Today is Halloween, more formally known as “All Hallows Eve,” the eve of All Saints Day.
This is the time of year when reminders of death and the unexplainable intersect. A number of Southwest Wisconsin locations are said, or rumored, to be haunted, possessed, or the location of events that seem to defy rational explanation.
The reader can decide what he or she believes of these stories from various sources. (Indeed, the word “reportedly” applies to most of what you’ll read.)
The most involved story centers around an abandoned two-story stone house near the Platte Mound. At one time, Carl and Louise Nodolf and their family lived in the house, and experienced an unexplainable event, if the story is to be believed.
Carl Nodolf came to the U.S. from Germany in the 1860s, leaving behind his wife-to-be so that he could make some money before they married. Nodolf farmed near the Mound, was successful at it, and returned to Germany to get his future wife. Upon arriving, however, he found out that his wife-to-be and most of her family had died in a diphtheria outbreak. Only his wife-to-be’s mother and sister, Louise, who was 16, survived.
Carl brought Louise and her mother back to Wisconsin with him, and Carl and Louise married. They had two children, Minnie and Louie.
The story centers around a stormy June day and night, with gale-force winds. Carl and Louise put Minnie, 5, and Louie, 2, to bed in the upstairs, and locked all of the house’s doors and windows. The Nodolfs went to bed around midnight.
A few hours later, the story goes, Louise awoke to a loud clap of thunder, and she heard Minnie cry for help. She went into the children’s bedroom, but they weren’t in there. Carl and Louise checked the rest of the house, but they were nowhere to be found in the house.
The children were found, instead, outside the house, in their bedclothes. Despite the pouring rain, neither was wet. The children had somehow gotten outside of a locked house in which every door was bolted from the inside, and every window was locked from the inside.
The children couldn’t answer their parents’ questions of how they got outside. The story claims Minnie and Louie began stuttering trying to answer, and the two stuttered the rest of their lives. The Nodolfs had six more children, none of whom stuttered.
Explanations for the children’s disappearance of a sleepwalking parent and gypsies were suggested and discounted.
An additional claim made about the house is that Carl Nodolf’s wife-to-be haunted it, even though she died before coming to the U.S.
Not far from the stone house is the Penial Cemetery, where visitors have been spooked by a stone in a grave marker that is said to glow.
The Ghosts of America website includes a claim about Rountree Hall, the first building on the campus of what now is UW–Platteville, of strange noises, sounds of moving items and voices in the basement.
East of Rountree Hall, in City Park, a white-haired old woman wearing a nightgown was spotted by two people riding bicycles around 6 a.m. one day. The two claimed that wherever they went the woman was “just around the corner watching them and walking along,” according to Ghosts of America.
Some places are claimed to be haunted because of infamous events that occurred there.
UW–Platteville student Kathleen Moan was shot to death in what was the Student Center snack bar, now the location of Ullsvik Hall, Dec. 8, 1964. Moan was a member of the former Kappa Alpha Epsilon sorority, and there were claims that her ghost haunted her house, now the home of the Phi Sigma fraternity.
The hill behind the former Brunner’s Food Center in Potosi was the site of the shooting death of a man in the late 1800s. A man dressed as a miner, carrying a pick axe or shovel over one shoulder, was reportedly seen during evenings.
Between Platteville and Dickeyville are the Coffee Can Woods, where a woman was killed and dismembered by her husband, with her body parts divided into coffee cans.
Areas around Platteville have their own unusual stories. The book Driftless Spirits: Ghosts of Southwest Wisconsin, by Dennis Boyer, includes a story about Annaton, on Grant County E west of Livingston: “She explained how, even a century ago, Annaton would temporarily disappear. She said that in the early days such experiences were viewed as insanity. Those fortunate to survive the change usually ended up in their own little room at the county farm. Those who didn’t make it through the shift were stuck on the ‘other side.’”
Rock Church in the Town of Clifton was the subject of a reported investigation after claims that someone, or something, called out names in the church, with additional strange events taking place nightly in the cemetery, according to the Ghosts of America website.
Driftless Spirits includes the Potosi Brewery, supposedly haunted by a previous owner: “Odd equipment failures and sour batches would occur just as new orders were to be filled. Whole railroad cars of beer barrels disappeared. Brewery workers blamed the Englishman’s ghost. This drove the German crazy and he would sputter on about stupid Americans. Yet there were indications that the German believed more in ghosts then he let on.”
Driftless Spirits also has this story about a mysterious fisherman seen in the streams of the Town of Mifflin, including the Pecatonica River: “All of a sudden a second reflection was beside my own. An old man in a fishing outfit. I jumped and whipped around. No one was there. I look at the water again. The reflection was still there. I looked over my shoulder again. Again no one. I closed my eyes. A hand touched my shoulder! I was so startled that I slipped and fell in the water.”
One event that didn’t occur in Platteville, but has a Platteville connection, is the disappearance of Catherine Winters, a 9-year-old girl in New Castle, Ind., on March 20, 1913 (“What happened to Catherine Winters?”, March 20). While she was out selling sewing needles door-to-door for a church missionary society, Catherine was kidnapped off the streets of New Castle and never seen again. Catherine’s grandmother and aunt lived in Platteville.
Grant County has been the site of numerous UFO reports. The UFO Wisconsin website includes reports of UFOs in Grant County between 1947 and 2008, near Yellowstone State Park in 2002, and in Iowa County between 1947 and 2002.
Are these stories true? It’s possible that pranksters or perpetuators of hoaxes made up these or other stories. But Catherine Winters did disappear and was never seen again. Kathleen Moan was killed. How much of the other stories should be believed? That’s for you to decide.