I’ve done it by accident.
I’d just finished with my 4 month business incubator and had a brand spanking new biz plan in my lap. It was heavy, so I did what I always do when facing a life transition. Road trip. I packed an overnight bag, just in case, and headed north.
My first stop was a labyrinth in West Bend. I’m a fan and had been looking for a new one to check out so it seemed as good a place as any. If you like your labyrinth overlaid with English country cottage charm next to a busy street, then this one will do it for you. Me, not so much. But hey, at least I made it there and walked it. It’s all part of the road trip experience. The endless possibilities of ‘where next’ lay before me. Which meant one thing. Lunch. A grilled ham and cheese sandwich later and I’m looking toward the road again.
The wonders of traveling with a GPS means that you’re never without a nearby antique mall. One mall leads to another, kind of like M&M’s or BBQ potato chips, and I’m far enough northwest to wonder, “Do I turn around and head home or commit to an overnight somewhere? Hey, I’ve never been to Fond du Lac. That’s on Lake Winnebago. I’ve always wanted to see Lake Winnebago.”
That’s how I ended up in Fond du Lac’s haunted hotel. It’s just the sort of place I’d pick, too. Not because it’s haunted, but because it’s a very old building in the old downtown, and it’s reasonably priced to boot. It’s got a bar and a restaurant on site. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places. I’ve struck gold!
Now it’s a Ramada, but it used to be called the Hotel Retlaw. When I checked in, alarm bells went off in my head. Where had I heard about this place before? Why is this so familiar? Why does the place feel peculiar? Well, duh Susan! It’s on just about every haunted places index I’ve ever read. It wasn’t until I was in my room that it dawned on me. A cell call to my husband, who did a quick search on the interwebs, confirmed my suspicions. I’d checked into a haunted hotel.
I might have wondered about ghosts even if I’d not had my suspicions googled. The hallways were creepy and a bit disorienting. In my room, it felt like something was at either door — the one from the hall and the one from the bathroom. I did a lot of whistling a happy tune, which is what I do when I’m para-nervous. “Oh, la, la, la, it’s all my imagination, la, la.” At about 12:30 that night, I forced myself to turn off the light and try to get some sleep. Try being the operative word.
Fond du Lac and environs has some stellar hauntings, so I’m sure there will eventually be a Haunt Spots tour of the area. I’ll save the full story of the Retlaw Hotel for then.
So, the question remains. Would you stay at a hotel simply because you knew it was haunted? I might, if I weren’t alone and if I had the nerve to explore more.
Susan Scot Fry