While the coming of the spooky season prompts a plethora of Halloween events all across Chicago, there is a limited number eerie enough to inspire real fear.
Unexpected jumps and sudden scares may come in abundance but when all is said and done it is ultimately a costumed figure or creepy decoration of some kind and just like an episode of Scooby Doo, the mask comes off and the fear fades away.
For those wanting to experience a real-life ghost story this Halloween, a much more hair-raising reality can be found under two hours away in the town of Whitewater.
Nicknamed “Second Salem” after the notorious town near Boston renowned for its 1692 witch trials and subsequent executions, Whitewater in Wisconsin has its own repertoire of creepy tales associated with witchcraft.
According to historian Carol Cartwright, curator of Whitewater’s historic depot museum and an academic who became fascinated by the prevalent stories, much of the supposed hauntings stem back to the old Morris Pratt Institute.
It is said that this building was established somewhat enigmatically by Pratt. Having been advised by a medium in 1884 to invest in land in northern Wisconsin, Pratt purchased an iron ore mine which soon made him considerably wealthy and able to build his own institute.
He opened the Morris Pratt Institute in 1889 for the study of spiritualism at the northwest corner of Fremont and Center streets. Though Pratt kept quiet about its exact purpose, it was said that students practiced séances in an attempt to contact the dead and better understand God and the afterlife.
The Whitewater Historical Society notes that the local newspaper addressed it “M. Pratt’s Sanitarium and hall of Psychic science” upon its opening and though Pratt himself would refer to it as his “temple of science” locals quickly took to calling it “the Spook’s Temple.”
After Pratt’s death in 1902, students could attend a school of higher education at the institute, where among other studies in spiritualism and psychic research students were trained as mediums.
From here practices spread around the town reportedly being performed in various locations in Whitewater. Another infamous spot is the old water tower in the town’s Starin Park. Bands of “witches” gathered here to chant and perform rituals in another attempt to contact spirits.
According to Discover Whitewater, the iron fence around the tower has spikes pointing inward to restrict anything escaping from the tower rather than pointing outward to prohibit entry.
Discover Whitewater also notes 4 other locations that particularly stand out including the University of Wiscon’s Whitewater Greenhill Center of the Arts (CA) situated at 950 W Main St.
Over the years numerous students and staff members claimed to have heard or seen chairs move around in various classrooms and elevators moving between floors while the building is empty.
Inevitably, the town’s cemeteries have played their own role in spooking locals. The town is home to three cemeteries Cavalry, Oak Grove, and Hillside. The isosceles triangle made by these three locations is known as the Witch’s Triangle and covers many of the so-called haunted locations.
The Hillside Cemetery at South Wisconsin St. is home to the mausoleum of a murderess and self-proclaimed witch named Mary Worth. Residing at the highest point of the cemetery, and out of view from the main road, numerous people have reported sightings of Mary’s apparition wandering from her grave through the cemetery’s many tombstones.
From a little girl’s coffin mysteriously relocating itself from one cemetery to the nearby college campus in 1970 to a hidden tunnel found unbricked by a group of sorority sisters who had heard noises coming from the basement ten years later, eerie encounters have been documented all over the town.
There is even one single cursed book locked in Whitewater’s Andersen Library that is said to have caused three students and one professor to commit suicide and another to be locked in a mental institution.
If you’re fascinated by the tales of paranormal activity and feel like braving the spooky streets of Whitewater, Whitewater Chamber operates Sprit Tours in the days leading up to Halloween every year.
[Featured image courtesy of the Whitewater Historical Society]