MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

Ghosts on the prowl

Around the region, spirits of past turn out to haunt tourists of today.

Statue in Graceland Cemetery.

© Beth Gauper

In Chicago's Graceland Cemetery, legends swirl around Lorado Taft's "Eternal Silence,'' known as the Statue of Death.

It's funny how, wherever there are tourists, there are ghosts.

In Chicago, two ghost tours put titillated tourists on the track of Al Capone and John Dillinger, thrill-killers Leopold and Loeb and serial murderer H.H. Holmes, the Devil in the White City.

There's enough lingering ectoplasm in St. Paul, Milwaukee and Winnipeg to keep guides busy there, too, especially around Halloween.

Even cute little Galena, Ill., has so many ghosts that guides stay busy year-round, telling tourists about beckoning figures and haunted theaters and mysterious taps on shoulders.

Historian Steve Repp leads All About a Ghost tours in Galena, and the most entertaining part of his tour comes at the end, when he asks if anyone has had experience with ghosts. Sometimes only a couple of people raise hands, and sometimes nearly everyone does.

"The other day, 15 people told stories of things that had happened, if not to them, to their mothers or sisters or brothers; it was unbelievable,'' he said. "It makes you wonder.''

Here are some of the tours around the region.

Galena

Historian Steven Repp holds All About a Ghost walking tours from the DeSoto House Hotel on Main Street at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays year-round, plus Sundays in October and before Monday holidays.

In inclement weather, indoor programs replace the 80-minute tours. Just show up, or call 815-777-9252 for more information.

For more, see Ghosts of Galena.

The Annie Wiggins Guest House also offers a Ghost Tour from the 1846 mansion overlooking the Galena River, across from downtown. The 75-minute walking tours go out Fridays and Saturdays from May through October.

There are other frightful things to do in Galena in October. For Halloween, there's  a Balloon Glow along the Galena River and a nighttime parade. 

Chicago

Unlike Galena, Chicago always has been filled with gangsters and murderers, including H.H. Holmes, who terrorized young women before and during Chicago's 1893 Columbian Exposition. Reserve early for October tours.

Their ghosts still lurk in Chicago, says author Ursula Bielski, who offers Chicago Hauntings Tours year-round on Fridays and Saturdays and daily in October. Motorcoach tours leave at 7 p.m. and also 10 p.m. from Clark and Ontario in the near North, adjacent to the Rock & Roll McDonalds.

The cemetery in Spillville.

© Beth Gauper

There are two other tours, Weird Chicago Ghost Tour and Chicago Ghost Investigations Tour, where participants get ghost-hunting equipment. 

St. Paul

Wabasha Street Caves, which made its name with its St. Paul Gangster Tours, offers a 1-hour Ghosts & Graves motorcoach tour and Ghosts, Graves & Caves tour. Costumed guides tell stories about haunted sites, historic murders and a local cemetery.

At the State Capitol, Shadows and Spirits tours encounter historical "spirits" that include a night watchman, a Civil War veteran, a suffragist, a dome foreman and an artist who decorated the Supreme Court chamber. However, they've been suspended in 2014 because of renovations.

Minneapolis

From the St. Anthony Main complex on the riverfront, in the oldest part of the city, search for paranormal activity on Real Ghost Tours. Guests are supplied with ghost-hunting equipment.

Tours are Friday and Saturday nights.

Milwaukee

Milwaukee Ghosts offers 1-hour Ghost Walks of the Historic Third Ward, once known as the "Bloody Third,'' on Friday and Saturday evenings from May through November.

Madison

From Memorial Day through October, Madison Ghost Walks leads walks at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays from in front of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum on Capitol Square. Tours last 90 minutes.

Wausau, Wis.

Find out why Larry, Martha, Cyrus, Bob, the Plumers and Eddie refuse to rest in peace on Historic Downtown Wausau Fall Ghost Tours offered by the Wausau Paranormal Research Society on October weekends.

Port Washington, Wis.

Find the haunted spots of this hilly maritime town on Lake Michigan on the Port Washington Ghost Walk Halloween weekend. It's a two-hour tour that includes hills. They're recommended for people 13 and older.

Bayfield, Wis.

In fall, Bayfield Heritage Tours offers two walks, Ghosts and Legends of Old Bayfield and More Ghosts, by candle lantern with a costumed "spirit guide.''

In this hillside village on Lake Superior, you'll hear about shipwrecks, a phantom girl at the ferry dock, Ojibwe legends of ice monsters and haunted islands.

Manitowoc, Wis.

On Lake Michigan, the Wisconsin Maritime Museum offers Maritime History Ghost Walks on Halloween weekend, covering shipwrecks, haunted lighthouses and unsolved mysteries.

Anoka, Minn.

This northern suburb of Minneapolis calls itself the Halloween Capital of the World, and the Anoka County Historical Society offers 1-hour Ghosts of Anoka walking tours around town at 7:30 p.m. on two Thursdays and Saturdays a month from May through August, and every Thursday, Friday and Saturday in September and October, with extra tours during Halloween Week.

Call 763-421-0600 to reserve. The Anoka Halloween festival includes parades, contests, medallion hunts and a block party.


Last updated on October 16, 2014

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