Ghosts of Wisconsin

The Most Famous Wisconsin Ghosts

Embark on a chilling journey through paranormal history as we delve into the eerie tales of the most famous Wisconsin ghosts. From the earliest reported hauntings of a dark, murderous entity known as the Ridgeway Ghost, or the lingering spirit of an 18th-century explorer still haunting the ruins of Summerwind, to the stately suites of the Pfister Hotel, where the long-deceased owner plays tricks on celebrity guests.

These legendary Wisconsin ghost stories have become so woven into the tapestry our of great weird state that whether they’re fact or folklore, they’re permanently etched into the pages of the history books.

1. Jonathan Carver of Summerwind

Summerwind Mansion

The haunted Summerwind Mansion

Deep in the Northwoods of Wisconsin is the Summerwind Mansion, or what remains of it, and it may be the most notoriously haunted location in the entire state. But haunted by whom?  In the 1979 book The Carver Effect by Wolffgang von Bober, who supposedly spent some time living in the house, Summerwind is haunted by the ghost of British explorer Jonathan Carver. Carver spent several years in the 1760s exploring parts of Wisconsin around the Mississippi River before returning to London. Upon his death, Carver’s heirs claimed Sioux chiefs had given Carver the deed to land in Wisconsin totaling 10,000 square miles. No documentation of any such deal was ever found and congress refused to acknowledge it. But von Bober claims the deed had been sealed somewhere in the foundation of Summerwind, and Carver’s ghost is still searching for it.

2. Charles Pfister

Grave of Charles Pfister in Forest Home Cemetery

Grave of Charles Pfister in Forest Home Cemetery

The historic Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee has earned a fearful reputation in recent years as “baseball’s haunted hotel” due to the afterlife antics of its namesake, Charles Pfister. Numerous major league baseball players have stayed there while in town and experienced true terror. They hear footsteps stomping around their rooms, objects being moved, electronics turning on and off. Sometimes they demand a different room, while some now refuse to stay at the Pfister altogether.

3. The Bloody Bride

Bloody Bride Bridge in Stevens Point, WI

Bloody Bride Bridge

According to legend, the bridge along Highway 66 in Steven’s Point was the once the site of a tragic accident where a newlywed couple met their untimely demise on their wedding night. Stories say you can see the bride on a rainy night, wandering distraught around the bridge in her bloody wedding dress.

4. Boy Scouts of Boy Scout Lane

Boy Scout Lane

Boy Scout Lane

Another of the most haunted roads in Wisconsin, legend says a group of Boy Scouts died on the dirt road known as Boy Scout Lane. The cause varies from murderous scout master to bus accident to forest fire, but reports of hauntings around the road don’t waver. Unsuspecting visitors have felt a sense of unease, heard the thumping of footsteps on the ground around them, encountered ghostly lantern lights moving among the trees, and found small handprints on their cars – evidence to some that the lost Boy Scouts still roam the woods at night.

5. Tallman’s Bunk Bed Ghost

Unsolved Mysteries Tallman House episode about a haunted bunk bed in Horicon, WI

Scene from the Unsolved Mysteries episode “Tallman’s Ghost”

In 1988, the Tallmann family fled their home in Horicon in the middle of a freezing January night and never looked back. An evil presence seemingly attached to a second hand bunk bed they had purchased for the younger children had frightened, tormented, and even threatened their lives for nine months, and they couldn’t take it anymore. The family’s pastor, the Horicon police chief, a UW-Milwaukee professor and others investigated the Tallman’s home. That fall, a new show called Unsolved Mysteries aired a special Halloween episode that was actually filmed inside the house. The bunk bed was disposed of in an undisclosed location.

6. Walter Schroeder

Haunted hotel in Fond du Lac

Vintage postcard of the haunted Retlaw Hotel

Wisconsin’s most prolific ghost has to be Walter Schroeder, a successful hotel magnate who built numerous hotels and other properties around the state beginning in the 1920s. In life, Walter was a well-liked and philanthropic man. He often donated large sums of money to organizations helping out kids. In death, Walter became something of a prankster at not one but several of his buildings, whether he owned them or was just a benefactor. But his favorite haunt seems to be the Retlaw Hotel, where he’s known to turn lights on, change television channels, break glasses, and rattle door knobs. Anything that goes wrong gets blamed on Walter.

7. Mary Worth

Is this the grave of Mary Worth?

One possible grave of Mary Worth, Hillside Cemetery

There are a lot of legends surrounding Whitewater, and for good reason. Around the turn of the century the town was the home to the world’s only school dedicated to teaching the art of psychic mediumship – talking to the dead. And some believe this left much of the town haunted. Whitewater’s most notorious ghost is that of Mary Worth, who is said to have been an axe-murdering witch who cursed the town. Mary may have existed, or maybe not. And she’s either buried in Oak Grove Cemetery or in the public receiving vault of Hillside Cemetery. Regardless, some say you will find her wandering among the tombstones on the eve of Halloween.

8. Ridgeway Ghost

Ridgeway Ghost

Ridgeway ghost on the water tower

Wisconsin’s oldest and possibly most famous ghost may also be the only one directly responsible for the deaths of several people. First appearing in the 1840s, the Ridgeway Ghost was a dark, silent figure known to be seen along the old Military Road. Something of a shapeshifting phantom, it took many different forms of people and animals. And it was kind of a trickster. It would ride silently in the carriages of passersby, steel wagon wheels, startle horses, milk cows dry, and murder unsuspecting travelers.

The Ridgeway Ghost was believed to be the spirit of a man or two brothers killed in a bar fight during the area’s early lead mining days, with sightings mysteriously escalating in 40-year cycles.

Today, the town of Ridgeway lays claim to the title of “Home to the Famous Ghost.” It may be the only place in the world with a ghost painted on its water tower.

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