Sunday, October 13, 2013

Milwaukee Haunts & Hell Holes

It was the year 2000 just before Halloween. We were thirteen year-old girls in a mildewy basement wailing along to Alanis Morrisette. (She understood our complex boy problems.)  After bouncing on the fold out sofa and punching a hole in the low hanging ceiling tile with an air-guitar solo, we opted for a less obnoxious activity.

A Ouija board was pulled out from under the dust ruffle of the loveseat. There were hissed slumber party whispers and some kind of pine-cone-sun-dried-turkey-dinner-fresh-off-the-laundry-line scented candle flickering on the floor near us.

"Dude, you're moving it."
"No you're moving it."

Our straight faced friend interrupted us,
"Shut the fuck up. The dead are moving it."

We held our breath as we watched the fish eye of the little pointer glide over the letters. How serious. How interesting. How different. Our otherworldly communion was broken as our hostess' mutant brother smashed his piggy face up against the window well. We screamed.  More boy problems.

Did I really believe that we spoke to wayward spirits through a piece of cardboard? I will leave that up to you, dear reader. But what I will tell you is that I loved that feeling: the feeling of oddness and mystery. The feeling that anything or any place-- like a piece of cardboard or a stinky wood paneled basement-- could be magical. Or dangerous.

I still seek out those places, whether they be haunted, secluded, strange or steeped in urban legend.   These are a few of my favorite Milwaukee haunts.

The "Witch's House" (Fox Bay) was the incredible home of the prolific artist, Mary Nohl. With the eyes of bizarre sculptures peeping out above overgrown grass and a chain link fence obscuring the view of the house, this property became the inspiration for generations of urban myth.

Though Frank 'N Stein (Riverwest) has closed its doors to the public, it remains a novelty as a funeral parlor turned hot dog joint. The building itself is a century old with reports of eerie activity in the dish room--formerly the embalming room. 

Built in 1893, The Pfister Hotel  (Downtown) is reportedly haunted by the ghost of its founder, Charles Pfister. The sumptuous decor of the 'Victorian Splendor' is both breathtaking and unnerving as it can be difficult to tell if you feel swept away or suffocated.

Forget that The Milwaukee Public Museum is haunted by its flamboyant caped former director, it's full of dead animals and mannequins. Enough said.

Shakers Cigar Bar (Walkers Point) is reportedly a hotspot for poltergeist activity. Though I'm not sure if I'm as unsettled by the stories of ghost kids watching you pee as I am by their heavily promoted 'Serial Killer Tours'. Keep it classy, MKE.

Forest Home Cemetery is one of the most beautiful cemeteries I've ever visited in the country. With flowering trees, reflecting ponds, winding walkways and monuments suited for a sculpture garden it is easy to while away an entire afternoon enjoying the afterlife.

The Hide House (Bayview) is a tannery turned crumbling painting studio, practice space, business development and church. As a former tenant of this haunted hell hole, I can personally vouch for its weirdness. Aside from housing the restless spirits of THOUSANDS of dead cows, the unreliable power, rotted floors, doors to nowhere, boarded-up hallways and an endless supply of mystery dust make this "raw space" a real treat to visit. Don't touch anything. Really.

The Seminary Woods (St. Francis) is a green jewel boasting some of the oldest trees in the city. While walking the paths of the peaceful woods you will stumble upon a small cemetery and the lovely "Our Lady of Lourdes" stone grotto.Sober. Sublime. A bit spooky.

According to the internet, The Seven Bridges trail (Grant Park, South Milwaukee) just reeks of ghosts. The infamous covered bridge is the site of several suicides, reoccurring twinkling lights and reportedly the home of a reclusive giant praying-mantis-super-demon. Round up the kids and check it out!

Where are your favorite haunts?
Keep it weird, Kittens.

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