Madison's Spookiest Places

October 31, 2017

It's that time of year again--when Halloween stores pop up everywhere, the Great Pumpkin is getting ready to rise out of the pumpkin patch, and talk turns to ghosts and other things that go bump in the night.

Over the years I've heard many stories of the most haunted places in Madison, though I've personally never seen a ghost or sensed an otherworldly presence.

Here are a few of them:

1. The State Capitol: People have reported unexplained cold spots, while others say they've seen a heavy-set man walking around, allegedly a former citizen who used to attend public hearings a lot back in the late 1800s. I used to work in the basement of the Capitol, and while it was pretty spooky and lonely down there, I never saw a ghost.

2. Memorial Library: Helen C. White, an English professor who would often say "May our paths meet again," doesn't haunt the library that bears her name, instead she reportedly haunts the one she used to frequent when she was part of the academic staff. Some students say they've seen her wandering the stacks and using the microfiche machine to look up her own obituary.

3. The Ohio Tavern. This bar on Ohio Avenue on the east side was built more than 100 years ago, and in addition to having a very cool neon Blatz sign outside, some employees have reported cabinets flying open, glasses clinking in an empty bar, and ghostly shadows. Several ghost hunters have tried to confirm the ghosts' existence, but if they found any evidence, they didn't share it.

4. Wonder Bar. This tavern located near the Coliseum Bar was a mob hangout in the 20s and 30s during Prohibition, with tunnels leading to the lake. Some say ghosts of murder victims haunt the establishment.

5. Mendota Mental Health Institute: This spooky place opened in 1860 as the Wisconsin Hospital For the Insane. Employees have reported seeing ghosts in the building and in the nearby woods.There have been many stories of fires, suicides, and accidental deaths during the building's long history--perhaps their ghosts have still not found peace.