The Driftwood #13: Haunted Wisconsin

Shaker’s Cigar Bar

Shaker Cigar Bar

Trigger Warning! This piece mentions suicide.
If you and your friends are over the legal drinking age of 21, stop into Shaker’s Cigar Bar in Milwaukee, WI! Rich with a haunting history, Shaker’s Cigar Bar resides in a building from 1894 where they now provide quality drinks, cigars, and food. What makes this place so chillingly intriguing? What first opened as a cooperage house, a place that makes barrels and casks, for Schlitz Brewery, eventually made its way to operate as a speakeasy and brothel in the 1920’s up until 1946, run by notorious gangster Al Capone and his brother, Frank Capone. According to the current owner Bob Weiss, while it was being owned and operated by the Capone brothers, many prostitutes either committed suicide or were murdered on the second and third floor of the building, and guests still report hearing stilettos click up and down the halls through the night. Bob Weiss opened it as Shaker’s Cigar Bar in 1986, and he and his staff began offering three different haunted tours to the public soon after realizing they weren’t the only ones occupying the building. The three tours rotate seasonally and include The Whoring 20’s, The Milwauking Dead, and the Cream City Cannibal Tour, where they focus on serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer and his victims. So, if you’re feeling brave, book a tour post-COVID and introduce yourself to a few transparent old-timers of Shaker’s Cigar Bar!

—Kira Doman

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The Witches of Whitewater

Starin Park Water Tower
Starin Park water tower. Photo courtesy of Hannah J. Romero Photography.

Whitewater, Wisconsin is home to not only the Whitewater Warhawks, but to generations and generations of witches. Or so they say. In 1889, Morris Pratt, a practicing spiritualist, opened an institute to teach the art of spirituality, among other courses, to the community. The institute was functional until about 1902. After Pratt’s passing, in 1946, the school was moved to Milwaukee, where it is open to students curious about spirituality to this day.

Rumors about the “witches” who attended Morris Pratt’s school of spirituality were really the start of the curious goings on in Whitewater. There is a perfect triangle made up by Hillside Cemetery, Oak Grove Cemetery and Calvary Cemetery. The locals claim every building unfortunate enough to be in this triangle is haunted.

Not only are these cemeteries home to ax-wielding murderess Mary Worth (whose spirit supposedly still lurks amongst the tombstones) and Morris Pratt himself, but legend has it that they were built on ancient burial grounds. People describe seeing apparitions and clouds of fog, hearing noises, and feeling sudden cold drafts that disappear as quickly as they come on.

In 1981, the girls of the Alpha Sigma sorority reported hearing strange noises coming from the basement while they were eating dinner. They went to investigate and discovered bricks thrown all around the basement floor, revealing a hidden tunnel. Rumor has it that this was how the “witches” traveled around town without being seen by the townspeople.

In the middle of Starin Park, which, coincidentally enough, is in the haunted triangle, stands an old stone water tower. It is claimed that the local witches would go there to practice magic and rituals, including animal sacrifice. Surrounding the water tower stands a seven-foot-tall iron fence, with the spikes on top pointing inward rather than outward. Legend has it that this is not to keep curious students out, but to keep whatever evil that waits inside in.

 —Aleida Toebe

Editor’s note: The Driftwood thanks Hannah J. Romero Photography for permission to use her photo of the Starin Park water tower. 

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From the The Driftwood, a student-centered e-newsletter created by the students in Professor Tracy Fernandez Rysavy’s Practicum in Literary Publishing class.  The Driftwood goes out to the Marinette campus every two weeks, and you can find it online at https://blog.uwgb.edu/driftwood/.

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