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Madison monsters: Meet our ghosts, ghouls, witches and werewolves

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Author Topic: Madison monsters: Meet our ghosts, ghouls, witches and werewolves  (Read 93 times)
Keira Kensington
Superhero Member
Posts: 4704

« on: December 04, 2014, 01:01:23 am »

 Chopping and clattering

The railway trestle that spans Monona Bay parallel to John Nolen Drive was once home to the well-known ghost of a railroad brakeman who was killed in 1892. He was seen fairly often at the turn of the 20th century, walking the tracks and waving his lantern. At least some railroad employees were so frightened that they refused to work. Others tried to chase the ghost, but he always disappeared into a nearby marsh, in what today is Brittingham Park.

Over on the west side, the UW-Madison Arboretum once had a phantom woodcutter. In the middle of the night during the 1900s, he -- or she or it -- could sometimes be heard chopping wood. Neighbors searched, but never found anything. Eagle Heights is said to have a similar woodsman.

At around the same time, Seminole Highway was thought to be haunted by the spirit of a Native American boy and his pony. Usually they trailed pedestrians in the night. At other times neighbors reported hearing the clatter of hooves. As automobiles became more common, the boy and his pony either departed or can no longer been seen in the glare of headlights.

Badger ghosts

On campus, the University Club, 803 State St., has its own ghost. "You're talking about Bob," the former general manager, Edward Zaleski, told me a few years ago. "Bob and I are intimate."

The club was founded in 1907. In World War I it served as an infirmary during the influenza epidemic that struck 28% of all Americans. If real, Bob could be the ghost of one of those patients. Or perhaps he's the spirit of one of the many World War II sailors who lodged there during training.

Whatever Bob is, he's merely mischievous. For decades, club employees arriving in the morning have occasionally found every kitchen cabinet and refrigerator door open. Zaleski himself had seen odd shadows and heard an iron gate rattle when he thought the building was empty. And then there's the old English reading table, on loan from the Wisconsin Historical Society. It weighs more than 500 pounds.

"I came in one morning and that table was moved five feet," Zaleski said. He had been the last to leave the night before.

Across Library Mall, Charles E. Brown worked for the Wisconsin Historical Society for 36 years, starting in 1908. Besides serving as museum curator, he collected many stories from Madison's original residents, the Ho-Chunk.

Several of their legends relate to Picnic Point. Anna White Wings told Brown of the Ho-Chunk families that once happily lived there.

"Then the witches came," she said. "They carried away some of the small children. They fed them and fattened them and ate them."

The families prayed to Earthmaker, who not only restored the children but changed the witches into hackberry trees near the tip of the point. "They must stand forevermore because of their wrongdoing. When the Wind Spirit comes, they wave their limbs, moan and ask to be released."

Picnic Point also boasts the ghost of a onetime well-known local architect. German-born August Kutzbock designed several homes on Mansion Hill, as well as the Gates of Heaven synagogue that now stands in James Madison Park. He also was primary designer of our second capitol building (we are now on our third).
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