First Ward Schoolhouse Investigation

Date: August 30, 2014

Address: 1041 12th Street N, Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin 54494

Telephone: 847-347-3359

Owners: Judy Carl and Justin Libigs


GRS Members present: Kathie Para, Marge Sucha, Michael Wright, Katherine Meagher and Dale Kaczmarek   

History: In 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 district. 

   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 since 1979.





Hauntings: Shadow 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.

In 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.

In 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.

On 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 vanish.

In 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. 

On 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.

In 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 it!

In 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.

In 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!

In 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.

In 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 








Equipment setup: No Command Center or equipment was set up, instead handheld equipment was used throughout the investigation.

Experiments 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.

Personal experiences:

Katherine Meagher:  I 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 child.

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 little fun.

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.

Michael Wright: This school house in Wisconsin Rapids has an interesting history and has been known to have paranormal activity.

We 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.

When 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.

The 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.

After reviewing the voice recorder there were a few very low whispers and a sound that seemed be a cat meowing.

In the EVP sessions in the attic there were some unusual readings on the Tri-Field Meter and the Ovilus.

Other than some excitement with a bat on the second floor I did not get any unusual meter reading or EVPs.

This was an interesting location and would like to go back in the future to do another investigation.

Kathie 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!

Marge Sucha: 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 was quiet.  

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 pretty quiet.    

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.  

First Ward School was an interesting place to visit.  It overall had a good feeling.  At the time we made the arrangements to investigate we were unaware you could sleep there.  The place was clean the owners were accommodating.  I would love to go back again. 

Dale 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!

Evidence collected:

Bangbang classroom.MPG – during an EVP session in the Kindergarten Room a disembodied voice is heard at the end of the clip saying, “Bang bang.”

Basement 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, “Cooking.”

Cat foyer.MPG – during our initial walkthrough and while standing in the foyer, a catlike sound is heard at the end of the clip.

Ethan 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, “Ethan.”

Here 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.”

It’s 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 not!”

Light 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.

Math 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.”

Me 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.”

Over 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 here.”

Rem 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.

Rem 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.

Rem stop asshole first ward schoolhouse.MPG – after a few items were touched on the podium, the Ovilus responds with, “Asshole!”

Someone 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.”

Stop 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!”

Whining 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.

Conclusions: This 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!

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