Legends, Myths, and Mysteries of the Northwoods
The woods and roadways and historic buildings of northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula grow quiet as the summer fades to a mere memory. With the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot, the tap of tree branches swaying in an October storm, and the larger-than-life shadows that appear on shortening days, we sense an otherworldly presence lingering here.
Whether you’re an enthusiastic ghost hunter or an unshakeable skeptic, this time of year fuels the appetite and imagination for all things weird, enigmatic, or just plain creepy. With its vast forests, sparsely inhabited lands, and captivating history, it comes as no surprise that there are many legends, myths, and mysteries set here, Up North.
So come take a closer look. There’s nothing to be scared of. Is there?
Paulding Light – Paulding, Michigan
A mysterious light appears in a valley near Watersmeet, Michigan. Is it a ghost, swamp gas, or just an illusion created by car headlights? Although students from Michigan Tech reported that they could see automobile headlights and tail lights when viewing the light through a telescope, investigators from the SyFy television show “Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files” were unsuccessful in their attempts to recreate the light using car headlights. They concluded that the phenomenon is “unexplainable.”
Ontonagon Triangle – Ontonagon and Houghton counties, Michigan
At least four people disappeared without a trace within a 50-square-mile area between Ontonagon and Houghton counties in the Upper Peninsula. John Buccanero, 22, was last seen riding a snowmobile in 1987; loggers found his deserted vehicle months after he was reported missing. Oscar Hintta, 64, vanished while hunting with his best friend two years later. Raymond Lewis, a 55-year-old poet and handyman, disappeared on a forest road in 1992. Jan Pattison, 38, vanished into the dense forest, never to be seen again, in 1993. Various parties, from law enforcement to psychics, attempted to uncover clues to these people’s disappearances—to no avail.
Summerwind Mansion – Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin
As the legend goes, British explorer Jonathan Carver was deeded the rights to the northern third of Wisconsin (including the land on which Summerwind Mansion sits) by a tribe of Sioux that lived there, and the deed had been placed in a box and set into the foundation of a fishing lodge on West Bay Lake in what is now Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin. But Carver was unable to find the deed, though he looked for it up until his death.
Robert Lamont purchased the lodge, expanded it into a mansion (known as Lamont Mansion), and moved in. His housekeepers frequently reported strange happenings, which Lamont dismissed as nonsense—until an apparition of a man allegedly emerged from the basement before his very eyes in the 1930s. Lamont shot his pistol at the specter, but the only consequence of this was the resultant holes in the basement door. Seriously spooked, Lamont and his wife fled the mansion and never again returned.
The mansion was sold to the Keefer family in the 1940s, who christened it anew as Summerwind Mansion, and then to the Hinshaws in the 1970s. There are numerous stories about the hauntings taking place in the mansion during the Hinshaws’ ownership: disembodied voices, a ghost of a woman walking through the dining room, an unexplained automobile explosion, the discovery (and then the disappearance) of the remains of a human body, and inhabitants suffering mental illness after living in the house for a short time. It has been told that the main spirit communicated that he was the ghost of Jonathan Carver, still searching for his missing deed. Though plans were made to turn the mansion into an inn and restaurant, there were many construction delays because the workers avoided spending any time at the site due to the hauntings and strange happenings at the site. The plan was eventually abandoned, and Summerwind was again sold in 1986. Two years later, the mansion was struck by lightning and burned down. Only the mansion’s grand foundation remains today. Purportedly, strange occurrences still happen at the site, which is on private land and not accessible to the public.
(If you’re interested in learning more about Summerwind Mansion, Land O’ Lakes Arts is hosting a free special presentation on Friday, October 25, from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Gateway Lodge lobby. The Fox Valley Ghost Hunters and founder/case manager Craig Nehring will be talking all about their ghost hunting adventures and featuring Summerwind Mansion.)
Little Bohemia Lodge – Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin
This lodge infamously was the site of a 1934 shootout between mobster John Dillinger’s gang and the FBI. Some say that the lodge is haunted by a civilian who was accidentally shot during the shootout. Guests at the lodge have claimed to have seen furniture moving about their rooms, hearing mysterious noises, and even seeing apparitions.
Best Western – The Hotel Chequamegon – Ashland, Wisconsin
Tales have been told of the appearance of a tall man donning a top hat in the hotel’s hallways. Housekeeping staff has allegedly reported furniture moving in the rooms. Guests have reported a phantom scent of perfume in many of the hotel’s rooms, hearing disembodied footsteps and hearing voices. Hotel bar patrons have claimed to have seen an apparition of a man sitting at the bar.
Fairlawn Mansion & Museum – Superior, Wisconsin
It is claimed that a ghost wearing period dress who brings a chill to the space she inhabits is often mistaken for a museum guide in this Victorian mansion and museum. The story goes that is the ghost of a former servant who was murdered by her husband. Other witnesses have claimed to have seen and heard ghosts of children near the swimming pool in the basement of the mansion—which once served as an orphanage.
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