Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Woods Are Full of Ghosts

James Lloyd Breck

The Reverend James Lloyd Breck and two of his associates founded the Nashotah Theological Seminary in 1842. It became the center for the Episcopal Church in Wisconsin Territory.

After this, Breck went on to found many churches and other religious institutions across the upper Midwest before his death in Benicia, California in 1877.

Years after Breck’s death Episcopal leaders requested his body be brought back to Nashotah--this is when the trouble started.

Nashotah House Theological Seminary

When Dr. Breck’s casket arrived it was placed in a lower floor of one the seminary’s buildings. It was arranged for two clergymen, Rev. Charles P. Dorsett who was the rector at St. James in Chicago--later he became the Diocese of Texas-- and Reverend Dr. Wilson also of Chicago to watch over the casket.

In the early morning Dr. Wilson stepped outside to get some fresh air. But within moments he returned exclaiming, “Dorsett, Dorsett, the woods are full of ghosts!”

Both men went outside. In every direction they saw figures darting back in forth in a frenzied dance. The two clergymen approached these figures but they quickly drew back. They formed a line on either side of the two men. But Dorsett and Wilson stated it was impossible to draw near enough to see more detail.

Later that morning as Break’s casket was lifted it was discovered the floor beneath it appeared to be blackened by fire. A hole was actually burned through to the space below.

As the time neared for the reburial things became even stranger.

The next night as the faculty of the seminary sat in the office of Dr. Gardiner, the President, pondering these odd events their discussion was abruptly terminated by a very loud racket coming from right outside the office.

Dr. Gardiner threw open the door but not a soul was in the hall. He returned to the room but even before he could sit down the tremendously loud noises began again. He dashed to the hall but no one was there.

Several members then proceeded to search the entire building but nothing was found--the only people in the building were the faculty. When they reconvened in the office the noises began once more.

Dr. Gardiner now frustrated called out to the hallway, “If you are a gentleman, be still.” The noise stopped.

To the relief of the staff--especially those who had witnessed the previous days events--the interment of Dr. Breck’s remains proceeded without incident. At least this is what they initially thought.

Dr. A.D. Cole
Right after the reburial a student photographer took a picture of the cemetery. In the foreground of this picture two graves could be seen. At the foot of one stood Reverend Dr. Azel D. Cole who was a former president of the seminary--he had died in 1885. At the foot of the other stood a woman who was a former benefactress of the school.

At first these figures were thought to be a trick of the sunlight and foliage but when this picture was projected using a stereopticon --these two figures showed up even more clearly. There was no denying that the features of these two resembled Dr. Cole and the benefactress.

The student photographer was then accused of “trickery.” But it was discovered afterwards that there had never been a photograph taken of Dr. Cole while he was alive.

Source: New York Times, December 7, 1902, Some Wisconsin Ghosts. This story was reported on by W. A Curtis with the notation that it was a tale the good citizens of Nashotah had recounted.   

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