Just catching up on this little bit of news, here. Last month, the Eau Claire Area School District called 400 locals on the phone and conducted a survey, asking if people are very pleased, somewhat pleased, somewhat displeased, or very displeased about all kinds of stuff. Well, the results are in. The juiciest details involve budget woes and rescuing referendums, of course. Here’s a few results gleaned from WQOW.com …
And lastly, WQOW points out that 46% of those polled would support a new referendum, while 48% would not. Read the full results by downloading this freaking giant PDF which is basically a sideways PowerPoint presentation that I am Very Displeased about.
How often do you get to see a band voted "Best Metallica Tribute Band" by MTV? Nearly never. Battery – the Chicagoland Metallica tribute band – takes to the Stones Throw stage to bring down the house on Saturday night at 10pm. That much rock will cost you 7 dollars.
Also on Saturday: Santa Claus in Chippewa Falls, Holiday Art Fair Reception, A Christmas Carol, Winter Solstice Ceremony, Jamestown Story, Menomonie Six, Mojo Lemon, Downers Grove, and the Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank.
I’m pretty sure this game is just a promotion for a glove manufacturer, but who cares? Throwing snow balls from a ski lift is throwing snow balls from a ski lift.
Did Spooks Do It
Or Was it Spontaneous Combustion – A Remarkable Case on Broadway.
– Eau Claire Leader | Dec. 20, 1905
Mr. O. J. Arnstad, the carpenter, a brother of Ole Arnstad, the contractor, is up against it, or rather was up against it Saturday night. How could his cellar stairs and cellar way take fire without his knowing it? O.J. wishing to bring a bottle of his celebrated Juniper beer from the cellar, lamp in hand descended. On his way down he noticed in the wall a rubber brush, a small mirror and a few other articles of toilet.
Everything was calm and still and quiet. Having secured his bottle he ascended, but no sooner than he arrived in the kitchen than his little son Johnnie, aged 11, exclaimed; “Oh, Pa, I smell smoke!” The whole family rushed to the cellar door and to their horror found everything in flames.
The rubber brush, towel, and other articles were blazing on the floor. Mr. Arnstad luckily had his shoes on, so he jumped on them putting them out. Mrs. Arnstad and Jonnie ran with pails of water and soon it was discovered there was no need to run to the box at the corner of Sixth avenue and Broadway.
Some of the neighbors feel satisfied there is and had been for many years a ghost on that cellar. It must be either that or else a clear case of spontaneous combustion brought about by the rubber brush colliding with the towel and both getting mixed up with celluloid back comb which was also close by.
Chad's Take: What an adventure!
One main drawback to finding these great old articles is that they are really just a snapshot in time, and the article can not possibly cover every other element that is involved in the story. Such is the case with the current article. I just felt like there was something more lurking around outside of this story, so I decided to try and dig up some additional information. However, this time my curiosity led me on a wacky adventure through Eau Claire’s past. Luckily for me the newspaper article gave out few starting points to begin my investigation with. First the paper listed the man as O.J. Arnstad and also stated that his profession was carpentry. With this little bit of information I was able to find out if Mr. Arnstad was listed in an 1884 Eau Claire City Directory under carpenters. He was. The directory had him listed, and I soon found out that O.J. Arnstad’s full name was Ole J. Arnstad. The directory also provided Ole’s address at 434 Hudson St. Now that I had the man’s name and address I started hoping that just maybe his home was still standing in Eau Claire. The article was from 1905, which meant that even if his home was brand new when the article was written, it would be over 100 years old today. I headed down to the Eau Claire County Courthouse to visit the Register of Deeds to see what information I could gather about the property. It turns out the original home was constructed in 1880, and that the home is currently being used for several college apartment rentals.
Now that my interest in the home was fully peaked, I decided to drive down to Hudson St. to try and locate this mysterious house numbered 434. In a matter of minutes I came upon a standard looking two-story home with the numbers 434 attached to it. The home had been split into several different apartments and looked like it had undergone renovation several times over the years (I did not check the building permits at City Hall to confirm this) but I noticed that the outside rock of the basement looked like it might have been the original rock foundation. Could it possibly be that the notoriously haunted basement of 1905, where rags spontaneously combusted, was still there and intact? It was pretty dark outside so I really could not confirm that the outside stone continued down to the inside basement. Well I figured that there was only one way to find out. Ok fine, there were several ways I could have found out, but I picked the easiest and quickest. I simply got out of my car and walked toward the porch light and knocked on the downstairs apartment door. A young college girl opened the door and asked if she could help me. I awkwardly asked her if the address was 434 Hudson, and when she confirmed that it was, I asked if her apartment had a basement, and again she answered “yes.” I then asked what was possibly the weirdest question of the night, when I said “could I come in and checkout your basement?” As you can tell by that last statement the experience I have gained from thousands of witness interviews has really paid off for me. Not surprisingly she looked at me strangely and said “um why?” Now over the years of paranormal investigating I have learned that when it comes to the strange and bizarre, vagueness often pays off. With that I simply told her that I was doing some historical research on the home (true) and thought that the basement might be the home’s original foundation (also true). I thought I had given her enough information to convince her that although I might have been weird, I was not a threat. I must have been right as she then escorted me into a small locked room where a large brown piece of plywood covered the ground. As she was lifting up the board’s handle she informed me that she and her roommates had never went down into the cellar, but that I could feel free to gone on down and explore. Now I have been in some of the world’s creepiest places so I wasn’t expecting much from this basement, but I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that the little cellar had some eerie character to it. The low basement ceiling was only about 6 feet off of the floor and the entire room was really no larger than 20 feet by 20 feet. I could see that the wood stairs had been replaced a few years back, but the rest of the place, including the dirt floor, looked like it hadn’t been touched in years. The best part was that one of the side stone walls had a small tunnel carved into it that ran underneath the house. Unfortunately I did not have a flash light or any mining equipment with me to investigate the tunnel.
I walked around awhile and took a few pictures as I tried to imagine the basement as it must have been like in 1905, complete with ghosts and items that spontaneously combusted. I climbed out of the cellar and slowly lowered the plywood back into place. I made my way towards the front door and stopped to thank the young woman again for letting a weird stranger traipse around in her house. The woman then asked me if I had found what I needed, and she also wanted to know the history of the house. I paused for a second and asked myself if I should really tell her the truth and possible ruin a nice apartment for her, or should I continue with the vague answers. I started off telling her about the Ole Arnstad’s rags that burst into flames in the basement. I then warned her that the rest of the story might be a bit more bizarre, but she assured me that it was ok to continue. As soon as I told her that the neighbors of the area called the basement the “haunted basement” she politely screamed for me to stop saying “Ok, I don’t want to hear anymore.” Of course I could understand where she was coming from so I stopped the history lesson and thanked her once again. As I headed for the door, I thought to myself that if she was afraid of ghosts that she was lucky she stopped me before I could tell her that the former owner of the house, Ole Arnstad, also hanged himself in his barn which was now their backyard. But as I said before, vagueness is sometimes the best option.
According to their agenda for tonight, the Special Committee (to Resolve Space and Site Needs) – or SC(tRSaSN) – will be discussing site ocation (as opposed to size, cost, etc.) and perhaps even vote on the item. If you feel strongly about where the new courthouse/jail is gonna get constructed, this is the time to talk about it. Tonight. 6:30pm. Room 2550 County Courthouse.
Checking over the Eau Claire City Council agenda, we noticed a proposal to raise the council’s annual salary by 1,000 smackeroos. They make $3,000 a year right now, so they’d go up $4,000 (the council president gets an extra $600). WEAU.com quotes councilman Brandon Buchanan:
Seems to me that the proposed increase is fair, but as everyone and their big fat dog will point out, the timing is pretty bad. Hutchinson is laying off a ton of workers, the city is plowing snow less often (the horror), and things generally feel like the end of the world economy-wise.
Quite a nice lineup at the Stones Throw on Saturday. According to local music blog Peer Validated, Small Cities “sound like David Bazan and Low blowing apart your hollow construct of reality.” Laarks is a band that features current and former members of Amateur Love, Land of Talk, Echo Bravo, The Soft Rocks, Laughing Bell, and Sic Transit Gloria. Wars of 1812 (pictured) will be filling for O' Israel. Wars’ latest album can be described as “one part Wilco, one part Spoon, and one part harsh Wisconsin weather all combined to produce a warm winter quilt of a record, with a cool tint of alt-country twang beneath its warm, drawn-out pop melodies.” The show is only 3 bucks and it starts at 10pm.
Also on Saturday: Winter Farmer's Market, Clothing Event Sale, Constellations, Myths, and Legends, Santa Claus in Chippewa Falls, Chippewa Valley Symphony: Christmas Pops!, Cook-Rutledge Mansion Christmas Tour, Crush/Predator Flag Football Event, Crazy Keys Dueling Pianos, Ballroom, Latin and Swing Dance, Chippewa Valley Symphony Holiday Concert, Danville and Friends, Final 2008 Waterfront Show: Fat Maw Rooney, Mors Mortis Machinatio, Tommy Bentz Band.