In the mood for a ghost story, I browsed the parapsychology section at my local library. Flipping through familiar titles by Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk, I found Devon Bell‘s Haunted Chippewa Valley. I was intrigued that my little slice of the Dairy State had enough ghostly activity to fill 106 pages.
Haunted is a thorough mix of folklore, eyewitness accounts, and well-known crimes. On the more convoluted end of the paranormal spectrum is the history of Happy Island, which was reportedly renamed Meridean in honor of a “Mary Dean” buried on the island. While there is no written record of any Mary Dean, stories abound among the locals, and Bell exhausts them all. However Meridean was named, apparitions of a glowing woman have been reported. There are also stories of supernatural hellhounds—dogs with black fur and glowing red eyes— inhabiting the area.
On the more straightforward end of things is the 1974 cold case murder of Mary Schlais. A Minneapolis artist hitchhiking to Chicago, her body was found in Elk Lake. An elderly woman living in Elk Lake claimed a young woman named “Mary” would visit her yard and walk through her garden. Bell, her husband, and two friends visited the area and experienced activity on their EMF reader.
To tell any more about the book would be to take away the enjoyment of reading it. Bell writes in an easy conversational style, that makes you feel like you are having coffee with her. As a life-long resident of Wisconsin, most of the information in Haunted was new to me.
The four page bibliography shows the vastness of Bell’s research, and serves as a departure point for readers wanting more information. I most appreciate that Bell reminds readers to be respectful when visiting the sites mentioned in her book—for the sake of both the living and the dead residents.
I read Haunted over the course of one lazy day. With just the right amount of “scary” factor, I’ll confess to leaving my bedside light on that evening.