Haunted Lakes of Wisconsin

Many words are used to describe Wisconsin, idyllic, charming, quaint … but spooky? Lakes are popular destinations, to both the living and the dead. Read below and encounter some peculiar stories of beloved Wisconsin lakes.

Fowler Lake, Oconomowoc

This idyllic lake in Southeastern Wisconsin lies in the middle of Oconomowoc. Its shores line the downtown streets next to its neighbor Lac La Belle. But Oconomowoc natives know there is more to this small lake than nice fishing. Fowler Lake’s shores are home to the living, and dead. La Belle Cemetery lines its eastern shoreline, and odd things have been occurring there since the cemetery began in the 1800s.

The mourning woman at the Nathusius monument.

The mourning woman at the Nathusius monument.

La Belle Cemetery is infamous for its inhabitants so much so that many professional ghost hunting groups visit the cemetery in attempts to unravel its secrets. It is said the statue of a mourning woman in front of the Nathusius monument cries tears of blood and will cause blindness if you steal the pennies others leave in her hand. Others have reported seeing a young woman drag a chain into Fowler’s waters and drowning herself.

All residents of Fowler lake enjoy its nice fishing, alive or not.

Lakes Monona and Mendota, Madison

Lake Monona is one of the five lakes forming the Yahara chain in Dane County. Although many visit this area for the culture and a visit the State Capital, Lake Monona offers ghost tourists a variety of attractions. Past Native Americans created many burial mounds around Lake Monona which were left undisturbed until the 1800s when Europeans began to make their homes, sometimes building on these mounds. Subsequently, many residents have reported signs of a haunting in their homes, such as furniture shaking, visible orbs, and odd noises.

The unlucky residents of Lake Monona are also the caretakers of a large serpent said to live in its deepest depths. In 1897, a father and his two sons were the first to report spotting a large serpent with “a shape like the bottom of a boat, but twice as long.” However, even if this beast, were caught it could not feed a city-wide Friday Fish Fry.

Those traumatized by their fear might end up at the local hospital, Central Wisconsin Center. An abandoned building across the way, the Mendota Mental Health Institute on the shore of Lake Mendota, has lain empty since 1994, but has been a beacon for supernatural activity since its creation in 1860. Those who have visited the Mendota Mental Hospital report an eerie feeling, like someone or something is watching. Shadows and orbs have also appeared to people. The hospital is infamous for treating murderer and body snatcher Edward Gein (who has inspired many thrillers such as Psycho, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and Silence of the Lamb, to name a few.)

The Native American burial mounds around the former Mendota Mental Health Institute.

The Native American burial mounds around the former Mendota Mental Health Institute.

Next time you visit our state capital treat yourself to an adventure by walking the shores of Lakes Monona and Mendota… alone… if you dare.

West Bay Lake, Vilas County

West Bay Lake lies on the border between Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin, except for residents of Summerwind Mansion, who believed it existed between the living and the afterlife. Summerwind Mansion, once a luxurious residence on the western shore of West Bay Lake, has been haunted since built in the early 1900s. The house was bought by Robert Patterson Lamont in 1916 and remodeled into a mansion. Lamont first heard of the paranormal activity from his maids and workmen. In the mid-1930s, after Lamont and his wife encountered a spectral apparition so vivid Lamont shot at it, the Lamont family evacuated the premise. The house was bought by the Keefer family in the 1940s, but they never moved into their new residence.

In the 1970s, Summerwind Mansion was bought by Arnold and Ginger Hinshaw, who moved into the haunted mansion with their four children. The Hinshaws reported multiple signs of supernatural activity, ranging from orbs and spectral visions, to problems with the house’s doors, windows, and electricity for no plausible reason. Arnold Hinshaw had a mental breakdown just six months after moving into Summerwind, and Ginger Hinshaw moved in with her parents soon afterward. The Hinshaws were the last permanent residents and Summerwind has lain empty since despite efforts by Ginger’s father, Raymond Bober, to renovate the mansion and turn it into a restaurant.
In the 1988, Summerwind was mostly destroyed in a fire caused by lightning. The ruins of this once beautiful mansion lurk the shores to this day, but being on private land, are closed to visitors. Perhaps for the better…

Happy Halloween from Wisconsin Lakes Blog.

Happy Halloween from Wisconsin Lakes Blog.

This Halloween, instead of watching a scary movie at home, try your paranormal luck and explore a nearby lake. You never know what might be lurking beneath the water…

Entry written by Alyson Douglas, Aquatic Invasive Species Program Assistant.

Illustration credits

Figure 1.  The mourning woman at the Nathusius monument.

Figure 2.  The Native American burial mounds around Mendota Mental Health Institute.

Figure 3. Woman with pumpkin


Posted in Education and Outreach, Lake News, Lake Questions, Other | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Through the Looking Glass … Again.

A persistent misconception about aquatic plants is that they are “weeds”. With names like pondweed, pickerelweed and duckweed, it’s not hard to understand why this view  persists. Yet, native aquatic plants are important for healthy lakes. Seventeen years ago a then-new book on Wisconsin’s aquatic plants began dispelling this notion and explained the important roles these plants play in lakes and rivers.

Cover of "Through the Looking Glass, a Field Guide to Aquatic Plants, second edition"

Cover of “Through the Looking Glass, a Field Guide to Aquatic Plants, second edition”

That now classic book “Through the Looking Glass, a Field Guide to Aquatic Plants” is making its second debut. TTLG, named for Lewis Carroll’s famous book, captured a wide readership among lake enthusiasts because it combined clear writing, useful identification tips, scholarship and careful yet artistic illustrations. Like Carroll’s book where Alice passed through a looking glass to another world, TTLG provided entry into another, albeit watery, world.

The new edition of TTLG, like the first, resulted from collaboration between DNR, the University of Wisconsin Extension Lakes program, and non-profit Wisconsin Lakes. While TTLG’s focus is on Wisconsin’s aquatic plants, its usefulness and attractive layout gained a wide readership because it made these seemingly inaccessible plants accessible to novice and professional alike. Consequently, TTLG sold in all 50 states and at least five other countries. But, since TTLG was first published in 1997 much has changed in the realm of aquatic plants.

These changes are reflected in TTLG’s new edition and include updates to the plants’ scientific names, new aquatic invasive species of plants and practices for slowing the spread of AIS. Further, the new edition has additional species, both invasive and native, more identification tips and new illustrations. The book now includes a brief section on the floristic quality index.  FQI describes a lake’s water quality based on the plants found in a lake and is useful for tracking changes in the lake. Also, shaded tabs on page margins quickly guide readers to the book’s four plant groupings: emergent, free-floating, floating-leaf and submersed.

TTLG book mark artTo maintain the first edition’s high standards, a team of specialists assembled in late 2012 to start the revision. Fortunately, two of the three original authors, Susan Borman and Robert Korth, provided guidance. Other team members came from DNR, UW-Madison’s Center for Limnology, UW – Stevens Point’s Freckmann Herbarium and UWEX Lakes.  After one face-to-face meeting in late 2012, the team regularly teleconferenced over the next year to identify the needed changes and write the revisions and additions.

What could have been a major impediment was the unavailability of the original artist, Carol Watkins.  Fortunately, Dorothy Semple stepped into the void and crafted the new illustrations that blend so well with Watkins’ originals. Once the revised text and illustrations were completed, the book went to the original publisher, Reindl Printing in Merrill, Wisconsin.

So, this autumn, when, quoting Lewis Carroll, “the woods look sleepy [and] when the leaves are getting brown,” the new edition of TTLG went on sale. Comparing the two editions side by side, it’s immediately apparent the high standards of the first edition remain and the new parts enhance the original features.

Looking back at the revision process, DNR’s Sandy Wickman reminisced, “Everyone was so helpful on the TTLG team. We were lucky to have such great people. I loved listening to the team talk about these fascinating plants. I learned a lot.”

If you’d like to secure your own copy of “Through the Looking Glass, a Field Guide to Aquatic Plants, Second Edition” from UWEX Lakes for $29.95 and learn a lot, click here.


Entry written by Michael Putnam, Water Resources Management Specialist
Posted in Education and Outreach, Lake News, Lakes Partnership, Other, Water Quality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Improvements to the DNR surface water grants program.

This summer the Lakes blog brought you news of improvements regarding DNR’s Clean Boats Clean Waters grant application process. Well, it’s time again to share more news on improvements to surface water planning and protection grants, and aquatic invasive species grants.

In September DNR posted a new online grant application form and updated grant guidance for all surface water grants. The biggest change is the creation of one electronic application form for lake, river and AIS grant projects. All project information for the grant application can now be included into the application form and submitted via email to dnrsurfacewatergrants@wi.gov. Say farewell to snail mail and faxing grant applications!

Earlier efforts at preparing a surface water grant application.

Earlier efforts at preparing a surface water grant application.

Also new are application deadlines. Applications for river and lake planning grants, lake classification and ordinance development grants, and two AIS grants (Clean Boats Clean Waters and AIS Education, Prevention and Planning) are now due December 10. Applications for lake or river protection grants as well as for AIS established population control grants are now due February 1. The new deadlines ensure grant recipients will be notified of successful projects early enough to allow for project planning before the summer field season is in full swing. The new deadlines move paperwork to after the field season and free up more time for lake work by lake groups, contractors and lake/river biologists when ice is off the lakes.

Detail from an early lake grant application.

Detail from an early lake grant application.

There is also a new consolidated grant guidance document outlining what projects are eligible for lake, river, and AIS grants. Anyone interested in applying for one of the surface water grants should read through the guidance document and start working with their regional river or lake coordinator as soon as possible. Successful applicants give considerable thought to their projects before applying and it’s never too early to start identifying needs, goals, and project expectations.

Completing an online application. Photo by Tomas Helberg.

Completing an online application. Photo by Tomas Helberg.

For more information on the surface water grants check out the website or contact your local DNR Regional Coordinator.

Entry written by Shelly Thomsen and Michael Putnam, Water Resources Management Specialists.
Illustration credits
Figure 1.  Escribano by Jean Le Tavernier showing Jean Miélot, a European author and scribe, at work.
Figure 2.   Illuminated Manuscript, Collection of poems (masnavi), A mouse and a frog near a pond, Walters Art Museum Ms. W.626, fol. 289a.
Figure 3. Woman at computer by Tomas Helber.
Posted in Clean Boats, Clean Waters, Contain and Control Invasive Species, Grants, Invasive Species, Other | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Pleasant Lake Fends Off Invasives

Pleasant Lake in Walworth County has had moderate trouble preventing the spread of aquatic invasive species (AIS) to their lake. With help from DNR, they hope to keep their spring fed lake as healthy as possible by preventing the intrusion of other species into their lake. The lake has received four DNR grants in the past to help manage water quality and stave off the spread of invasive species common to nearby lakes.

Pleasant Lake boat launch.  Photo courtesy of Pleasant Lake Association.

Pleasant Lake boat launch. Photo courtesy of Pleasant Lake Association.

In 2007, Pleasant Lake received a small scale lake planning grant to examine the lake’s water quality and create an aquatic plant management plan. Small scale lake planning grants are the first step in creating an efficient lake management plan. They help the residents gather necessary lake information in order to assess its current status and future management needs. If the past and current states of the lake are recorded, any future changes in the lake can be detected and diagnosed.

In 2010, Pleasant Lake received a DNR aquatic invasive species early detection and rapid response grant. Unlike maintenance and containment grants, this grant promotes creating detection and response plans specific to the lake and the available resources.

In 2011, with aquatic invasive species plans and procedures in place, Pleasant Lake received a Clean Boats, Clean Waters grant. The Clean Boats, Clean Waters (CBCW) program helps volunteers on lakes communicate proper boat inspection and cleaning techniques. In addition, CBCW volunteers monitor the local boat launch where they talk with boaters and monitor their AIS prevention steps as they leave and enter the lake.

Boaters with poor boat hygiene practices are educated on proper cleaning and maintenance procedures they can use to help stop the spread of invasives. Data on the number of boaters and where they have recently boated are collected by the volunteers and entered into a statewide DNR database. The data help DNR monitor the general movement of boaters, and any invasive critters that may have been on board.

In 2012, the Pleasant Lake Association used data obtained with its first lake planning grant and successfully applied for another grant to study water levels and the lake’s outlet pipe replacement options.

Since 2007, when their first small scale planning grant was received, Pleasant Lake has undertaken studies to better manage their lake. Their vigilance at the boat landing has resulted in no new invasive species being found in their lake. With the proper data, and training from DNR staff, the Pleasant Lake Association is taking steps to better manage the lake. Because of these efforts, Pleasant Lake’s outlook is a little more…pleasant.

 Entry written by Alyson Douglas, aquatic invasive species program assistant.
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