Thanks for Asking | January 28, 2010

Frank Smoot

“I’m an insomniac. At four o’clock one morning I saw you on an episode of Animal Planet’s new show The Haunted, and I wanted to know where the story was set. The bridges looked like Chippewa Falls or maybe Jim Falls …”

    Thanks for asking! The house behind “The Possession of Cassie” is in Augusta. The producers vagued it up to protect the present owners from madding crowds descending. It was shot in several spots around the valley; for instance, Eau Claire’s superstar Schlegelmilch House stood in for the actual Augusta home. I didn’t hear which bridges they filmed, but one looked a little like the ol’ Cobban Bridge up 178 near Jim Falls.

The producers purposefully misquoted me about William the “ghost.” A William Smith did live in that Augusta house, and a William Smith committed suicide (40 miles away in Chippewa County) – but, uh, different guys. The house dweller died peacefully at a ripe old age, and I doubt he’s haunting anybody. The show also suggested the “haunted family” contacted me; complete fabrication. Makes me doubt anything I see on the Animal Planet.

As long as I’m straightening records, people gave me some fantastic feedback on questions I answered last column – among them that I was only half right (Insane Clown Posse started a fight, but not on Water Street), and that I told only half the story (about Joseph Evans as owner of Star Bottling Works).

    On, Katie Crotteau set me straight about the Posse: “Actually, ICP was arrested after they tried to beat down the staff at a local watering hole on Barstow Street in 2001.

“I was the manager on duty that night at Houligan’s when the ICP crew came in. They were between cities and staying at the dumpy hotel downtown. They were tooling around downtown and settled on Houligan’s, where another band was playing.”

“They picked a fight with a cook after they mistakenly blamed him for stealing one of their fancy leather logo coats. The irony of it all is that the coat on the cook was vinyl and worth maybe 20 bucks and they couldn’t tell the difference (just looking for mischief). 
They sucker-punched the cook and chased him around the square bar before the guys in the house band intervened. I called the cops and the rest is part of their long history of silly drunken disorderlies. Cool guys.”

Kathy (Graw) Robinson sent me a nice letter about Star Bottling on East Madison. Her mother, Eileen Anderson Graw, had written her family history, including this bit:

“Anton and his brother, Vincent Charles Eckert, started the Star Bottling Works at 1542 East Madison St. (old address was 512 East Madison St.) in Eau Claire in the early 1920s making soda pop. They later sold out to Joe Evans.”

“Agnes Eckert, Anton’s daughter, remembers as a young child tasting the new creme soda they were making. She also remembers riding in the truck that was used to deliver the pop. It had side curtains on it that rolled up and down.”

“Anton’s father, John Eckert, worked on the Chicago-Northwestern Railroad, and the Eckert boys, Jack and Anton, were also railroad men. Anton started when he was just 16, lying about his age to get a job. He worked at this for 29 years. He also owned the tavern on East Madison and Putnam Streets. He was in business for 15 years until he became ill and gave it up. Anton died October 19, 1985, of cancer.”