9 things to expect and experience when visiting Waverly Hills Sanitarium

Well, that was fun.

August, 2015. My BFF and #1 gal-pal-haunt-a-holic compatriot Char and I made the trek from Milwaukee, WI to Louisville, KY for a 3-day weekend getaway. Because we are who we are, our definition of fun is traveling for 7 hours to tour one of the reputedly most haunted places in the USofA. We are gleefully ‘those people’.

We had absolutely no idea what to expect. Hopefully, these insights will serve you when making a similar trek – which I encourage you to do. Waverly Hills Sanitarium (and Louisville) are worth the drive.DSCN5045

Nuts and Bolts…

  1. BOOK IN ADVANCE. We took the 2-hour 8pm Friday night tour because the 4-hour overnight ‘investigation’ is booked solid far, far in advance. That’s my first tip. Book your tour far, far in advance if you want to do the 4-hour investigation. It’s your best shot at having a paranormal experience. Note: they also have an 8-hour version, but I’m too old to stay up that late so never even considered it.
  1. IT’S HOT, DARK, HUMID AND CREEPY. Bring a flashlight, wear closed toe shoes and prepare to sweat.
  1. SECURITY. Security is tight. You’re checked in at the gate. Watched by the parking people. Escorted into the gathering / souvenir shop. Checked in again. There are 2 people trailing each tour in addition to the tour guide. All are obsessively dedicated to ensuring that no-one wanders off in search of adventure. Plan to stick closely with your group or encounter an implied cattle prod.

The Atmosphere…

  1. WAVERLYLAND? We went because we wanted to experience haunted Waverly Hills Sanitarium. There is an unfortunate level of less-than-well-executed ‘Disneyland-ish-ness’ that tries to get in the way. I was a little discomfited by the tee-shirts and cheesy HallowDSCN5113een paraphernalia for sale. It’s hard to ignore the enormous wall of endlessly looped episodes of paranormal reality tv that featured Waverly Hills. I was severely turned off by the full-body Pinhead dummy that greeted the start of the tour and later having to walk through some Halloween season haunted house deco that they keep up all year around. I had to actively ignore my concern that what I was really in for was Waverlyland. If you can do that successfully, you can have fun on this tour. It does take a conscious decision, but if you make it, you’ll have a good time.
  1. IT’S HUGE. Expect to be awed at first glance. It’s immense with a capital immense. The building is surrounded by dense woods and suddenly spreads before you as you drive up the short access road past the gate. Goosebump-worthy. Allow yourself time to gape while ignoring the stares from the many Waverly employees whoDSCN5084 are keeping a close watch on you as you get out of your car.
  1. PARANORMAL EXPERIENCES / GATHERING EVIDENCE? PROBABLY NOT. On the 2-hour tour, you will be in a group of about 30 people, all of whom are also hoping for a paranormal experience. At the same time your tour is happening, there’s another going, following a different route to the same stops. With that kind of foot traffic, chances of having a personal paranormal experience are slim. Thinking of sneaking in some subtle evidence gathering? Nope. You are not allowed to use any recording devices (so much for EVP’s) or flash photography (so much for clear photos). You will get some cool history about the building and hear about other people’s ghostly encounters, though.
  1. OPPORTUNITIES TO EXPLORE. That said, there are 2 opportunities on the 2-hour tour to explore. Well, more like 1.5 opportunities. On the 5th floDSCN5110or, you and your 29 best friends are allowed a little time to wander around and take photos – with flash (the only time allowed). The draw is room 502 where there are lascivious stories are about a pregnant nurse who hung herself. We are quickly disabused of the legend by the tour guide. Her spiel consists of, “You’ve probably heard about XYZ in room 502. Well, it’s not true. It never happened.” But, then she goes on to relate creepy experiences that pregnant women have had in room 502. Hmmmm…
  1. SHADOW PEOPLE. The other – very cool – opportunity to explore-ish is on the 4th floor where there are reports of active shadow people. Standing in the deep dusk, looking down a dark, dark, dark corridor with sDSCN5086mall smatterings of light from windows, you can easily imagine that you see movement. Maybe we did. Maybe we were so desperate that we matrixed it all. Who cares? It was uber scary. Bonus: Char and I muscled our way into the line of 3 sets of people who were allowed to walk to the end of the hall alone while everyone else watched. We successfully managed to freak the crap out of ourselves.
  1. BODY CHUTE. At it’s height as a 500-bed tuberculosis treatment hospital, Waverly Hills averaged a death an hour. The need to transport bodies off the grounds but not within sight of patients who were trying to get well, led the staff to repurpose an underground tunnel that became nicknamed the Body Chute. It is one weird sensory experience. They let you walk down the narrow, 600-foot slanted concrete chute. I went about ½ way and then let everyone pass me by so that I could walk back up relatively alone. Too many laughs, echoes and noise from the rest of the group to pick up on anything otherworldly but the funhouse effect made me tilt.

So, yes I did think it was fun and worth the trek. Because I decided to. I devoured the things that were cool and ignored the things that were hokey. I adjusted my expectations and looked for opportunities to let my imagination run amok. I was on an adventure far-ish from home with my best friend and fellow aficionado.

What could be better?

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Just When You Least Expect It…

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.

Sweet Dreams,

Susan

Mad Town Frights

Madison, WI.  As if the recent political unrest in our capital wasn’t enough to give us nightmares…

This past weekend, my ghost hunting buddy and I got to scope out some Madison haunts and were rewarded in spades.  It was a gorgeous weekend.  Some rain on Saturday am and sunny and mild the rest of the day.  Tra-la-la!  Let’s see?  What kind of day shall we have?

Our spirits were already bubbling over the top in anticipation of this long awaited getaway.  She runs a child care center and is in the throes of big, scary career changes.  I’m dealing with thoughts of canine mortality and am uneasy about an upcoming trip to CA to hang out with my mom, who is in the advanced stages of dementia.  Joy.  Hey!  Sussing out some paranormal activity will be a relief.

When we get together, we are silly 10-year-olds.  Add a crusty apple fritter sugar high and the weekend is off to a grand start.  Heading into town, we do some giddy, serendipitous sidetracking to a series of yard sales – some of which are in yards in mini-mansions by the lake.  Lovely.  Several sales later, including the most delicious pair of $1 chandel-earrings, we get back on track.

Downtown Madison is a delightful hive of fresh fruit and veg activity at the ginormous farmers market surrounding the capitol.  Sated with people and puppy watching and lunch at The Old Fashioned and we’re ready for some haunts.

At this point in our haunted hobby, we’re not seeking to gather evidence of paranormal activity.  We might bring a camera (maybe) but it’s really all about getting to a place and scoping out how it makes us feel.  That’s all we got and it’s fun enough.

My buddy has put the surprise weekend together, so I don’t know where we’re going but boy do we know when we get there.  First destination, the old sanitarium and grounds – aka Sanitarium Hill.  What’s it like when we arrive?  Like going from 75 mph of giggly to the atmospheric pressure of impending storm clouds of doom.

The old building has been re-purposed by the county and is private property.  But, you have to drive through the lot in order to park by the trailhead for the nearby forest – which used to be sanitarium property and is now part of the park system.  You also need to walk through the lot and by the buildings in order to get to the cemetery.  So, without trespassing we still got to get plenty spooked.

I will cop to a stellar imagination.  When she and I get together, sometimes we feed off each other.  It’s part of the fun.  We’re often drawn toward the same unexplainable energies, but she picks up on totally different feelings and impressions than I do.  I suspect there may be a bit of personal baggage at play, but then those experiences help hone different senses in each individual and we are the sum of our experiences – and how we process them.

When we agree on an impression, it’s overwhelming.  And we overwhelmingly agreed about the sanitarium.  First, we got hit by the old crematorium, which we had to walk by to get to the cemetery.  (Handy, huh?)  Past the crematorium is the main building.  We’re walking, we’re walking, we’re walking… we’re looking back over our shoulders … Yep – we both agree.  There’s some ‘thing’ watching from one of the upper floors.  That’s what we feel.  Didn’t see anything.  I didn’t hear anything.  Just our impression.  Watching.  Might have been human at some point too, but the mortal coil was long shuffled off.  It felt more like a patient than a nurse or guard.  Watching, sick, envious and watching.

The vibe in the cemetery and on the paths in the woods beyond was the same – watching.  I personally felt more comfortable on the paths than she did.  The buzz from the cicadas was constant, so sudden noises were startling.  The paths lulled me into a such wee, small sense of security that when we had completed the circuit that began by the cemetery back to the trailhead, I wasn’t prepared for the intense onrush of impressions.  They hit when we walked out of the green and onto the pavement that led back to the crematorium.

Gone was the sense of being watched from behind.  It was in your face now.  Very scary.  Naturally, being a badger poker, I pushed into the sensation.  It didn’t recede, but then I wasn’t trying to get it to do so.  I did, however, want to cut it off before getting in the car to travel on, so I backed off before it got angry.

I know, this sounds so SyFy Channel silly.  It’s hard to explain.  I think I get in the “there are greater things in heaven and earth, Horatio” frame of mind when I’m in this sort of situation.  Who am I to try to explain or poo-poo it, so I tend to play it safe and follow my instincts.  What will it hurt?  My ghost hunting buddy isn’t going to make fun of me – after all, she’s doing the same thing.

(I found a very short YouTube video about an EVP captured at Sanitarium Hill.  Click HERE to get to it.  Enjoy!  )

Back in the car.  Wow.  Good job picking this place!  On to the next:  Forest Hill Cemetery.

Resurrection Cemetery is across the street from Forest Hill and you come to it’s entrance first, so its easy to think that it’s your destination.  Maybe the name changed.  Well, it’s a cemetery and the gps led us here, so let’s check it out.

It’s big, so we drive.  And we drive and drive and drive.  The most head-scratching thing about this cemetery is that we spot 4 burial vaults stacked above ground by a couple green Waste Management dumpsters.  Not something you see every day.

During the drive, we did notice that the cemetery is so big that it’s continued across the street.  Well, this has been a little ho-hum.  We got nothin’.  So much for the shadow people stories.  We’re here so we might as well check out the rest of it across the street.  We exit Resurrection Cemetery and wend our way to the most likely access point and voila!  Forest Hill Cemetery!  Well, cool!  Let’s see.

Oh Yes.

Night and day.  Forest Hill Cemetery has a distinctly different feel.  Just as we’re driving in, my buddy starts.  She’s heard something.  We stop talking.  Soon we both feel the draw.

It’s huge, so we drive – very slowly.  When we come to a fork, I’ll point and look at her and she nods confirmation that that’s the same direction she was feeling we needed to go.  Sometimes, she’ll just steer and then look at me while I nod agreement.  It becomes uncanny.

At one point, I ask her to stop so we can walk toward an area.  It’s as if the closer we get, the further way it flits.  But flits is an accurate description.  There’s so much shadow play, you can’t tell what’s real.  And the sensations are as elusive as shadows.  You can’t get near.

Eventually, we drive past the middle and toward the outer edges and the feeling dissipates.  Turning back in so that we can wend our way back toward the entrance, we’re no longer enticed from the periphery toward the center areas.  It’s not that the sensations have ceased.  It’s that we’re drained and a bit dizzy.  And lost.  We can’t find the entrance.  Great.  What’s that sound?  Golfers!  Yay, golfers!

In a happy twist, the cemetery road leads us to a golf course and we figure out how to get out from there.  While blessing our lucky stars I don’t ponder why a golf course and a cemetery would connect.  I think I’ll put it in the same head-scratcher category as the burial vaults stacked by the dumpsters.

Thumbs up.

I would go back to Forest Hill Cemetery to spend a bit of time.  I would not go back to the sanitarium.  If you’re into haunted spots, I highly encourage anyone visiting Madison to check them both out.

And, we do this because it’s fun!

Happy Haunts,

Susan

Tonight’s the Night! The Latest on the Port Washington Ghost Walk

Hey Caper Company Fans!

This weekend is the Port Washington Ghost Walk.

If you’re considering doing the Walk-In thing, that’s super. The weather reports are better than I could have dreamed of, so come on by.

Here’s the latest availability:

Friday, October 29
Tour 1
6:00 – 12 spaces available – Updated 10:oo am Friday
7:00 – 16 spaces available – Updated 12:15 pm Friday

Tour 2
7:00 – 16 spaces available – Updated 12:15 pm Friday
8:00 and 9:00 – wide open

Saturday, October 30
Tour 1 – BOTH TIMES ARE FULL

Tour 2
7:00 – 5 spaces available
8:00 – 14 spaces available – Updated Saturday, Oct 30 8am
9:00 – 14 spaces available – Updated Saturday, Oct 30 8am

Sunday, October 31 (Happy Halloween!)
Tour 1
6:00 – 16 spaces available
7:00 – 10 spaces available

Tour 2
7:00 – 17 spaces available – updated Saturday, Oct 30 8am

8:00 - 18 spaces available

9:00 – wide open

Feel free to call me at 262-498-5777 before 5:30pm for the latest. After that time, I’ll be on a walk and won’t be able to answer.   If you want to go ahead and book a tour instead of walking in, the website is at http://capercompany.com/halloween2010.html

Launching a dream takes lots of good will and help and we all appreciate your support more than we can ever express. Remember, it takes a village to raise the dead!

Happy Halloween!

Susan

How Do I Keep From Getting Scared…

Here’s a secret.  I still get scared.  Every once in a while.

Over time, my personal scare-o-meter has re-set to a higher threshhold.  When you spend a lot of time checking out places that are reported to be haunted, it’s an occupational hazard. I’m not quite laissez faire, but I do approach most potential Haunt Spots with a sense of “okay, where’s my checklist and what’s this all about?” and dive right in.

Although we’re not in the business of gathering evidence, we record when we have a personal experience — sometimes on the back of our checklist or in the margins.  Sometimes, it’s a jumble of hurried impressions.  We try to be thorough and conscientious.

Recently, I was tooling around a cemetery.  You know, like you do.  We already knew it was going to be a stop in an upcoming ghost tour, but were poking around trying to locate a specific monument.  The researcher I was with is one of those people who has a special relationship with her camera.  If there’s a paranormal image to capture, she’s much more likely to get it than anyone I know.   So, what the heck?  I’ll click on her digital voice recorder for a bit so she doesn’t have to juggle them both.

It was an interesting (read unsettling) visit.  I’ve been in a lot of cemeteries and this one didn’t initially seem any more atmospheric than any other.  It’s got some great headstones.  There are mystery stories lurking beneath your feet.   You know, a cemetery.  I’d been there before, but this time something felt different.  Not right away.  It took a while.  Like something was gathering critical mass before we could feel it inching up our necks.

We spent a goose-bumpy afternoon there, joshing our way around the dead people.  Whistling a happy tune to keep from hightailing it back to the car in an embarrassing fashion.  Each of us glad not to be there alone.

Done – check.  Get out of there.  Drive home and off she goes to her house and I’m safely ensconced in my office.  Oops!  I forgot to give back her digital voice recorder.  Well, heck.  I’ll just turn it on and let it play while I check email.

What was that?

WHAT WAS THAT?

So, I’m scrambling on the internet looking for an on-line manual for the Sony ICD-B600 recorder.  How do I rewind?  How do I fast forward?  How do I find what I heard again?  How do I find ALL the things I’ve heard again?

It was a miracle I didn’t accidentally erase the whole thing, my hands were shaking so badly.  I’d never captured EVP’s like this before.  Heck!  I’d never captured ANY EVP’s before!  Another research partner of mine had, but not me.  And this was the mother lode.  Steve and Tango and Jay and Grant would have been salivating.

Okay, here goes…

We’d been among the graves a little while and had started to confess that we were each feeling uneasy.  The atmosphere had changed.  I asked the question, “Is this your area?  Do you want us to leave?”

“Yes.”

Only imagine a hissy, sigh of a yesssss.  You can also imagine, only it wouldn’t be your imagination, me peeing my pants when I heard that for the first time on the recorder.

There’s more.

Soon after, we’re talking about a distinctly growing feeling of unease.

“Get Out.”

OKAY!  Forget the “Yes”!  Did that whatever it is just say Get Out?  (on-line manual… rewind…) Oh yeah!  That’s what I heard.  Well.  Well, well, well.

What can I say to that?  First, I can try to slow my breathing, but then what?  I don’t want to go back to that cemetery.  It told us to Get Out.  The only correct answer is “Yes, Sir”.  And then you get out.  Like when the stupid family in the movie is told by the entity that’s trying to kill them to Get Out.  The answer should be “Yes, Sir” and you leave.  Period.  Of course, the family didn’t leave and look what happened to them.

But, wait, there’s more…

We had to go back.  We needed to film.  At night.  And, I haven’t even told you about the other freaky EVP’s.

Wanna go with us next time?

Happy Haunts,

Susan Scot Fry

www.CaperCompany.com

How’s your Halloween shaping up?

Haunted lighthouse

Haunted restaurants

Haunted businesses

Haunted coffee shops

Haunted marina

Haunted train station

Haunted courthouse

Haunted cemetery

Halloween is shaping up nicely.  Want to go?

Happy Haunts,

Susan

71 Great Wisconsin Haunts

I give in!  They’re all yours!  I can’t hold back these great haunt spots any longer. You want ghost stories, you’ve got ghost stories. You want to explore these places yourself – go for it!  We’ve done the work, it’s time to share.

All you have to do is google “haunted Wisconsin” and you’ll find the same lists that got me kick started.  Since then, I’ve researched, interviewed, snooped and poked up more haunts.  Huge kudos and creds to the devotees who compiled these lists, but I can’t tell you the thrill that I get when I find a ghost story that isn’t already on one of them.   It’s like striking gold.

Researching Haunt Spots is exhilarating, exhausting, frightening and fascinating.  On these all-day scouting trips, we’ve managed to visit over 150 places in Wisconsin that are reported to be haunted.  That’s a lot of ghost stories.

So, I dig into how to actually find these places and we go and check them out.  They are rarely easy to find.  After all that work, though, some are duds.  You can’t get anywhere near the place – or once you get there, there’s nothing much to see.  Or it’s private property.  Or the business owner doesn’t want you anywhere near.  Combine that with a thin or frankly boring ghost story and we can call that nixed.

But some – oh, some are mind-blowing.  ‘Hard to find’ becomes a quest.  The story is alluring.  The place is atmospheric and accessible.  Bonus if my research partner captures an EVP or an odd image in a photo.  I jump for joy when the batteries in my camera die.  So far, I’ve collected 71 Haunt Spots.

After we have these experiences, I string 4 of them together into a tour route.  A road trip.  A Caper.  You would think with 71 keepers that that would be easy to do.  Well, it’s do-able, but in the meantime, you are missing my very favorite cemetery in all of Wisconsin.

Huh?  That’s an injustice.  Just because it’s too far off the beaten path to hook into a route?  Well, no more!

Here’s the deal – Instead of only offering all-day, multi-haunt tour routes, I’m going to start offering single destinations.  That’s right.  I can finally get you out to my favorite cemetery in all of Wisconsin!  Just because I haven’t been able to tie it into a longer route yet is no longer an excuse for withholding the creepiness.

I’ll still have full routes coming out, but in the meantime – Have At!  Create your own route.  Grab a buddy or two at the last minute and instead of a movie, pop in the audio story for a real Wisconsin paranormal adventure, follow my turn-by-turn directions and go have some fun.

I’ve got 4 single destinations ready to go and can have 4 more with another days’ work.  I’ve got another full Caper coming out in the next couple of weeks and can add 4 more single destinations at the same time.  Then, I guestimate that I can start giving you new destinations every 2 weeks or so.  That’s the audio story and tour itinerary with all the insider stuff – everything.

Meeting with my great web-guy this afternoon.  He’ll figure out for me how to put the single destinations up on the website.  Can’t be too hard.

This is so exciting!  Finally, I get to share all these great paranormal adventures with everyone.  Why didn’t I think of this before?

(insert forehead slapping sound…)

Happy Haunts,

Susan

Some Spooky Summer Fun

Psychic-Magic Magazine’s Summer Issue is out and yours truly has an article in it!  Granted, it’s a wee more tongue-in-cheek than the usual fare for this e-zine, but hey – so am I!

I had a lot of fun writing the article “Would You Stay Overnight in a Haunted Hotel” and having it come out in re-print at this moment in time is just a big old spooky reminder – I’m ready for a haunted road trip.

Back in June, I found a place I’d like to go – on purpose – overnight – with lots of back-up.  I think it’s time to put that road trip together.  In the meantime, here’s a re-print of the original article…  (Enjoy!)

WOULD YOU STAY OVERNIGHT IN A HAUNTED HOTEL?

By Susan Scot Fry

Not me. Not on purpose, that is.

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 be-fore me. Which meant one thing. Lunch. A grilled ham and cheese sandwich later and I’m looking toward the road again.

The wonder 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 haunt-ed, 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 res-taurant 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.

You?

Caper Company’s Haunt Spots tours are your chance to explore Southeastern Wisconsin hauntings. Haunt Spots tours are * Self-guided audio tours; * Multi-destination road-trips; * Available almost any day you choose; * You explore at your own pace; * A whole new kind of ghost tour. Susan Scot Fry and the Caper Company team (it takes a village to raise the dead) are living the dream. Please visit them at www.CaperCompany.com.

The Rocking Chair

After having been cooped up during our tour, my muttinsky Elliott is happily tearing around in the sunshine with the light keeper’s dog.  They’re two black Lab blurs so similar that I call mine and end up with his.

It’s a gorgeous spring day and I’m even more in love with this little Lake Michigan harbor town.  After stumbling onto the village, I started digging for ghost stories.  I knew Caper Company Explorers would also fall for it’s New England-y charm, so there had to be ghosts.

There are.

The light station is reported to be haunted.  Score!  The folks who run it now as a museum have no ghost stories themselves, but they were warm and welcoming.  A few phone chats later and my research partner and I are on a personal tour.  Our host, Rick, has the dust covers off the furniture and everything is opened up — even the tower with it’s sweeping view.  That early spring day, the marina below had empty slips, but in a few weeks, the place would be hopping.  I’m aiming for this paranormal destination to be on one of our new Haunt Spots tours and Explorers will get to check it out for themselves.

Post tour, during the dog-romp and before we head off for a chilly picnic lunch in a nearby cliff-side park, I ask Rick if he can let me pop back inside to use the pantry — or rather, the room that used to be the pantry.  Now that the light station is a museum, it’s the bathroom.  No problem.  He and my partner can watch the dogs play.

Rick unlocks the door and in I go.  Up a few stairs and into the main area, I see dust covers are back in place and some of the furniture is moved away from the walls to the center of the room.  He had obviously been battening the hatches while we took exterior photos.

Inside alone, the atmosphere is wildly different than when we were all inside together.  Now I understand the sensation my partner was trying to describe to me just a few minutes earlier.

She’s not one to embrace heights, so getting half-way up the tower was a feat. We left her waiting on a convenient landing and I finished the climb with our guide.  After we all descended, she told me of a whispery experience she had while waiting on the landing.

I believe that anyone who’s open to it has a dominant type sensitivity.  Her’s is audio – usually in the form of EVP’s that are discovered later.  So, when she heard an audible whisper that sounded like a suspicious accusation of “who are you?”, it was unnerving.  It left her with the distinct impression that she was an unwelcome intruder.

Now, Hello, here I am.  Another intruder.  No longer in the company of the long time caretaker and guide.  I’m alone.  In the pantry.  Mentally whistling a happy tune to keep my imagination from crowding in on me too much.

Before I leave the panty, I decide I’m going to poke my nose into the kitchen for a quick 2 second peep.  The room left a distinct impression on me earlier and I was curious about how it would feel now that I was alone.  Alone and unwelcome.  Facing me, between the pantry and the kitchen is a shrouded rocking chair.  I step through the pantry door and it rocks.

Twice.

Every pore in my body clenches and I think my heart is going to explode.

Swallow.  Breathe.  Loose board?

Now I’m conflicted.  Is this like when, during stupid movies like “Poltergeist” the entity clearly tells you to ‘Get Out”, but the stupid people studipdly don’t.  They don’t get out!  Stupid, stupid, stupid people.  When an entity tells you to “Get Out” the only answer, if you really feel you have to answer, is “Yes, Ma’am.”  And. You.  Get.  Out.

To poke my head in the kitchen, I have to skirt the rocking chair.  My only excuse is that now I’m so scared that my brain is probably also deprived of oxygen and I’m not thinking clearly so off I go into the kitchen.  I do not humiliate myself by running into the kitchen — hey, it could have been a loose board — but I walk calmly (Hah!) into the kitchen.  I stay exactly 2 seconds.  Maybe 1.  And I calmly (Hah!) walk past the rocking chair toward the exit.  I do NOT turn around to see what it’s doing.  I don’t care a whit that it looks like it’s moving again ever so slightly out of my peripheral vision.

I do not run down the stairs screaming.  No.  I walk out and gently close the door behind me even though the handle now feels outrageously hot to the touch.

Time to go.

I didn’t tell Rick.  He’s been so nice.  And, he spends a lot of time there.  Alone.  The story will end up on the tour and if he hears of the experience then, c’est la vie.  Besides, it could have been a loose board.

Twice.

Happy Haunts,

Susan Scot Fry

www.CaperCompany.com

New Tour Survey – I’m Trying to Figure Out Which Way to Go

It’s spring and our thoughts turn fondly to getting out of the house and doing some paranormal road tripping. Mine do, anyway.

I’ve got a new Haunt Spots tour for Ozaukee County almost ready to go and I’ve hit a road block. I was wondering if I could ask your no-commitment-opinion.

Here goes…

The first Haunt Spot is too good to pass up, but the days and hours where you can explore inside are limited. Would you most likely…

A) Go ahead and do the whole tour even though it would have to be done during the day on a Saturday or Sunday?

B) Go ahead and explore the first Haunt Spot on a Saturday or Sunday, kill some time until it was later in the evening and then do the rest of the tour? Especially if I could recommend some good places to poke around in? This option could tack up to another couple hours onto your day out.

C) Do the first stop the day you can get inside and then go back out at another day or time (a weekday or evening) to explore the rest of the Haunts?

D) Variations on any of the above.

It all comes down to your combination of preferences. Days. Nights. One trip. Two trips. Weekends or Weekdays.

What would you choose?

Please drop me a line at susanscotfry@capercompany.com

THANK YOU!

Happy Haunts,

Susan