Haunting tales told throughout the Midwest

Author Chad Lewis shares spooky ghost stories that are not for the faint of heart

Researcher, author and lecturer Chad Lewis presented on spooky and haunting topics to the Platteville community. The event was hosted by the Platteville Public Library as a part of their programming and events. This was the first time the library has put on a haunted event for adults, and the event drew in a large crowd.

 “[Chad Lewis] does events all throughout the Midwest, and he has actually spoken at a couple of nearby libraries. He did a talk in Hazel Green this past September about gangsters. We thought this would be a really popular activity because everyone loves haunted things at any time of the year,” adult services librarian Karina Zidon said.

Lewis has been traveling the world for more than 20 years, searching for the strange and unusual things that lurk throughout local legends. He first became interested in the bizarre stories when he was in high school.

“I grew up in Eau Claire, which is not too far from Elmwood, Wisconsin – one of three UFO capitals in the world. When I was in high school, I heard about people seeing UFOs, so I traveled there and interviewed them,” Lewis said.

He continued researching, interviewing and exploring through his university studies in Psychology. Lewis said he would present at research symposiums on his findings for why some individuals believe in monsters, ghosts, witches and the like while others do not. He would have people come up to ask if he could help with hauntings they were experiencing after the presentations were over.

“This is how I got started. I would present my research and people would ask for help, saying ‘my home is haunted and I need help,’ or ‘I saw a creature in the woods, help me.’ It really kind of went from there,” Lewis said. 

The event began with an introduction of cautionary words. Lewis was up-front about the presentation covering some gruesome topics, and he told the audience members that if they felt the need to leave at any time, he would not be offended. 

Lewis began the presentation by discussing witches. The first haunting was that at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, Illinois. He told the chilling tale of the ‘Italian Bride’ who is said to haunt her grave because she was buried alive. Lewis explained that the mother of the young girl started having dreams where her daughter would come to her and beg for her mother to come dig her back up because she was still alive. Quite frightened, the mother applied through the church to have her daughter dug back up. It took seven years to get the approval for it, but when they finally exhumed the body, what they found was chilling. The story goes that the Italian bride’s body did not decay during those seven years, and she lay resting as if she were just sleeping. 

Lewis told a few more witch haunting stories before moving on to some of the haunted places in the Midwest where people can spend the night. The first story he told was of the home of Joseph Forepaugh, located in St. Paul, Minnesota. The home is currently being used as a restaurant, but it holds secrets that are not for the faint of heart. Lewis explained that the owner of the house, Forepaugh, took on a mistress, Molly, while still married to his wife. Once his wife discovered her husband was having an affair, Forepaugh was no longer allowed to see Molly. The pains of this drove him to commit suicide near the railroad tracks. Like any true love story, once Molly caught word that Forepaugh had killed himself, she, too, took her own life by hanging a noose from a chandelier on the third floor of the home. Lewis claimed that the diner is said to be haunted with the lasting illegitimate love affair of Joseph and Molly.

The stories, according to Lewis, began to get more gruesome after this point in the presentation. He began a series of stories about axe murders. One of the most horrific was “Death Curve.” Lewis told the story behind Death Curve, warning parents that this would most likely be the most disturbing story they heard all day. 

Lewis told the story of Death Curve: A woman was at home with her seven children one day when she got sucked into a sort of trance-like state. She ordered her two oldest boys to get water from the nearby lake. Once they had left, she called the rest of her five children into the house individually and beheaded them with an axe. Once the two oldest returned home, she did the same to them. After killing all seven of her children, the woman awoke from her trance, not knowing what had happened. When she realized that all of her children were dead, she gathered as many of their body parts as she could, poured oil over them, and lit the house on fire. Ever since, the corner strip of road where the house used to be is said to be haunted with the ghost of the woman who killed her seven children. 

Lewis wrapped up his presentation by talking about local serial killer Ed Gein from Plainfield. Lewis told the common stories that many people have heard before: Gein had killed at least two women, probably a dozen more, during his time in Plainfield. The part that Lewis said was particularly chilling was that Gein would go to Spirit Land Cemetery, dig up the bodies of women who reminded him of his mother and use their body parts to decorate his home. Lewis explained that Gein would use the skin for lampshades and the skulls for soup bowls. 

As the presentation came to an end, Lewis invited questions and personal ghost or haunting stories from the audience members. Some members told stories of haunted homes and others told stories of seeing things in the forest. Though there were many stories going around the room, not everyone in the audience was a believer of the paranormal. 

“I don’t know [if I believe in ghosts]. I am kind of fifty-fifty because I totally could believe, but at the same time, it is one of those things that you have to see before you can really believe it,” junior elementary education major Hannah Gauthier said. 

Lewis said his favorite trip thus far for research has been to Transylvania. Lewis said it was really creepy because a lot of the rural areas of it are similar to what the U.S. would have been pre-industrial era. People on horse and buggies, no electricity. He said the really interesting thing was that the people still believe that everywhere you go around the world, these things exist.

“When I was traveling in Transylvania doing vampire research, people would say, ‘Why? We avoid these places.’ I love that. I love foreign countries because of those beliefs. The villagers say not to go out there or else you will not come back. That is so much fun,” Lewis said.

Lewis has written twenty-three books about his adventures and explorations. More information on his research, events and stories can be found at chadlewisresearch.com.