Life Along Wisconsin’s Great River Road And Why You Need To Go
By ANASTASIA PENCHI
Does the supernatural excite you? Are you a follower of shows like The X-Files and The Walking Dead?
If so, you probably enjoy your share of myths, legends and folklore. While frightening to some, there are a number of people who enjoy breaking down the details of terror and seeking out the mystery within these tales. Fun is in the eye of the beholder, right?
The state of Wisconsin has its share of supernatural claims, and there are many ghoulish stories to explore along Wisconsin’s Great River Road — the 250 miles of Highway 35 that runs adjacent to the Mississippi River from Kieler, Wis., in the south, to Prescott in northern Wisconsin.
Get your scare on at one of these locations:
Beware flying creatures in Trempealeau
Mothman sightings date back to at least 1966 when some gravediggers in a small West Virginia town reported seeing a flying man with glowing red eyes. Residents there embraced Mothman by erecting a statue, renaming a city park and opening a souvenir shop. Wisconsin has had its share of Mothman sightings, too, including a very descriptive incident by a man who says he saw several of these creatures in 1975 while hiking on Trempealeau Mountain across from Perrot State Park in Trempealeau. His story and drawings of the Dad Mothman, Mom Mothman and Baby Mothmans are disturbing. So are reports by others, including one by a man who said he fought off a Mothman with a shovel while working on the dike near that same spot many years ago. That man said he says he still has the scars, but no one believes him because he was a heavy drinker back then. Do you?
Pepin’s own Nessie
Does the Loch Ness Monster have a relative living in a Western Wisconsin lake? Some residents near Lake Pepin think so, as strange, serpent-like creature sightings have been reported there for more than a century. Apparently Native Americans would only travel this lake in their sturdiest canoes. This monster, since dubbed “Pepie,” was noted in a local manuscript and newspaper in 1871, and additional sightings have been reported in the years since. The owner of a Lake Pepin-based paddleboat, “Pearl of the Lake,” says he’s seen Pepie twice, and even offered up a $50,000 reward if someone could prove it exists. But Pepie apparently shares Nessie’s affinity for anonymity as there are no reports of this reward ever being paid.
La Crosse’s dark history
As a river town once filled with lumberjacks and prostitutes, La Crosse has a seedy past and lots of secrets. There are newspaper accounts of a murder trial where all the prosecution’s main witnesses were prostitutes. Another article talks about a cemetery attendant who found an empty grave and a burlap sack filled with body parts. Another killer, who crushed his friend’s skull in a fight, was put into a deep pit lined with rocks that were meant to crush him if he tried to escape (there was no jail at the time). These true stories, unearthed by the library’s long-time director and other archivists, now entertain the masses as part of “Dark La Crosse” tours and radio podcasts. And by the way — no one ever solved the mystery of the bag of body parts. And ghost hunters who visited the cemetery years later reported hearing someone say, “They cut me up.”
Ghosts along the Mississippi
Speaking of ghosts, are they more common in small towns along the southern end of Wisconsin’s Great River Road? Residents of Ferryville and Genoa might think so. Both villages have businesses that are rumored to be haunted. In Genoa, a ghost named Kenny reportedly does mischievous things like turn on the television and hide objects at Big River Bar and Grill. At the Swing Inn in Ferryville, the ghost is said to be Blue Moon, a prostitute who worked there in the late 1800s’s and was later murdered on the front steps. Blue Moon reportedly makes her presence known though cold drafts and noises. Today both businesses are known for serving plenty of cold drafts. Is there a connection? You decide.
Meet the Writer
Anastasia Penchi is a self-employed writer who lives just off Wisconsin’s Great River Road. You can read more about Wisconsin’s Great River Road, and the festivals and people of Western Wisconsin, at the Web site: www.loislaneforhire.com.