A gust of wind rattled the window panes of the inn, sweeping up dry leaves that pelted the glass. The sudden squall temporarily silenced the idle chatter from a small gathering of local patrons at the bar. Perhaps a storm was brewing, though none knew of any predicted.
Sensing a chill, the proprietor walked to the large stone fireplace to stir the blazing logs. Darkness had fallen on the tiny village in the hollow. It was the last day of October and the nights were growing longer.
The small talk resumed as more pints were poured. The conversation ranged from who had yet to harvest their crops to a debate concerning how cold the winter was going to be. Outside the wind continued to blow.
The blather was interrupted by a sharp knock at the door. All eyes turned to the heavy-framed door, which opened slowly inward. An icy chill filled the room. Silhouetted against the dark was a …
Did I catch your attention? Did the beginning of this tale from the hollow make you want to read more?
Many love a good ghost story whether it’s classic fiction from Washington Irving or Edgar Allen Poe, to Peter Straub or Stephen King. Horror movies have become a staple of the box office, making millions of dollars.
Many also believe the existence of ghosts is real. Forty-five percent of adults in a Huffington Post-YouGov poll said they believe in ghosts and 28 percent said they had seen a ghost. Some also believe that the time around Halloween is when the veil that separates the world of the living from the world of the dead grows thin.
In 2018 I wrote about the supernatural experiences we’ve had in our farmhouse and the unexplained beam of light that appeared in a corner of the house – a beam that I was unable to replicate despite many attempts.
Several years ago I wrote about the Lonesome or Lonely Grave of Clark County, Wisconsin. It’s located near the ghost town of Columbia, a former boom town a few miles southwest of Neillsville.
In a cemetery near the crossroads of Fisher Avenue and Poertner Road in the town of Dewhurst is the grave of Blanche Grimes, who was only 17 months old when she died Aug. 5, 1895. There are supposedly 27 graves in the cemetery; a few others being identified. But the only gravestone is Blanche’s. Legend says her marker disappeared several times only to be returned in the middle of the night. An account from 30 years ago says her grave was adorned with flowers as well as sometimes small coins and tokens of affection.
I visited the site. Only a chunk of the granite headstone remained but a new sign marked the grave, which was surrounded by a small fence. Inside the fence was a collection of figurines, toys, candy and stuffed animals. It’s a toy box for a child whose playtime in this life was all too short. There are no reports of the cemetery being haunted.
But there’s a cemetery where the gravestones have been removed. Recently I learned about Shady Glen Cemetery, located about 3 miles southeast of Hixton in Jackson County, Wisconsin. The cemetery is across the road from the former Shady Glen School, which is now a ruin.
Online genealogical records show several Civil War veterans are buried there, along with several victims of a diphtheria outbreak. But as the land changed hands during the years, most of the headstones were removed – and supposedly one farmer had the area plowed. It’s said some of the stones were repurposed for a walkway, back steps and a milk-house floor on a nearby farm. It was razed when Interstate 94 was built though some of the foundations still remain. I was unable to reach a local resident who wrote that he’s leading efforts to have the cemetery restored and recognized once again.
There was no mention of the cemetery being haunted, but it would make the perfect setting for restless spirits – especially with the crumbling schoolhouse nearby. Perhaps there are certain locations where the physical and spiritual worlds collide.
Recently I passed through a small burg a few miles northwest of Ettrick in Trempealeau County called Iduna, where there was once a small store and post office. The origin of the town’s name is disputed. Some believe it was literally derived from “I dono” implying an ignorant early settler. Others believe it comes from Idun, the Norse goddess of spring and eternal youth.
I stopped in Iduna to take a photo of the crumbling remains of a house or former business there. It also would make an ideal setting for a ghostly tale.
Wrote Irving in his classic “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” “Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie. They are given to all kinds of marvellous beliefs, are subject to trances and visions, and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air. The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions ...”
Now back to that silhouette in the doorway on the dark, cold night …