Five of the Most Haunted Places in Madison, Wisconsin


Stories about gangsters and Spiritualist séances; red brick buildings that resemble castles; and a magnificent cemetery created at the time of the Civil War all play roles in creating Madison's most haunted places. Even if you don't believe in ghosts, these five locations – filled with history and mystery are worth a visit.

Bats and body parts

Completed in 1897, the University of Wisconsin- Madison's Science Hall, with its impressive red brick interior and castle-like appearance, is now home to the Department of Geography. It previously housed the Department of Anatomy, which may explain why its website mentions that during the past several decades, "wandering graduate students have exhumed from dusty and forgotten corners of the attics a set of leg bones of a 'tall man' and an embalmed human foot." There are also reports that bats regularly fly in its hallways. The building's imposing exterior and spooky interiors have also served as settings for a mystery novel ("Don't Look Behind You" by Samuel Rogers) and a First Comics issue of "The Badger" titled "The Phantom of Bascom Hill."

Spirits of the dead

Forest Hill Cemetery is the final resting place for many of Madison's early white settlers, including Louise Kingsley Parke, a Spiritualist and medium, whose family was known for their ability to communicate with the dead during séances. The cemetery is also home to the spirits of people from diverse backgrounds, including early African American settlers William and A.M. Noland; Samuel Klauber, Madison's first Jewish resident; and many of Hmong people who leave gifts and food when they visit the graves of their ancestors. The cemetery is also home to some effigy mounds, eternally sacred burial places for Native Americans that connect their ancestors to the land and supernatural.

The Wisconsin Veterans' Museum houses artifacts and histories of the men and women who served in America's conflicts from the Civil War to the present. Every year, in October, the museum hosts a haunting "Talking Spirits" walking tour of Forest Hill Cemetery, during which local actors give life to some of the ghosts of Civil War soldiers and citizens buried there.

Most people think of Camp Randall as the home of the Wisconsin Badgers football team. But the stadium sits on only a portion of the original Camp Randall, Wisconsin's largest Civil War training camp. Enter through the large, gray granite memorial arch to visit Camp Randall Memorial Park - a historic site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The site also served as a prisoner of war camp and 140 Confederate soldiers died there. Their deaths may haunt the history of Camp Randall, but their spirits are more likely to roam Forest Hill Cemetery, where they were buried in a
"Confederate Rest," now the northernmost Confederate cemetery burial site in the United States.

A haunted former gangster hangout

Built in the late 1920s, the turreted building resembling a small castle that now houses the Wonder Bar Steak House was originally home to Eddie's Wonder Bar, a gangster hangout, named for its founder, Eddie Touhy. After World War II, it changed hands several times and became a great place for dining on steaks and seafood. The restaurant's current drink list, however, is a haunting reminder of its early gangster-related history. In addition to classic Wisconsin Old Fashioneds, it offers The Capone and The Wise Guy. Eddie mysteriously disappeared in the 1950s and is rumored to have buried beneath a fireplace in the building. Some people claim his spirit haunts the building. Others mention the occasional sightings of a ghostly young woman who may be the spirit of the redhead whose portrait hangs in the dining room.

A native Madisonian, Nadine Goff is a freelance writer, editor and researcher. She's rather fond of the Grasshoppers at the Wonder Bar Steak House.