Polk County Poor Farm

The Polk County Poor Farm functioned from 1874-1950 and has many haunting tales associated with it.

There are places where it may seem like every day is Halloween because something is just a little off. A few of these most famous places have been featured on the big screen, such as the Amityville Horror house. Many others exist, some of which are right outside of your own back door.

Madison Wisconsin author Robert E. Gard once proclaimed Wisconsin had more ghosts per square mile than any other state. As the beautiful glory of fall fades into the chilly grips of winter’s arrival, darkness steals the daylight, lending to a perfect Wisconsin ghost story. 

Locally, Amery’s East Immanuel Church has been listed in the National Directory of Haunted Places by Dennis William Hauck. It was also featured in the book Haunted Heartland by Michael Norman and Beth Scott and covered by the online Unexplained Research program.

There have been claims the church bell will ringing all by itself. According to Haunted Heartland, 

the first person to realize this was the church’s pastor, the Reverend Elizabeth Robinson in 1981. The book claims she heard the bell ringing while she was in the church’s parsonage across the street. She investigated and thoroughly searched the building, finding no one inside. Since then, the bell has rung quite frequently on its own.

Other claims have been made that hushed voices and whispers have been heard coming from inside the walls of the building along with sounds of a congregation having a potluck dinner in the basement, which was empty.

Another Amery tale revolves around what was once known as the Poor Farm, located northwest in an area known as Volga, which was in use as a Poor Farm from 1874-1950.  Just what is a Poor Farm? For example, if you were begging on the street, you may get sent to the Poor Farm.  If you were disabled or elderly and could not take care of yourself, you might be sent to a poor house or poor farm. If you were bodily able to do work, you would work on a farm like the Volga farm. These poor farms, like Volga were usually owned by the county and also doubled as primitive nursing homes. Allegedly, many years ago, a young boy witnessed a cattle theft. The cattle rustlers knew this boy had caught them and murdered him. Some say the boy has haunted the area ever since. Unmarked graves near the area add to the mystique. It was once owned by professional wrestler Scrap Iron Gadaski and currently serves as a home to a large family who said they had it blessed by a priest and haven’t witnessed anything strange.

Legend has it, Moe Lutheran Church’s Clear Lake cemetery is haunted by angry spirits. Apparitions coming from the church and cemetery are even said to have caused accidents on the road.

Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts in Menomonie is named for the daughter of Captain Andrew and Bertha Tainter, who built the theater for the community after their daughter died at just 19-years-old. She and other ghosts are said to haunt the center, along with apparitions who are said to watch performances and mess around with sound boards or appear as a light wandering around in the storage area.

Nelsen’s Hall, a bar in Washington Island, managed to keep open during Prohibition by getting a pharmacy license and selling spirits as medicine. Owner Tom Nelsen lived and died in the apartment above the bar and it has been said phantom footsteps have been heard on the stairs. Some also believe the ghost of Barkeep Nelsen changes the radio station, so he can still enjoy his favorite music.

If you are up for a road trip, a few of the other supposedly haunted places around the state include El Rancho Motel in Ladysmith, the Siren Bridge in Siren, the Clark County Insane Asylum in Owen, Bodega Brew Pub in La Crosse, Riverside Cemetery in Appleton, Shaker’s Cigar Bar in Milwaukee, Summerwind Mansion in Land ‘O Lakes, the Octagon House in Fond du Lac and the former Ed Gein Property in Plainfield.

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