Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Ridgeway Ghost

In Wisconsin folklore * there is a famous tale called the Ridgeway Ghost. This ghost story was often told during this state's pioneer days.

The following is the story of how the belief in this “ghost” was used to dissuade bad behavior.

Sightings of this ghost occurred along an old military road, a 25-mile stretch--known as the Ridge Road-- that ox-driven wagons traveled in the Lead Region of this state.

The early mining communities of Blue Mounds and Dodgeville in Iowa County bookended this 25-mile stretch. The settlement of Ridgeway that this ghost was named for was halfway between these two mining camps.

The ghost used the settlement as its headquarters.

It was said …

This ghost was unusual in that it can change its’ shape.

This phantom was a man with a whip that chased the living.

Or sometimes this ghost was a headless horseman.

Or even creepier--this entity was a fierce beast-like creature or ball of fire.

People warned …

This haunting was the result of a bar fight. Two brothers-- the ages of 14 and 15--had the misfortune to be involved in a saloon brawl in the 1840s. 

A rowdy threw the 14-year old into a fireplace where he burned to death. The other brother managed to escape but froze to death on his way home.

A Respected witness …

Doctor Cutler of Dodgeville was the first person to see this ghost in the 1850s.

He stated the face of this ghost appeared on a pole on his wagon as he was driving home one night--just as he passed the home of the deceased brothers.

Most frightening of all …

This entity would attack travelers and then would immediately disappear.

Blue Mounds
Several witnesses, including a well-liked man named John Lewis, who saw this ghost was then plagued by ailments and died.

The locals started to refuse to go out at night alone.

The reason this story was circulated . . .

Along this 25-mile stretch, between Dodgeville and Pokerville, were at least a dozen saloons each with a worse reputation than the last.

Gamblers, miners, and “toughs.” frequented these establishments.

Tavern fights often broke out between drunks, and robberies and murders were a common occurrence.

Many of the miners and locals were Welsh and Cornish folk--both these cultures were steeped in old superstitions.

As the story goes the Ridgeway Ghost was manufactured to help rid the region of the disreputable element, which hung out in these saloons.

Practical jokers then helped to spread the growing belief in this ghost. It only took a few “pranks,” which then threw the entire region into a panic.

In 1910 when the town of Ridgeway burnt down, it is said that this entity moved to the woods near Mineral Point.

* Source Folklore Pamphlets, 1921-45, by Charles E. Brown, Published by Wisconsin Historical Society


rebecca said...

I find this super interesting and would love to hear more about it!

Virginia Lamkin said...

I believe there are several books that cover this haunting and the folklore that surrounds the area.

Unknown said...

I used to live in Ridgeway, it is very interesting, but sadly not much paranormal things happen. People joke if you lose something, the Ridgeway ghost most have taken it. The watertower has a ghost painted on it and the police have a ghost on their Crest. It is widely talked about there and a fun story to hear about. Oh and the elementary school has books about the ghost in the library. So the town is rich in the ghost lore. They even have a festival every year and the ghost run. You need to check out the town, but mind you the town only has around 620 people there.