Sunday, March 29, 2009


"The Ghost in man, the ghost that once was man But cannot wholly free itself from Man, Are calling to each other thro' a dawn Stranger than earth has ever seen; the veil Is rending, and the voices of the day Are heard across the Voices of the dark".ALFRED LORD TENNYSON (1809-1892)
This post marks a bit of a change in the direction I’m taking this blog. My GFAnna suggested I should make this blog more personal. Sharing my experiences and feelings I have when visiting these places alongside the history would make for a more interesting blog. I felt she was right. I felt the postings where a bit stale. I decided from here on out I will add a bit more personal touch to my haunted blog. I’ve had a few experiences while at these haunted places and I would love to tell what has happened.

The whole idea of describing some of the things I’ve experienced and taking photographs at haunted places using the medium of black and white Infrared film was a project I’ve wanted to accomplish since 1995.

During my work as a newspaper photographer in Illinois I wanted to use my idea to do a yearly photo page around Halloween about haunted places in the area. Hearing nothing in the way of stories, I posted a small ad asking readers if they knew of any places that were haunted. I got no response. I tried to keep the page alive for about another year, then gave up. I eventually revived the page when I moved to another paper in the state when I heard about a local ghost hunter that was ready to publish a book. I contacted her and we went to a few places that she said were haunted. The page was not exactly what I originally envisioned but was an interesting story nevertheless.

Shooting with Infrared film back in those days was a very difficult process. The camera had to be completely light tight; only a manual controlled camera could be used. Since the new auto-focus cameras used IR itself as a mechanism to focus and keep track of the film moving inside, the camera would fog the infrared film. The ultra sensitive film had to be handled in a special way and the developing was equally as challenging. Thinking back, what really kept me from shooting with IR film was the price, which ran about $15 per roll for 36 exposures and had to be special ordered. Not very practical for a photographer on a mere reporters’ wage. Just to buy 4 rolls would have cost me about $60.

In 2007 I read an article in a photo magazine about shooting IR with a digital camera and how easy it was to accomplish using just a filter. While reading the article I also discovered photographers where sending their cameras in to a company to get switched over to infrared. The company removes the glass filter that covers the sensor and replaces it with dark filter that blocks all visible light except infrared. This makes shooting IR much easier and is necessary for serious IR work. This renewed my interest in that long abandoned idea. Coincidently I discovered the work of Simon Marsden, a British photographer doing the very thing I wanted to do except he still uses IR film. I began searching Amazon for his books and I ended up buying about four books of his and studying each of them cover to cover.

Last year I decided I wanted to make this project a reality. To begin I first bought a Canon 30D, for the sole propose of getting it IR converted. I would later purchase another camera, the Canon 50D to be used as a normal picture-taking camera. Then I began the process of compiling information on places I would like to visit. The state where I live first, then surrounding states, and so on. Last year I purchased an IR filter to learn how that type of light works. I took the camera along with the filter to various spots and was mostly pleased with the results. But since the filter covers the front of the lens and blocks out all visible light I had to compose and focus with the filter off, then once I has everything set the way I wanted it I had to attach the filter and make the exposure. The exposures where very long consisting of about 30 seconds or more. So a tripod was needed for every shot. Having such a long set up time I had to think about every picture which made for a long process and often times frustrating. During that experience I gained more respect for the Civil War photographers that had to do the same sort of process every time.

I purchased a Canon 50D when I got my taxes back this year and sent the Canon 30D in to Life Pixel for IR conversion. After a month long wait I finally got it back last Friday. I took a few photos of some Victorian homes in town.

So far I’m pleased but the real test will come next weekend when I head to my home state IL to shoot a few haunted houses and cemeteries. I will post as many photos as I feel necessary along with a bit of history, the experiences of others and my own. During my travels I will try to post daily updates on my progress at these places. Over the course of this mysterious journey I hope to take readers through sinister mansions, decrepit cemeteries, and forsaken roads. When I return and have chosen the right photos and used my notes to create a story, I will post the full details of the experience. I hope you find what I have to say will keep you up at night.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lake Park-Milwaukee, WI

For centuries the Indian burial mounds of North America have long been a mysterious and otherworldly place. The mounds were mostly constructed near water for funerary or ceremonial use. Native Americans believed themselves to be of the land and that their souls became one with it in the afterlife. Upon death, the departed did not go to heaven but lingered upon the earth.

From a bluff overlooking the break waters of Lake Michigan, Lake Park in the city of Milwaukee was once home to a series of prehistoric conical mounds. Destroyed by development of the land, most of the mounds have disappeared except for one, the last known remaining within the city. Discovered in l905 by the Wisconsin Archeological Society, the mound lies north of North Point Lighthouse and Lion bridges. It remains a mystery who built the mound. Some believe the builders to have been the ancestors of Menominee Indians. Documents show that Menominee Indians had possession of the land at Lake Park until 1835, after which government surveyors began parceling off sections to settlers seeking timber lands.

In l889 the city developed a Parks Commission, after realizing many years earlier that the poor could not afford manicured gardens in which to seek refuge from oppressive city life. Intense work in the park followed the Commission’s formation. The park's famous "Lion Bridges" spanning the lighthouse ravines were completed in l896-7. Oscar Sanne designed the bridges with lion sculptures carved by Paul Kupper. By 1964, the bridges were narrowed and closed to vehicles.

During this same time period the lighthouse in the northern section of Lake Park was in its conception. In l854, the U.S. Lighthouse Service acquired 2 acres on which to build North Point Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters on the grounds. Erected in l855, by l888 these structures had to be reassembled 100 feet to the west to avoid creeping bluff erosion

The lighthouse guided ships on Lake Michigan for 139 years until its decommissioning in l994 by the U. S. Coast Guard. Both the lighthouse and park are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

When settlers came into area looking for a place to live they unknowingly built their homes near or on the mounds themselves. Many believe that the homes built on these sites experience heightened paranormal activity due to the disrupted flow of energy that was a part of the land centuries ago.

The faint sounds of laughter along with the overall feeling of malaise are induced with icy cold spots felt on hot summer days. Several witnesses have seen children standing by the lions, behaving almost as sentinels or guards. Activity at the lighthouse is closely associated with these bridges and the surrounding portions of Lake Park. The occurrences cannot be attributed to any known stories or legends associated with these locations. It remains a mystery as to why the ghostly sights and sounds of children have been heard and seen near the lions and lighthouse.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Brumder Mansion-Milwaukee, WI

Walking down Grand Avenue in Milwaukee a century ago would have taken you through a neighborhood of Victorian mansions situated a convenient distance from the shore of Lake Michigan. Most of the homes have long since vanished, giving way to the sprawl of the city, with little evidence to the history of how Milwaukee began. Only a few homes remain of this era; the Brumder Mansion is one such home where history still resides and sometimes interacts with visitors.

Standing gracefully on its corner serving visitors to Milwaukee as a Bed and Breakfast the Brumder Mansion is on what is now known as West Wisconsin Avenue. This stately, 4 story brick Victorian, English Arts and Crafts style mansion, has survived years of indifference and neglect.

Far more imposing than the exterior is the opulent renovated interior. The first floor dining room features a stunning, handcrafted stained glass tile fireplace, designed by Neideken, a Frank Lloyd Wright protégé. The oak Gothic style main staircase leads to the second floor that features 3 bedrooms, and to another staircase. This secondary staircase leads to the third floor to an additional 3 rooms used as servant’s quarters and innkeeper's apartment. Mr. Brumder placed the requisite ballroom in the large basement instead of on the customary third floor.

The suites have beautifully wood-carved fireplaces, marble in the bathrooms, intricate woodwork and antiques. One such room, The Gold Suite on the second floor, is named for its gold and yellow decor. The suite has a Victorian parlor set of furniture, an antique Queen-sized bed, elegant draperies and an oak ornamental fireplace with fluted columns.

Built in 1910 by the prominent businessman George Brumder for his eldest son George Jr., this regal home served a wealthy Milwaukee publishing family as a residence for nearly 10 years. The family’s fortune grew from a number of German language newspapers, bibles, and sheet music, and then later shifted to banking and manufacturing. The mansion was sold in the early 1920's, to Sam Picks, providing refuge from his work in Chicago gangster organizations.

With upkeep on the mansion being excessive, the house served as a boarding house in the late 30's; then in the 1960's the neighboring Lutheran Church bought the Brumder. By 1997, the upkeep and repair work needed for the house presented a major challenge for the church. Carol Hirschi, willing to move into the now derelict neighborhood, bought the Brumder, along with its physical and otherworldly, challenges.With the mansion in a state of disrepair and institutional in appearance, Carol began the painstaking task of transforming the Brumder Mansion into what is seen today. Hirschi generated income for the renovations by converting the building into a Bed and Breakfast in 1998.

Carol Hirschi believed multiple ghosts are haunting the house with most of the activity centered on the Gold Suite. A visiting psychic confirmed Carol's impressions when she reported seeing the ghost of a woman and a child. Several experiences made Hirschi more familiar with these two entities.

The first night Carol spent in the Gold Suite with her dogs in the bed, she felt a presence and heard a stern voice in her head demanding her to remove the dogs immediately. In another instance she dreamt of a face of a woman staring down at her from one of the home's ornate ceiling medallions.

The most frightening of the bizarre experiences in the Gold Suite happened when Carol entered the room several days after someone checked out, to find several drops of fresh blood in the bathtub. Thinking blood was leaking through the ceiling and someone had died in an upstairs room, she went to investigate but found nothing.

Guests staying in The Gold Suite sometimes have intense dreams. If they have a dog in the room, they often dream of a woman sternly lecturing them to remove their pets or harm will come to them. Upon waking, patrons are filled with a strong desire to remove the animals. Guests have been locked out of the room even though the deadbolt of the door locks from the inside of the room. A German marriage certificate in a large frame with a sturdy wire on the back was hung on the wall; it mysteriously lifted itself off the wall and crashed face down onto the floor, cracking the glass. Upon closer inspection nothing was found to be wrong with the wire or the nails it was hung upon.

The woman is thought to be Susan, a maiden aunt, who came to live with the Brumder family when they moved into this mansion. As a young woman, her betrothed stood her up at the altar; something she never quite recovered from. Susan, also known as Aunt Pussy, spent a number of happy years living in the mansion on the second floor, now known as The Gold Suite. She loved simple furnishings, and followed an uncomplicated way of life. The visiting psychic conveyed a message to Hirschi that Aunt Pussy expressed her displeasure about the fancy furnishings in the renovation, and that she had trouble adjusting to the commotion associated with the Bed and Breakfast.

The second phantom sensed by the psychic, the young girl, may perhaps be the victim of disease or accidental death. She is believed to occasionally haunt the third floor and Emma's Room. Hirschi believed the more mischievous activity can be attributed to the ghost of the child. Carol once purchased a mirror and hung it over the sink of Gold Suite's bathroom. One day the mirror lifted itself off its nail, floated over to the bathtub and was shattered into shards.

Other areas in the homes also experience disturbances. In George's Room a staff member felt a cool breeze brush past her face and hair, billow the curtain, as it drafted through the room with no logical explanation. Guests will often hear objects moving in the bathroom. Silverware laid out on the dining room table the night before would be found turned around on the table the next morning. Guests and patrons of the little theater in the basement began seeing the entity of a woman, dressed in early 20th century clothing drifting through. A friend of Carol's saw a woman in a formal black dress float down the main staircase. In The Blue Room lights turn on and off by themselves. Doors have been heard to slam throughout the night, along with phantom footsteps, and breakable objects that fall from walls, but remain unharmed. In Marion's Room some think an entity of the young girl haunts this space. One ongoing occurrence involves a programmable doorbell which refused to operate when Carol set the tune. It only seemed to work when she left it alone, then it will play tunes randomly. "Happy Birthday" is one of the favorites.

During the winter of 2008 Carol resigned her ownership of the mansion to Tom and Julie Carr. As the years continue to pass hopefully the home will remain a fixture to the Milwaukee area and the Carrs keep the Brumder Mansion as a place where visitors can stay and feel a part of history. But if you decide to stay in the Gold Suite just make sure you leave your pets at home.