Haunted Fox Valley – 8 Local Ghost Stories

Fox Valley Ghost stories

Every town has its tales of terror. But there seems to be something especially freaky about Appleton and the Fox Cities.

From historic buildings haunted by their owners, to paranormal gravestones and even our very own “Phantom of the Opera” – you don’t need to go far to find evidence the metaphysical.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, these stories are sure to send a chill down your spine – and maybe even spark so much curiosity that you won’t be able to resist looking into them on your own.

Just be careful. Not all of these ghosts are friendly…

1. Riverside Cemetery – Appleton

We begin our journey inside Appleton’s historic Riverside Cemetery (pictured above). If you do believe in ghosts, it stands to reason that most cemeteries would be haunted in some way. But there’s one particular site that makes this graveyard extra spooky.

Kate-Blood-graveKate Blood is one of Appleton’s most-famous creepy stories. People say that on some night’s, blood oozes from her grave. Some have also said her tombstone is warmer than others.

The stone is tucked away from the main part of the cemetery in a wooded area. It is near the Fox River and has several smaller headstones in front of it. You have to take a special trail to reach the site. It does seem odd that a special place would be set aside for this particular person.

There are many different versions of Kate Blood’s story – so it’s hard to determine the truth. Some say she murdered her husband. But the fact is he actually outlived her. That’s right on the tombstone for crying out loud.

Others think she killed her three children, and that’s what the additional markers are for. But Kate Blood only had one child, and was just 26 when she died in Kansas on her way to Colorado. You can actually find an image of her obituary on Wikimedia.org. The smaller headstones are likely markers for other people buried at the site. (You’ll see more names on the sides of the stone)

There are even people who think she was a witch who ate children she caught playing in the woods – but that seems a bit far fetched.

I found one online message board in which a member claims Kate Blood likely died of tuberculosis.

If you want to check it out for yourself, beware, Riverside Cemetery technically closes at sunset – which is a bit suspicious if you ask me.  A listing on Hauntin.gs explains how to get there.

Watch Potential Video Evidence of the Bleeding Headstone

2. Appleton Curling Club

Appleton-curling-club

My day job is at a store directly across the street from the Appleton Curling Club on Westhill Blvd. Can’t say I’ve ever seen any apparitions floating around the building after hours. But maybe that is because the ghost are all busy curling…and drinking.

Legend has it that the ghosts of some former curling club members inhabit the place. Thankfully, they seem to be friendly guys – except for the fact that they keep knocking over chairs and glasses in the club’s bar.

The owners of the building say that they frequently hear unexplained footsteps upstairs. Some think the footsteps come from a deceased member named Ken who had a disability that gave him a very distinct walk.

A former member named Ed may also be haunting the Appleton Curling Club. Ed was a pipe smoker, and people say they can smell tobacco smoke when no one is around. Somebody better tell Ed about the statewide smoking ban.

As long as these ghosts aren’t interfering with curling tournaments – everything should be fine.

3. The Grand Opera House – Oshkosh

Grand Opera House Oshkosh Wisconsin

This beautiful building has an amazing, storied past. Built in the 1880s, the Grand Opera House brought a lot of culture to the city of Oshkosh. It also brought ghosts.

During the Vaudeville era, legends like the Marx Brothers and Appleton’s own Harry Houdinin performed here. President Taft paid a visit as did Mark Twain. Then in the 1970s, the opera house became an X-rated movie theater.

Okay, that part of the story isn’t so nice or culturally impressive. For some reason, it’s not mentioned on the Oshkosh Grand Opera House website. However, it is part of the story we found on PrairieGhosts.com.

Major renovations of the historic building took place in the 1980s and again in 2009. During those times, it is said that workers experienced many strange things.

One of the most-often observed ghosts in the opera house might be that of a man named Percy Keene. He was a stage manager there from 1895 until his death in 1967.

In the mid-70’s, a film crew, including students from UW Oshkosh, was shooting a movie at the Grand Opera House called Exit Dying.  It just happened to be about the owner of a theater who starts experiencing supernatural happenings. One night, the crew spotted an unknown man watching them from the balcony. When witnesses described him, it turned out he very precisely matched the appearance of the late Percy Keene.

It’s believed Keene is keeping watch over the theater he loved and enjoys viewing performances.

There is also a canine ghost  believers say belongs to a dog that used to patrol the opera house for security.

The Oshkosh Grand Opera House holds haunted tours every Halloween. Unfortunately, they are already sold out for the 2014 season.

Ghost stories at this location are well-known. WLUK-TV FOX 11 even sent one of its reporters to check things out last year.

Watch Emily Deem in the Oshkosh Grand Opera House

4. Bootleggers Bar – Greenville

Bootleggers-FVGH

Courtesy: Fox Valley Ghost Hunters

If you’re not a big believer in metaphysical happenings – it may surprise you that there are several different paranormal investigators in Northeast Wisconsin. Yes, I’m talking about real-life Ghostbusters.

One such team, the Fox Valley Ghost Hunters, spent some time investigating Bootleggers Bar in Greenville this year. They experienced some eerie things – and may even have the scars to prove it.

One member of the team had a pipe thrown at him, others say their hair was pulled and another person got a bruise from an apparent ghost punch. If someone or something really is haunting this bar – they’re pretty ticked off.

The Fox Valley Ghost Hunters also managed to record what they believe are the voices of spirits at Bootleggers. The voices are known as EVPs or Electronic Voice Phenomenons.

You can listen to the EVPs this group recorded inside the bar and decide for yourself.

UPDATE: The Appleton Post-Crescent is reporting that Bootlegger’s in Greenville has very recently closed it’s doors for good – although it is unclear why. The owners were not available for comment. Did the ghosts finally get what they wanted?

5. The Berlin Tannery

Berlin Tannery-badgerstateparanormal

Courtesy: Badger State Paranormal

Another potentially haunted location that the Fox Valley Ghost Hunter team has checked out is a historic tannery building in the small town of Berlin.

The team even hosts flashlight tours and overnight stays at the tannery. They say there are many strange sounds like footsteps and voices, and people often get “touched.” A shadowy apparition they’ve named Sid also makes appearances.

This building was constructed in 1853 and served as a cranberry warehouse before it was a tannery. There was a fire here in 1923, but there are no records of any deaths from the fire or any other sort of documented tragedy.

However, the ghost hunters think that because the place is so old there have got to be ghosts inhabiting it. They even tried talking to the spirits of former tannery employees…

“We told the workers if they didn’t get back to work they would be fired and right after we said that we heard something running across the top floor and then we all heard a door slam.”

Badger State Paranormal checked out the location after getting a tip from FVGH. Their investigators say they experienced someone turning a flashlight on and off. See the video below.

Freaky Flashlight at Berlin Tannery

6. Hearthstone Mansion

Hearthstone Mansion

Sometimes history and hauntings go hand-in-hand. That seems to be the case at the Hearthstone Historic House Museum.

First the history…

Appleton is home to the first hydroelectric power station in America. The Hearthstone Mansion itself is the first house in the world to have electric lights powered by Thomas Edison’s hydroelectric system – with help from the Fox River, of course. The house still uses original Edison light fixtures. The power station also provided electricity to Appleton Paper and Pulp as well as Kimberly Clark’s Vulcan Paper Mill.

But that’s not what’s really shocking about this story – pardon the electricity pun.

Spirits of former owners are often said to stick around in their homes, especially if they had a special connection to the place. While Appleton Paper and Pulp co-owner Henry J. Roger was the original owner of Hearthstone, it is someone else who haunts the mansion to this day.

Believer say the ghost is man named A.W. Priest – who died while living in the home in 1930. Museum volunteers who’ve experienced strange things think Priest is keeping an eye on them and making sure they treat his home with care. Some say staff members even greet Mr. Priest when they open the museum.

Reports of ghostly manifestations include – unexplained sneezing that came from no one living. Nothing scares the pants off me like an unexplained sneeze!

Unexplained sneezing sounds a little silly, sure. But plenty of people have stories of getting creeped out in this building. Like this account posted by Catie on HauntedPlaces.org

“When I was little I was visiting the Hearthstone house on a field trip and I remember I got behind of my class who was going downstairs because I was looking at an upstairs bedroom because I noticed something by the curtains and I got the chills. I got a really cold feeling in my stomach and ran down to catch up, it felt like someone was up there watching me.”

During the Halloween season, the museum hosts Haunted Hearthstone events – complete with murder mysteries and Wisconsin ghost stories.

7. The Historic Zuelke Building

Zuelke-Building

Courtesy: Zuelke Building Facebook Page

The namesake of a recognizable spot on College Avenue in downtown Appleton may also be spending the afterlife in his building.

It’s believe Irving Zuelke’s ghosts haunts the Zuelke Building. People claim they’ve seen him as well as the form of a floating half man or torso.

Reports of manifestations often come from late-night cleaning crews. In one story, a worker was sweeping the steps when he felt somebody tapping his shoulder. According to UnexplainedResearch.com, the man saw what appeared to be “a ghostly hand and half a body disappear into the wall.”

Zuelke Building fire

1926 Fire at Zuelke Building, Appleton

Zuelke bought the building in 1926 and made it home to the Irving Zuelke Music Company as well as other businesses.

Unfortunately, a fire completely gutted the building around Christmastime of 1928. Zuelke did his best to make sure the renovated building was fireproof. He also added floors on top of the building to accommodate a growing downtown – making it the tallest building in Appleton at that time.

Music seems to stir up paranormal activity in this location. There have been reports of “ghostly happenings” involving pianos. This is attributed to Zuelke – who himself was a piani0 player.

One such story took place in 1990 during a special event at the Zuelke Building. A pianist had been hired for entertainment that evening. And when he stopped for a break – all elevators in the building stopped working too. When the piano music started again, the elevators started up.

Get a look inside this gorgeous building in the video below. It includes narration from YouTube’s “Phantom Poettes”, Wendy Schmidt.

8. Stone Cellar Brew Pub

Yet another potentially haunted, historic building in the Fox Valley is Stone Cellar Brew Pub. You can read about some of the history in our post about craft breweries in Northeast Wisconsin.

But good beer, a comedy club and a storied past aren’t the only things that make this place unique. Stone Cellar employees and customers have reported freaky things happening right in front of their eyes. That includes pint glasses moving from the counter into the dishwasher by themselves. Hey thanks for the help, ghosts!

Stone Cellar employees decided to name whatever was causing the occurrences, “Charlie.” However, a group of paranormal investigators shooting their own documentary might have discovered the truth.

George Walter - Stone Cellar ghost

George Walter

The ghost may actually be, George Walter – the third owner of what’s now known as the Between the Locks building.

He opened the Walter Brewing Company in 1918 and it remained in operation until the late 1970s (excluding a brief time during the Prohibition).

The team behind the new documentary called Haunted State allegedly spoke with George Walter’s ghost while investigation Stone Cellar Brew Pub.

You can hear some of the conversation – including the EVPs from Walter and others in a clip posted on the filmmakers’ Facbook page.

Haunted State will have a showing at the Fox Cities PAC on October 29, 2014. The film also features other Wisconsin haunts, including the Pabst Brewery building in Milwaukee.

Watch the trailer for the documentary below.

Now It’s Your Turn – Tell Us a Story!

These are some of the best Fox Valley ghost stories we could dig up. But we’re also sure there are plenty of other tales of local terror out there.

For instance, did you know much of Menasha is built on Indian burial grounds? Anyone who has seen a few horror movies knows that’s the secret ingredient for weird stuff.

If you know of another scary story with a local connection, tell us about it in the comments below!

Read about Green Bay ghost stories in our article about Titletown’s Haunted Past.

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Comments

  1. Laura Mannell says:

    My mom used to tell me about an unexplained happening that took place in Appleton when my grandparents lived there in the late1920s to early 1930s. One night they heard a lot of commotion next door and then heard the lady living there praying very loud. They looked out and saw what appeared to be a ball of fire running from the front to back door knocking. Turned out it had been so many years to the date the lady’s husband died. My mom also thought her parents said that a picture of it was taken by a photographer with the newspaper. She had 2 other unexplained events that involved my grandfather. I love telling my kids these family ghost stories each Halloween!

  2. Priscilla says:

    I worked at Bootleggers back when it was the Greenville Station. I was the closing bartender and often alone in the building late at night. I agree 100% that this place is haunted and by more than one ghost. I very often felt the presence of an entity upstairs and in the basement. Once I was in the office upstairs and could literally feel someone breathing on my neck. It got so cold in the room and I had goosebumps all over my body. I didn’t finish the rest of my work that night because I flew out of that building so fast.
    I worked there for years both when it was a supper club and a bar. I have lots of creepy stories but that one was the scariest by far!

    • Wow. Great story!

    • Cowboy Steve says:

      I used to work there doing karaoke when it was the Greenville station. i never personally had anything happen when i was there but the owners had mentioned a few of the occurrences they had . it is interesting that now other people that have had it in operations are saying they also have things happening.

  3. I’ve heard a few times that the upstairs of good company is haunted but never experienced anything there myself.

    • I know why Good Company could be haunted. Good Company replaced the furniture store that was there. I was young at the time. My mom married the owner. He had a son who committed suicide down in the basement. This would have happened in the late 70’s

  4. Jen DiMatteo says:

    When I was 11 my dad inherited a house on River Drive in Appleton, and we moved in. The story is that the house was build for my great grandmother by one of her husbands. She outlived two husbands. She had at least two sons that I knew of, my grandfather and my great uncle. When my great uncle got out of the military he moved in with her to take care of her. Ultimately she went deaf and blind, or just blind…. He never married or had children. They both died in the house of natural causes.
    When we moved in it was just my parents and me. There were times my entire family would be over for dinner, everyone would be at the dining room table, and we would all hear footsteps upstairs and the upstairs sink faucet would go on. Nobody was up there. My mom was home alone in the basement once doing laundry one day and the light went out. She thought I had come home and was yelling at me to turn it on, but I was not really there. When she got to the top of the stairs, the light switch had actually been turned off. There was a doorway between the dining room and the kitchen, we had a dog who at times would not walk through the door, and she would bark at the doorway. The last straw for my dad was one night he was in bed trying to stay awake for my mom to come home from working 2nd shift. He felt a soft hand on his face/cheek and expected to see my mom, but nobody was there. He got up to find me asleep in my bed and my mom was not home from work yet.
    We lived in that house one year when my dad put it on the market. We know a single woman bought the house after us, and within another year or two it was for sale again. I live close by that house now, and sometimes when I walk passed it I get the creeps thinking about those experiences. I mean, the ghosts are my own family!

    • Where is this

      • Jen DiMatteo says:

        River Drive in Appleton is just off of Memorial Drive, near Memorial Bridge. I had to look it up, the address is 101 River Dr., Appleton, WI 54915.

        • Kathy Fink says:

          I was the only sibling who wasn’t at the hospital the night my dad passed away. I took it very hard because I never got to say good bye to him. A couple weeks later, I called my mom to see how she was doing, but she didn’t answer the phone. It was my dad’s voice. I immediately had chills run down my back. He had a distinct voice. He said hello and I paused, not knowing what to say. I said that I must have had the wrong number. He said “ok good bye”. I hung up the phone thinking maybe I dialed the wrong number. I pressed redial and it showed my mom’s number! So, I called her back again, this time she answered and I asked who was there with her and she told me she was alone. I asked her if the phone had just rang and she said it didn’t. I am convinced that my dad intercepted that phone call to say good bye to me:)

  5. jenell hilderbrand says:

    I loved on 1716 north Oneida street. I heard there was a suicide in the house before we moved in. There was a lot of electrical activity in the house and when I was also I felt creepy and lights would go on and off.

  6. What is now Sangria’s Mexican restaurant on S. Memorial drive is haunted by a little girl who is primarily seen in the basement. Several employees have stories to tell about her. I bartended there one night and because I had to lock up and leave the place through the basement alone I was told about the “little girl who lives in the basement”. After closing, my girlfriend and the owner were helping me clean up as it was my first night. I went back to the kitchen for a garbage bag and as I passed the open stairwell to the basement I heard a BIG “CRASH” in the basement that sounded like pots and pans banging together. I yelled into the bar to ask if anybody else had heard that and they both did. The owner said it was probably the DJ leaving but my girlfriend said he had left a while ago through the side door. Checked the basement, door closed and locked, no pots or pans laying around that could have fallen over to make the noise.
    Other staff have stories of both seeing her upstairs while vacuuming and hearing her giggle……

  7. The old viking theater always creeped me out, not sure if it was haunted or not, recall hearing stories about lower levels.

  8. Kenny Meyer says:

    There is supposedly a haunted house on the end of a dead end road near The Duck Inn. I was told 3 children and a parent were found hanging in the living room. We went there a few times and had some creepy experiences. Also a cemetery near Green Lake. Someone is suppose to push you off the top of a certain mausoleum and there are sights of an Indian. I seen it on Discovery Channel or some other popular cable station.

    • Jamie Danzer says:

      Dartford Cemetery! I’ve been there. This was also featured on a TV show called “A Haunting”. We were there because I have family that is buried there but you can definitely sense an energy in there. I’m not psychic or anything and I’ve only been to that place once, but I managed to somehow find gravestones of three relatives I’d never heard of prior to that day when my Grandma who was with us mentioned a last name. Definitely eerie there. I hadn’t seen the show until after we had been there though so I had no idea about the claims.

  9. The Kate Blood thing is a hoax, it all started as a story that she killed her children and husband. If you look on the tomb stones themselves they all out lived her. Her names is just ironically “Kate Blood”, she died of tuberculosis on the way to Colorado for treatment. That’s not blood, it could be water, also marble stains rather easily and that grave is surrounded by mud because theres a drop off into the river. I’ve seen this grave many times, I used to live 3 blocks away on Pacific street by Peabody park, which is where the trail starts behind the graveyard. I’ve never seen it bleed, and there are always kids going in there with cameras at night. Its a spooky place, mainly because its hidden in a valley right by the water, and there’s a pipe that leads to the water treatment plant that smells like death, and theres are lot or rabbits and coons in the woods there. I wouldn’t be surprised if some kids have actually thrown fake blood on the grave, that trail is a hot spot for vandals. If you saw it actually physically “bleeding” keep in mind marble is porous, therefore fluid can come out of it. Also it can collect condensation.

    As for the curling club everyone there will tell you that its haunted, then again you’re already slightly crazy in my eyes if you enjoy curling.

  10. When my family (husband and 3 small children) moved to 5th St. in Menasha (lower flat), in 1965 (?), two other families lived upstairs (not at the same time) but not for long. One called the police on her husband, for battery, then moved, the other was a single mother, who didn’t last a month. She told me her daughter was frightened. The upper story stayed vacant while I lived there. One night, my daughter, whose bedroom was connected to the bathroom (she was 3), woke up crying. I went in there, and she was sound asleep, then went into the bathroom, and a box of body powder of mine, was spread all over the bathroom. It took me about 7 seconds to get in there, she couldn’t have done that. While the upstairs was unoccupied, I would hear footsteps and a child crying, at night, while watching TV at night while my husband worked. Once, I heard a child’s sob behind me, and assuming it was my daughter, I got up and turned around, and there was no one there…she was sound asleep in her bedroom. I called the landladies, two sisters, who grew up there (their parents had built it). They were both in their 70’s or more, and they told me that they had had a younger sister who died mysteriously in her sleep when they were children. That’s all I know, but we didn’t stay there for much longer. Moved to the UP! That place is now gone, they tore the house down and built a sort of Theater, which doesn’t seem to be open. I always wondered if it failed because of this ghost that stayed there.

  11. Hey! Thanks for the mention. Signed, The Phantom Poetess.

  12. Steve sokol says:

    Geo. Whiting paper in Menasha. Ask anyone who ever worked there if they ever saw a ghost and not one person will say no. I worked there for 30 years and saw them every day. All day long.

  13. I’ve heard behind secura insurance is haunted the pond a child drown and at night you can hear screaming and cries. A child really did drown so years ago they built a fence . I personally never went there at night to see if it true but I’d like to check sometime.

  14. I used to live on Harriman Street in Appleton. This house was haunted by the ghost of a lady that fell down the stairs and died, from the fall. We used to hear footsteps on the stairs at night. One afternoon, my friends and I were outside playing football next to the house. My older sister was the only person inside the house at the time. Suddenly, our dog sat at the bottom of the stairs and began barking and growling for no reason. This freaked my sister out, and she ran out of the house crying over to us. There was a high window above the landing of the steps where our dog could not reach. We could hear our dog still barking and growling in the house. Suddenly, the curtains pulled away from the lower corner of the curtains, as if someone was looking out the window at us. The curtains remained pulled away from the window for a minute or two, and we just stared at the window from our yard, while our dog barked and growled away. Then, the curtains closed, and at the same moment, the dog stopped barking. I’ll never forget that, and the hairs on my arms and neck still rise when I tell that story. We moved a few years after that. Someday, I’d like to go back into that house and take a look around.

  15. with so many ghost town today in the old west in tombstone a lot of people should check out the tombstone for them self from Wendy sells

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