True story: Just drive over the third knoll in the road and park your car. Look in the rearview mirror and I swear you’ll see bodies hanging from the trees.
Urban legends. We’ve all heard them. The stories about Mr. Rogers being a marine sniper. What, he isn’t?! The Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary bathroom trick. The Candy Man? We’ve all grown up with our versions of urban legends.
Because there’s nothing to do in Wisconsin, because I went to Catholic school, because I have an overactive imagination Eh-hem, because my childhood friends were experts at uncovering mysteries, I know quite a few urban legend stories. My favorite is Paradise Road.
Paradise Road is the real name of a windy street in Jefferson, Wisconsin, coincidentally my hometown’s neighboring city and longtime sports rival. The road is long and narrow with an S-shaped curve near the end, and surrounded by heavy woods on either side and a few scattered houses that never have their lights on…(ok, I’m playing into the urban legend with the lights part!)
The Truth Behind Paradise Road
The newsworthy story is that Paradise Road is indirectly the setting of the Diane Borchardt Murder Case. In April of 1994, Diane Borchardt, a teaching aide at Jefferson High School convinced three teenage boys, Doug Vest, 17, Josh Yanke, 16, and Michael Maldonado, 15, to murder her husband for her. After a tumultuous marriage, Diane and her husband Ruben were getting a divorce. Rumors include he was seeing someone else, but his two children from his first marriage say the fighting began long before the divorce began. Borchardt convinced the young male students she was being abused by her husband and promised them $20,000 from the insurance money along with her wedding and engagement ring and two cars. On the day of the murder, Borchardt packed up the two dogs and headed to her in-laws alone for Easter. The boys snuck into the main level of the house and woke Ruben who had moved into the basement while divorce proceedings began. They shot him twice which woke his son who rushed downstairs to find his father slumped over a chair. The murder trials began and Vest eventually confessed after receiving no payment from Borchardt. Vest, Yanke, and Borchardt herself are all doing life in prison, and Maldonado received 18 years. The home where Ruben and Diane lived and the murder took place was on an intersecting street with Paradise Road.
Two years after the murder, the Diane Borchardt story was made into a TV movie starring Ann-Margret in the main role. The film was called Seduced by Madness. Other noteworthy performances in the film include Peter Coyote, Tobey Maguire, and Freddy Rodriguez. While the film is based mostly on truth, the depiction of Jefferson, WI as a graffiti-painted, gang trodden town with palm trees is FALSE.
The Not So Grounded Truths Behind Paradise Road
Some of the legends surrounding this creepy street include the introductory mention of driving over the third bump in the road to find bodies hanging from trees.
Inexplicable radio frequency issues that begin and end on the street’s path. It’s totally haunted.
Historical practices of witchcraft in the woods.
Undocumented mentions that it was part of the Underground Railroad.
My Experience Encountering Paradise Road
As I said before, my friends and I had a knack for
getting into trouble, going wherever ghosts might be researching the haunted places or urban myths of our southeast midwest town. The following is a recap of what I’ve witnessed while traveling down Paradise Road (and believe me, we went more than once). I am willing to admit that the frenzy of legend surrounding this street may have toyed with my gullible and willing mind, but I’m also pretty honest, and had friends with me who witnessed the same things I did. With that said, you may take it or leave it.
- Dense layers of fog that parted exactly when we approached the street.
- Having walked the whole street’s length, I was aware of a shadow floating on the opposite side of the street keeping our pace. This was at night, and I tested to make sure it did not belong to any of us.
- A friend and I both witnessed shadowed figures climbing the trees.
- Upon a random stop in the car, our headlights shown directly on the most intricately carved eye on the side of a tree.
- Having thought we parked in front of an abandoned house with no lights on, a friend witnessed a hand pull back a window curtain and disappear again.
We quickly became enthralled with this place that held so much sinister energy. We took it upon ourselves to interview the people that lived on Paradise Road and wrote about it in the school paper. When we began the interviews, hardly anyone would talk to us. One of the houses we went to was still burning peat for heat in the house. And both vehicles we were using nearly got stuck in the mud while at one of the houses. Most of the residents claimed urban legend. The police continue to patrol the street on Halloween as it’s become a popular place for teens to go seeking a good scare.
I just happened to google Paradise Road and was able to find this image from moonslipper.com, an awesome paranormal blog of the author’s own encounter on Paradise Road. Click the image or link to hear her story.
Paradise Road: Fact or Fiction
I can’t say with any proof that Paradise Road is legitimately haunted. I do know what I’ve seen, and that’s enough to make me think this spooky street has a vibe I don’t want to mess with much. It’s creepy, that’s a fact. But I probably wouldn’t have gone there in the first place had it not been for small town urban legends. I’m glad I did.
What urban legends did you have growing up? Did you investigate? Did you ever play Bloody Mary? I totally did. Scared the crap out of myself, and then nothing happened. Still, I’m not about to play it again anytime soon.