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Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012

Gothic Milwaukee's Ghost Stories

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Want to hear about the ghostly altar boy that haunts St. John's? What about phantom bodies washing ashore on Bradford Beach? And is Frederick Pabst's spirit ignoring the smoking ban, puffing on an ethereal cigar in his beloved theater? “Ghost guide” Anna Lardinois, easily spotted in her 1800s-style dress, can tell you these stories and many more on her Gothic Milwaukee tour. The walk starts at Cathedral Square Park and hits several paranormal hot spots Downtown. For more information, visit www.gothicmilwaukee.com.

Did you have any favorite ghost stories growing up?


I have always loved stories in general my whole life. It's why I ended up getting a degree in English and became an English teacher. Stories are thrilling to me. I don't remember specific ghost stories, but I remember loving to be scared as a kid. I grew up in a rural area and our neighbors across the street lived in an old farmhouse with a dirt basement. I could convince myself and everyone else that we were hearing ghostly violin players in the middle of the night. We would walk through the woods at night telling each other the scariest stories.

What inspired you to start the Gothic Milwaukee tour?


I started the company this year. I turned 40 and decided I was going to do one new thing a week, and this is one of the things I decided to do. I love going on ghost tours in different cities; I go on one every city I go to. It's a fun way to see a city and learn about its history. So I thought: Why not do it here?  I love stories, I love Milwaukee, I love buffoonery—it seemed like a good match.

Which Milwaukee ghost stories are your favorites?

Definitely the maritime disasters, because I think that is something we can all relate to—being out of control of a situation. We can all see ourselves trying to get somewhere when a disaster happens—that's what makes those stories so scary.

Have you spotted any ghosts yourself?


I believe I saw one when I was on a ghost tour in Asheville, N.C. We were walking down this street that seemed deserted and the woman was telling us about this house we were in front of. And I know this might not sound believable, but I swear a woman appeared right in their courtyard and looked right at me. And I actually felt bad or wrong for being there, and I moved on—and as I was walking down the street, every streetlight that I went under went off as I walked under it.

Has anything strange happened on your own tour?


Every once in a while, when we go past City Hall, we see an odd flash in one of the windows. Who knows what that could be, but I always wonder if it is the ghost of (alleged City Hall spirit) Byron Kilbourn shaking his fist at me.
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