Category Archives: Wisconsin

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.


Haunted Woods? Indian Burial Grounds? Urban Legends Galore on Sanatorium Hill, Madison, WI

This is a first look at a location I’ve wanted to explore for a while now.  Sanatorium Hill (aka Lake View Sanatorium, now Dane County Health and Human Services) lived up to my hopes as a fun place to explore.  Next step is doing a LOT more research, including hearing more about YOUR stories of the place, followed by, of course, actual ghost hunting!


Fall Event Schedule!

Sept 9-11: The Hollywood Show, Rosemont, Il (hollywoodshow.com)

Sept 10: Screening of “Cry Baby” and signing with star, Amy Locane, Woodridge, Il  (hollywoodblvdcinema.com)

Sept 16: Investigation

Sept 17: Lake/McHenry Ghost Adventure, Long Grove, Il (facebook.com/events/508522306014679) 7-hour tour through some of the most haunted places in Lake and McHenry County with Ursula Bielski and Chicago Hauntings.

Sept 24: Private Event

Sept 28: Archeologist Dan Melone speaking on the topic of his work on Robinson Woods Indian Burial Grounds (one of my favorite sites).  This will be held at the Norwood Park Historical Society. (norwoodparkhistoricalsociety.org/events/events16.html)

TBA: Appearance on “Pretty Late,” WGN AM-720

Oct. 1: Investigation

Oct. 6: Investigation

Oct 7-9: Chicago Ghost Conference / Dark Shores 2016, Willow Springs, Il (chicagoghosts.com/conference.html) A full weekend of great presenters and parties.  I will be on hand to talk about some of the research I’ve been doing in Los Angeles including talking about Linda Vista Hospital, the haunted house near the site of the Tate/Manson murders, the Formosa Cafe hauntings along Hollywood Blvd and possibly Pasadena’s “famed” suicide bridge. Amazingly, this event will be held at one of Resurrection Mary’s favorite locations, the Willowbrook Ballroom.

Oct 10: Private Event

Oct 13: Special hosted screening of “Poltergeist”  Details are TBD at this point.

Oct 15-16: Milwaukee ParaCon, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus (milwaukeeparacon.com).  I will be on hand with Jay Bachochin, one of my partners in crime in creating the documentary “The Hidden Truth?” which chronicled the mysterious series of drownings in LaCrosse, WI, the possible paranormal connections and the investigation that followed.  We will be meeting and greeting while sharing stories of ghosts and Jay’s ongoing search for Bigfoot.

Oct 20: Third Thursday, Los Angeles, Ca (link TBA) Free panel discussion with filmmakers followed by a mixer/cocktail party.  Admission is free, but RSVP required.  Sponsored by the International Screenwriters’ Association (networkisa.org)

Oct 21: Haunted Chronicles, online (paramaniaradio.com/SHOW.php?showid=66) Live radio show, I’ll be talking about haunted sites with Jennifer Runyon Corman & Jimmy Haunted.

Do you need a speaker for your event?  I’ll be in the Midwest until Oct 17, then I’ll be in California starting Oct 21.  Drop me a line and I’ll come tell stories at your Halloween party/company party, etc.!


Seeking personal experiences at San Miguel Mission Paso Robles

Hello, all!  I am getting ready for a trip to the famously haunted San Miguel de Arcangel!  I’ve gathered a ton of information in prep, but I am wondering if you have any experiences there yourself.  OR, do you have any historical information on this site that isn’t easily finable?  If you have anything at all to share, please reach out by commenting below.

In the meantime, I’m also about to get started editing a video in which will include an investigation at Cobb Estate with S.I.U. and a G.H.O.U.L.A. hike up to the Hollywood Sign on the anniversary of Peg Entwhistle’s Death. We did an investigation on the trail on the hike down that was pretty interesting. However, I’m also in final edits of a paranormal feature documentary titled “Hidden Truth” that you guys can find out about over at Hidden Truth Productions.


The Sowden House & The Los Feliz Murder House

By Scott Markus

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Once again, a film shoot (for the film “Darling Nikki”) has put me in (more accurately, near) a (potentially) haunted location.  Quite honestly, how could the home where Elizabeth Short was (possibly) murdered not be haunted?  Even if she wasn’t murdered here and even if Dr. George Hodel was not the killer, he was a seriously dark and awful individual.  The other horrors he did within these walls – even short of murder, would leave more than a little negative energy behind.
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The house itself was designed by the son of one of the greatest architects of the last century – Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, Lloyd Wright. This is not the only Wright property to have a sordid past. Of course Frank Lloyd Wright’s own summer home -Taliesin, in Spring Green, WI, was the site of a massacre where seven people lost their lives.  Ursula Bielski writes of this in her book “Chicago Haunts 3.”

The nature of the location – a private home – leads to this being a quiet location.  However, I would assume some urban legends have started to come out about this location.  Have you heard anything?  Please leave comments below!

I’m also starting to look into the so-called Los Feliz Murder Mansion.  As the story goes (more detail here), in 1959 a Dr. Harold N. Perelson murdered his wife, then beat one of his three children nearly to death before committing suicide himself.  All three children did survive….felt the need to find a silver lining here.  Since that murder, no one has occupied the house.  One family has owned it for the past 60 years, but the house has been left eerily undisturbed, allegedly to the extent that there are still board games in-progress sitting on tables waiting to be finished from a game started during the cold war.

I happened to be in the area recently and decided to drive past the property.  Even then, not leaving the car, but driving up the driveway as far as you can go (which isn’t far at all) is a bit of a harrowing experience.

Los Feliz Murder Mansion, Los Feliz Murder Mansion

(Above: as close as I got) I do want to investigate the location professionally and with permission, but I anticipate a tough sell to the hard-to-locate home owner. Due to the elusive nature of this property, even if it was haunted, there aren’t really any possibilities for witnesses to any strange occurrences, but I will ask you, the cyber audience anyway: have any of you heard of any ghost stories associated with this property?

In other news, I attended a Moth storytelling session yesterday and one of the stories that was told was about the ghost of Zelda in West Covena.  This is apparently the ghost of a child from the 1900s who was murdered underground in a spillway (now called Zelda’s Tunnel/Pit/Cave/etc) that is still accessible today.  The ghost story involves, at the very least, the phantom sound of a bell, which Zelda was wearing on a necklace at the time of her death.  Other recountings are more urban legend-y and say Zelda was sacrificed by a cult and will now kill anyone walking through her tunnel (there’s actually a fun retelling of this tale along with a personal….encounter(?) at this site).  Questions to you guys:  Do you have any tales of your own from this site?  Do you have any hard evidence that there was actually a murder here (something that would also tell us Zelda’s last name)?  And, of course, where EXACTLY is the entrance to her tunnel?