in the mirrors in the bar, peculiar voices are heard, there are cold spots in the cellar, kegs are displaced and visitors are overcome with nausea in the cellar.

The Haunted Crypt, formally called the Dungeon of Horrors, on Broadway used to be a gas station where the owner took his life with a gun. People have reported strange noises and the sensation as if someone were breathing over their shoulders when they were alone.

On Highway 12 in Baraboo numerous accounts tell of a man dressed in a green jacket hitchhiking along the road. Drivers would see him at one point and see the same man reappear out of nowhere farther down the road. It is said the man appears to be transparent.

It is claimed that the ghost of a teenage girl who hung herself from a tree haunts the small cemetery at the end of Church Road Cemetery in Portage, Lewis said. Visitors say they are struck with a feeling of illness at the cemetery that leaves them once they are distanced from the place. They say they hear the creaking sound of a noose suspended from a tree and see an apparition of the woman hanging.

Lewis’ involvement in researching spirits developed out of another project, he told the Dells Events in an interview after the presentation.

“I started researching UFOs, and when I went to college, I was really interested in why people believe or why they don’t believe. And I started presenting my research on that, and people would just come up from the audience and say, ‘I know this isn’t really what you’re doing, but I think my home may be haunted,’ or ‘I saw something in the woods I couldn’t explain. Could you help me investigate it,’” he said.

He recognized the demand for discussion about paranormal experiences and capitalized on it. After his presentation, Lewis spoke with people waiting in line to hear his thoughts on a personal encounter with spirits or sign a copy of his books.

Some people attending the presentation said they really enjoyed it.

“It was very interesting. Everything he talked to you could relate to really well,” said Gary Lorbiecki of Friendship.

Lorbiecki said his uncle lives across the way from the Highway 66 bridge in Stevens Point that Lewis said is supposedly haunted by a bloody bride who died in a car accident there years ago.

Lorbiecki and his wife, Joan, said they want to visit some of the places that Lewis described.

“We’ve always been kind of interested in the paranormal,” Joan said.

About six years ago she said she saw the spirit of her deceased brother pass through a door while reading a magazine. They had kept her brother’s ashes in an urn in the bedroom closet, she said.

Others haven’t been so “lucky” as to have had such an encounter. Dells resident Cory Vodvarka said he’s made ghost searching a hobby. He’s been to the grave sites on Church Road Cemetery in Portage more than once, he said.

“I haven’t seen anything, unfortunately. But I’ve always wanted to go back. I’m big into the whole ghost thing,” he said.

Lewis credits the public for perpetuating the ghostly mysteries.

“My favorite part of the presentations is getting to meet all the people and hearing their story...,” he said. “Really these legends and places live because of the community. They’re the ones that keep telling it and keep going there and having these experiences. In order to really get to know these legends, you have to get to know the community as well,” he said.

The presentation was sponsored by the Friends of the Library and the Dells Country Historical Society.

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