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How I Caught The Sickness
I’m not originally from Wisconsin—I grew up in Georgia—but I write about my current home constantly. On the rare occasion when I’m asked to speak publicly, the dozen or so people who come out are always a bit surprised that I sound more like an Andy Griffith Show character than someone from “S’consin.” Despite my southern drawl, I’m completely infected with Wisconsin’s sickness. While I’ll always be a southern boy at heart (go Braves) I’ve found I fit in better here than anywhere, and I can sum up why in five reasons.
5-Wisconsites Love Halloween.
While I’ll never be ashamed of my home state of Georgia (no matter how badly the Falcons play in the post-season) I cannot forgive the state’s Halloween-a-phobia. A large, very vocal segment of Georgia’s population (mostly fundamentalist Southern Baptists) refuse to allow their kids to even trick-or-treat least the devil lure them to an Ozzy Osbourne concert with a mini-3 Musketeers bar. Here your average Halloween yard display consists of an entire graveyard, a gaggle of zombies, and at least 3 graphic murder scenes. Even the CHURCHES host wonderfully grotesque haunted houses.
4-Porn and Fireworks.
If you ever take a long interstate drive through Wisconsin you’ll realize these two items are the state’s biggest imports AND exports (besides the delicious combination of cheese and beer). After a few dozen miles you’ll be surprised at the scenarios your mind can create involving these two very fundamental and basic resources. “Pow”, “Bang”, and “Sizzle” are applicable sound effects regardless of which of the two you decide to fixate on more.
3-Neil Gaiman Lives Here.
The British-born author of “American Gods” and “The Sandman” moved to Menomonie to be nearer his then-wife’s family in Minnesota. Even though that marriage ended several years ago, Neil still resides in Wisconsin. If it’s good enough for the Prince of Stories, then by God, it’s good enough for me.
Drive in any direction and you’ll quickly stumble across something you never dreamt could exist. LaCrosse is home to the world’s largest six pack. While they’re actually giant storage tanks shaped like lager cans, they once held 22,200 barrels of brew. Hayward’s National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame is inside an enormous fiberglass and concrete muskie. Then there’s the House on the Rock in Spring Green. The house itself is a Japanese inspired house built on chimney rock with an unsupported 218 foot long “Infinity Room” that dangles 156 feet in the air. Around this house is an entire campus of amazing weirdness including the world’s largest carousel with no horses, a 200 foot high statue of a kraken’s fight to the death with an unknown species of whale, and a plethora of coin operated music machines that appear to play themselves. Anyone who’s ever accused me of lacking religion has never seen me at the House on the Rock.
1- “The X-Files” is Considered a Documentary.
These days the paranormal is popular damn near everywhere, but in Wisconsin it’s a way of life. The towns and highways are littered with ghosts, the woods are overran with werewolves and goat men, and the skies are congested with flying saucers (three different towns claim to be the UFO capital of Wisconsin). Speak openly about any of these topics anywhere else and people will stare at you like an elk just leapt from your sphincter. In this state, people whip photos of full body apparitions right out of their wallet. My kind of people.
Now that I’ve written this all out, I realize I could condense this article to a single sentence: “Wisconsin is weird and so am I.” But where’s the fun in that?