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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The story I wrote for Haunted Times magazine

What will happen to the Walker House?
Anyone who knows me has heard the story of my first paranormal experience and my passion for the place where it happened. It’s been almost 30 years since the day that changed my life but I still remember it like it happened five minutes ago. The haunted wonderland that made me the ghosthunter that I am today is the Walker House in Mineral Point, WI. I’ve been lucky enough to investigate there twice since my paranormal deflowering and those investigations meant more to me than any other that I’ve done since then and I’ve been to a few impressive locations. None of them will ever compare to the Walker House. Enough gushing, I’m gonna tell you why the Walker House became what it is today. Buckle up, because what I am about to tell you will make even the most seasoned paranormal investigator giddy with delight.
For those of you who don’t know the history of Southwest Wisconsin or Mineral Point, I’ll clue you in. This part of Wisconsin was left alone by the glaciers in what is called a driftless area.  That meant there were ample mineral deposits just waiting for miners, prospectors and the lot to come along and snatch them up.  When word got out about the abundance of wealth to be discovered, respected miners from as far away as Cornwall, England rushed to the aptly named town of Mineral Point around the 1830’s. The Cornish influence on the town is still evident to this day. The rush was so big that around that time the rural town boasted a population that far surpassed Milwaukee and Chicago. In fact, in 1836, the inauguration of Wisconsin’s first governor, Henry Dodge, took place there. That same year, the object of this article came into existence. In fact, the Walker House is one of the oldest inns of the state of Wisconsin.
Currently, it is a beautiful three story stone structure with large wooden beams on the first floor.  It has a Cornish pub on the first floor, the kitchen, dining room and caretaker’s living quarters on the second floor and guest rooms occupy the third floor. In the first floor pub there are two small “rooms” that were seemingly carved into the bluff that rests behind the building. Much speculation has been made as to the true purpose of the two “rooms.” When I was a child, there was also a bar on the second floor on the opposite side of the building from the dining area. However, when the building was first erected it wasn’t as large as it is today. In its early days it was simply a meeting house for the Teamsters as well as any other group who needed a place to gather.  In 1842, this was where the saga of the hotel’s most notorious spirit, William Caffee, a 22-year old hot-head who was suspected of murdering another man during a heated argument, began. His trial was said to be fraught with suspicion and it is said that Caffee was framed. Historical documents claim that on the way to his hanging, Caffee rode astride his coffin and beat out the tune of a funeral march on it with empty beer bottles. There was rumored to be another hanging that took place there but no names have been found to back this up. Just another story passed down saying that the condemned man hid under the floorboards of the caretaker’s apartment in the hotel until the authorities finally found him.
In 1847, William Walker discovered that a railroad track was going to be laid in front of the house. So, he purchased it, built his home at the north end of the building and began adding sections to eventually turn it into a 44-room stone hotel which he cleverly named the Mineral Point Hotel.  Since then the hotel has had many owners and names over the years. In fact, it didn’t officially obtain the moniker of the Walker House until 1978. Throughout the years, it has also been an apartment building and a flophouse.  It saw continuous use until 1957 when it was abandoned and left to vandals for seven years until it was finally bought and lovingly restored by Ted Landon. Unfortunately, things didn’t go well and in 1978 a brokenhearted Landon was forced to sell the hotel to Dr David Ruf. This was around the time that most of the paranormal experiences were brought to light. In fact, my very own experience happened around 1982 or 1983 when I was around eight or nine years old. I’ll save that story for another day.
According to a psychic, the Walker House is home to 22 spirits. Whether that is accurate or not remains to be seen but regardless of the actual number of spirits who reside there, it is definitely active. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s the inn was open off and on. During the time that it was open or at least being renovated, the employees reported several odd occurrences. A friend of my parents often worked alone late nights during the renovation and heard what sounded like large panes of glass breaking. He would run around the whole building only to find no one else there and no broken glass. He started hearing so much those nights that he would play music as loud as he could to drown out the sounds. The waitstaff often complained that they would be locked in the walk-in freezers, pushed on the stairs, have their hair pulled and sometimes see a headless apparition. In some cases, people would even complain of being choked. Most would curse William Caffee’s spirit since it was understandable for this hot-headed, possibly innocent man to haunt the place where his life ended.
From 1994 to 2005, the hotel once again stood vacant but was protected by its owner Harvey Glanzer. It was also added to the list of endangered historical buildings during this time. However, it soon fell back into disrepair since it was not in operation. This brings us to its most current owners, Joe and Sue Dickinson. The Dickinson’s bought the inn around November of 2005. Unfortunately, due to the extensive renovations (including a brand new state of the art kitchen) they didn’t officially open until August of 2008. The activity began immediately, but it was rarely aimed at them. The spirits of the Walker House seemed to really like the fact that Joe and Sue were running the place. In fact, on one occasion when their daughter was watching the place while they were out of town she heard a very gruff, male voice yell out “Get the hell out of here! You’re not the owner!”
Another time when they were out of town, their employees reported seeing an older male apparition standing at the top of the stairs watching them carrying food up to the dining room and he didn’t seem pleased at all. Their daughter, who is a sensitive, saw a woman in a red formal, Spanish style dress and very strong perfume on the third floor near a storage room. Other stories are that a woman named Mary haunts near the stairs on the third floor where she fell to her death. On one of my own visits almost two years ago, a woman in one of the third floor rooms heard a man scream at her to “GET OUT!” There have also been sightings of a man who sits in a chair in room 9 peering down the hallway and a cat who hides under the bed in room 8. Then there is the little girl who walks the halls of the third floor as well. These are only some examples of the reported paranormal activity at the Walker House.
Unfortunately, the Dickinson’s lost the Walker House in the summer of 2010 and it has been sitting empty ever since waiting patiently for someone with the means to be able to love it once again.

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