Photo courtesy of Early Times, by Daniel D. Scrobell 

Dr. Huber’s Home, which he used as a maternity hospital, is pictured in center of photograph. Former residents claim to have experienced paranormal activity here.
Photo courtesy of Early Times, by Daniel D. Scrobell

Dr. Huber’s Home, which he used as a maternity hospital, is pictured in center of photograph. Former residents claim to have experienced paranormal activity here.
When walking the quaint streets of the island of Minocqua, the sights and sounds of this small town are almost enchanting. Decorative storefronts line the main street, beckoning shoppers passing by, and pubs and eateries dot the landscape where visitors can stop in and enjoy a pint of ale or dine on anything from sushi to fine fare.

Downtown Minocqua will also be the scene of a trick or treaters delight as most businesses and households roll out the red carpet for children of all ages to enjoy the spirit of Halloween. As you walk the town’s eclectic streets this Hallow’s Eve, darting in and out of the historic buildings, take a moment to ponder the history of this Island city, as according to locals who live and work here; that history may still be present, only in an unearthly form.

The northern half of the state has been on the paranormal map for years, and home for haunted tales such as those of the Paulding Light and Summerwind Mansion. Most people have heard of these legendary haunts, as there are entire books written about the supernatural and unexplained happenings in and around these places. 

The town of Minocqua has a few locales famous for spooky events as well, including the well-known Norwood Pines ghost and the more recent hauntings reported at Tula’s Café.

But downtown Minocqua holds its own eerie tales, stories kept among those who live or work on the island. With so many years under its belt as an established town and so many old buildings still standing, it’s not a surprise to find out that perhaps a few of the inhabitants of this city might just be of the ghostly variety.

Haunted Island City

Hearsay has it that a certain building across the street from The Boathouse restaurant may indeed be home to an ethereal being or two. Historical excerpts from the book, “Early Times,” by Daniel D. Scrobell, tell of Dr. Gale W. Huber, a physician who began his practice on the island in the fall of 1919, opening an office in downtown Minocqua. Dr. Huber’s residence, however, ended up becoming a maternity ward. 

In those days, the nearest hospitals were either in Rhinelander or Tomahawk and mothers about to give birth couldn’t travel that far. Babies in that era were mostly born at home, delivered by midwives or doctors who would make the trip out to the homestead. 

Being that this area was so vast, Dr. Huber had the expectant mothers come to his residence to deliver, which still stands on Park Avenue just across the street from The Boathouse. Built in the winter of 1922-23, many babies born in this area between 1923 and 1954 were delivered at this location.

A former maternity ward wouldn’t seem the type of place that would harbor paranormal activity, but those that have lived there say otherwise. 

One tale which has floated around town regards objects mysteriously rearranged, which can’t be explained by the laws of physics. Former residents report returning home one day to find all of their daughter’s framed pictures turned sideways on a bookshelf. Among all the family photos, it was only the daughter’s that were rearranged. 

After exhausting all explanations, they concluded that nothing could have caused just the pictures of one family member to be turned sideways. If it were vibrations or other household anomalies, all the pictures would have been in disarray.

Even more chilling is the reported sighting of two entities of a paranormal kind. Former homeowners claim to have seen an apparition of a child, a girl with dark, bob-cut hair, and a man wearing a long duster coat. Were these happenings the figment of a wild imagination, or does this house on Park Avenue carry the energy of those who once lived there? We may never know for sure. 

Taking a walk down the lakeshore, you may stumble upon another well-known establishment, a bar and grill that has a history as old as Minocqua, and according to the owners, one of the regulars frequenting the place is not of this world.

The Thirsty Whale, owned by Jay and Deanne Kidd, has been in existence for over a century. According to Scrobell’s book, in 1902, Dick Hoover and his partner Hugh McMillin decided to erect a new boathouse and conduct a boat livery on the west end of Milwaukee Street. In the spring of 1905, when McMillin was no longer a partner, Hoover married widow Karen Winger, and it was then named “Hoover and Winger Boat Livery.”

However, tragedy struck in October 1911 as Richard Hoover was shot and killed by his stepson in a presumed act of self-defense. It is unknown if Hoover’s death occurred on the premise of the boat livery/restaurant, or at a different location. 

Nonetheless, Deanne Kidd says strange happenings have occurred since her father bought the business in 1984. 

“Dad would stay here overnight in the beginning, and he was the first one to encounter the entity we refer to as ‘Richard,’” she said.

According to Kidd, her father was sleeping in the cupula, the high tower room which overlooks Lake Minocqua, and had someone … or something speak to him. It was a man’s voice, and as best as she can remember, the man told her father, “thank you for taking care of this place.” 

“We all believed him because Dad is not the kind of man to make things up,” Kidd said.

Employees have experienced a slew of odd occurrences over the years as well. Barbara Gollnow, a long-time member of the staff, commented on these eerie events. 

“Anytime one of the employees ever had anything weird happen it was often late at night,” she said. “Usually after closing, like around three in the morning. There was one night I remember in particular when we were counting out tips at the bar. The coffee pot filter holder came flying out and landed 15 feet from the coffee machine. It literally flew across the entire bar.”

Kidd and Gollnow say the kitchen staff has experienced utensils ejecting from a utensil holder and flying across the room as well as frying pans mysteriously jetting off the racks. Apparently, lights seem to be “Richard’s” favorite thing to entertain himself with, as there have been episodes where late night staff had shut off all the exterior lights, only to discover they were all turned back on by the morning. These electrical episodes happened so many times, one employee finally duct taped the switches in the off position.

Kidd says at one point, they had a paranormal investigation crew come to the bar/restaurant to see what they could find. The investigators found high paranormal readings up in the cupula, and in the back of the building near the men’s restroom.

Ironically, according to the staff, it was the area near the restrooms that was the scene of a bizarre occurrence. Staff members came around the corner to see an angled broom standing upright without support. Callie Weisman, a long-time employee, happened to think fast and took a picture of it with her phone. Regardless if it was a coincidence or some sort of act of the earth’s magnetic poles, it remains unexplained to this day.

These “ghost stories” may only be a snippet of strange events that have occurred in the historical buildings of this island city. Whether you believe in the tales of ghosts and spirits or prefer to chalk it up as coincidence, this year, Halloween on the island of Minocqua may bring more than just a pail-full of candy. It may just prove to be a real paranormal treat for those who believe in the spirit of Halloween.

Area Trick-or-Treating hours on Wednesday, Oct. 31: Downtown Minocqua — 4 to 6 p.m. town wide Minocqua — 4 to 7 p.m. Arbor Vitae — 4 to 7 p.m. Woodruff — 4 to 7 pm. 

Kimberly Drake can be reached at