Visits to ‘haunted’ sites make for fun fall trip


Even the state capitol has rumors about paranormal activity.

Michael Klein & Ryan Spoehr, Clarion staff writers

There are several reported haunted sites within driving distance of the Madison College campuses. As Halloween approaches, members of our staff decided to do a little ghostbusting of their own.

The Ghostbuster Team: 

Ryan Spoehr – I believe there has to be some level of reality to some cases of ghosts sightings and anomalies like that. However, I will forever be a skeptic. I need to see it to believe.

Michael Klein – I do believe in some sort of an afterlife and who am I to say where all spirits go. Ghost stories are fun and produce some great campfire tales, if nothing else.

Old Baraboo Inn – Walnut Street in Baraboo Wis. 

The Old Baraboo, est. 1864, is roughly 15 minutes away from the northern regional campuses and is located right between the Chicago and Minneapolis railway.

Owner B.C Farr was kind enough to sit down with us and tell some stories. Spirits of cowboys, call girls, gamblers and gangsters allegedly come through and often stay at this former brothel. Mary is one of the most well known spirits. She was a prostitute that worked and died here. From beyond the grave, she still likes to get frisky with customers, according to Farr.

There were two owners that we knew had died at the inn before visiting. Farr said there were more but wouldn’t go into details. Also, two apartments are located above the bar. A couple currently rents one out and the other is available for short-term guests looking to experience some haunted history.

Farr discussed spiritual orbs that can be seen through cameras in the basement where the majority of paranormal activity occurs. Customers are no longer allowed down there because of unauthorized video sales but he did allow The Clarion a glimpse. An event will be hosted for aspiring ghost seekers on Oct. 25 and photos will be available online.

Spoehr: I was skeptical when I first saw the setup. To a certain extent, I still am. We could not verify if it was a live feed. Lights going across the screen could be explained by dust particles flying through the room. However, we were looking at the screen for approximately 15 minutes. If it was indeed a live feed, it does seem unusual that the amount of “orbs” we saw could go rapidly and sustain that movement for that amount of time. Unless that basement was dusty, there may have legitimately been paranormal orbs in the basement.  I cannot confirm Old Baraboo Inn is haunted, but I cannot deny it either.

Whether Old Baraboo Inn is haunted or not, I feel like the trip to Old Baraboo Inn was worth it just for the sake of the history of it. The bar is located across the street from the old Baraboo rail station. The railway that goes through Baraboo goes from the Twin Cities to Chicago, and Baraboo is near the center of the route. The Old Baraboo Inn was a frequent stop for people like Al Capone and John Dillinger back in the day, as far back as when it was a brothel in the early 20th century.  There is even the wanted poster for John Dillinger inside. Studying history is a hobby of mine, so it was intriguing to see that and hear stories from the bartender that were told to him over the years.

Klein: After a few disappointing stops prior to pulling up at the inn, I was growing skeptical of any paranormal presence wanting to intermingle. However, it took only a few moments after stepping inside to realize this was going to be different. My short-sleeved shirt wasn’t serving me too well but the chill I felt after sitting at the bar was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. The hair on my neck was up and tingles shot up my right side. These moments seemed to match when Farr was experiencing the same. Over the limited time we were able to spend at the pub there was one experience that helped alleviate most of my skepticisms. While watching the basement videos, I felt a strong and unexplainable grazing near my ankle. After quickly looking around to make sure I wasn’t being messed with.

It felt like a cat just brushed up on my leg and it was enough for me to think there was more than us living patrons here.

Ridgeway, Wisconsin

The town has a long and documented reputation for being haunted, as is obvious by the ghost drawn on the water tower.

There are stories, dating back to the mid 1800s, of a shape-shifting apparition named the Ridgeway Phantom. Some claim to see large orbs, a headless man and even animal spirits. An alleged victim of the Ridgeway Phantom named John Lewis even made it to the pages of the “New York Times,” back in 1902. Less than a decade later, the town went up in flames and added to its spooky aura.

Spoehr: The Clarion’s recent trip to Ridgeway was rather strange. We were near the water tower and woods that has been the scene of many sightings.

When we walked through the wooded area, there was something strange. There were frequent noises, much like footsteps, off in the distance and falling branches. The strangest thing was they seemed to be equally timed intervals of roughly a minute between each cracking noise. That seems too perfect. However, it could have been anything. Wooded areas do have animals frequent them from time to time.

There was barbed wire hidden underneath an overlying branch just as you walk into the woods. It was just a strip, enough to trip a person, or me, while walking into the area. That doesn’t prove or disprove paranormal activity, but I thought it was a unique placement. It was almost if it was to whet our appetites.

Klein: While going by the old train station, I caught a glimpse of a moving shadowy figure inside. After I yelled to the others, I couldn’t locate it again. Perhaps it was my own shadow or anticipation. The woods were, for the most part, uneventful. There was an old deer stand and that random barbed wire. I did hear the branches cracking but say no signs of anything living or dead.


Once known as the Lake View Tuberculosis Sanitarium, Sanatorium Hill on 1202 Northport Drive is supposed to be one of the most haunted places in the state. Visitors to the cemetery and woods have claimed to feel a strange presence that can even get aggressive.


Way back in Nov. 1883, during expansion of the Capitol’s south wing, numerous workers were injured or killed. Many visitors claim to experience cold spots in random spots throughout the area and hear random unexplainable noises. Some feel they are being closely followed and always watched.

The Narrows (Sauk County)

There have been reports of ghostly animal noises in the wind and other unexplainable occurrences. The Narrows is located on a random spot of the highway and is easy to miss. Additionally, there is a story of a homely looking hitchhiker that reappears to drivers multiple times as they’re on a one-way trip.

Klein: The sounds I heard where indistinguishable and I wasn’t sure whether it was the swirling winds having a high-pitched whistle or if it was the spirits I read about. The wind was definitely swirling but it didn’t seem out of the ordinary.