Haunted houses can get a little old, especially the ones with unrealistic plastic skeletons hanging from the ceiling and performers who are so unenthusiastic that you can barely hear their "boo!" So let's skip the kid stuff this year and go right for the coolest spots that are actually haunted… you can even spend the night in some of them.
You Can Smash Literally Everything at the Rage Cage
Legend has it that Charles Pfister, the original owner, haunts this 19th-century hotel. He's best known for antagonizing MLB players, who stay at The Pfister while playing in town. Former Brewer Carlos Gomez heard voices and watched his iPod go crazy, while others report seeing apparitions. Some players refuse to stay at The Pfister and pay for their own rooms somewhere else.
While "Technology Innovation Center" doesn't sound so scary, it's more commonly known by its former name: the Muirdale Sanitorium. Opened in 1915, it was a hospital for treating tuberculosis patients, many of whom died. It eventually was turned into a facility to house mentally ill individuals, and purportedly sits atop an American Indian burial ground. All that history makes for a very creepy place, full of apparition sightings, voices, and faint coughing… even if the building is full of technology startups now.
The Rave started out as the home of the fraternal order of the Eagles (hence “Eagles Ballroom”) when it was built in 1927. It included a gymnasium, bowling alley, and swimming pool in the basement. Rumor is that it's haunted by various people: children who drowned in the pool, an abusive director of the shelter that was once housed here, and even Buddy Holly, who played one of his last concerts here. Touring bands often request tours of the basement and swimming pool area... or just find their way down there themselves.
There are many supposedly haunted buildings on the Marquette campus. Humphrey Hall was a former children's hospital, and one of its unlucky patients haunts the elevators at night in a white hospital gown. The University’s Schroeder Hall -- and the ninth floor in particular -- has experienced unexplained occurrences for decades, and Straz Tower was formerly a YMCA where a boy drowned, and now likes to swim next to students doing laps. Two Jesuit priests committed suicide by jumping off Johnston Hall and now pay visits to current residents... when you get a campus with this much history, there's bound to be a few ghosts hanging around.
Though it's dormant at the moment, the Modjeska hosted major vaudeville acts when it was opened in 1910. Over the years, many employees and guests have claimed to see floating orbs of light and people out of the corners of their eye, although the two most common sights are of a nonexistent woman wearing white on the stage, and a man appearing regularly in the balcony.
Built in 1886, the Loyalty Building, which was recently converted to a hotel, was built on the site of the Newhall Hotel fire. On the night of January 10th, 1883, more than 70 people died when a fire spread from the basement of the hotel up through an elevator shaft. Today, those lost souls still allegedly inhabit the building, manifesting themselves most often in rooms 326 and 201, where employees repeatedly report strange sounds, their hair being pulled when they're alone, and bathroom doors opening and closing on their own.
The MKE Public Museum can be kind of a creepy place, what with the taxidermy and creepy mannequins in the European Village and all. But the real scary stuff happens on the third floor, where former museum director Stephan Borhegyi still roams around after being killed in a car accident on his way to work in 1969. Staff report feeling chills move through them, elevator cars that stop on the third floor for no reason, motion sensors that go off mysteriously, and even glimpses of a man in a cape -- an article of clothing that Borhegyi used to wear often. It seems he ended up getting to work after all... and just never left.
You can't really get much more haunted than this former brothel and speakeasy, which has an extremely long and sordid history: A child fell out of a tree in the backyard and died, two men were murdered in the basement, a prostitute was hacked into pieces in an upstairs bedroom, and the whole thing was built on top of a cemetery. You can even book a tour of the building and check out the basement and the bedroom where the murdering took place... areas where some employees even refuse to go.
Built by a wealthy man as a present for his son in 1910, then sold to a purported mobster during Prohibition, this home has a number of mischievous spirits that have taken up residence over the years. Former owners of the building report events like objects falling off the walls but not breaking, doorbells that play random tunes, and doors that slam open and shut during the night. The best part? Brumder is a working bed & breakfast now, so if you'd like to meet one of the ghosts -- like Suzanne, the former housekeeper -- book a night in the Gold Suite.
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Lacey Muszynski is a Milwaukee native who will never stop going to the Milwaukee Public Museum just because it's haunted. Follow her on Twitter @worthhersalt.