12th Street N, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin 54494
Carl and Justin Libigs
the late 1800's due to overcrowding in Wisconsin Rapids public schools, the
Board of Education met and agreed to build a new school in the first ward
The board quickly decided on the
location and bought the land from Peter Dessaint for $600. A plan soon after was
drawn up by H. J. Van Ryan of Milwaukee for $240. The firm of House and Nelson,
constructed the building for $7,194. The seats came from Manitowoc at the cost
of $433.80, and a local company Centralia Hardware installed the plumbing for
$236.95 and also contributed the $6.00 clock and $3.50 gong to call the classes
to order. The total cost of the school was $10,154. The most interesting thing about
the construction of the school is that the brick they used for the building
was made on site rather than having the brick shipped to the location. They also
painted the doors, gables, and classrooms in watercolor.
The school was finished in 1896
containing four large classrooms, heated by a huge coal furnace, and had
all the latest technology like electricity, adjustable seats, and the best
blackboards available at the time, and Venetian blinds. The First Ward School is
the oldest surviving school building in Wisconsin Rapids today.
The school housed
Kindergarten-6th grade and even hosted a high school grammar class. Physical
Education was taught in the classrooms by the teachers. The janitor did however
teach the boys basketball in the coal room. In 1902 the pupils and teachers were
told to pick a new name for the First Ward School. It was decided to name the
school Iriving after the author Washington Irving a.k.a. Diedrich Knickerbocker,
who was very popular at the time.
In 1910 the bell tower was struck by
lighting and burned off the building. The bell tower was never replaced and a
few years later the school was closed due to the high cost of keeping it
running. The city had an $8,000 school tax but only collected half of that
amount forcing the closure of the school.
In 1921 due to the increase in students in the
Wisconsin Rapids area the school was reopened but only now having
Kindergarten-3rd grades. This was done by the local nuns who undertook teaching
at the school themselves while living in the attic of the building. (This
is why the attic doors lock from the inside.) This helped keep the cost down of
running the school so the town could have the much needed increase in
classrooms. This is also where the stories of the school being haunted
originated from. While living in the school the nuns noticed strange things
happening in different areas of the school at different times of day. This led
the nuns to come up with a plan as to when and where they would not go in the
school during these times of activity. You could almost say the nuns were
the first to investigate the activity in this building by keeping a log
when and where activity took place. Owners are currently in the process of
locating this log and or finding someone that would remember this information.
In 1921 the roof of the school caught fire from
one the embers from the coal furnace going out of the chimney and landing on the
roof. The janitor noticed the fire while walking home to eat lunch. All the
children were gotten out in time and no one was hurt. The fire was caught early
enough that the damage was repairable.
Before World War II the building was
also used for a small school for the deaf run by Agnes Mader and hosted the
city's first special education classes taught by Allie Marie Coon. The other
teachers stayed the same over the years. Muriel Holliday, Joyce Pettis, Elaine
Domask, and Ina Iverson Peterson.
In 1954 the interior of the school
was remodeled. A kitchen and cafeteria was added, the bathrooms were taken
out of the basement and moved upstairs, and the coal furnace was converted to
gas. The cafeteria also doubled as the school's gym. After lunch they would
breakdown the tables allowing the space needed for Physical Education.
The last year the school ran as a
grade school was 1977. For two years after the the building was used for
exceptional-education offices and classes. The building has remained vacant
people have been seen in the entryway going back and forth which most likely is
a residual effect of children. There have been the sounds of children laughing
and giggling there as well.
the Kindergarten Room, teachers in the past would lock unruly students in a back
closet (now a restroom). One girl was forgotten about and left in the closet
until 10:30pm. Police were searching for her. A paranormal team in the past
caught an EVP saying, “I didn’t do it.” Psychics have visited the location
and were automatically drawn to the closet and sensed a little boy that told her
“I didn’t do it.” Ball and jacks placed on the podium rolled all the way
around the entire room and came to rest by the jacks again one time. A skeptic
once visiting the room started hearing knocks in the room. He came inside and
said, “If there’s anyone in her that wants to play, just knock. Line up
against the wall.” He then heard the sound of footsteps approaching the wall.
“Knock on the wall behind you as hard as you can.” What followed next was a
series of knocks right down the entire wall. Sometimes going up and down the
stairs right outside this room, one might have a feeling of someone behind you.
the Boys Restroom, a group saw an apparition of a shadow person standing in the
middle of the room and a statue of cat has moved in the past. People were buried
on the property where the school is today and is very untouched. Maybe a lot of
undisturbed bodies still here.
the 2nd Landing are the sounds of someone coming upstairs. Doors open
and close by themselves and a mist was once captured on a camera. Some
experience the feeling of nausea here as well. The apparition of an elderly man
sitting in a chair in the landing that appears in black and white and not colors
has been seen at least twice. He is dressed in black pants and a gray-looking
shirt. A spirit of a little girl is sometimes seen in the nearby restroom
looking at wall and crying. Once it actually turned towards a witness, only to
the other Classroom, balls of light following the path of the windows have been
reported as well as an older gentleman and a little girl looking out of the
windows. A Ghost Box session by another paranormal team picked up “Shut the
fuck up!” Then a rosary on a researcher’s neck levitated, followed by a
smack on the head.
the Landing by the Old Nurse’s Office the sound of footsteps is commonplace.
The ghosts here seem to like 1930s music; Big Band era. There was a report of a
shadow of a woman and female disembodied voices saying “Help me.” Sometimes
crying is heard here.
the Old Nurse’s Office, Justin was on a ladder one day doing some work when he
noticed that the entire ladder began to slide across the floor with him still on
the Family Room, one of the more active areas, shadow people have been seen.
Disembodied voices have been heard. While Justin was replacing windows, he
caught a glimpse of an image out of the corner of his eye of a little girl that
ran by him and stood by the closed door with her back to him. She then turned,
made eye contact, turned the doorknob, opened the door and exited the room! Some
believe this apparition could be Betty Vanderbilt who died nearby one day after
leaving school. There are two wooden beds here from the Lemp Mansion and one
allegedly has a spirit attached to it. A ghost, apparently named Robert, likes
to touch people at times.
the Attic, which was storage only, a little boy is often seen standing on top of
the steps. After he vanishes, loud footsteps are heard going down. Shadow
people, footsteps, dragging sounds, balls of light have been encountered here.
There is a local legend of a little boy named Oscar that hung himself in the
attic. There is absolutely no documentation to proof or disprove this account at
present. A lot of psychics who have visited the building ask “Who hung
themselves?” while visiting the attic. Responses to the knocks of Shave and a
Hair Cut have been frequent here. Once, a green ball of light dropped in a
bucket and illuminated it, after someone asked the ghost about the hanging
upstairs. After examining the bucket, a noose was found in it!
Tri-Field Meters set to magnetic works well in this location. One
afternoon Justin went upstairs with a bucket of clothes and placed them on a
table to look for hangers, as he hates to fold clothes. When he returned, all
the clothes were neatly folded!
the Basement which was the old Cafeteria when the school was active, the sounds
of whistling have been heard along with the sound of music; possibly piano and
flute and flashes of light have been seen with the naked eye.
the Dining Room, Christmas Music has been heard along with the sound of shovels
scraping across the floor.
The Ghost Research Society investigated First Ward Schoolhouse on August 30, 2014. Team members included: Marge Sucha, Kathie Para, Michael Wright, Katherine Meagher and Dale Kaczmarek
setup: No Command Center or equipment
was set up, instead handheld equipment was used throughout the investigation.
performed: EVP, Ovilus X and
Ghost Box sessions were conducted in the portal room downstairs, the
Kindergarten Room, Family Room, Attic and Hallway. Katherine did some dowsing
rod sessions at various locations.
have been to many investigations with GRS and have not had any personal feelings
that I can report on, until now.
We were taking a tour of the investigation site
at the First Ward School. I felt a cat rubbing on my leg and there was nothing
there. I told my fellow investigator about it and then kind of shrugged it off.
The feeling was persistent through the hour-long walk through. After the
basement I walked up with the landlady to prepare for the evening events. I
asked her if there were animal spirit in the house and she turned to me and
asked me if I had seen a cat. I told her what I had experienced and she said
that some people see it. She also stated she had no cat. This is the first real
feeling I have had since I began the quest for knowledge of the afterlife.
Mike and I were doing a dowsing rod session in
the foyer while the rest of the group was preparing for an EVP session in the
classroom. We were asking questions directed to a child spirit that is said to
be there. After listening to the recorder at home I found out that it was
probably the cat setting the K-II meter off because it did not sound like a
It is a shame it takes so long to review
evidence because I would have like to not be misdirected on what others say are
haunting the area. I think it is best to just state the history and maybe point
out the hot spots per say than focusing on what might have been there last week.
Things change and spirits come and go. It would be better if your mind has not
been influenced by past experiences to find out what is there today. Don’t get
me wrong, I love the stories but we should be more open-minded to the
possibility of others there.
As the rest of the group were preparing for the
investigation in the class room a REM Pod was going off for quite some time as
if something might have been touching it. When it comes to electronics they are
not all 100% accurate. I still am a skeptic and see the need to debunk and
verify. I cannot say for sure that it was not a malfunction even though the
batteries were checked after the fact and were fully charged.
With all this, I still find it fascinating to
investigate and enjoy the camaraderie with my fellow investigators. We had a lot
of fun reenacting classroom activities and sometimes you just need to have a
We were in the bedrooms on the second floor
doing an EVP session and a bat had entered the room. I think that was the most
entertainment all night long with the classroom reenactment. Marge was almost on
the floor repeating loudly “I am out of here”. The urge of touching her hair
was over powering. If Mike or I had touched her I believe she would have come
unglued. Good times with GRS.
Wright: This school house in Wisconsin
Rapids has an interesting history and has been known to have paranormal
started off the evening in the basement with an EVP session, there were some
spikes on our K-II meters and a few words from the Ovilus but not much else, and
it was pretty quiet except for the air machine.
we went upstairs to the main floor, the group started a EVP session in the main
class room, Kat and I were sitting in the front hallway by the class room with
our recorders and K-II meters when the K-II meter started going off
intermittently, Kat said she kept feeling something rubbing up against her leg
similar to a cat.
REM pod in the class room started going off so Kat and I joined the other
members of our team for a class room reenactment, during the duration of the
session the REM pod continuously went off.
reviewing the voice recorder there were a few very low whispers and a sound that
seemed be a cat meowing.
the EVP sessions in the attic there were some unusual readings on the Tri-Field
Meter and the Ovilus.
than some excitement with a bat on the second floor I did not get any unusual
meter reading or EVPs.
was an interesting location and would like to go back in the future to do
Para: GRS investigated the First Ward School on August 30, 2014. Members
present were I, Dale, Marge, Kat and Mike. The building dates back to 1896 and
is in very good shape.
We did a thorough walk through with the owners that
included the history of the school and reported paranormal activity.
The basement proved to be very interesting. We did
an EVP session in a small room that is believed to have a portal in it. We had
three K-II meters lined up in there along with two Melmeters. During the entire
session we got all meters registering high and then low in sync with each other.
This kept happening several times all during out time investigating that room.
We could not debunk this. Among other noteworthy audio in this area we also
heard a whistle, which was consistent with what we were told about the spirit of
a janitor who whistles and is said to reside in the basement.
The most active room in the building that night was
the first floor classroom. We decided to do a session of role playing there with
“teacher and students.” I placed my REM-POD on a podium at the front of the
room and almost immediately it began to react. We quickly changed the location
of our video camera that was set up on the other end of the room, to document
this. We began our session and the REM POD continued reacting for approximately
10 minutes. If this was not exciting enough, as our “teacher” began taking
roll call of the “students” the Ovilus clearly said “here” immediately
after one of our team called “here” in response to his name. There is no
doubt in my mind we had some curious children interacting with us in this room
that night. This room also gave me full blown goose bumps at one point. Also, my
REM POD was set off again later that night at the other end of the same
classroom. This is very interesting to me because I rarely see reaction from
this piece of equipment and even though I had used it in every room we
investigated in the school, the classroom was the only room to set it off. (To
further validate this activity, I later checked the charge of the battery in my
REM POD and it was fully charged.)
Other rooms investigated that night were the attic,
a second floor room and the lobby area inside the front door. That night we got
some very interesting Ovilus responses, some very interesting, but not
necessarily paranormal, noises and EVPs.
I most definitely want to go back to First Ward
School and will absolutely spend the entire night next time!
We did an EVP session in the basement in a room that is called the portal room.
The owners believe there is a portal along that wall.
The Mel Meter went immediately up to 1.2. We had three K-II meters set up
along the wall which were lighting up.
Several of us kept seeing a blue light along that wall.
At one point we decided to turn on the Ovilus X.
Dale turned on the Ovilus X and all the equipment along the wall stopped.
Later they did resume. The
REM pod was also on the floor along the wall but did not go off.
Kindergarten Classroom Kathie
put the REM pod on the podium in the front of the classroom and it immediately
went off. We decided to start
a EVP session. We started with roll
call. When Dale's name was called
the Ovilus II responded with "here".
Also informed us that Elizabeth was not here.
EVP session in the attic
Next we moved onto the room
with the beds. In here we decided to
use the Spirit Box SB-11. For
the first few minutes we had a bat flying around the room. Once
he made his way out of the room we closed the door and we were able to start our
session. At one point I saw a
blue light on one of the beds. I was
unable to debunk. Otherwise was
Last we did an EVP session
in the lobby. I was sitting on the
stairs going outside. I had a
perfect view of the kindergarten classroom.
At one point I saw as shadow in the classroom.
Kaczmarek: This was a great
place to investigate and we will definitely be back again to spend the night!
Besides all various EMF equipment reacting at the same time along the wall in
the portal room, Kathie’s REM Pod proximity probe going off on the podium in
the Kindergarten Room, a very distinct “Here” from the Ovilus X during a
Roll Call and what I believe I heard in the basement that was faintly picked up
on my video camera during our initial walkthrough; this place is amazing!
classroom.MPG – during an EVP session in the Kindergarten Room a disembodied
voice is heard at the end of the clip saying, “Bang bang.”
cooking.MPG – during an Ovilus X session in the basement, a question was
asked, “What was your job here at the school?” The Ovilus responds with,
foyer.MPG – during our initial walkthrough and while standing in the foyer, a
catlike sound is heard at the end of the clip.
first ward schoolhouse.MPG – during an Ovilus X session in the Attic, a
question is asked, “Can you tell us your name?” The Ovilus responds with,
first ward schoolhouse.MPG – while conducting an Ovilus X session in the
Kindergarten Room we conducted a Roll Playing session where Dale was the teacher
and the other researchers were students. Roll Call was then conducted. Kathie
started the Roll Call by calling out, “Dale are you here?” I said here and
immediately afterwards the Ovilus responded with, “Here.”
not classroom.MPG – during an EVP session in the Kindergarten Room, a
researcher says an item “Is mine” and the EVP clearly says, “It’s
anomaly first ward schoolhouse.MPG – a static camera set up in the Family Room
and facing the door where the little girl’s apparition had appeared to Justin
and opened the door, a faint light anomaly appears to come from the direction of
the door and head along the floorboard, slightly illuminating it.
classroom.MPG – during an EVP session in the Kindergarten Room, a question was
asked about the Boys chart or the Girls chart, and the EVP says, “Math.”
first ward schoolhouse.MPG – during an Ovilus X session in the Kindergarten
Room, a question was asked, “Anyone want to play with crayons?” The Ovilus
responds with, “Me.”
here bedroom.MPG – during an EVP session in the Family Room, a comment was
made, “So, wherever you want this Dale?” The EVP responds with, “Over
Pod going off first ward schoolhouse.MPG – the REM Pod was positioned on the
podium in the front of the Kindergarten Room and almost immediately the
proximity sensor began to actuate.
stop first ward schoolhouse.MPG – the REM Pod begins to slowly stop actuating,
indicating that it wasn’t something in the room affecting it, otherwise it
would have been constantly going off. No external parameters were changed.
stop asshole first ward schoolhouse.MPG – after a few items were touched on
the podium, the Ovilus responds with, “Asshole!”
hanged.MPG – during an EVP session in the Attic, a question was asked, “Did
somebody get hanged?” A faint response in the background says, “No.”
it first ward schoolhouse.MPG – during an EVP session in the Family Room, a
loud noise is followed by a voice that clearly says, “Stop it!”
sound first ward schoolhouse.MPG – during our initial walkthrough in the
basement dining room area, I distinctly heard a whining sound coming from an
adjacent room. I quickly spun the camera around and entered that room. You can
faintly hear that sound towards the beginning of the clip.
is a location that definitely needs to be reinvestigated with additional
equipment, a Command Center and static cameras as there are just too many
hotspots for investigators to cover manually. I believe that much more credible
evidence could be collected in this many and additional experiments performed.
Besides the resident bat, which spooked some in the Family Room, there could be
real apparitions captured on static cameras set up throughout the building and
additional audio clips using the GhostMic and the G.E.I.S.T. unit.
I look forward to our next investigation of this most haunted schoolhouse!
Ghost Research Society (www.ghostresearch.org)
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