A Wisconsin folklorist named Robert Gard once stated that Wisconsin may have more ghosts per square mile than any other state in America. I have no idea if this is actually true or even if I believe in ghosts, but one thing is certain, no place is quite like the state of Wisconsin with its peaceful lakes, serene forests, miles of beautiful wilderness and an eclectic city (Milwaukee). But what lurks beneath the surface of this tranquil state are tales of colorful folklore.
With Halloween fast approaching, I thought this would be the ideal time to share such eerie legends. Of all of the ghost stories and haunted houses in Wisconsin, Milwaukee boasts a great number of ghostly spots.
Several schools in Milwaukee have their own sort of "school spirit" if you will. Marquette University claims a number of buildings connected to the school – Helfaer Theater, Humphrey Hall, Johnston Hall, Mashuda Hall, Straz Hall and Varsity Hall – are haunted.
Also, Sanburg Hall at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee is said to have many strange incidents such as mysterious squeaking coming through the concrete floors and objects that move independently off shelves and around rooms in the North Tower.
Those at Wisconsin Lutheran College claim that several different spirits have been witnessed repeatedly – a poltergeist, signing nun, janitor, laughing children and a malevolent presence have all been supposedly reported.
At Cardinal Stritch University there’s alleged haunting from nuns who lived in the dorms many years ago. At nighttime it has been said that students have heard nuns walking around the hallways. Also in some of the dorm rooms posters are ripped off the wall, closets are opened on their own, locked doors are swung open and random objects are pushed off desks and onto the floor.
According to Troy Taylor, several other haunted locations in Milwaukee are public spots. One of them is the Modjeska Theater. Here the resident specter has been dubbed the "Balcony Ghost" because he has a habit of looking down on the audience from the balcony during movies.
Another location is the Pfister Hotel where the ghost of founder Charles Pfister reportedly greets guests. He has been seen looking over the lobby from a spot on the grand staircase and has also been seen walking in the gallery above the ballroom. (Witnesses identify him from a portrait that hangs in the lobby.)
Furthermore, many rooms in The Rave are very cold even in the heat of summer (which I guess is a sigh of ghosts?) and have had reports of paranormal activity. The roof has been investigated by security many times after locals reported someone throwing things off of it, but when police arrived to the scene, only empty beer cups were found scattered on the ground below.
Other locations in Milwaukee that are steeped in legend are the Grand Avenue Mall where dark figures have been seen by security guards dancing on the second floor, Holy Hill Cemetery where thick mist appears in photographs or randomly at night, and at Grant Park where it has been rumored that if you go to Seven Bridges and walk the paths during a full moon between the times of 9:30 p.m. and Midnight you will see different colors of light dancing around in the woods or hear sounds of laughter and screams. If you are really quiet you can hear footsteps and heavy breathing in the woods coming towards you. (Remind me never to go to Seven Bridges. Ever.)
Other haunted places located outside of Milwaukee are Kemper Hall, a former seminary and school in Kenosha, which is rumored to be haunted by spectral nuns; and Rosslyne Manse a house at the St. John's Military Academy in Delafield constructed by Dr. Sidney Thomas Smythe, one of the presidents of the military academy.
But probably the scariest story I have read while researching haunted areas in Wisconsin is the tale of the Dousman House in Brookfield. It’s an old house that dates back to the civil war. Apparently the doors have been reported to slam with nobody present and a dark figure has been seen walking back and forth upstairs while occasionally looking in the front windows. The figure sometimes rushes people if they approach the house and pushes them with such great force that they fly backwards off the porch.
(By the way, I have a pit in my stomach while I type this - I'm such a wimp when it comes to scary things!)
Additionally, the Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove is haunted by the ghost of "Pinky" and Whitnall Park in Hales Corners sounds as if it’s a pretty creepy place at night; and on Main Street in Menomonee Falls it has been said that a translucent man has been seen walking near shops and wandering around North Middle School.
While lingering ghosts are one thing – what about a werewolf in southeastern Wisconsin? Since the early 1990s, residents have been talking about the mysterious Bray Road Beast, but there have been other Wisconsin werewolves as well, according to Taylor. See the link above for the story of the Beast on Bray Road and then click here for accounts of other Wisconsin werewolves.
Whether you believe these uncanny tales or not, there’s a vast collection of stories plaguing many locations in Milwaukee and the rest of Wisconsin. If you’re feeling brave, checkout this site to find chilling tales of your town.
Or maybe you’re like me and scary stories aren’t your thing (they give me nightmares), then perhaps you’d prefer getting your Halloween thrills from manufactured haunted houses showing up in many local communities during the month of October – in which case, stay tuned for my haunted house preview.
Note: These places listed above probably require permission to visit or investigate. Many of the places are patrolled by the authorities, so you can bet that trespassers will be prosecuted. Consider yourself warned.