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Location: Doty Island, Wisconsin
Source: The book Northern Frights
by Dennis Boyer (published 1998) pages 137-141.
The Power of Doty Island
Dennis Boyer's Introduction
The drive from Plainfield to the Fox Valley is only about an hour
long. But the cultural distance is great. The contrasts between the
small sand country community and the booming industrial belt are wide
Indeed, the Fox Valley has very little North Country feel. My earlier
visit to Green Bay and Oneida had put me on the edge of this burgeoning
expanse of strip malls and subdivisions. Now I was in the heart of it.
It would have been easy to reject the idea that this area could be home
to "northwoods" stories. But my network insisted, as they had with
Green Bay, that I would find a connection. And there were many reminder
of this wild past in the many activities centered on the rivers and
Despite the population growth in the Fox Valley, the area remains a
center for boating, fishing, waterfowl hunting, and even sturgeon
spearing. Some observers think it is also becoming the industrial and
political center of Wisconsin as southeast Wisconsin's older urban
centers undergo fitful transitions.
The itinerary took me to Doty island, an urbanized isle in the mouth of
the upper Fox River where it empties into Lake Winnebago. Politics (and
perhaps deeper forces) conspired to divide the island on a east-west
axis into Menasha and Neenah parts. It was not the first time my story
collection efforts brought me to Doty Island. The tale of the ancient
Culdee explorers focused on the island. Many reports of haunted houses along Nicolet Street convinced me that an odd
supernatural climate existed along that municipal boundary line. The
lore of the first Americans also hung heavy in secret spots of the
Professional obligations broke up my travels after my Plainfield visit.
It was a full week before other assignments took me to Appleton.
After a restful night in a hotel, I headed to meet Sherwood, a local
political activist. He requested a sunrise meeting in Doty Park. When I
arrived, the ducks were stirring and a light breeze brought the smell
of algae and dead fish off the lake.
This is no ordinary ghost. Well, maybe none of them are ordinary. But
it's nothing like any of the haunted house stories around here. There's
a strength here. An elemental force that's way beyond the understanding
of anyone in my circle. Something that is subtle in its influence and
deep in its raw presence. It comes out in ways that impact every area
of human life.
I know I'm going to sound paranoid here. It's going to sound like a
jumble of politics, counterculture, and conspiracy stuff. Yes, I'm just
a self-employed carpenter and left-libertarian gadfly in the right-wing
swamp of the Fox Valley. A pre-hippie, post-beatnik, independent
bohemian who's too worn-out for the New Age stuff. And yes, I did the
psychedelics, the potent herbs, and all manner of chemicals. But now I
go no stronger than tea.
Though I was born and raised in the area, I've always known that there
was something wrong with the Fox Valley. It's just less Wisconsin than
the rest of the state. Sure, we got fish fries and the Packers. But
we're less progressive, less Protestant, less populist, and less
libertarian. There's no place else where abortion is so reviled and the
death penalty so embraced. It's like Jesuit inquisitors put something
in the water.
Funny, although I'm a recovering Catholic, I leamed how to piece this
all together from an old Belgian priest. He showed me how it's all
connected. He convinced me that the push for mines up north, the low
prices for pulp, the PCBs in the water, the throwing moms off welfare,
and the get-tough-on-crime stuff all flow from the same source.
I don't know if it's some old Druid thing that the Celtic Culdees
brought here a thousand years ago. Or it could have been something that
the Fox tribe left behind for their French enemies. I do know that some
of the most powerful men in Wisconsin are connected to it.
It's The Power, the idea of domination, control, and subjugation. It's
not empowerment, it's the ability to get others to suspend their
critical faculties and to get them to ignore their self interest.
The priest told me that a shaman talked of a journey to the underworld
to understand The Power. You need to talk to a shaman to understand
that. The explanation was that a powerful fallen angel - a demon if you
will - was not only cast out by the Creator, but was eradicated. But
this malevolent force was so powerful that it left a residual energy
capable of considerable mischief. So what you have is one incredibly
ticked-off ghost of a spirit. Weird, huh?
The shaman says it was put here on the island to keep it out of harm's
way. What a mistake! Who would've figured that this would become such a
populated place? And who would've figured that local elites would've
figured out how to tap this ghost that appears to be on crack,
steroids, and PCP? A kind of evil genie in a bomb case.
Doty Island is like the old south's crossroads. It's a place where you
can make deals with The Power. But he always collects in the end. Two
very famous Americans came here to make deals for what they wanted.
They're practically household names. I'm talking about Harry Houdini
and Joe McCarthy.
Houdini came here at a very young age. An old fellow brought him.
Little Harry had such a strong character that he was able to go away
with a lot of energy without it poisoning his soul. He just used the
energy for a very focused purpose. Even so, he had to pay the bill with
his life when it came due. Everyone knows that it wasn't a pretty
With Tailgunner Joe, it was really quite a different deal. There you
had someone with a mean streak and a catalog of character flaws that
made for an explosive mix when hooked into The Power. It built fires of
hate so hot in old Joe that it just burned him up like an oil-well fIre.
And through Joe, it spread that fire to others and does so to this day.
There was a New Orleans businessman, a fruity type who liked to wear
dresses, who Joe brought up here. That fellow was one of those shadowy
figures in the assassination of President Kennedy.
Then there were the FBI officials who came. Maybe as high up as J.
Edgar Hoover himself. Makes you wonder about a connection here between
cross-dressing, anti-communism, and deals with The Power. Once that
part of the government was mvolved, the secrecy lid came down.
Scientists moved in and strange things started to happen.
On one hand, there was the business side. New businesses, old
businesses, utilities, and research outfits-all playing partial cover
for The Power. They've even found a way to generate conventional
electrical power from this.
The whole Fox Valley is one big experiment for this. They have found a
way to use this energy for mind control. Look at the mercury, PCBs, and
other pollution around here. Look at the crazy unchecked development.
Look at the bizarre politics. Anywhere else in Wisconsin this stuff
alone would cause riots.
Then there's the impact on health and mental health. Check our cancer
rates. Geithe numbers from the women's shelters on wife-beating. Things
that are public health crises elsewhere are ho-hum here. And they're
feeding The Power with souls. They've found a way to suck them right up
at the point of death. They're grabbing all the fresh spirits from Fond
du Lac to Green Bay.
On the other hand, there is the cult side of this, too. This is the
band of rightwing nutcakes who conjure up The Power through a
combination of occult practices and technology. They still gather up at
Joe's grave trying to draw energy there too. But that old boy's empty.
He's in The Power now.
It's reaching critical mass here. So many souls are stuffed under Doty
Island that they're bursting out. That's what's happening along Nicolet
Street. They're even popping up out in Lake Winnebago. This is brought
to us by the same fools who build nuclear power plants without figuring
out what to do with radioactive waste. Why, they're robbing tens of
thousands of an afterlife on this one.
How do they get away with it? That's simple. Even with holy hell
busting loose in the local spirit world, they've managed to pacify the
population. After all, if you have a constituency that doesn't mind
seeing grandma's house bulldozed to make way for a convenience store,
what's the problem with ghosts oozing through the storm drains? It's
fair to ask how I know all these things. I use to chase ghosts like
you. I know you hear lots of strange stories. The Belgian priest got me
started, pointed in the right direction. He participated inside Joe
McCarthy's circle. He admitted that their Cold War fanaticism allowed
for an end-justifies-the-means philosophy. After all, those souls were
simply soldiers in the holy war against the evils of communism. I don't
know what the current rationale would be. Sort of like the military
looking for a mission.
He later saw that this stuff was wrong. That it is evil to prevent a
soul from uniting with its Creator. But he's still afraid to go public.
He only told me because of the bond we've forged fighting the paper
mills. That, and because he's dying of cancer.
So you came looking for ghosts. Tripping across the northern half of
Wisconsin on a supernatural scavenger hunt. And you found some ghosts.
Big whoop! You can chase your piddly little ghost stories all over the
boondocks if you want. But The Power is the real story.
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