Author Archives: scottmarkus

Dillinger, the Chicago Mob & Some Good Drinks at Madison’s Wonder Bar

The haunted Wonder Bar, with a deep mafia history in Madison, WI.

The haunted Wonder Bar, with a deep mafia history in Madison, WI.

Locked in time, this location opened as Eddie’s Wonder Bar in 1929.  Though the name changed a few times over the years, the building is once again the Wonder Bar.  Perhaps it is the fact that this building is so unchanged that has lead it to be a comfortable location for its regulars to remain after death.

It is certainly worth noting that many of the original ‘regulars’ were people of ill repute.  The restaurant was opened by Eddie Touhy.  He was the only Touhy brother out of six who was not a known criminal.  The “Terrible Touhy” brothers gang started as bootleggers who first supplied booze to Capone’s gang.  Once Capone wanted to take over their operation, a full war battle out, the famed “Beer Wars.”  The same year the Wonder Bar opened, one of his brothers, Joseph, was gunned down by Capone gunmen.  By this time, other brothers, John (Capone again, 1927) & James (by police, 1917) had already met their end by bullets.

The notice reads "Closed by order of the National Prohibition Act" haunted Wonder Bar Madison

The notice reads “Closed by order of the National Prohibition Act”

While Eddie was not considered a criminal himself, it would be surprising if he kept his nose clean entirely, with such powerful brothers Roger and Tommy “the Human Bomb” still in power.  In addition to bootlegging, Roger enjoyed installing gambling in local saloons.  Was Madison’s Wonder Bar one of them?  It’s worth looking into further.  It is generally accepted that this was a safe house for John Dillinger as his crime spree dotted the Midwest.

Wendy Lynn Staats descends the staircase to explore some of the mysteries in the Wonder Bar basement. Madison haunted

Wendy Lynn Staats descends the staircase to explore some of the mysteries in the Wonder Bar basement.

Current employees freely share paranormal stories – things they’ve heard, things they’ve experienced.  Wendy Lynn Staats, Mike Huberty & I were lucky enough to get an impromptu tour of the basement and it’s mysterious tunnels.  Legend has it that at least one of the tunnels reaches Lake Monona.  However, being a quarter mile from shore and that lake not easily connecting to and larger water ways, I’m unsure of the benefit here, unless they were shipping booze out to other lake front taverns.  It is worth noting that the distance from the back door to a nearby rail line is barely over 100 feet, so perhaps this was a way to keep the booze flowing from Chicago to Madison & beyond.

Claims of shootouts here have been unverified so far, but research is continuing.  If nothing more, an archeological study of the building, rail line & Olin Park (situated between Wonder Bar & Lake Monona) would be fascinating.

Whatever the reason, hauntings here are continued and regular.  Objects move by themselves, including heavy chairs.  A man in a trench coat has been observed & footsteps are regularly heard throughout the building.  An oft-repeated legend claims that a murder victim’s body is walled up within the 2nd story fireplace, leading to some of the activity.

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Photo gallery: Madison Ghost Walk

Situated between two large lakes, the beautiful, old capital town of Madison has European roots dating back to the 1820s, but Native American presence here dates back nearly 12,000 years.  The haunted history of this city has a lot to draw on – from the ancient mounds that still dot the landscape (though many were built over, possibly leading to more unrest), to the murders, eccentric characters and accidents that make up any town’s history.

madison-ghost-walks

This little strip of land has enough paranormal activity to support not one or two, but THREE downtown walking tours, including one that specifically focuses on the UW Campus.

Click on the banner above to book your own tour – there’s never an ‘off season’ for ghost stories!  And keep in mind that the tour company, operated by paranormal podcast host, Mike Huberty, has tours across the Wisconsin (Lake Geneva, Milwaukee, Waukesha & the Dells) & Minnesota (St. Paul, Minneapolis & Stillwater).  You can book inquire about tours, including private tours in any of this listed towns at this link.

I checked out one of the downtown Madison tours with our incredible guide, Lisa Van Buskirk, a firefighter who has unique insight to Madison’s dark, true and sometimes hidden stories.

To check out a photo gallery from our tour:

Captions, clockwise from top, left:

1. Capitol Building – built on the grounds of the original, burned building. Fascinating ghost story involving a painting!
2. Old hotels and apartment buildings have all the stories!  And the Lorraine Hotel has a very unique claim to a bit of crime history!
3. This classic, 100+ year old building (commonplace in Madison) boasts a tie to Thomas Jefferson & a ghostly couple still seen in an upper window.
4. One of the absolute highlights of the tour (in my opinion), is Madison’s Masonic Lodge.  They are just now starting to make their ghost stories known – thanks to the prodding of our ‘vampy’ tour guide.
5. Madison’s US Federal Court building has at least one post-mortem employee still occupying an office.  Time will tell if loose lips will start exposing more stories!

Do you know about another haunted Madison location?  Or do you have a personal experience or know an interesting fact about one of the locations listed here?  Leave a comment on this post and share!

If you are interested in more haunted Madison locations, check out our posts on Sanitarium Hill and the Wonder Bar.


Your Ghost Stories from the Shooting Star ParaCon

It was great meeting so many new people & hearing their stories. If you were down for sharing your stories on camera – Thank you!  We got stories that took place in Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota & Illinois!  We also had tons of additional stories shared with us off camera (among them, cryptid encounters, including a goatman sighting)!


History and Hauntings of Sault Ste. Marie

PalaceSaloonHaunted1PalaceSaloonHaunted2What about the beautiful town of Sault Ste Marie, MI?  Is it haunted?  If it’s appearing on this site, the odds are, yes.  Michigan’s oldest town (founded in 1668!) and site of the Michigan ParaCon, Sault Ste. Marie (pronounced “Soo Saint Marie”) has some haunted locations. We’ll start right where we get most of our food while we’re on location, the 1903-built Palace Saloon.  This restaurant has activity throughout the building including activity from the basement to the top floor, but most notably, a man in black seen sitting in one of the booths (pictured above).  See a video I shot of employees talking about the hauntings with Mike, Wendy and Allison from the “See You on the Other Side” podcast.

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Also, we got a tip about a number of haunted sites outside of Sault Ste Marie that might still be occupied by active Native American spirits.  These were given to us by a member of the Sault tribe while saying the locations are very active and paranormal occurrences are ongoing.  Here are the locations we need to research more before returning for a number of full investigations:

Sugar Island – Just 4 miles and a ferry ride away from the town center, this is a 49 square mile island with a population of under 700 people and is considered an ancestral homeland to the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians while also being important to the Ojibwe.  It was once in consideration (in 1945) to be the HQ of the United Nations.

MissionHillCemeteryMichiganMission Hill – about 22 miles west is the township of Brimley / Bay Mills and its secluded (click on the map to see just how isolated it is) and active Mission Hill Cemetery.  This location is known for its abundant ghost lights and disembodied voices.  This is possibly primarily a native American burial site.  Due to its seclusion, there has not been a lot reported on it, historical or paranormal.

Green Sky Hill – As tends to be the case with Native American legends, so much oral tradition is just that – only oral, not recorded in print.  We were told to look into Green Sky Hill, about 100 south, in the main “mitten” of Michigan.  Indeed, there is a book titled “Legends of Green Sky Hill” and categorized as “North American Indian Legends,” but the book was published in 1959 and little else can be found online.  A journey into the world of used books may be needed to understand this site.

Charlevoix – in the same area as Green Sky Hill is the town of Charlevoix.  Like all of this region, inhabitation dates into prehistory by tribes of this region and, as the name indicates, French explorers in the 1700s.  More modern establishments sprang up in the mid 1850s and by today we have a very old town with lots of ghost stories, particularly the Weathervane Restaurant that boasts three different ghosts who make their presence visually known.  One specter moves objects… big objects… like slamming heavy doors and even rolling a large banquet table from one room to the next.

Wolverine Hotel – Also near Charlevoix is the town of Boyne City, which boasts the Wolverine Hotel (pictured below, more recently known as the Dilworth Inn), a grand hotel from 1912.  Unfortunately, I could not find any tales of hauntings at this site, nor could I even find if this location is open for business.  Still, the fact that we were informed that this is a place to look into, tells us to pay attention.  So, we’ll keep our eyes open for this site and others!

DilworthInn

Locations within Sault Ste Marie that are reportedly haunted include the Soo Brewing Company, Antlers Restaurant, Museum Ship Valley Camp, Ramada Ojibway Plaza, The Satisfied Frog Pub, which is located just across the street from the Palace Saloon.

More than anything, this article is a call to action for anyone out there.  Do you have tips on interesting history, folklore or your very own personal ghost stories about these locations?  Please let me know in the comments.  Hopefully we can arrange a separate journey to the northern edge of America to further investigate these sites.


The “Old Slave House” in Southern IL by Drone

I have long wanted to see the “Old Slave House” for myself since first reading about it in Michael Kleen’s book “Haunting Illinois.”  I knew even when that book came out in 2011 that the site was strictly off limits, currently owned by the state of Illinois.  Attempting to do things ‘by the book’ I contacted the state.  Saying that since it’s such a new addition to the DNR, I should contact the site directly, I was given a phone number that did not connect to anything.

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Do I think I was being thrown off my goal intentionally?  No.  Unfortunately, I think I got a feel for how much of a priority this location is to the state, which is to say, not much of one.  Despite being on the National Registry of Historic Places, this is likely an endangered location with little chance of the house ever being re-opened to the public.  Part of this is due to its seclusion. Seen in this map, the nearest ‘large’ town is Harrisburg, which only boasts a population of 8,800 (Eldorado is around 4,000), so the likelihood of the location generating revenue as a museum is unlikely. However, with the location infamous for its dark history (being associated with slavery and the horrendous “reverse underground railroad”) and with paranormal activity reported here for over 160 years, there is another option.  I think the building would have paranormal shows and ghost hunting teams lining up to rent the location nightly.

To hear more about the history and hauntings at Crenshaw House, watch the video above.


Recap of the 2018 Michigan ParaCon

This post originally came out a week ago in our free paranormal newsletter.  Sign up for that right here on our site at this link.

For the second straight year I headed to the Michigan ParaCon with a motley crew of paranormal nerds (Allison Journlin of Milwaukee Ghosts, Lisa Van Buskirk of Madison Ghost Walks, and two-thirds of the paranormal band, Sunspot and the hosts of the “See You on the Other Side” podcast, Mike Huberty and Wendy Lynn Staats) to hear the latest news from the biggest names in the game.  Feel free to check out our preview video, which we recorded on Facebook live while stuck in construction traffic.   If you’ve never been to an event like this, in some ways it’s like any other trade show.  New products and merch are available in the vendor area (usually in the form of books, DVD releases and clothes) while the main hall features constant programming consisting of panel discussions and lectures.

It’s a wonderful way to connect with fascinating people who share our somewhat unorthodox interests and to meet people we’d otherwise not have easy access to.  Of course, one of the real treat is the exchange of ideas, experiences and theories.  Naturally, a lot of the great first-hand chats happen after hours in the hotel bar (this is often worth the price of admission itself).  Last year, among other amazing stories, we had a conversation with John Tenney, who had been asked to observe an exorcism.  Talk about an amazing and unique (and damn, right – horrifying) story to hear straight from the horse’s mouth!

Sometimes you start to see a shift in ideas when you attend these events.  That concepts and methodology changes is exciting in and of itself.  The latest theory that almost became a theme this year is perhaps easiest explained in conversation rather than written out.  So, enjoy my attempt to throw a fascinating concept your way in the video here.

At a glance, here we some of the highlights this year:

  • John E.L. Tenney, as you may be picking up on, is a great storyteller and a wealth of information. In his lecture, he talked about some of his more recent fascinating investigations, along with a message of oneness and appreciating everything in our world.  Later, at the bar, John dropped some knowledge on us in the form of the incredible story of Ted Serios, a Chicago bellhop who had the ability to psychically imprint images of locations onto Polaroid film simply by touching the camera.  Challenged, he was even able to do this on live TV by touching the broadcast camera.  Oddly, most video of his work on YouTube is in German or Spanish.  It’s peculiar that an astonishing American is remembered more in other countries than our own today.  However, a full conversation on the man can be found here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vFNVpUhiyk
  • Katrina Weidman and I talked at length about shadow people, individual stories and theories. I hope she’s working on a project on the topic as she seems very intrigued.  Wendy and I were both very impressed by the “Paranormal Lockdown” star who we first met two years earlier in Milwaukee.  Her memory of our meeting was so sharp, you would’ve thought we hang out all the time.
  • Finding myself in an elevator ride with Jeff Mudgett, HH Holmes descendant and subject of the recent series “American Ripper.” Jeff and I have known each other for several years at this point and it’s always exciting to hear the latest news in the quest to find out all there is to know about his infamous ancestor.  Meanwhile, Allison found herself sharing an elevator with Josh Gates of “Expedition Unknown,” which allowed her husband to gush to him directly over the phone.
  • Getting to see Sunspot play live. Okay, I’m biased here, but take a look below for a recent live performance about staying the night in haunted locations.  Let’s just say, they’re an ideal booking for a paranormal conference!

  • Though I can’t really say I was a big follower of the show, “Ghost Hunters,” I was still excited to meet Grant Wilson, who is still very interested in learning about the mysteries of the unknown world and is reaching out to audiences directly with a new YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/user/TheGrantwilson
  • Of course, it’s also always a blast hearing the latest from Greg and Dana Newkirk and the Traveling Museum of the Haunted and Occult.

The next newsletter will come out very soon with some podcasts, haunted sites in Sault Ste Marie (where the MI ParaCon was held), and a look at the movie based on the Bell Witch, “An American Haunting.” 


A Review of “The Nun” + Some Ghost Stories & Elisa Lam’s Mysterious Death

This is a review of the horror movie, “The Nun,” but we also get into a lot of real life Ghost Stories in LA, the mysterious death of Elisa Lam at the Cecil Hotel and the Bell Witch Cave in Tennessee.