Happy Halloween! Originally published in 2008, this blog post is based on an entry in paranormal investigator Chad Lewis's book Hidden Headlines of Wisconsin. It's an actual newspaper article from 1908, followed by Chad's commentary. Enjoy!
Strange Happenings on Lowes Creek Hill - Was It a Ghost?
Eau Claire Leader | October 11, 1908
Joe Browning, Olwin Peloquin and Max Fredick, three steady young men homebound last night of street fair got along bravely until they reached Lowes Creek hill (supposed to be haunted) and then something uncanny occurred. Something bright flashed in the trees on the creek and a curious sort of cork screw wind seemed to race around the wagon and scare the horses. Oliver’s and Max’s headgear was not interfered with, but strange to say Joe’s nice new Christie still was snapped from his head and taken aloft and they could not trace it that night. It was found however, next day, and the finder brought it to the Leader office and now Mr. Browning thanks the finder very much. There have been so many things lost in and around Lowes Creek of late that of there is really a ghost there or thereabouts it would not be amiss to put “it” in connection with the Leader office in the matter of lost and found.
Chad's Take: Keep hold of your hat …
The Lowes Creek area has been plagued with paranormal reports for over one hundred years. You might think that over the years things would have settled down at Lowes Creek, but they haven’t. A few months ago I received this email about Lowes Creek:
My wife was on her way to work @ Luther Hospital, she takes Lowes Creek Rd. to State St. as her primary route. When she was coming to the bridge on Lowes Creek Rd. that leads over I-94, she started around a corner to find a woman in a light pink night gown with long dark hair standing on the side of the road facing the hill, she made no movement or did not react to her vehicle traveling past her. It was a very chilly morning and it was 6:40am just starting to get light. My wife was just was weirded out by the woman. She was debating turning around to see her, but did not. My wife thought that for the cold temperatures she should have had a jacket or reacted to the cold with her arms crossed or some sort of action to the surroundings.
Unfortunately the witness did not stop to get a closer look at the mysterious looking woman. With all the odd activity taking place out at Lowes Creek you might just be the next person to lose their hat.
The city of Eau Claire wants to give you $500 to spend! What a deal! There’s a catch, of course, namely that the money is imaginary. But just because you won’t be able to burn through the dough on discount Halloween candy doesn’t mean spending it won’t be fun (and, trust us, you don’t need any more fun-sized candy bars). The offer is part of an online survey about the city’s proposed 2015 Program of Services (i.e., the city budget). Residents are invited to go to www.EauClaireWI.gov/E2C2 and to click on “Input for the 2015 Program of Services.” They’ll then be able to divvy up their theoretical cash among 14 budget areas, from police to parks to street maintenance. Users can also add comments about their decisions. The online survey will be open through Monday, Nov. 10, the same day that the Eau Claire City Council holds a public hearing on the budget at 7pm in City Hall. (The council will vote on the budget Nov. 11.) Taking a few minutes to spend some virtual dollars will provide helpful input for the city leaders who spend the real ones.
There's a special magic to the mathematical equations that rule our universe. And make no mistake – that math scales down to little ol' Eau Claire. So here's a handful of equations that rule our local life.
There are an impressive 392 miles of water mains in Eau Claire, according to the city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, a thick compilation of city stats. Laid end-to-end, the water mains could Slip ’N Slide you almost to Kansas City, Mo. By comparison, there are 344.6 miles of streets – enough to get you to Omaha.
If you live near a fire station or are the parent of an emergency-vehicle obsessed toddler, it may seem like fire trucks are everywhere. Not so: There are 10 firefighting vehicles and six ambulances in the city. Combined, that’s fewer than the 19 unmarked cars the police department maintains. So watch out bad boys – it’s the sirens you don’t hear that are gonna come for you.
It’s not surprising that big industrial plants are the city’s largest water customers. At its two plants in Eau Claire, Nestle slurped up 246 million gallons last year – or nearly twice as much at the No. 2 user, Hutchinson Technology Inc., which used 135 million gallons. For the record, Silver Spring used 17 million gallons, enough to wash away plenty of horseradish-induced tears.
Mayo Clinic Health System is by far the largest employer in Eau Claire (and among the biggest in this part of the state). Its 3,540 employees are roughly equal to the number of workers at the city of Eau Claire (522), UW-Eau Claire (1,387), and UnitedHealth Group (1,590) combined!
OK, this is a pretty goofy equation, but stick with us: If you take Eau Claire’s estimated population (66,580) and subtract last year’s attendance at the city pool (60,345), the result is surprisingly close to the number of emergency medical calls in 2013 (6,480). This doesn’t exactly mean that swimming laps at Fairfax will keep the ambulance at bay – but it wouldn’t hurt, right?
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 numerous changes planed for its Downtown Cinema, 315 S. Barstow St., including serving beer, wine, and an expanded food menu for patrons seeking movie-going experience not currently offered in the Chippewa Valley. The Eau Claire City Council is scheduled to vote Oct. 28 on granting the theater the necessary liquor licenses, a move the city’s License Review Committee had already recommended. Getting permission to serve beer and wine is only one step in the plans owners Mike and Connie Olson have for the budget cinema. According to plans filed with the city, they want to renovate the theater’s lobby, concession area, and projection room; widen aisles, make seating more spacious, and add tables in the theater area; as well as add a kitchen, digital projectors, and handicapped restrooms, among other upgrades. The Olsons hope the changes help generate enough revenue to cover the $100,000 cost of upgrading to digital projectors for the theater’s two screens. In addition, the Olsons have said they’re considering bringing movies to the Downtown Cinema – such as indie and award-winning flicks – that aren’t otherwise screened in the Chippewa Valley. In other words, serving beer isn’t the only change that’s brewing.
From Carson to Phoenix to Owen and beyond, we Eau Clairians love our parks – all 35 of ’em. The parks’ quality is due in large part to the hard work of the folks at the city’s Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department, and that work was honored by their peers this month at the National Recreation and Park Association annual convention in Charlotte, N.C. Each year, the professional group gives awards to departments that “demonstrate excellence in parks and recreation through long-range planning, resource management, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, program development, professional development, and agency recognition.” Eau Claire was one of four gold medal finalists in its population group (30,001 and 75,000); the top honor, however, went to the Kettering, Ohio, parks department. “Understandably, we’re feeling a little disappointed right now, but it’s still an honor to have made it this far. We’d also like to congratulate the City of Kettering and all the finalists,” Phil Fieber, Eau Claire Parks, Recreation, and Forestry director said in a press release. “They all have great programs, and to be included among them as a top four finalist is quite an honor and puts our department and our community in very select company. I’m still very proud of our staff and the work they do, as well as our community for supporting us in this journey.” Kudos to Fieber & Co. for their efforts; why not celebrate with a picnic in the park?
With Halloween fast approaching many of us turn our attention to stories of things that are, shall we say, more than natural. And while many of you relish in tales of ghouls and monsters, let's not forget that other box of paranormal treats – the humble UFO encounter.
And if you're looking for local UFO lore, fear not. Hurtling towards us at the speed of awesome is UFO Wisconsin’s (kinda) interactive UFO Reports by County map. It details Wisconsin UFO reports. By county. The last sighting they have for Eau Claire County is 2005, but Chippewa County has an ’08 sighting.
Warning: UFO Wisconsin’s web design is everything you'd hope for from website about UFOs.
I believe all the reports listed are made directly to UFO Wisconsin and they’re … well, many of them sound kinda crazy. They’re just straight up reports from people like you and me, and they run the gamut from “weird lights moving fast in the distance” to “oh, yeah, aliens visit my backyard all the time.” For me, believability isn’t really part of the equation. It’s just fun to hear your neighbors talk about this stuff.
Hey, remember when the ol' Greyhound bus station used to snuggle up next to The State Theatre (where they showed movies – not plays – and had a bowling alley in the basement)? And remember when the Moose Lodge was just plopped on top of the bus station like it was no big deal? Of course you don't! Well, most of you don't. That photo up above is from the mid 1940s.
The State Theatre's sign is all curly. You just don't see curly signs like that anymore.
Steve Johnson posted the image to the You Know You Are From Eau Claire When... Facebook page last week, and we asked Eldbjorg Tobin (who maintains the Chippewa Valley Museum’s collection of historic photos) to date it. Eldbjorg tells us the photo was taken sometime between 1945 and 1946, a time when movie theaters, bowling alleys, clubs, and bus stations where somehow shoehorned into just one part of a single city block.
As you may have heard, local legend Bob Dawson passed away on Monday (October 20). He was 90 years old. Countless Chippewa Vallians knew him as "Sheriff Bob," the star of WEAU's iconic Sheriff Bob kids' show from 1954 to 1978. The idea of a local, Chippewa Valley kids' show seems kind of novel here in 2014, but at the time, kids were able to attend live tapings and watch from home for glimpses of friends and neighbors. The show was broadcast throughout western Wisconsin.
Beyond his 24-year run as Sheriff Bob, the always humble Dawson hosted a number of other shows on WEAU, and would often visit children at local hospitals as his Sheriff persona. You can see WEAU's tribute to Dawson here.
A few years ago, local filmmakers Rob Mattison and Bill Olson produced a great documentary on Sheriff Bob for Chippewa Valley's Community Television. Check out part one:
Keep reading to see parts two and three!