Wisconsin’s Most Haunted: Dartford Cemetery
According to the official visitor’s guide, the quiet town of Green Lake is known as the oldest resort community west of Niagara Falls. David Greenway opened the Oakwood Hotel on the lake in 1867, which attracted guests from as far away as the East coast when railroad tracks were routed through the area four years later. Today, Green Lake is the perfect place for fishing, camping, hiking, and relaxing on the shores of Wisconsin’s deepest natural inland lake.
Just outside of town on North Street, however, a decrepit old burial ground where the area’s early pioneers were laid to rest is said to hold the dark secrets of the idyllic community’s tragic past.
And they’re not resting.
Welcome to Dartford Cemetery
Dartford Cemetery was featured in a November, 2007 episode of the Discovery Channel series A Haunting. The episode, titled “Legend Trippers,” told the story of several teenagers who decided to explore the cemetery at night after reading about alleged paranormal activity online. If you sit on top of a particular mausoleum on Halloween night, the stories claim, something will push you off.
Throughout the episode the group experiences harrowing encounters with ghost children, the apparition of a Native American chief in full ceremonial dress, inexplicably changing gravestones, and mysterious scratches.
Many of the crumbling gravestones in the Cemetery belong to young children, leading to speculation that the first settlers in Dartford, as the area was known then, were stricken with polio and other diseases.
The mysterious crypt that visitors get pushed from
For thousands of years before the arrival of European settlers, the Winnebago Native Americans, now known as the Ho-Chunk, referred to the lake as Daycholah. It was a sacred and mystical place that seemed to have no bottom, where they gathered to pay homage to “the spirit who dwells beneath the water.”
“Every Winnebago was expected to come to Green Lake at least once in a lifetime to worship the Water Spirit,” Robert W. and Emma B. Heiple wrote in their 1977 book A Heritage History of Beautiful Green Lake. Many made the spiritual pilgrimage, leaving behind earthen structures and burial mounds that once dotted the shores of Green Lake.
Chief Highknocker, whose nickname derived from the stovepipe hat he always wore, was born in 1820 on the east shore of the lake. When he died on August 12, 1911, he was the last Winnebago chief to rule the area. The Green Lake visitor’s guide says his death was due to a tragic swimming accident in the nearby Puchyan River. The Heiples wrote that he drowned while attempting to cross the Fox River without a canoe. Local legend claims it was on a drunken dare. Whatever the case, the old chief was buried along the river until the 1930s, when his son moved him to Dartford Cemetery to be near the lake he loved so much.
Highknocker’s grave is marked by a boulder taken from the lake, as well as an unusual gravestone carved with his image.
The grave of Chief Highknocker
Summerwind and the legend of Witch Road were also both featured in episodes of A Haunting.
Have you had a paranormal experience at Dartford Cemetery? Share it in the comments below!