Flashback Friday: Weird Tales, and Images, from Wisconsin

“Wisconsin has the highest proportion of eccentric environments in the USA, more than 10% of the total.” – Jan Friedman

Since the demise of Time Cube, I’ve become nostalgic for the early, more personal days of the internet. Before social media was around, before content was shuffled towards a few overarching services. Things that are now Twitter feeds and Tumblr blogs would once be a gigantic number of individual, single-topic websites and forums, an array of personal homepages and strange blogs stretching off into eternity. You might stumble across a weird Subreddit now, but at least it’s cloaked in the familiarity of a larger site. Finding one of the web’s oddities once meant entering into an alternate world, created to mirror the author’s mind.

I once enjoyed browsing these websites. I heard about them on the old Snopes message boards, or places like Crank.net and the Museum of Hoaxes, or through long lists of links on places such as the Insolitology or even the Sci-Fi Channel.

I don’t know where I found today’s website. It’s one of several sites describing the many oddities of Wisconsin. I’ll detail the others in future Flashback Fridays; bizarrely, while today’s site is defunct, the other sites that are still up look way more outdated.

What do you think of when you think of Wisconsin? Cheese? Beer? Serial killers? The Fonz? How about the Beast of Bray Road, the werewolf that calls Elkhorn home? Or the Hodag, a reptilian beast made up in a failed attempt to make Rhinelander interesting? Those are just the obvious legends about the state. Today’s site looks at the deep cuts.

The now-defunct Weird Wisconsin last updated in 2004; it vanished some time in 2006. Presumably inspired by Weird New Jersey, it’s home to many accounts of Wisconsin’s paranormal phenomenon, and wonderful images like this:

WISCONSINWeird Wisconsin is split into several different sections. They mainly serve to aggregate various news stories.

Ghosts & Hauntings

experiencesA section on reader’s experiences includes a story about the ghosts of Milwaukee’s Marquette University. The site’s authors note that the story contains “[their] new favorite ghost, Whispering Willie, the swimming boy ghost!”. Let’s look at the tales of Whispering Willie.

“Milwaukee’s Marquette University, like many campuses around the world, has more than its fair share of haunts.”

Indeed. Why, the University of Wisconsin is home to a legendary African-American spirit who appears everywhere.

Its East Hall was once a YMCA and is home to the ghost of a swimming boy, nicknamed Whispering Willie. Lore has it that Willie is a little boy who drowned in the Y’s pool. He’s often seen swimming alongside solitary students doing laps in the Rec Plex pool.

Dude’s just working out. Can’t we let the ghost kid do his laps in peace?

Willie is also blamed for any unexplained event in the building; doors opening or closing at random; flickering lights; voices calling or repeating in whispers what people are saying; unraveling toilet paper in otherwise empty stalls.

I mean, maybe it isn’t Willie. Maybe you just have some asshole pulling pranks who won’t take responsibility so he blames a scapeghost.

Another entry is described: “Theaters frequently harbor ghosts. In a refreshing change, the ones here seem to have a sense of humor!” Another reads: “A real life story of a helpful ghost that moved into LeAnn’s house several years ago in southeastern Wisconsin. A tale both charming and heartwarming, you too will end up hoping to have a ghostly encounter with someone as nice as George!” Is this an entry on a ghost website, or a pitch for a Hallmark original movie? You can read that story here.

Nosferatu

A section detailing vampires in Wisconsin. There are only three: two real world assaults that are quite gross, and a claim of a vampire cult in Wisconsin Rapids that came about when a game of Vampire: The Masquerade spiraled out of control.

Aliens & UFOs

skiesThere are actually many UFO legends surrounding Wisconsin, which is to some the home of the Midwestern Underwater Area 51, and to others the home of Space Bigfoot. I will go over these in future posts, but Weird Wisconsin offers up enough weirdness on its own.

It tells of a woman who called police to report that she was being held hostage by aliens, and that she had important psychic knowledge to share with Bill Clinton. Haha, it’s funny because she’s extremely mentally ill and was not caught by the system! And a man claims he saw a UFO explode over his head in Wausau.

Those of a more paranoid bent should scroll down to bottom of the page, where they will find the “Black Helicopters!” heading. They’re a bit too cheerful about those “Black Helicopters” – hmmmm.

In 1998, black helicopters were out in force over Madison. I am from Madison, and lived there in 1998, and don’t quite remember the swarms of government helicopters buzzing over us as Bill Clinton established a tyrannical dictatorship, but then again, I was a kid so I may just not remember it. Must’ve been at home watching Hey Arnold.

Those who opposed the black helicopters would be thrown in the concentration camp Weird Wisconsin claimed exists in Wisconsin; it’s a long-forgotten conspiracy theory about Rex 84, a government plan to detain American citizens deemed “national security threats”. Revealed in 1987, Rex 84 was never actually enacted. Nonetheless, it apparently lived on as the mid-90s version of Jade Helm.

Killers & Ghouls

constructionA surprisingly short section about Wisconsin’s killers that contains absolutely no information about “ghouls”. It talks briefly about Ed Gein and Jeffrey Dahmer, and then talks about a 16-year old who was convicted of attempted murder after stabbing someone dressed as the killer in Scream.

Occult & Demons

This image is titled "pagyn".

This image is titled “pagyn”.

Another short section. Demons must not flock to Wisconsin. That damn Scott Walker drove all the demons to other states! He cut all of the funding for our University’s much-heralded demonology program. You know what demonologists say: possession is ten-tenths of demonology.

In 1928, Michael Drouse murdered a neighbor for “bewitching his cows”. 1928. 19…28. 1928!

Two years later, Janesville resident Henry Dorn was charged with sorcery. The late 20s were not a proud time for Wisconsin.

Though perhaps these charges weren’t unfounded, as a 1980s report claims a Satanic cult was caught performing a ritual sacrifice in an abandoned hospital. Though this crime wasn’t reported in the newspapers. Nor are there any records of it. Ah, the Satanic panic. The best nation-wide live performance of The Crucible the world has ever seen!

Creatures

dancinghodagHere we learn of the many cryptozoological creatures of Wisconsin, such as a black panther scratching itself on a tree because all kitties are the same. There’s Bigfoot, who arrives from the stars to give a man “space pancakes”. There’s a tale from Charles Fort about an alligator, found frozen near Janesville. Presumably, if it existed today, the site would tell of the Milwaukee lion, a big cat that got loose in Milwaukee and then…was never found, it’s still out there.

There is a “Blue Mystery Sighting” in Lodi – a woman saw a flash of blue, and “the blue thing glided to her right”. We know nothing more. We learn of the famed Beast of Bray Road, and the Brookfield Thunderbird. One story catches the eye:

“Several years ago a DNR warden traveling down Highway 13 just south of Medford saw a figure standing in the middle of the road.

He slowed his vehicle as he approached it. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

Staring at him was a shiny, green scaled, man-sized, man-like figure.

As he got within several yards of it, wings suddenly popped out from behind the creature’s back. The creature went vertical, zooming straight up and passing over the vehicle. It landed again on the road behind the warden.

A winged reptile man.”

strangeA winged reptile man, flocking to the reptile-friendly climate of Wisconin.

According to the man who told the story — a man who sold reptiles for a living — a group of highway workers also had a similar encounter along the same stretch of highway.

While driving, they too saw something standing in the road.

Green. Shiny. Scaled.

As they approached the creature, wings shot out from behind its back. It took off, and to their utter amazement, flew away into the trees.

A flying reptile man. Gone in an instant.

The man who told the story has since moved away, or, at least he can’t be found.

Convenient!

Readers familiar with West Virginia’s Mothman might notice certain parallels to Highway 13’s Reptile Man. Mark A. Hall, a Minnesota-based cryptozoologist and Fortean, has posited that Mothman may be a species of giant owl, which he calls Big Hoot. Big Hoot may stand as tall as 6-feet, and have an enormous wingspan.

Congratulations! You somehow came up with an explanation for Mothman that’s even more ridiculous than it being a moth man!

Could Reptile Man be an enormous owl with weird coloration? A misperceived heron?

Or, was it really a winged reptile man?

Stranger things have crept out of the night, never to be seen again.

Keep your eyes peeled. Watch for signs.

A teenager in Manitowac reports a creature that made “the most horrifying sound in the world“. Other teens reacted in fear to a “shadow thing” in Armenia. It’s Heaven’s punishment for their terrible taste in everything!

Weird Stories

drinktheweirdnessA section about weird stories gives us some variety. There are urban legends, such as the goatman or a Fortean tale of “darkness as dark as midnight” passing over Oshkosh one afternoon in 1886, but there are also real news of the weird stories, about turkey murder sprees, drunken street sweepers, and possible voodoo rites in Madison. And it’s capped off with a piece about the Elkhorn police’s activities, which begins with a rather tortured metaphor about the then-new phenomenon of reality TV.

The most disappointing aspect of the “Weird Stories” section is a section called “Did You Know?”. Promising trivia and facts about Wisconsin’s strange history, it features just one fact – added in 1999. They promise to add more facts – but given that I’m reading a version of this page from 2004, I can safely assume they never added them. A quick glance at the most recent extant version of the site archived, in March 2006, reveals that it still lists the page as last updated on 6/13/99.

A subpage of “Weird Bits” collected by the author is really worth reading. It details Wisconsin’s ties to Majestic 12, a man who got injured when he dreamed of falling out of a tree, and Marlins players stopping by Dahmer’s place while in town to play the Brewers.

Oddities

everynightA section on Wisconsin’s oddities, ranging from falls of “angel hair”, black rain, stones and metal on Wisconsin, to stories of a dastardly theft of a two-headed pig. And a ton of pareidolia. What was happening in the early-00’s that made so many people think Jesus had appeared in their toast?

listenThe page also discusses the murder of Alfred Kunz. Father Alfred Kunz was a Catholic priest who was murdered in 1998 in Dane County, Wisconsin. At the time, his murder was blamed on Satanists by his friend, the exorcist Malachi Martin. There are also claims that he was investigating sexual abuse and homosexuality within the church. Either way, the murder remains unsolved.

What’s strange, and what Weird Wisconsin brings up, is that a calf mutilation occurred on the same day. Any link between the crimes is purely speculative.

The End?

autopsyWeird Wisconsin is a wonderfully strange little site, a low-fi guide to the state’s oddities. But it isn’t the only one. The journey shall continue in coming Flashback Fridays, as I look at some other sites discussing the UFOs, ghosts, and pancake-hungry Bigfoots of Wisconsin.

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