Top 7 Guilty Pleasures of Wisconsin: Cheese, Celebrities, and Creepies
In keeping with the week’s trend, featuring Wisconsin writer Jay Gilbertson, I’m sharing my favorite guilty pleasures of my home state!
1. Four Seasons
For all it’s snowy faults, Wisconsin has some beautiful springs, summers, and falls. My favorite season of them all is autumn. It has a wide range of colors that for at least a few weeks make our entire state look golden.
2. Cheese Curds
A Wisconsin summer staple, cheese curds of many forms and flavors can be found at almost any restaurant or festival in Wisconsin. After all, we are the Dairy State. In their raw state, they are essentially the firm portions of soured milk, and they squeak when you eat them. Nowadays you can get them in a variety of cheese and seasons; they are mainly found in cheddar and mozzarella, and sometimes infused with dill, jalapeno, garlic, sundried tomato etc.
More often found at the carnivals is their fried version. Breaded and fried to perfection, then served with ketchup, ranch, or marinara to taste. Delicious and not good for you, but so worth it!
3. The Green Bay Packers
Cheese curds aren’t the only reason we’re called Cheeseheads! I didn’t start out a football fan, but you’ll probably learn to love it. We have too many sports bars and wing nights to escape it! Plus, now that I’m a football watcher, I love razzing Mark and Pam when their teams lose! Sorry guys!
4. Chris Farley
One of best people to come straight from our capital! You all know him from Saturday Night Live and films like Tommy Boy, Chris Farley isn’t so much a guilty pleasure, as he is a comic god. When you watch the first clip, go at least 2 minutes and 18 seconds in, it’s my favorite part.
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that Wisconsin is the place for festivals. Every town in this area has some sort of weeklong festival during the summer. Just in my area there is Riverfest, Sunfish Days, Butterfest, Apple Fest, Cranberry Fest, the Beer and Cheese Festival, the Folk Festival, the Outdoor Shakespeare Festival, the Storytelling Festival, the Jazz Festival, Irishfest, Freedomfest, and let’s not forget Oktoberfest, America’s largest beer drinking/brat eating German heritage festival, second only to Germany’s actual Oktoberfest.
6. MST3K’s Joel Hodgson
First off, if you know what MST3K stands for, you are awesome in my book! If not, it means Mystery Science Theater 3,000, and it’s an old show set in space where one man and several robots are trapped and forced to watch terrible sci-fi movies. However, they make the movies bearable by talking over the films and having their own dialogue or commentary. Joel Hodgson is one of the hosts, and he came from Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Check it out!
7. Urban Legends and Ghost Stories
Linda Godfrey wrote a whole book about the strange things in wisconsin, it’s called Strange Wisconsin, which is actually the sequel to Weird Wisconsin. Catchy! I was born in what Godfrey describes as the Circle of Strange. It’s theorized by Godfrey that my hometown area is known for multiple werewolf sightings! I blogged about it last summer when I met her at the library, Into the Strange: Wisconsin’s Paranormal. Local lore to my new home digs include the Legend of Bat Man, and I guess there’s also a Lizard Man. For more personal stories about ghosts, check out my October archives, I shared a new ghost story each week!
Have I convinced you to come to Wisconsin yet? C’mon! We can eat cheese curds and watch movies then go werewolf hunting in the woods!
What are your favorite guilty pleasures about your home state?
I’ll Be Seeing You
Welcome to Wicked Wednesday, and the final installment of my ghost stories…for now anyway. I’m going to cheat a little bit, cause this a re-post, but it’s from my third month in at blogging so only 3 people read it. And it is a scary story. Also a true one. So enjoy! Hope you chatter with me in the comments.
I’ll Be Seeing You
When I was in high school, I worked in a video store for several years. I had my suspicions that the place was haunted. I would hear the sound of tapes (it was all VHS then) being picked off the shelves and put back down down when no one was in there besides me. The other clerks I worked with said they heard the same noises when they were alone in the store too, but our manager always denied hearing anything.
I would disregard the noises like the rest of us do when we hear creaks and squeaks in our homes, but there were more creepy happenings. My neighbor worked out of town and enlisted me to take her dog for walks after school. Our store was family and pet friendly; we kept dog treats behind the counter for when people would come in with their pets. So I often walked the dog to the video store to pick up movies or my paycheck. The thing was this dog, who any other time would run up to people, chase squirrels, and lick you to death, wouldn’t get close to the back door of the office! She would plant her butt down and just halt! She would not budge. She’d stare at that door while I’d be pulling and tugging her leash to round the corner with me, dragging her across the carpet. Eventually she would bolt past the door and halfway down the next aisle before calming down. I’ve never seen her do this anywhere else.
My friends at the time were obsessed with ghost stories. One night when I was closing, and it was quiet in the store, my two best friends and a coworker came over with a ouija board. If you asked me today would I mess around with a ouija board, the answer is no.
My two friends and coworker sat themselves down in the back corner of the store and asked the ouija board some test questions about who worked in the store, what film title someone who wasn’t touching the board was looking at, and eventually who was it that lived in the video store. Amazed, they ran up to me at the counter and told me there was most certainly a ghost in the store, and he was 13 years old. He knew all the initials of the people that worked in the store. And he had told them his family died in a fire years ago.
I was freaked out. I thought for sure, any moment, my boss would walk in and we’d all get busted for conjuring up spirits in the place. I walked home and went about my evening, getting ready for bed as normal.
My night routine consisted of looping headphones over my bedpost and listening to one of the mixtapes I made while I fell asleep. That night, I remember waking up and thinking I had only been asleep a short while, but the music wasn’t playing. I reached up to my dresser top and picked up the tape player. I hit play. Nothing happened. I hit rewind, fast forward, play again. Nothing. I assumed the player had died, but was surprised I didn’t wake up to the slow drowning sound it made as the batteries wore down. I set it back on top of my dresser.
The next morning, I awoke and got ready for the day. On a whim, while waiting for my mom, I picked up the tape player and hit play. Billie Holiday crooned, “But I’ll be seeing you…” and the whole rest of the tape was erased.
I assure you I cannot explain how this happened. There is no record button on my player, so I didn’t accidentally tape over it. It was not placed next to anything electronic, so there shouldn’t have been any interference. Whatever, or whoever, it was, from then on, I closed the store very quickly.
And my store manager, admitted to me after I left the store years later that she did think the store was haunted.
What do you think happened? Have you ever lived or worked in a place you thought was haunted? Have you ever heard anything like EVP (electronic voice phenomenon)?
Still hungry for more? Check out the virtual ouija board at your own risk.
Open Your Eyes: A Chilling Tale of Sleep Paralysis
It was late. We were hanging out in the basement of my family home, the usual dark and private place for teenagers to dwell. My then boyfriend and I were squished into one lay-z-boy chair watching a movie, which was the norm when you worked at a video store and got all the new ones free.
I must’ve fallen asleep. I don’t remember what I was doing before…lights. Round, amber flashes before my eyes and the startling cry of a lost child. Someone or something was pushing down on me, pressing the air from my lungs and I couldn’t move to stop it. I had lost all control of my body. I thought I was shaking, but I couldn’t make my arms push the monster on top of me away. I couldn’t even open my eyes. Only darkness. And the increasing panic that I was being punished, or worse killed. Open your eyes! I commanded. Open your eyes!
When I woke from the blackness I sobbed audibly. It was only a minute or two, but it felt like a full nightmare. My boyfriend was holding my arms, terrified. What just happened? I thought you were having a seizure! What’s wrong?! I didn’t know what to say, or what happened, only how I felt. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t move. Was it a sign? Was something after me? Had I gone too far into the paranormal world and now one of them was after me? I couldn’t say anything. Who would believe me anyway?
Several weeks earlier, my family celebrated Christmas and both my sister and I received Sylvia Browne’s Book of Dreams. Browne, a world renowned psychic, was an author my sister had turned me onto, and we’d been reading several of her books about the afterlife, haunted locations, and totem spirits. I’d been slowly making my way through this book, which was more an educational book than a paranormal or spiritual read like her others. The Book of Dreams dealt with archetypes and dream symbology, common images that represent the changes or people in our lives. You know, like how we all have dreams about flying or falling or showing up naked to class.
A week after my scary episode, I was in the living room, stretched out on the couch reading through my Book of Dreams. On sleep disorders, actually. I bolted upright. Sleep paralysis. A condition where your state of sleep is interrupted and your conscious mind “awakes” before your body does. Seriously, check out WebMD. The symptoms include feeling an evil presence, stiffness of the body, flashing lights, loud noises, hallucinations, a weight upon one’s chest, and/or a sense of choking.
So I’m not crazy after all. Or possessed, which was quite a relief. And sleep paralysis is not a chronic condition, it’s rather rare. It only happens if your body goes in and out of a state of sleep and consciousness too quickly. I’ve never experienced it since, thankfully. What I do find odd is the fact that I read about my experience one week after going through it. Was I meant to get that book to help me understand what happened? Was someone watching over me? Or am I just really that superstitious and gullible? Something tells me I wouldn’t be asking these questions if I just dreamed about showing up naked to school.
Have you ever heard of experienced sleep paralysis? What do you think about it being a medical physical condition that attaches negative emotions to its occurrence? It has a paranormal ring to it, don’t you think? Sweet dreams, my ghoulies.
The Guilty Pleasures of Autumn
Welcome to another edition of Guilty Pleasures Friday! Indulge yourself, get cozy, here all gluttony reigns! I won’t tell on you.
For the month of October, I’m focusing on all things wicked. So today’s guilty pleasures are my top 10 favorite things about fall.
- The Desire to Spend Copious Amounts of Money on Pumpkins I’ve never met a pumpkin I didn’t like. Big ones, baby ones, spotted ones, warty ones, pumpkins with curlicue stems! They are a fall tradition and welcomed inside and out. Sometimes, I name them, a bizarre habit to be sure, but one I refuse to give up.
- The Urge After Purchasing Pumpkins to Consume Them in Multiple Forms Pumpkin Bars. Glorious pumpkin bars, the birthday treat of choice for this redhead. Then there’s pumpkin spice lattes and roasted pumpkin seeds, and I’m also a fan of their cousin, the Butternut Squash.
- The Decking Out of Houses: From Home Sweet Home to Enter At Your Own Risk I love seeing the houses that put gravestones in their yard, stick bones out of their lawn, and make dummies out of old clothes. Nothing is as fun as giving yourself a little chill walking up to your own front door.
- The Expectation of Shenanigans and the Increase in Security That Follows Late night runs through a corn field telling ghost stories with friends! Getting kicked out of Paradise Road! Scaring unsuspecting strangers with motion sensing Halloween décor and creating really good alibis when the police pull your car over and ask what you’re doing out so late.
- Apple Picking: Not Scary, but Good Old Fashioned Recreational Fun Grab a basket and pick your very own tangy sweet apples. Stock up the pantry with a local orchard’s cider, apple crisp, and handmade caramel drizzle. Mmmm
- Tea Drinking Season: Not Just For School Marms Anymore Every day is a tea drinking day in the fall. Green Tea in the morning, pomegranate oolong in the afternoon, peppermint tea at night. This charming habit is made even more fun with a big, funky mug collection. My favorite coffee shop in town is a teeny tiny shop that has the biggest selection of actual dried tea leaves, they brew you a whole cozy pot to yourself and let you pick your tea cup!
- The Bizarre Fashions That Become Acceptable Bring out your flannel, put on some gloves, and grab your flip flops! What’s that you say? One of those things is not like the other? Doesn’t matter in autumn, the weather changes so fast, you may as well keep your dresser stocked: Long sleeve shirts, rainboots, tank tops, corduroys, wool socks, ear muffs and a bathing suit.
- The Hibernation of the Human Race Once the weather gets a little chillier, suddenly people start to disappear into their houses, the windows get boarded up, and you don’t seen your neighbor bring the trash out for weeks. You question whether you should call the police and have her checked on, but there’s smoke coming from the chimney and a faint flicker of blue TV light every Thursday at 7pm. Give her another week…
- The Beer, Brats, and Polka Bands Autumn brings Oktoberfest to my town and that means brats with sauerkraut, beer and drinking gloves, and lots of live music and parades. The big parade is the Maple Leaf Parade and there’s one at night too called the Torch Light Parade. I went to that for the first time this year and it was really fun. All the marching bands are decked out with glowsticks, even on their instruments. And, you can drink on the sidewalk of the parade route. *Weeeeeeeee!*
- The Changing of the Colors The best part about fall is the colors. And living in Bluff Country, we certainly get to enjoy a multitude. There’s nothing quite like sitting on the edge of the bluff overlooking the adjacent forest, marsh and city below, ablaze in fall colors. Joe and I went hiking this weekend and here’s some shots I took along the way!
What are your favorite things about fall?
This is Why I Won’t Touch a Ouija Board
There’s a reason all movies with ouija boards are in the horror section. Why didn’t I pay attention?!
Have any of you watched the movie Now and Then? It was a 90’s film about four friends who grew up together in a small town and the one summer that changed their lives, making their bond last forever. There’s a lot of familiar faces in the film: Gaby Hoffman, Christina Ricci, and Thora Birch playing the young girls and Demi Moore, Rosie O’Donnell, Melanie Griffith, and Rita Wilson playing them as adults. Bonnie Hunt, Janeane Garofalo, Hank Azaria, Brendan Fraser, and Cloris Leachman all support as well. If you were a tween like me who grew up with this film, you probably watched it cause of him…
Anyway, you stock up on Mambas (which are better than Starburst) and watch the story unfold with your sister or best girl friend in tow. One of the main adventures the girls have is a night reading with the ouija board in the graveyard. After numerous failed attempts to conjure up Marilyn Monroe – “she didn’t cooperate last time,” they decide to speak with someone buried in the graveyard, a boy called Dear Johnny, who died the same age as they are. What happens next is the unfolding of how Dear Johnny died and what will help him to rest again.
Now and Then isn’t a scary movie, it’s a movie about friendship. Friendship and a little paranormal mystery. I blame all my willingness to “ouija” on this film. If I had only watched something along the lines of What Lies Beneath or Paranormal Activity instead, I might not have been so enthusiastic.
I will share with you my first experience with a ouija board later this month, and trust me, it’s a creepy one. For today, I’ll share with you a few snippets of experiences and why I will no longer use a ouija board. In case you’re unfamiliar with ouija boards, Catie Rhodes wrote an AWESOME historical post about their creation, the various forms they’ve taken on, and how they’ve been used in film. You really should check out her post! I’ll wait for you…
Hello again! So briefly, the ouija board is a talking board meant to be an inbetween medium for spirits to connect with us. Sounds cool right? Well, it can be. Let me take a minute and explain some of my opinions on how ouija boards work. I emphasize this is just my experience I’m basing this on.
- Ouija boards will not work for everyone. An openness is required and the more connected you are to an individual who is also touching the pointer piece will impact how well the board works.
- Ouija boards let in anything you give energy to. If you don’t know what you’re doing, expect to get messed with.
- Blessing the area helps. Invite only kind spirits into your communication circle. I’ve had positive experiences with this which I will share.
- Do not be disappointed if a loved one doesn’t communicate with you through the board; it means they are happy and healthy on the Other Side.
Ok, when I said that it depends on who’s using the board with you, that’s been my history with the process. I’ve tried to use a ouija board with different friends and gotten gibberish responses that make no sense. But when I attempted to communicate to spirits with my high school best friend we always got full word responses. I accredit this to our ability of finishing each others’ sentences and knowing what the other was thinking without saying a word. We were very close, and I would be so bold to say kindred spirits/soul mates at that time. The energy we channeled was probably better equipped to receive messages.
Prime example, once we used the board to try to communicate with a friend’s family member who had passed. We didn’t get anything when she tried to use the board, but when my friend and I did we believe we made contact with her Aunt and talked enough that the whole experience was so moving and emotional our friend cried.
Remember when I said you can’t control what comes in, but blessings help. That was one instance where it did help. We lit a circle of candles around us and said a little prayer. We asked that only spirits who would bring forth light and goodness enter our circle and that any spirits intending harm be banished from it. We let our friend ask the questions and we read the responses. This was a very powerful experience for her, and even myself to witness it.
I feel I learned the hard way about blessing the circle first. I gave up using the talking board after a spirit we’d been successful talking to several times started mocking me through the board. It was scary and cruel and I wanted no part of it anymore.
That ended the weird paranormal pranks for awhile. I had a few odd occurrences while living in the dorms in college that friends teased was “my ghost” following me to school. I never used a ouija board again, but it could’ve been him moving stuff IN BETWEEN dorm rooms. Our residence hall was set up in what we called “cubes,” which consisted of 3 different squared arrangements of rooms on each floor, so students lived in the A, B, or C cube of their prospective floor. In my cube, objects would mysteriously disappear from one room and end up in others. Since it occurred most often amongst my “cube friends” it was blamed on my ghost.
I’m thankful there hasn’t been any recent activity of that nature in my life. I’m still open to paranormal interaction, but I don’t want them following me around everywhere. I can’t imagine what it must be like for those that can see and communicate with the dead on a regular basis. I would think their lives are very difficult and scary at times. It’s an unknown world to us, but one that will forever intrigue us.
What do you think? Have you ever used a ouija board? What was your experience? Have you ever felt a spirit was communicating with you? How did you handle it?
I See Dead People
Hello my Hauntings! Welcome to the first of Wicked Wednesday’s Ghost Story series. Every wednesday I’ll share a personal story about my encounters with the paranormal, and I plan for them to get progressively creepier as the month goes on.
So today, we’re doing a bit of a montage. I’ll share with you some of the spooky moments of my past, and if you’re comfortable, and open-minded, I’d love your thoughts and stories as well. Let’s get started!
Most of you are familiar with the 1999 film by M. Night Shyamalan, The Sixth Sense. A brief summary is a young boy is able to see spirits who don’t know they’ve died, and by helping them, he is able to help a downtrodden childhood psychologist. The very telling scene of the film is when Cole, the boy, admits to Dr. Malcolm that “I see dead people.” Chilling and honest at the same time, if you ask me.
My stories are nothing so dramatic. For one, I can’t pay people (let alone professionals) to listen to my problems, though I’m sure I’d benefit from it. And second, I don’t see dead people consistently. I just see them sometimes. The following is a composite list of the some of the strange, unexplainable, and honest situations I’ve experienced.
The Painted Pebble: This story isn’t scary, so much as unexplainable. My grandmother passed away when I was five years old. I don’t think I understood what death meant for many years later. Because I have so few memories of her living, most of my connection to her came from sleeping with the stuffed animal lamb that was in her hospital room when she passed, visiting her grave with my mother, and leaving a painted pebble on her tombstone that I painted with her favorite colors, pink and purple. I was probably between 6-8 years old, and friendship pebbles were all the rage at school. I made this one for my grandmother and left it atop the gravestone. For over a year, that pebble never left my grandma’s burial site. No matter when my mom and I went, that pebble was still painted and sitting on her tombstone. Now, science isn’t my strongest subject, but I’m wise enough to know that between Wisconsin thunderstorms, tornadoes, and oh gosh, I don’t know WINTER, that pebble should’ve lasted all of week or two at most before the paint washed off or a lawn mower pitched the thing several yards away. I believe it was a token of love and friendship that my grandma kept to let me know she still thought of me.
The Feeling of Not Being Alone: Twice I can recall being in my family home, up in my room and stopping whatever I was doing at the time because I “just knew” I wasn’t alone. The first time I experienced this phenomenon, I was reading on my bed, when I felt the weight at the end of the bed sink down, like someone had just sat next to me. It was so physical that I looked up, expecting to see someone. I stared at the space at the foot of my bed for a few moments before saying aloud, “I know you’re there.” I then felt a finger run up my big toe. A few weeks later, I was again reading in my room. Same thing. I strongly felt I was not alone in the room. This time I asked the spirit if they intended harm or good to me. At that moment I felt the most reassuring hug around me, warm and comforting. I’m sure many of you are reading this and thinking I’m plain batty for believing. But I have done some research on the subject. Most paranormal investigators can agree that a person’s openness to experience is key in what they will or won’t perceive. But take a smaller, more common example like deja vu’ or coincidences. A lot of us have either experienced or know someone else who has where you could finish a person’s sentence, hear the phone ring and know who is on the other line, have a dream and foresee an accident or a new baby. We don’t usually discredit those little signs that present themselves, but when a person starts talking out loud to an invisible person in their room, they’re crazy. Somehow, the line between acceptable and possible paranormal activity is quite gray to me, meaning I believe anyone has the potential to experience things like I described, but not everyone is willing.
The Old Man and His Dog: A tedious and yet annual event in my town is college moving day, and the landlords around here have conveniently scheduled move in day to be 2 weeks after move out day. So for 14 days or so, college kids around the city find storage bins, garages, and trailers to stuff their belongings into and crash on couches until their new leases begin. I was staying at my boyfriend’s house during this time, while he was away visiting family. I had heard from his roommates that the house was haunted, but never before seen or heard anything. During my stay, I woke up early one morning with the heightened sense I was not alone. When I looked down at the foot of the bed I saw an old man with a plaid flannel shirt standing up with a black dog beside him. I knew he didn’t intend any harm, but it was a little freaky. I did have to get up and turn the lights on.
These are just a few of my paranormal experiences. If you ‘re craving more, check out my post on Paradise Road, a real Wisconsin Urban Legend. I list my many ghost sightings there.
Want to know more about coincidences? I recently read The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield and did a book review about his theory of humankind becoming more in tune with our coincidences.
Please share with me your thoughts and stories about the spirit world. Has anything like this happened to you?
As always, Happy Halloween! See you Friday for another guest post blog hop with the Life List Club, costumes not necessary…yet.
Saints and Sinners
The city of New Orleans is known for its “Saints and Sinners” but why is that? A lot of history actually plays into where that phrase originated. You’ll see it in the street names, intersecting each other, one direction named after the saints: St. Ann, St. Charles, St. Philip, and the other direction named for King Louis XIV’s illegitimate children (sinners): Dumaine, Toulouse.
The main reason the Big Easy, the Crescent City, NOLA is known as the town of Saints and Sinners is because only two key buildings survived the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788: St. Louis Cathedral and Jean Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (AKA: Speakeasy). So there you have it, the saints and the sinners.
The Church has been rebuilt several times surviving fires and hurricanes. And Lafitte’s, now known as the Blacksmith Bar, remains one of the oldest surviving buildings of New Orleans. And, it’s on the ghost tour…
So who was Jean Lafitte? Simply put, he was a pirate. A quick-witted businessman, he set up “shop” as a ruse to throw off the government and law officials who he had common run ins with. Little is known as fact about Lafitte, a journal supposedly surfaced which described him as a Robin Hood of sorts, except instead of giving his treasures to the poor, he kept them for himself. It is believed by New Orleans locals that the Blacksmith Bar is haunted by several ghosts, victims of Lafitte’s rage.
And rage he did. Four men were brought in for questioning by Lafitte’s thugs as payback for their loud mouths. When all four refused to talk further, they were tortured one by one.
The thing about the blacksmith shop is that the fireplace inside isn’t big enough, nor does it have a proper chimney to filter out the smoke. If the building were to actually be used as a blacksmith shop, the smithy would pass out from the heat that the building contained.
The story says that the four men were forced to watch as one by one their heads were placed in the opening of the fireplaces, scorching their flesh until their eyes burst out and they died. Imagine being the fourth guy…
Locals believe the tales because several people, natives and tourists alike, have mailed in photographs that depict ghostly images around the fireplace. I don’t think I caught anything, but I’m wondering if that’s cause we’re going digital now. Does it make it trickier for ghosts to transcend this new technology?
The other ghost story that occurs here happened years later. I can’t recall exactly how it happened, whether it was a bar robbery or just a wrong place wrong time, but a man coming out of the restroom was stabbed and killed just outside the door. Customers at the bar have reported hearing moaning sounds coming from the restroom and again photos have shown strange figures in this corner.
I always say you know it’s legit when the animals are spooked. I think if an animal perceives some kind of danger or bad energy, you know something’s going on. The intersection outside of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Bar has had the most accidents from horse drawn carriages. There are several tour companies that offer carriage rides around the French Quarter, and apparently, those horses have taken out more street signs than anything. The driver will stop at the bar to allow guests time inside trying to capture any ghoulies or ghosties on film, and it’s happened several times where nothing is seemingly around the carriage, but the horses get so spooked, they’ll bolt up onto the sidewalk taking out the street sign in the process more than once. That, to me, is the freakiest part of this story.
What do you think? Ghosts? Historical energy emissions? A Ruse? What ghostly places have you visited?