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,