Thursday, Jan. 8th, 2009

Weird Tale Of Haunted House
(Jan. 7, 1906)

Weird Tale Of Haunted House
Phantoms Thrill Third Ward House Holder – Great Interest in Mystery.
– Eau Claire Leader | Jan. 7, 1906

The Third ward has a haunted house-story! A weird tale this, that sends thrills chasing up and down the spinal column, and causes each separate hair to stand on end like the quills of that much quoted and avirent porcupine. According to neighborhood gossip the haunted house is that very handsome residence erected not long ago by Mrs. Oramel Walker, at the corner of Barstow and Emery streets, and now inhabited by Ex–Alderman Louis Schmidt, a gentleman known far and wide for his gentle disposition and kindly nature.

No better or more thoughtful of citizen ever trod the streets of Eau Claire than the late Oramel Walker. In the early days, when Barstow street was still a shambling lane, Oramel Walker erected a pleasant home-for those days a palatial home- and commodious barns for his stock. That region, now known as the aristocratic Third, was fine farming country in those days. Mr. Walker saw a prosperous city grow up about him. His rolling acres were cut up into town lots and lanes were succeeded by well laid oat streets and avenues. Homes sprung up like magic. His pleasant farmhouse became a city dwelling and his splendid barns found themselves on the corner of Barstow and Emery streets and amenable to road and property tax in the noble Third war.

Years rolled on, as years have a habit of doing. Oramel Walker, and his house, and his barns, grew older together. They became landmarks in the midst of a thriving, progressive, and aggressive city. Fine homes were built and old ones were rebuilt around him. As the story goes, Mrs. Walker importuned, for architects and contractors, but Mrs. Walker was no more. After the lapse of time the widow carried out her long cherished plans of remodeling. She sold the old homestead to the Methodists. They rebuilt the house, making it into a model parsonage. The barns adjoining them were then demolished, and a handsome home arose in their place, most of the well-seasoned and perfectly sound timber being used in the reconstruction. 

For a time Mrs. Walker lived there herself. According to the story, she became desirous of selling. Louis Schmidt became the purchaser. Stories of ghosts spread through the neighborhood. Uncanny tales are told. Tales of strange rappings and unaccountable noises. One story is that the shade of the late Mr. Walker drives his famous coal black team-now phantom horses- through the side of the house, and unharnesses them in the dining room. There is stamping of horses’ feet and commands of “Whoa!” “Get over there!” are heard-much to the distress of the material occupants. Some of the neighbors don’t believe in ghosts, some of them do. All of them are awed and the Leader tells the story as it has been told to it be several.


Chad's Take:
Back to the weird

Ah, it is nice to get back to some more traditional strange stories of the Chippewa Valley, not that I don’t like deer attacking citizens and razor fights over bread, but it is nice to cover some basic paranormal stories as well. Digging through the old newspapers I was amazed to find that so many ghost stories were covered, and this case was one of my favorites. It is hard to imagine that the area of Barstow St. was once considered good farming land, but remember that this was over 100 years ago and even then the paper talks of the city encroaching on Mr. Walker’s land. 

As far as I know no one has reported seeing the phantom carriage or the coal black horses that are said to pull it for quite sometime. However, reports of animal ghosts in the Chippewa Valley are not uncommon as we seem to have phantom elephants (more on that in an upcoming article), hell hounds, and even a river serpent. 

If you want to search for the phantom carriage for yourself, Oramel Walker lived downtown at 806 S. Barstow St. right across the street from Wilson Park.

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35-Year-Old Local Business Closes ... Who's Next?

A lot of you may not have ever heard of FS Appliance, TV and Audio, but I bet you’ve seen it out by Oakwood Mall. It used to have a location in Downtown Eau Claire. My dad used to be a home builder in town., and he used FS to get appliances for most of his jobs. Well, after 35 years of business in the area, it’s closing soon. To be honest, I’m surprised they held on this long, what with Sears and Best Buy and Menards looming around town. I’m assuming they lasted so long because they were a local company with dandy service and nice big list of long-time loyal customers. But the current economy was enough to sink the ship.

On a somewhat related note, I heard that a Wal-Mart decided not to build a new store in Spooner, Wis. (right down Hwy 53 from the Wal-Mart in Rice Lake), but I can’t find any info on why that decision was made, and whether or not the store was protested by the locals. At any rate, if the bad economy is to blame, that’s kind of a silver lining for the locally-owned shops up there.

Update: Commenter AgentPendrell asks, "I wonder if V1 would have any luck investigating all the rumors about stores closing. I've heard the following... Outback, Chicken Unlimited, Sweetwaters, Macy's, Applebees, Gap... any other rumors? Anyone know of any truth to these?"

Have you guys heard these rumors, too?

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Five Local Action Figures Begging for Mass Circulation

For some crazy reason, the "High Five" piece in the print version of Volume One never makes it online. Until today. Here are Eric Rasmussen's "Five local action figures begging for mass circulation" ...

FORLEASE, THE EMPTY RETAIL SPACE TRANSFORMER
Oh no! Unused commercial square footage is an unsettling reminder of the problems with the economy. But watch! Forlease starts as an unused Waterford storefront, but he transforms into a bustling local business, with shelves full of merchandise and a register overflowing with cash! He also transforms into a robot with a “Will build to suit” hammer and a “Wall Street corruption fighter” laser gun.

BARON VON ALGEBRA, DEFENDER OF EDUCATION
The Baron is a champion of learning! Clad in a math teacher sweater vest and armed with his Red Pen of the Ancients, he is ready to do battle with his archenemies, Captain Sleeps-in-Class and the Duke of Budget Deficits (both sold separately). Touch the button on the Baron’s back and listen to his education battle cries, like “SohCahToa!” and “Music is critical to a well-rounded education and should not be cut!”

LITTLE MISS SNOWFLAKE, PRINCESS OF WISCONSIN WINTER ACTIVITIES
Pretending to like winter is critical to staving off crippling depression, and Little Miss is here to help! She comes with a light blue coat and a pair of ice skates, but she has tons of accessories (sold separately) to help beat Grandpa Winter Sourpants! From her Half Moon Polar Plunge Set to her Winter Farmers Market shopping bag to her Rainbow Snowmobile, she can add a little sunshine to the most overcast of winter days!

LARRY THE LIBRARY BUILDER
Guess what? The library expansion hasn’t been going quite as smoothly as planned! Larry can help! Larry comes with a full compliment of building tools and a collection of books, including timeless classics and hot new bestsellers (may contain small parts – not recommend for children under three). Touch Larry’s shoulder to experience his spring-loaded renovation swing action. Touch his other shoulder for his spring-loaded pleading for additional fundraising move!

HIGH-DEF HEROES OF LOCAL TV NEWS
Have you heard? On February 17, 2009, all television signals will switch over to digital. Before the big change, you can collect all of the big names in local television news, cast in ultra HD-style detail! Are you ready to see every strand of Jamie Paige’s hair? How about the tiniest nuance of Chris Herzog’s skin? Now you will be able to stage the most realistic Judy Clark versus Jerry Gallagher battle royale ever!

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Wednesday, Jan. 7th, 2009

OK, Now … What?

This whole Bon Iver thing is off the hook. Off the chain. Off the tracks. It’s a runaway train, never comin’ back. This is all awesome, of course, but just crazy. The latest spoonful of crazy to be added to the pile is an eBay auction for a copy of our Dec. 4 issue featuring an interview with Justin Vernon. The auction item is titled “Volume 1 Back Issue: Bon Iver Exclusive Interview.”

So far there ain’t no bids. No big surprise there, but the fact that someone is actually trying to make some peripheral money of Vernon’s fame is pretty nuts. It’s not even a signed copy. It’s not even a rare copy. And the article is online.

Just weird.

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Tuesday, Jan. 6th, 2009

Llama Movie Highlights Nearby Town. Woo-hoo.

When I was a chubby fifth grader, my parents moved to Hammond, Wis. for 7 months and my life ended. I went from a tiny Catholic school to a giant rural school. I did not fit in and life sucked. I whined so much that my family moved back to Eau Claire. The end.

Speaking of Hammond, they have an annual llama-based event. Who knew? And according to the Leader-Telegram, Minneapolis short filmmaker Heidi Freier has made a documentary on the event, known as “Running of the Llamas.” Besides filming the llamas, she fell in love with them. Watch as the L-T allows the love story to unfold …

  • While filming at two area llama farms, Freier and one of her crew members, Michael Bartsch, unexpectedly became smitten with llamas. Freier said she and her crew enjoyed the days they spent filming the llamas, and the film soon became more than just about the event.
  • "The film is a celebration of llamas, a unique small-town event and the people who make it happen," Freier said in a news release.

A celebration of llamas? Hmm. Despite all the llama madness, I still very much dislike Hammond, Wis. It’s nothing personal.

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Monday, Jan. 5th, 2009

I Want That Cow
Jan. 1, 1893

I Want That Cow
The Leader Senatorial Guessing Game - A Chance to get a cow.
– The Leader and Weekly Edition | Jan. 1, 1893

Whomever names the senatorial nominee, the ballet upon which he will be nominated and the number of votes he will receive, can secure a cow from the Leader.  The guesses will be received until January 11, 1893.  The cow is the gist of our enterprising city engineer, Mr. Chas Alderman.  The lively interest which the people of Wisconsin are taking in the election of United States senator from this state has induced the LEADER to offer a premium of a cow to the person who will name the man or who comes nearest to it. Who will receive the Democratic caucus nomination, giving the ballet upon which he will be nominated and the number of votes he will receive.

Competition will be open to all, and each person will be permitted to vote as often as he chooses, using the LEADER blank provided below.  The guesses will be received until January 11, 1893, and the name of the successful person will be announced when the nomination is made.

Fill out this blank and mail to Political Editor of the LEADER.


Chad's Take:
I want that cow!

I think we were all glad to see the 2008 Presidential race finally come to an end.  Even the most diehard political junkies suffered from exhaustion from the long drawn out process, yet this article has given me my second wind for elections simply because I could have won a cow.  Now I try to do my part and vote in local, state, and national elections, and I like to think I do it because I believe in the process.  However, if I was alive in 1893 you can bet that the only reason I would have filled out this card and voted would be for that damn cow.  It’s not like I would really even want to win the cow, it’s just that the contest is so cool I would have no choice but to participate.

This contest is pure marketing genius as you could fill out as many of the ballots as you wanted as long as you bought the newspaper as well.  I know radio stations, newspapers, and even Volume One give away a lot of cool prizes to their customers, but I don’t recall any of them giving away a free cow.   I realize that in today’s world most of us would not even know what to do with a cow, but that is beside the point.  So this is my challenge to the Chippewa Valley businesses, step up and give away a cow for a prize and you will garner my support and money.

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The Big Week, January 5

In this episode: Chippewa Falls sells 70 acres (what for?), our local New Year’s baby, Trevor breaks down Xmas tree recycling, and we give away a $50 g.c. to Draganetti’s.

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Friday, Jan. 2nd, 2009

This Weekend: Let’s Roll

Before you could bowl in your living room on the Nintendo Wii your parents bought you, there was a sport called “actual bowling.” It’s a fact. And people still do it right here in town. In fact, this weekend will see the “premier scratch bowling tournament in west and central Wisconsin,” a two-day tournament called the Chippewa Valley Match Games held at Wagner's Lanes. The Saturday shifts are for qualifying, and the top 24 players return Sunday for Match Play with a winner crowned after a step ladder final. If that makes sense to you, you should be excited, especially since you can still sign up to compete. If none of that makes sense to you, just show up at Wagner’s Lanes on Sunday to see some bowling pins blasted into oblivion by the best competitors – and enjoy the scintillating atmosphere only a scratch bowling tournament can provide. More details here.

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Wednesday, Dec. 31st, 2008

Bizarre History: The Holiday Edition

  With the holiday and shopping seasons finally ending I thought it would be only fitting to share with you a few of the ads that ran in the December 20, 1894 edition of the Eau Claire newspaper. Most of us think of advertising as a recent phenomenon dreamed up by clever ad executives who sole agenda is to lure us into their stores to spend our hard-earned money on stuff we really don’t need. The truth is that marketing has been around in many forms for quite some time. P.T. Barnum, the greatest showmen to ever walk the earth, had mastered advertising throughout the 1800s with his genius use of the newspapers. Thanks to Barnum newspapers were filled with stories of Fiji Mermaids, Wild Men, Tom Thumb, and other dime store human novelties all set up to entice thousands of visitors to his New York Museum.  

  In honor of Barnum go ahead and take a good look at these Eau Claire ads and I think you will agree that they are simply terrific. I love the tobacco ad where they made no effort to hide the advertising agenda of the Climax Plug, the tobacco that every lover needs. It even has a drawing of a couple shown in a loving tobacco embrace. Also check out the Elkhart Carriage and Harness ad where for only $37.50 you could get yourself a brand new four-wheeled buggy for your family. You could also pick up a large farm wagon for only $43, but if you wanted a simple bicycle it would set back a whopping $55. Keep in mind that the average yearly income of a family in 1894 would have only been about $275. 

  I hope you enjoy these ads and that your holiday season was filled with gifts of linen goods, handkerchiefs, and fancy goods. If not, I at least hope that Santa left you some of his soap in your stocking.

  Keep an eye out …
 

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County Jail Strike Force
Com Link Go!

If you haven’t had the chance to attend a meeting of the Special Committee to Resolve (County Jail) Space and Site Needs because you’re lazy and uninvolved, have no fear! You can watch ALL the meetings online! It’s all courtesy of our own Community Television. Check it:

  • Eau Claire County taxpayers who don’t subscribe to cable TV can still view the most recent jail expansion meetings.  Chippewa Valley Community Television, who videotaped the meetings, will be streaming them on its website on New Years Day.
  • The jail expansion programs will be broadcast on Analog Channel 97 and Digital 994 on Charter Cable beginning at 12:45 am.  Audio will be simulcast on WRFP-LP, 101.9 FM.  The web streaming will pick up at 7am on www.cvctv.org. The meetings will run until about 11pm.

So if you’re looking for some amazing New Year’s Day activities, hunker down on the davenport with your laptop and a case of Schlitz and go wild Jail Committee-style.

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Downtown Cinema to offer beer, wine, and food?

Have you, like John Travolta’s character in Pulp Fiction, ever dreamed of sitting down in a movie theater with a beer in your hand? You may soon have that cinematic dream fulfilled – with a slice a pizza on the side. Micon Cinemas has ...

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