We made it past All Hallow’s Eve and lived to tell about it. A few of our projects had us sweating a little, but we’re out of the proverbial woods now.
Our redevelopment and brownfield work often takes us to places with historic and colorful pasts – old warehouses, century-old buildings, abandoned hospital sites – providing good fodder for ghostly stories. Read on for some chilling firsthand accounts from our staff on the scene that highlight our top five spooky work sites.
Established in 1896, the historic Meeker Hotel has hosted a variety of characters, including our 26th president, Teddy Roosevelt, and, allegedly, famed outlaw Billy the Kid. The walls of this northwest Colorado hotel are decorated with elk and mule deer heads and artifacts of past guests. Ayres Associates’ urban planning team spent time in the Meeker Hotel while working on a strategic plan for the Main Street organization. Although no spirits were encountered, Ayres planner Barbara Kloth noted that the doorknob to her room was reluctant to let her leave….
Home of Ayres’ Wyoming office, this building is reported to have several ghostly spirits, according to property owner Sue Miller. The upper floors were restored after a devastating fire in 2004, and the creaky wood floors set the appropriate tone for supernatural encounters. A museum on the second floor highlights the story of Tom Horn, a suspected cattle rustler who was coerced by questionable means and a bit of whiskey to confess to the crime.
#3 Lake Shawnee Amusement Park, Rock, West Virginia
Located a few miles from our client in Princeton, West Virginia, this site has a well-documented dark past.
Ayres is just wrapping up a brand strategy for Princeton’s downtown and looks forward to exploring revitalization of other historic buildings in the area soon (and additional haunting stories for next Halloween).
#2 Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin
Rumor has it, the Beaver Dam Community Theatre is home to the ghost of a disgruntled actress named Lucy, who hanged herself in the loft after being turned down for a part. Some have reported hearing footsteps and a woman weeping in the loft. Just down the road is the former Beaver Dam Lake View Hospital, where we’ve done some first-person site investigation. Built in 1909 as a personal mansion, it became a veterans hospital that was operated into the 1980s. Currently in a state of disrepair, walking through it will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Stories of boaters who looked up to the hospital to see a waving figure that disappeared are lurking on the web. Is it haunted? We’re not sure, but Ayres staff reported feeling watched as we completed our site work under a Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Grant we wrote for the City of Beaver Dam.
Well, perhaps there’s no truly haunting element to this one, but this project earns our No. 1 placement for its name alone. The Ghost Train is dubbed “an artistic sensory experience” at the Oak Leaf Trail Bridge and Capitol Drive in Shorewood, Wisconsin. The public art display commemorates the history of the Twin Cities 400 train that traveled through Shorewood from 1935 to 1963. The first-of-its-kind public art installation enables visitors to travel back in history, imagining the round-trip journey as the Ghost Train lights up and “travels” across the bridge over Capitol Drive twice per day, once in each direction. Coordinated with sound effects, the display gives the illusion of a train traveling over the bridge at 50 mph. It made its inaugural journey on October 31, 2016, and every Halloween – yesterday included – residents can attend “Night of the Ghost Train,” featuring a costume contest, ghost stories, refreshments, and a Ghost Train program.
Ayres entered the picture early in the process, helping the Village of Shorewood gain approvals from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the City of Milwaukee, and Milwaukee County for the installation and operation of the light graphic. Our firm also provided services related to nearby traffic signal operations and timings to promote safe viewing of the art by motorists and pedestrians. An Ayres blog post from earlier this year offers more information and a link to a video to “see” the Ghost Train with your own eyes – if you dare.