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

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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

Newly Discovered Haunt Spots

This is what it’s all about.  In the world of paranormal travels, the holy grail, the golden goose, the ticket to Ghost Hunters Live is discovering a ghost story that no-one has heard of yet.

This moment may be brief, but it can be so bright. **

It’s practically guaranteed that from the time you tell someone about reports of paranormal activity to the time it shows up on the granddaddy of on-line listings, Shadowlands, will be split seconds.  The time from that post to the haunt being added to the exceptional Unexplained Research map is not even worth measuring.  Those folks are on top of it and we’re indebted.

Allow me to bask for a moment or two because that’s about all we’ve got.  Aaaaaannnndddddd….. Done.

We’ve got two, count ’em, two newly discovered Haunt Spots on our latest tour, “A Forlorn Phantoms to Floozies Caper”.  This tour is pretty eclectic.  It covers 2 very well known haunts and the 2 we sussed out just for you.  The tour takes you on a road trip north of Milwaukee, into Ozaukee County.

Digging into the rumors was so much fun.  All it took was a hint and off we went.  We talked to neighbors, dug into history, visited libraries, and generally poked around until we made nuisances of ourselves.  But, that’s what it took. Not only did we discover some rich ghost stories, but there were other pay-offs.

Pay-off 1:  We captured some interesting EVP’s at one of the new haunts.

Pay-off 2:  The people who manage the other location are going to let Haunt Spots Explorers poke around inside.

Bottom line pay-off:  Now it’s your turn.  We had our fun.  The stories are recorded and the Caper is up on the website. Grab a couple of friends and go check it out for yourself.  Just in time for Halloween.

Happy Haunts,

Susan Scot Fry

http://www.CaperCompany.com

** Kudos and thanks to Rush for these lyrics.  Hey, go with the pros.

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

Let’s go! Overnight Ghost Hunt

I’ve got the itch and I know where I want to go.  About 2 1/2 hours west of Milwaukee, there’s this enticing and lovely old haunted inn.  It’s near some other Haunt Spots I’ve also been dying to check out.

I think this needs to be a group trip.

Why?  Because I’m a chicken and believe there’s protection in numbers.  I also think the haunts in this area are so sensational that a small group — say 6 of us — would intensify the experience.

So, we drive over on a Saturday in July and check out some haunts on the way.  Maybe picnic somewhere a little creepy.  Check in.  Head out that evening for some night time ghost hunting.  Overnight in the B&B.  (Gulp!)  Spend the next day checking out more haunts.

Spook-a-licious!

I have my own personal issues with staying in haunted hotels.  One time, I was alone and pretty much terrified the whole night.  I think I could give it another try if I had time to psych myself up first.  And, if I wasn’t alone.

(Eep!)

I can do it!

Time to check out some prices — see if I can get some deals at the inn, van rental, holy water …

Sounds like….

…. fun?!

Happy Haunts,

Susan Scot Fry

PS  If you want to go – email me at susanscotfry@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

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

Would you stay overnight in a haunted hotel?

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 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.

You?

Happy Haunts,

Susan Scot Fry

Apparently, the Answer is “No, It’s Not Too Soon” for One Filmmaker

On December 2nd, 2009 a Haunts Blog posting asked the question, “When is it too soon to include a particularly heinous crime destination in a Haunt Spots tour?”  One of the examples was notorious Wisconsin murder, Ed Gein.  Although convicted of one single slaying, he gained huge notoriety for his hobby of digging up other corpses and creating trophies and keepsakes from their bones and skin.  The formerGein farm property up in Plainfield, WI is rife with stories of ghostly activity.

An article in the January 2, 2010 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contained an answer to my blog question.  The article, entitled‘Ed Gein:  The Musical’ will have world premiere, is by Journal Sentinal reporter, Chris Foran.  He describes the film as a ‘ dark and somewhat controversial comedy’.  Uh-huh.  I’m a ‘dark and controversial comedy’ fan along with the best of them, but I suspect I will take a pass on this one.  Not even the YouTube trailer was enough to hook me.  It’s not graphic by any stretch, but it did induce a little queasiness.  It may have been the singing.

I stand by my earlier post.  It’s not my personal story, but in a Haunt Spots tour I’m privileged to tell it and get to choose how. Apparently, filmmaker Dan Davies thinks so too.  More power to you, Dan.  I think.

Happy Haunts,

Susan Scot Fry

Caper Company Tours LLC

Exercise the Spirits of 2009

No, I”m not missing the “O”.  I mean exercise.  Time to get you and your extended family of ghosts off your backs and butts and let in some fresh air.

2009 is on the way out.  2010 — which all signs point to being radically better than it’s former incarnation — is on the way in.  Let’s oxygenate it.

How do you exercise your spirits?  Certainly, there are as many ways as there are opinions about the paranormal.  The infamous ‘brown lady’ in the picture obviously prefers stair work.   Here’s some other ideas…

Ghosts in the (Heavy Equipment) Machines…

There seems to be evidence that at least one ghost digs heavy equipment work-outs.  Take this story of one Missouri fitness-freak-phantom, preferring hefty gym equipment late at night.  Thanks to a motion censor in the gym and both CNN and CBS’s need for filler news, this muscle bound spectre may have been caught working out.  Click here for the link to the CNN news story — or here for the shorter CBS story.

The Haunted Backyard Gym…

Another man seems to be having the same problem with his home backyard gym and frankly, it’s left him baffled.  Seems pretty obvious to me.  There’s a ghost in residence who digs working out.  Of course, the spirit might be himself…. but you decide.  Here‘s a link to his video account.

And I Thought it Was the Cat Moving Around my Weights…

Last but not least, for definitive proof that ghosts are into pumping iron, we can thank YouTube for being the conduit of truth.  Click here for the expose.

Stairs, gym memberships, home weights — something for everyone.  Considering that some people don’t even let death stop them, I’m feeling a bit lazy in comparison.  Does poking around Haunt Spots count as exercise?  It can have a quite a cardio impact.

Here’s to a spirited 2010.

Happy Haunts,

Susan