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Location: Phillips, Wisconsin
Source: The book Northern Frights
by Dennis Boyer (published 1998) pages 63-65.
By the way, the official web site for "Fred Smith's Fabulous Wisconsin Concrete Park" can be
found at http://outsider.art.org/fred/. You can see
pictures there that'll give you a better idea about what this story is referring to.
Phillips' Concrete Creepers
Dennis Boyer's Introduction
Ghost-hunting offers many surprises. Yet there is a tendency to
assume that years of experience and dozens of encounters have prepared
the investigator for every possible angle and variation. This type of
comfortable arrogance is the bane of everyone who assumes they've been
there, done that. But life without growth and new revelations is a
simple and atrophied pond silting in before it becomes a brackish swamp.
The beginning of the journey (and many interim steps) prepared me for
the possibility of connections between different northwoods spirits and
inexplicable undercurrents of evil. The various offbeat, lighthearted,
and warmly nostalgic ghosts along the way tended to mute the macabre
and sinister spirit elements.
Word got around about my unusual quest. Unsolicited advice from
self-styled seers and clairvoyants found its way onto my
phone-answering machine. Letters brought sale offers concerning
"special" maps and "secret" documents.
Fate finally brought me a clearer voice in the form of a friend of a
friend. He was part guide, part coach, and part kick in the seat of the
pants. He was on a search of his own and had thought of a few things I
had missed. Robert brought me, at night, to the edge of a strange place
on Highway 13 South, near Phillips.
From what everybody's telling, you're following with your nose too
close to the trail. That's a good way to walk into an ambush or right
up their rear ends. I saw that plenty in the Philippines back in my
war. You gotta get off the trail sometimes. Off to the side.
This is not a kid's game of connect the dots or a road rally to see who
can drive between ghost locations the fastest. Think it out. Take your
We Indians-even we unofficial ones like me-have an advantage on time.
We don't hear it ticking away. We float on it like a river and get out
every once in a while to look around. It was here in Phillips that I
kind of climbed out of the river and looked around because something is
amiss. Something is building and brewing.
You know by now that the land is as densely populated by ghosts and
spirits and other unknown forces as it is by live people. Maybe more
so. But if you haven't also noticed increases in strange activity and
things way out of balance, then you 're missing the whole point of your
Think about that. What is balance? How do things get out of balance?
How do we get back to balance? That view probably comes from my Ottawa
background. I'm one of the last of that group in Wisconsin. The group
that hung on with the Marshfield Potawatomi and then faded north into
But just because we don't have tribal picture I.Ds or enrollment
certificates doesn't mean we're any less Indian. Indianness is in the
heart and in the spirit. Not in who's got a share of fish or casino
money. We Wisconsin Ottawa understand ghosts because we're kind of like
ghosts ourselves. Hardly anybody can see us. No one's sure if we're
really here. I'll bet more people believe in ghosts than believe in
So why did this old Ottawa bring you here? Well, not to rant and rave
about the last of the Ottawa. I had to get you off your trail. Get your
nose and eyes and ears off to the side. You need to look farther out on
an old trail. Otherwise you loop back over your own track. Sometimes
when you 're tracking you can sense the birds a mile ahead are being
disturbed. The jays squawk, the crows take off from their roost. Those
are chain reactions. Here we are at a part of a chain reaction. It's a
thing that makes little sense on its own. But if you view it as a sign
of disturbance, then it helps you judge what you 're following. What
we've got here is the Wisconsin Concrete Park. Two hundred concrete
figures from mythology and history. Built by old Fred Smith and left as
an odd legacy to the Phillips area. It's a spooky thing to view at
night. Plenty of shadows and if there's a moon, it catches the light in
an eerie way.
But the real oddity here is how a place without a ghost history is
pulling them in. Price County never had that much of a ghost history.
Unless you go back fifty years or more to that luminous ball that kept
coming out of the ground at the Fifield Cemetery. Now, Price County is
drawing spirits like ants to a picnic.
This is why I want you to pay attention to what you're doing. There's
serious stuff going on here. There's bigger stakes than just a couple
of jokes over beers down in the flatland and a laugh at the hicks up in
the pine woods. You need to decide about what you're doing. Is it a
lark? Is it a tabloid search for sensationalistic meat to throw to the
crowd? Or is it a real search to expand spiritual horizons? I want you
to think about what I said earlier about tracking and chain reactions.
We've got ghosts by the dozens moving into concrete statues. Don't you
think that tells us something? There are times at night where the
concrete forms start to move. Some just rock back and forth. Some sort
of dance. Others rocket straight up in the air and don't come down for
Nothing bad has happened, yet. As far as I can figure, they are kind of
neutral spirits. No hostile agendas or long, vengeful legacies to
fulfill against the living. Just lost spirits being pulled into an old
You not only must classify a ghost. You must determine whether it's a
friend or foe or simply too damaged to help any of us. You must find
the good ghosts. Find them and keep them as allies. That's right, good
ghosts are the chief ally in the fight against the evil ones. Start
talking to the Creator. Ask for strength. Keep yourself pure. You'll
get a sign about which ones you can use or trust.
Think about what is happening here in Phillips. Ghosts are moving into
inanimate objects, into material things. It's a chain reaction from
things happening along your trail. But it also demands that you ask
what's out of balance. Our things are corning to life. It's not right.
But our things are becoming possessed.
That only happens one of two ways. It could be a curse. But that's a
limited sort of one person, one object type of thing. Or there's a rip
in the spirit world and they're pouring out like jellybeans out of a
torn bag. That's what we've got here in Phillips. But why? And what
does it mean for your journey? Will you slow down enough to figure it
out? Approach all of this with respect. Stay flexible. Keep an open
mind. Quiet now. Keep still. Let's watch the statues move.
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