Der Rathskeller Investigation

Fred Goetz, a Merrill, Wisconsin native started the establishment back in 1931. He started by serving sausages, cheeses, bread and caviar but then around 1937 or 1938 added tables and chairs and began to serve beer and liquor as well. Fred met Irma in 1920 and they fell in love. They later married and had two children; Lucy and Ray. He later served in the military as a Quartermaster Sergeant in World War I in Camp Grant but was a conscientious objector due to the fact that he was of German decent and refused to fight against his native soil. 

On or about January 3rd or 4th, 1947 a car driven by Lucy ran into a semi-truck and Irma was ejected from the vehicle and the truck crushed her skull, killing her instantly. Lucy was seriously injured in the accident and had to have a nurse take care of her for a while. They hired Bertha Ritter as Lucy’s nurse and evidently Fred and Bertha married in 1948.  Ray became a Navy pilot and then later a lawyer.

Fred kept the place until 1970 when he retired and then the nieces of Bertha, Jim and Joanne Valentine, took it over.  The building was eventually purchased in 1976 by Dick and Betty Giesen and son, Michael DuPre. A fire devastated a portion of the building in 2000 but it was rebuilt and later a beer garden was added in 2009.


Address: 1132 Auburn St., Rockford, IL 61103       

Telephone: 815-963-2922

Owners: Dick & Betty Giesen and Michael DuPre


Many employees and the owners have had paranormal experiences in various parts of the restaurant, but especially in the basement and first floor. The sounds of people walking around are often heard on the first floor when everyone is in the basement at the time. Napkins have been reported unfolding from the silverware by waitresses after they have been placed on the tables. Shadows are seen in the basement from time to time.

A manager, Steve, claimed on at least one occasion in the basement to have walked through an intensely cold area. It resembled walking into their deep freeze unit! Owner, Mike, has his name called through the speakers which weren’t on at the time. He quickly got his keys and left the building! Silverware has fallen from silverware trays. When employees reached down for the utensils, they were found underneath tables.

There is a false wall in the basement discovered in the 1980s where Fred apparently used to hide his liquor. Since this restaurant was opened up when Prohibition was still around, it’s not hard to imagine establishments still serving illegal alcohol to patrons.





The Ghost Research Society most recently investigated the Der Rathskeller on March 21, 2015 and the team members included: Dale Kaczmarek with help from psychics Paul Smith and Sara Bowker and Kathi Kresol of Haunted Rockford. This was a public event.









Equipment setup: Only hand-held equipment was used; Ovilus X, Melmeter, digital camera, IR camcorder.

Experiments performed:
The place was just too noisy for EVP sessions and those would have been contaminated. I shot still pictures, scanned for anomalous EMF readings but found none and used the Ovilus X, mostly in dictionary mode in the basement area near the secret storage area underneath the stairs and the downstairs dining room.

 Personal experiences: I personally did not feel anything unusual nor did the Melmeter pick up any readings or temperature fluctuations at all, even with the proximity probe. The creepiest area however seemed to be the downstairs dining room especially underneath the stairwell. Even there, however, no readings were encountered. I made a very fast but thorough sweep of the building in the time allowed.

Sara Bowker: She says she saw small shadows in the basement and glasses moving around. She also sensed it was a deli at one time and encountered a woman who she described as elegant with short hair in curls.

Paul Smith: Paul picked up a gentleman and prior to arriving had sketched what he believed was some kind of military patch. Through comparison, it was discovered to be a Quartermasters Sergeant insignia and he picked up the initials F.G.

He also was in contact with a woman who was constantly asking, “Where are my cabinets?” She also was very curt and concise when commenting, “That does not belong here.”  Also picked up was her saying, “Meat and sausages.”

Another woman who he described as very kind and was called, Bertha, said, “Don’t forget about me.” She apparently likes what they’ve done to with the building.

Paul also picked up something that might have to be researched and documented. He envisioned a scene from the mid-1940s of a building with literally “wall to wall children” who were dying. It apparently has something to do with aircraft flying over because he heard someone saying, “They’re spraying again.”

While visiting the basement, Paul saw children playing with the old dumb waiter and mothers crying for their kids.

Evidence collected:
No actual evidence was recorded since I never bothered to switch on my digital recorder because of the background noise of the people in the building having dinner at the time and others from the event constantly roaming about. However, as soon as I turned on the Ovilus X in dictionary mode, the first word it said was, “Bar.” I found that to be interesting because of where I was at the time. Other names were also mentioned; “Jo” and even “Satan” came through.

I was coming up the stairs, the Ovilus X said, “Leader” and then, “Lead.” The other words spoken were apparently not relevant to the building, history or questions I asked.

Conclusions: The restaurant was quite small and crowded that evening making it impossible to conduct a serious investigation of the site. The history and hauntings told by both Michael and Kathi were interesting and this would definitely worth another visit perhaps after the restaurant was closed for the evening with no patrons to interfere with the investigation. There very well could be some valid and interesting data that might be obtained under these circumstances.

I know I would like to try again, with my team sometime in the future, with the restaurant owner’s permission.

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