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Haunted: Brew City’s haunted past

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With Halloween weekend quickly approaching, a little-known side of Milwaukee is being raised from the dead — its haunted past.

Unbeknownst to many Milwaukee residents and students alike, the city is home to numerous spots in the historic Third Ward and downtown that have experienced paranormal activity, raising many goosebumps over the years.

One such place is the Skylight Opera Theatre in the Third Ward. The theater’s founder, Clair Richardson, had his ashes buried under the stage of the original building, and they have since been moved to the theater’s current location on Broadway.

“His ashes are on a little shelf among other things of his,” said Cara McMullin, the assistant house manager at the theater. “The duty of the stage manager is to make sure the light is always shining on his ashes.”

Allison Jornlin, founder of Milwaukee Ghosts, a company that gives tours of haunted sites throughout the Milwaukee area, elaborated on the haunting.

“Once during a live performance, there were all kinds of problems with stage lights, and they couldn’t find any explanation” she said. “The stagehand found that the bulb (shining on the ashes) had burned out.”

Once the light was restored, “all the problems stopped,” Jornlin said.

The theater points to Richardson’s ghost for all this mysterious activity.

“I like to think of him as a friendly ghost,” McMullin said.

The Pfister Hotel, 424 E. Wisconsin Ave., has also been rumored to be haunted by the hotel’s founder, Charles Pfister. The hauntings date back to Pfister’s death in 1927.

Jornlin said she once had a chance to talk to the hotel’s former general manager, who had been there for 50 years. The general feeling of the guests staying at the hotel was that Pfister’s spirit was one of “a kindly old man looking over his hotel, reinforcing hospitality,” she said.

However, some Major League Baseball players who stayed at the hotel in the past “had differing opinions,” Jornlin said. They experienced more of a troublesome ghost, and some players even switched hotels.

Nowadays, however, the hotel does not divulge any information on its supposed haunting, and “will not acknowledge” they even have one, according to Noah Leigh, lead investigator of Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee.

Leigh’s team has investigated numerous sites throughout the Milwaukee area, and is in collaboration with Jornlin as well.

In spite of the paranormal rumors surrounding many Milwaukee landmarks, Leigh cautioned that many times places that are supposedly “haunted” are exaggerated to be that way by the owner.

He said businesses are often initially hesitant to reveal any supposed paranormal activity, but once the information gets out it often brings in publicity and business, even if the stories may not be true.

Story by Molly Coffey, Special to the Tribune

Special to the Tribune

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