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W-File: mshallow.htm

Type: Miscellaneous

Source: Milwaukee, WI Journal, October 31, 1984

Read on, and see if you sleep well tonight

Uh-oh. It's Halloween time again. When strange things can happen. Ghosts. Monsters. Unexplained lights in the sky.

Lucky you live in good old normal Wisconsin where nothing weird ever pops up. Where you can sleep soundly at night. Where you're nice and safe.

As long as you don't look behind you.

Because Wisconsin has had more than its share of strange goings-on. For almost 200 years, the history of the state has been peppered with incidents that sound like outtakes from "The Twilight Zone."

Look back, for instance, on an odd day in Oshkosh. Remember it the next time you pass that town. And watch the skies.

The day was March 19, 1886, a bright and sunny one in Oshkosh. But little did the residents of that city realize what the weather forecast really was for March 19: "Darkness at noon."

It started around mid-day - the strange feel in the air, the restlessness of the animals. Then at 3 p.m. it hit, a sudden blackness that blanketed the city.

Dogs panicked and residents ran for shelter. Driverless carriages careened down the streets behind hysterical horses.

Then, 10 minutes later, it was over. There had been no unusual wind. No freak weather systems. No eclipse.

And no explanation...

Fall is the perfect time to take brisk hikes through the Wisconsin countryside to see the wonderful colors and the geese and ducks flying overhead.

But you could get some unexpected company in those woods. The Ridgeway Terror would just love to join you.

For more than 100 years, this fellow has been materializing at the most inappropriate times around the Dodgeville area. Like the day two Pokerville gents were walking down the road carrying a heavy plank on their shoulders.

They were heading into the woods when a white apparition jumped onto the plank between them. The men turned white themselves and started to run, holding onto the plank with the ghost bumping along for the ride.

The men finally dropped the wood and cowered on the ground. When they looked up, the apparition had vanished. But it would return; the Ridgeway Terror reportedly has milked cows dry, hampered railroad construction and even has taken the empty chair in a local poker game.

Maybe Wisconsin always has been a little weird. There is, after all, the problem of "Wisconsin Rockhenge," that 2,500-year-old spot near Wisconsin Rapids that whispers of ancient Egypt.

At least one investigator, James Scherz, an engineer and mapping specialist with UW-Madison, feels that the stone piles at the site were a calendar system used to predict solstices and equinoxes. This in itself is not all that odd; ancient people tended to be into star-gazing.

The difficulty lies with the type of measurements used by the ancient Wisconsinites and the Egyptians. The Egyptians often used measuring units translating to exactly 100 feet. The Wisconsin builders apparently used a measurement of - not 100.1 or 99.9 - but exactly 100 feet. There also are similarities in the two time-calculating systems.

And then there's the question of what happened to the quarter-million tons of copper dug out of prehistoric Lake Superior mines. At least one archeologist has suggested that the metal found its way through trade routes to ancient Ireland and on to the Mediterranean.

How did prehistoric Native Americans and ancient Egyptians end up using such similar calendar systems? Coincidence? Or did some ambassador from the Nile once sail down the Wisconsin River in the equivalent of Cleopatra's barge?

Nah. Couldn't be. That would be too unbelievable. And as for those underwater pyramids that divers keep spotting in Rock Lake, well... We won't get into that.

But with this kind of history, maybe it's better to watch your step in Wisconsin. Better to stick to the ordinary, where nothing strange can happen. Something safe - like fishing.

Except that the fisherman angling in Lake Mendota in the autumn of 1917 probably thought he was safe. He was fishing from the shore when a huge snakelike head suddenly reared up out of the water less than 100 feet away. The creature had large jaws and fiery eyes. It headed straight for the fisherman.

He froze with fear, but managed to get control of himself before the creature did. He ran off, sure that nobody would ever believe his tale.

Nobody might have believed him if several other people hadn't reported seeing strange things in the lake soon afterwards. And if earlier in the year a university professor hadn't been given a large rough object that a student found on the Mendota shore.

The professor wrote down his identification of the object: "Sea Serpent Scale."

Well, no matter. Just sit down in your parlor and have a nice cup of tea and forget all this strangeness. That's what the Richard Lynch family was doing in the Town of Cady on Aug. 13, 1873. Of course, that was before the poltergeist struck.

The family was eating together when they heard a loud thump coming from a cabinet. They looked up to see a teacup being hurtled to the floor by invisible hands. A moment later another cup dropped to the floor and whirled around. When one of the men tried to grab it, the cup sped from him and zipped under the table.

That was only the beginning. The Lynches were soon ducking self-propelled eggs and potato mashers that flew at them. A quarter of beef disappeared before their eyes. A table, according to witnesses, "started across the room, bounded up to the ceiling and back to the floor hard enough to split one of the leaves."

The Lynches were never able to discover what caused their furnishings' restless behavior.

But that was long ago. Nothing like the angel hair that fell out of the sky on Milwaukee in 1881 could happen these days.

Oh, there was a little incident about the chunk of white-hot metal that plopped itself down in the front yard of a Northwest Side home in 1974. There was a perfectly logical explanation for that. The metal came from a metal-processing plant across the street, everyone said.

There's a perfectly logical explanation for everything. A logical explanation for the unidentified flaming ball that streaked across the night skies in 1977. For the 30-inch crocodile caught in Pewaukee Lake in 1971 and its five-foot cousin found in the Rock River in 1892. For the mystery meteor that once dug a 55-mile hole across the western part of the state from Eau Claire to Winona. For the terrifying howl that for 30 years rang out from a South Side graveyard whenever the moon was full.

Just remember all those logical explanations tonight when you're in your cozy little Wisconsin bed.

And try to keep them in mind - when you turn out the lights.

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