A dark and stormy September day is perfect for an early autumn trail tromp in the North Kettle Moraine. Guaranteed to be muddy and solitary, it’s just us four, counting the dog, which Ron and I always do.
The point of the hour drive from Milwaukee is as much to get out as to get there. Rainy days are great for adventures with friends. Adam is the back-seat DJ and our black lab-mutt-mix, Elliott, alternates between hopping into the far back of the SUV and the vacant passenger seat.
Post hike, we’re happy and the dog is thoroughly soaked and muddy. Rain-gear kept arms and midsections akin to dry. Pants and shoes are soppy messes and guaranteed to steam up all the car windows. Our spirits aren’t dampened in the least so I suggest a quick side trip to a nearby favorite, my self-proclaimed “most atmospheric cemetery in Wisconsin”, the Glenbeulah Graveyard.
I’d been there twice before so between the GPS and vague memories of the twisty dirt roads to where it’s hidden, we successfully navigate our way. The Glenbeulah Graveyard is fittingly at the end of a dead-end road. It looks like it’s been carved out of the woods and the trees are trying their best to re-take the hilly acre.
Earlier excursions to this Haunt Spot had been during bare bones winter and spring so this is a new season for me. This time, I get to see Glenbeulah in all it’s leafed-out, crumbling glory.
We park just outside the gate and walk in. To me, walking into this particular cemetery is like accidentally stumbling onto a horror movie set in the middle of no-where. It’s so perfectly atmospheric. The lanes are just wide enough for a small car – should you not have the fortitude to get out and walk. It’s hilly and in places you can’t quite see over the rise. This rainy, early autumn day is still mostly green with a few splashes of color.
The graves are fairly old – some dating back into the 1800′s. The latest is from around 1970 or so. There’s an air of disuse and many of the stones are broken off but I’m glad to see that some maintenance has been done since my last visit. The grass is mowed, dead-fall branches are raked. The fences around a couple of family plots are still rusty, but standing up more than laying down.
Almost all of the graves are within the cemetery proper – all but two. We’d discovered these exiles on earlier visits and as Ron, Adam, Elliott and I near the trailhead, I cut across the graves and head in. The trek is different than before. The trail to these two monuments is now densely wooded on both sides so as soon as I step off, I’m neatly cut off from the rest of the cemetery. I can see the monuments pretty quickly, so up I go. At the top of the rise, there’s a huge pine tree and the two stones – one newer and one very, very old. They’re both for the same family, so my impression is that the newer one was erected to replace the older one that had broken off, but they’d left the old one in place too.
I stop between them and, admiring the beauty of the woods and the day, I turn around with a smile on my face, ready to tell Adam about how we had discovered these two oddly segregated monuments. I’m alone. My companions are no-where in sight. Neither had followed me but I had clearly heard footsteps on my heel as I walked along the trail. The sound was so clear and distinct that I never questioned whether or not I was alone.
Perhaps I’m not.
I stand rooted with my hands over my mouth. My giggling is an unnerving blend of delight, terror and sheer freak-outed-ness. Holy Jason and Grant, Batman! I just had an experience! I tell people stories like this all the time and I just had one myself.
Just when you least expect it.
My three companions appear on the trail and, with the exception of the dog who doesn’t suspect but knows, I’m sure they think I’m a bit demented. I’m babbling but manage to maintain some dignity as I relate what has happened. Only just. Perhaps. Jury’s out.
Did I hear footsteps? Was it an echo? Sound does travel in odd ways in a hilly, wooded area.
Was this a paranormal experience? By the strictest definition, yes. It was definitely beyond the normal.
Am I freaking myself out? Absolutely. After all, that’s the fun part.
The rest of the meander is lovely and quiet. Back exploring the cemetery proper, my eye is constantly drawn back to the trailhead. Is that movement? Do I hear something? Where does that shadow come from? One little paranormal experience and my imagination is in overdrive. I’m trying to be discreet in my ghostly glee and am failing miserably. My fellow adventurers are kind enough not to taunt me overmuch.
It’s time to head home when we see the dog beeline for the car. Back in Milwaukee, our feet are propped up in front of the fire and wine glasses are in hand. A perfectly haunting autumn day.