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Ghosts of the Grey Gold: Mineral Point, WI

Walker_House

Snuggled into the hills of Wisconsin’s southwestern corner, the small town of Mineral Point sits as a bit of a modern-day artistic haven. A heavy tourist town, Mineral Point’s streets are lined with art galleries and studios, craft workshops, and gourmet restaurants. Nineteenth century stone buildings house boutiques selling handbags, fine jewelry, and artisan meats and cheeses. Neighborhoods flaunt century-old houses of rich, historic architecture.

The glossy-coated visitor brochures and information guides love to showcase Mineral Point’s abundant history and much of the city is listed as a Registered Historic Site. However, there is a bit of a disconnect between the posh Mineral Point of today and the Mineral Point of the past…

They are nothing alike.

Mineral Point of the mid-eighteenth century was a rough and tumble mining town. Lead and zinc miners littered the town, along with railroad workers, saloon-goers, and petty criminals. In the 1840’s a large group of Cornish immigrant miners arrived, bringing with them their tradition of the English Pub.

Miners in Mineral PointToday, many believe remnants of that past, and those who lived it, remain still today. Ghost stories, legends of phantoms, and even documented vampire sightings are now part of Mineral Point’s lore.

Mineral Point’s most well-known and famous haunting is that of the Walker House, a large, stone building, parts of which date to the 1830’s. Opened as an inn in 1836, its easy to imagine this building swarming with black-faced miners after a long day’s work underground, “passing out,” it was written, “clutching their guns and knives.” A makeshift gallows was set up on its front lawn and utilized in several documented executions, and more than likely, many more undocumented.

A murderer who was apparently decapitated during his execution by hanging here in 1842 is believed to haunt the Walker House, as a headless apparition has reportedly been seen in the building. Apparitions of men wearing mining gear and a female in a nightgown have also been reported by staff and visitors alike. Since the 1950’s the building has gone through numerous periods of abandonment and restoration, finally reopening again with stable management in 2012. The new owners, however, apparently are not a fan of the haunted attention, encouraging visitors to their website to enjoy “getting the story straight about its purported ghosts,” and exclaiming, “The ghosts have left the building.”

One group who has conducted paranormal research and investigations throughout Mineral Point, including the Walker House and the 1857 Railway Depot across the street have their own thoughts on this. “No question it’s haunted,” states Vicky Wittman, lead investigator for the Midwestern Paranormal Investigative Network. “Now, does this confirm previous reports of headless apparitions or staff being groped by unseen hands? No. But we have collected evidence and experiences we believe confirm residual energies there, and I’m confident we’d get it again.”

Two other legends in the area, albeit much more bizarre, are the so-called Ridgeway Phantom and the Mineral Point Vampire.

The Phantom appears to stem from the brutal deaths in the 1840’s of two local boys in the small village of Ridgeway, just a few miles from Mineral Point. One of the boys was burned to death in a fireplace. The other froze while hiding from his attackers in the woods. This Phantom’s dark energy has taken on many different forms while terrorizing locals on the roads leading out of Mineral Point. In the early 20th century, some of these roads were abandoned all together by frightened townsfolk refusing to use them, and have since vanished into the woods surrounding the town, grown over now for decades.

The legend of the Mineral Point Vampire is even more mysterious. First reported in 1981, and as recently as 2008, police have been contacted regarding a tall, caped figure with a white face harassing and terrorizing residents, as well as trespassing in cemeteries after dark. On each occasion, police arrived on the scene and the figure ran. When the police gave chase, the “vampire” would disappear without a trace, at one point easily scaling a 10′ concrete wall.

There is no doubt Mineral Point, Wisconsin is one of the most legendary haunted towns in the Midwest. Some legends are pure mythology, but what is it about this quiet town that they derive from?

“At one point in its history, Mineral Point’s population was more than Milwaukee’s and Chicago’s combined,” says Wittman. “In a town full of immigrant miners, railway men, and gamblers most of what happened here you wont read in history books or tax records. This was not a glamorous place back then. Are we to believe all that energy, good or bad, just evaporates over time? Not likely.”

It seems that the past residents of the days when the grey gold ruled have not simply gone quietly into the night.

Scott Wittman is a professional Historical Landscape photographer, writer, researcher, and traveler. More of his work can be seen at www.scottwittmanvisual.com.

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