1 thing I DIDN’T expect after visiting Waverly Hills Sanitarium

I’m sure it’s a whacky coincidence but about 3 days after I toured Waverly Hills Sanitarium and MILDLY dissed the tour in a totally FRIENDLY way, I became bed-ridden with a horrid upper respiratory infection.

Whacky coincidence, right?! Hah. Hah. Hah…. GULP!

Hmmm… haunted abandoned tuberculosis sanitarium

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Wide-eyed and impressionable tourist with the best intentions ever

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A SLIGHTLY cynical but ultimately SUPPORTIVE review

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Home in bed with a nasty, nasty, icky infection in my lungs, throat and head.

Go fig. Coulda happened to anyone for any reason. I’m SURE nothing followed me home…

Happy Haunts,

Susan

ps. What do you think? My cough’s not sooooo bad.

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A Favorite Story From the Port Washington Ghost Walk 2010

Last Halloween, Caper Company spent the weekend in chilling and charming Port Washington, WI.  We had discovered some delicious paranormal activity reports and, anxious to share the stories, we led a few hundred intrepid folks on the first ever Port Washington Ghost Walk.

As we prepare for 2011, I’d like share a favorite ghost walk story with you from 2010.  Enjoy…

“This is Real”

Halloween ghost walks are a great way to have a seasonal spooky celebration with friends.  It’s like being Irish on St. Patrick’s Day – everyone gets on board and goes for the ride.  The last thing most people expect is to make a real, personal paranormal connection so if it happens, it can be a bit of a shock.

A typical tour group ranges the spectral spectrum — from true believers to total skeptics.  The latter are there to spend an evening out with buddies.  They expect to have fun.  What they don’t expect is to be converted.

Saturday night of Halloween weekend was prime time.  Every tour was packed, so moving from point A to B to C took vigilance from the Caper Company tour leaders.  Happily, as the ghost stories unfolded, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Most of the time, the non-paranormal-fans go along quietly.    There’s a bemused, indulgent expression on their faces when they hear a ghost story they deem particularly incredulous.  If someone in the ghost walk group chimes in with a similar experience, the expression may devolve to a include bit of subtle eye rolling.

This evening, a gaggle of 4 girlfriends among the tour group of 20, were out for an adventure.  3 of the 4, at any rate.  One lady kept her tongue firmly in her cheek the entire time — never naysaying, but always standing a bit back.  She obviously wanted her friends to enjoy themselves, but perhaps was not the first person to have voted for this particular activity.

About half-way through their spectral exploration of the historic downtown, the Port Washington ghost walkers trek up a block, away from the harbor and toward the courthouse.  There’s an alley along the way and soon after passing the opening, our resident skeptic summoned up the nerve to confide in the tour leader.

The term “Looked-like-she’d-seen-a-ghost” had never been so apt.  This poor soul was having an epiphany.  She fervently whispered to the tour leader, almost as though she were both afraid to say anything and equally afraid not to, that she was convinced that the group was no longer alone.  That someone — or something — had just joined them in their ghostly quest.

Sometimes, confession will tip the balance from being scared to something shared and less frightening.  Not so with this poor lady.  Once she admitted it out loud, the phenomena seemed to frighten her even more.  The more she talked about what she was feeling, the more unnerved she became.  Soon, she was exclaiming, “This is real!  I’ve never believed it before, but this is real!  There’s someone with us and this is real!”

Poor dear.

Her distress at being metaphysically aware of something was so overwhelming that the rest of the tour group quickly caught on.  Within minutes, it became necessary for the tour leader to gather the group and offer some calming thoughts.  Everyone banded together to comfort and reassure this lady who was beginning to question her own sanity.  After a short time in a circle, she was composed enough to continue.  Mostly.

For the rest of the downtown walk, she stuck to her tour leader like a sheet to a ghost.  He would occasionally hear  mutterings of her fear-tinged fascination at the experience.  She would glance over her shoulder to see… nothing.  Which seemed to frighten her even more.

By the end of the ghost walk, her friends were starting to rib her a little.  Her eyes were still pretty wide and there’s a good chance her heart rate was still a bit elevated, but she took it good naturedly.  As the tour leader was concluding he felt it important to check in, but there were no more words.  Just a shake of the head and one last whisper, “This is real.”

What will this Halloween bring?

Happy Haunts

Susan

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

3 Days of Halloween Ghost Walks!

There’s something about this place.  Something that keeps drawing me back.  Something that makes me keep digging.  My sixth sense is on high alert.  I just know that there are ghost stories here.

Guess what?

I was right.

It’s been a fascinating and frightening trip into this mysterious town’s haunted history.  Now you’re invited to join in the fun.  Presenting the…

1st Annual Port Washington Ghost Walk

Three nights only – October 29, 30 and 31 – delve into newly discovered paranormal tales of downtown and beyond.  Port Washington is only a 30 minute drive north of Milwaukee but feels like you’ve traveled back in time.

All the details are on the Caper Company website at http://capercompany.com/halloween2010.html.  There are two guided ghost walks to choose from – one includes getting inside one of the village’s most notorious haunts.  Both tours end up with a candlelit exploration of a local cemetery – a place where Caper Company Researchers have personally captured some pretty terrifying EVP’s.

Each excursion into the supernatural will be led by experienced Caper Company Researchers.  On Tour 1, you join me at 6 pm and Char Paulbicke at 7 pm.  Tour 2 is led by Jenni Glueckstein at 7 pm, Ron Scot Fry at 8 pm, and all of us at 9 pm.

Questions?  Feel free to email me at SusanScotFry@CaperCompany.com or give me a call at 262-498-5777.  Already know you don’t want to miss this?  Pre-purchase your tickets on line at the webpage listed above.

Happy Haunts,

Susan Scot Fry


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

Who You Gonna Call?

Improv Everywhere is speaking our language – humor and ghosts!

Click on the picture and Enjoy!

Happy (and Laughing) Haunts,

Susan

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

6 Signs of Psychic Ability

I just stumbled across the North American Psychic and Paranormal Network website and LOVED their tagline.

“We’ve been expecting you.”

(I’m laughing out loud right now!)

One of my favorite recurring tickles is driving by a hotel hosting a Psychic Fair and they’ve got a marquee sign announcing the dates.  The running joke is, “Why do they need to list the dates?  Won’t everyone just show up when they’re supposed to?”

The North American Psychic and Paranormal Network people get it.  You’ve got to have a sense of humor.

Many people consider themselves sensitive in some way or another, but bristle when they hear the “Ps” word.  I’m fond of online dictionaries so here goes…

Merriam-Webster:  Psychic.  Pronunciation: \ˈsī-kik\ Etymology: Greek psychikos of the soul, from psychē soul.

Date: 1642.  Function: adjective: 1 : of or relating to the psyche 2 : lying outside the sphere of physical science or knowledge : immaterial, moral, or spiritual in origin or force.  3 : sensitive to nonphysical or supernatural forces and influences : marked by extraordinary or mysterious sensitivity, perception, or understanding

Date: 1871  Function: noun: 1 : a person apparently sensitive to nonphysical forces

Conclusion:  WE’RE ALL PSYCHIC .

How?  Well, besides these definitions, where do you fit in these scenarios?

  1. Mom Hearing.  You know they’re getting into something.
  2. They were just talking about me.  That palpable silence that you can feel when you walk into a conference room.
  3. Women’s Intuition.  That inner voice that tells her it was you who didn’t put the seat down.
  4. I was just thinking about you!  Often heard first thing in a long overdue phone conversation.
  5. Don’t even think about it.  Closely related to Mom Hearing.
  6. I just know.  I just do.

These phenomena happen all day, every day, to everyone so, according to this definition, we’re psychic.

So, let’s have a sense of humor and adventure.  This can be fun and exciting stuff.

What’s your psychic ability?

Happy Haunts,

Susan Scot Fry

www.CaperCompany.com

Update…  WOW!  Thanks for all the great comments via this blog and the Caper Company facebook page!  I just found out that this post is one of Haunt Jaunts top 3, too!  Sweeeeet.

I hope the next town is Manitowoc. There’s some great ghost stories there.

I have a presentation to make tomorrow to the Wisconsin Harbor Towns Association. Serendipitously, the President of the association is the same lady who runs the tourism bureau in Port Washington.  I’ve been working on developing a new tour there.  Kathy’s been extremely supportive and helpful.  She sees the potential for paranormal tourism in her town, wants to welcome Haunt Spots Explorers, and thinks that the other towns along the Wisconsin coast might too.

Sweet.

I was less than zero when I first started digging into Port Washington, but I’m like a dog with a bone.  My instinct tells me there are good stories there and that Haunt Spots Explorers will love them.  So, I start talking to people.  If they get to know me, they realize that I’m not a nutbar and neither are people who have fun with these tours.  That may have been what happened with Kathy in Port Washington.  Now, how do I do that with these 18 towns in 15 minutes?

Maybe the answer is, I don’t.  I just look for the next one.

I hope it’s Manitowoc.  I’ve already got some great Haunt Spots for a Manitowoc tour.  Oh, oh, oh or Sheboygan!  My favorite cemetery in Wisconsin is in Sheboygan county!

Happy Haunts,

Susan Scot Fry

I Love Ghost Hunters. Again.

It’s Wednesday!  I love Wednesdays!  I used to anyway — before I OD’d on Ghost Hunters.

I used to even have an “It’s We-e-ee-ea-nd-nes-daaay!” song that’s I’d sing when I woke up in the morning.  Such glee.  There were going to be at least 4 hours of my favorite show on tv that night.  Sad, but true.  The Wednesday song was for a tv show.  In my defense, I rarely actually watched any of it besides the new episode, but it was the perfect background noise for working on Caper Company.

I hardly ever inhaled.

Too much of a good thing?

A couple of nights ago, I was flipping and discovered that the National Geographic channel has jumped on the paranormal reality show band wagon.  Just like it’s nearly unheard of to run across a theatre without a ghost, there are fewer tv stations out there who do not have some sort of paranormal investigation show.

Am I headed for burn out?  Are we all?

We don’t have to be.  It’s not inevitable.

Any immersive hobby can rapidly evolve from interest to obsession to lifestyle choice.  It’s delicious to be enthralled with scratching that itch.  It’s like falling in love.  Once the flush has worn off, it’s important to understand that that’s what it was.  Falling in love.

I’ve turned a corner and I like Wednesdays again.  Maybe because I’ve got tiny, wobbly legs on Caper Company and have moved past the honeymoon stage.  I don’t have to quit.  I can still love it.  In doses and with loving perspective.

What’s your obsession?

Happy Haunts,

Susan Scot Fry