Monday, April 13, 2015

Case Study No. 1890: Karen Weston

The Witches of Whitewater - "The Librarian Sessions"
Watch all our full-length interview outtakes from ReelLifeTV's documentary "The Witches of Whitewater."
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"The Witches of Whitewater"
Extended Interview Outtakes #5
"The Librarian"

[scene opens with an older woman ("Karen Weston, Archivist, UW-Whitewater Library") holding a large book in the stacks of the Andersen Library's archives, speaking directly to the camera]
KAREN WESTON: I have the locked book.
[she smiles]
KAREN WESTON: One of ... The only book we have that comes anywhere near the description of the book that will kill you if you open it, but it's a Catholic missal.
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] Well, it looks kinda ominous.
[she looks down at the book and smiles]
KAREN WESTON: No, actually it's just a hymnal.
[cut to the archivist placing the book down on a table]
KAREN WESTON: As you can see, it has latches, which is the only thing--
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] So you promise if I open this book, or you open this book, we're not gonna commit suicide?
KAREN WESTON: Not as far as I know ... Uh, it's a good example of the book art, but it's not even a particularly old book. It's from the Eighteen Nineties.
[she undoes the latches on the book]
KAREN WESTON: It was, as I understand it, in a monastery in Iowa. The monastery closed, an alumni of Whitewater saw it and thought the college might like it, bought it and gave it to us.
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] Just for the record, I'm keeping my eyes closed when you open that.
[she laughs, then opens the book]
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] Wow.
[he moves the camera closer as she flips through the pages]
KAREN WESTON: Uh, the infamous locked book. They never give us a title, an author, a publisher, a date, anything that would identify a book, so--
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] Are you talking about this particular book?
KAREN WESTON: Any ... No, the supposed locked book that will kill you if you open it.
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] Well--
KAREN WESTON: They have never given us any kind of identifiying information.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Tell us what happens when people come in looking for it. What's the typical ... or is there a typical? I imagine you get--
KAREN WESTON: I pull it out, they sort of look at it and say ... "Oh."
[she laughs]
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Do they just come in and say, "I wanna see the book?"
KAREN WESTON: Yes, I have had that happen.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] And who is it? Who would--
KAREN WESTON: Generally just students.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Students?
KAREN WESTON: A lotta times the RP ... The RP tends to assign an article about it every year, so we almost always get somebody from the RP in to see it every year. I tend to show it to the archives classes when they're in here for tours.
[she closes the book]
KAREN WESTON: Uh, I do four to ... three to five archives-related instructional sessions, and we often pull it out for them.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Because it's--
KAREN WESTON: Because it's campus myth, and--
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] So it has its own history, in addition to the history that it brought to campus with it.
KAREN WESTON: We ... We think that part of the reason for the campus legends, and that's one of the things you're here to talk to me about, is that back before the renovation in Nineteen Eighty Nine, this whole area out here--
[she points off camera]
KAREN WESTON: Where there are now periodicals, was a storage area for the library. A locked storage area for the library. Within that locked room, which had government documents and university archive materials, a lot of it was in a small caged area which is where we kept the university's special collections. So it was locked in a cage.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Mm hmm.
KAREN WESTON: And I think that's where part of the story--
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] That makes sense.
KAREN WESTON: Story came, because you had ... If you wanted something out of special collections, you went to the circulation desk for the government documents librarian, and somebody had to get keys out. They had to cross a hall, go over and open one door to get into the storage area, and open a third door to get into this locked area, and then of course the students couldn't come and look at it. We went in, pulled something out, re-locked all the doors, and brought it over, and they used it in the reading room for government documents.
[cut to another shot of the archivist being interviewed]
KAREN WESTON: I think that's where a lot of it came from. And, of course, there was the time they did find a casket on the university mall. I wasn't here then ... uh, that had been dug up.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Mm hmm.
KAREN WESTON: I think from Calvary Cemetery, I believe I was told. And yes, the three cemeteries do make an isosceles triangle, but I don't think the Catholics were talking to the Congregationalists when they built their cemetery.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Probably not.
[she laughs]
KAREN WESTON: And Oak Grove is older than the other two, to begin with. The original cemetery in Whitewater is actually underneath where the Congregational Church now is. When the Congregationalists decided to build that church, they moved the graves there over to what is now Oak Grove. Uh, Oak Grove was used for burials for a long time. Uh, it isn't really anymore.
[she smiles]
KAREN WESTON: Our Revolutionary War veterans are there.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Mm hmm.
KAREN WESTON: I think both of our War of Eighteen Twelve veterans may also be there, I'd have to check on that.
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] What about, um ... is there supposed to be witches buried there? Rumors? Is there any--
KAREN WESTON: Uh, that's a "rumor."
[she makes air quotes with her fingers]
KAREN WESTON: Uh, supposedly the witches were ... up around the Starin Water Tower, is where they usually met. My guess is they were probably KKK members. I mean, in the dark the cloaks would look similar.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Mm.
[she starts closing the latches on the book]
KAREN WESTON: We know Whitewater had a strong KKK chapter back in the Nineteen Twenties. The, uh, county president of the KKK was found dead on the lawn of the Methodist Church ... back sometime in the Twenties. I could look it up for you, but I don't know the date off the top of my head.
[she pauses]
KAREN WESTON: I personally think that's where some of the "witch" things came from, was people parading around in their cloaks from that.
[she picks up the book and brings it back to the shelf]
KAREN WESTON: Uh, there may have been other ... y'know, social groups that wore robes for their meetings. I've been here almost thirty years, I've never met anybody who was--
[she turns back to the camera]
KAREN WESTON: Other than the campus, the community itself ... well, they're now starting to use it as a publicity thing.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Mm hmm.
KAREN WESTON: In fact, if you talk to the Chamber of Commerce, they had a big spirit tour last week.
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] We were there.
KAREN WESTON: Oh, you were? Okay ... Um, and of course, the spiritual school was here. Spiritualism was a religious movement in the nineteenth century. It had nothing to do with witches, it did have something to do with ghosts, apparently. Or mediums, spirit talking.
[she coughs]
KAREN WESTON: But the people who settled this part of Wisconsin were from the area in upstate New York where a lot of religious fervor was going on.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Mm hmm.
KAREN WESTON: The spiritualists were a very powerful group at the same time the Mormons were starting. The Millenarians, a number of other groups you never hear about. Now, the Shakers come out of that same general area.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Yes.
KAREN WESTON: Uh, the temperance movement comes out of that area. Womens' rights comes outta that area.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Mm hmm.
KAREN WESTON: Uh, anti-slavery was very strong there. And all of those people came here to Wisconsin, so it's not surprising they brought the spiritualism with them. Morris Pratt was a spiritualist, also a cousin of one of the founders of Whitewater. He himself was more over towards Milton, but y'know, he was a committed spiritualist. He said that, y'know, if the spirits helped him make this major business investment up in the U.P., he would build a school for spiritualism. Which, apparently, also was his home. So, y'know, he hit it big up on the U.P.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Mm hmm.
KAREN WESTON: Uh, don't remember whether it was copper or iron, but y'know, a major mineral investment up there ... Uh, came back here, and built his school. And when he died, it went to the Spiritual Society. It was here until the Thirties, when they sort of ran out of money. Well, with a lot of other groups in the Depression.
[cut to another shot of the archivist being interviewed]
KAREN WESTON: There is still a Morris Pratt Institute in Milwaukee, which ... feels that it is directly connected with the school here. The school here was--
[she coughs]
KAREN WESTON: Was used as a college dorm in the Forties, before we had any on campus.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Mm hmm.
KAREN WESTON: And, um, was torn down sometime in the Sixties to make way for a telephone building.
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] Uh--
KAREN WESTON: And there's a picture of it out in the main room.
[she points off camera]
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] Yeah, I saw that coming in. Uh, back to the witches' book ...
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] Where do you think the legend of anybody that read it would commit suicide, or had committed suicide?
KAREN WESTON: I dunno, that was ... that was in force before I ever became archivist. I don't know where that part of it's coming from.
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] Any thoughts on that?
KAREN WESTON: I just think it's silly. I mean, this is an old New England town in many ways. This is not the kinda thing your average New England stern Congregationalist or Presbyterian is gonna give any credence to whatsoever. Uh, y'know, this was an anti-slavery town. This was a temperance town. Uh, it was a suffrage area. We have some evidence that, y'know, the suffrage movement was very well-supported in Whitewater quite early. Um, we may have been a stop on the Underground Railroad. We have no evidence, but certainly Milton was.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Mm hmm.
KAREN WESTON: The people who settled here would not have tolerated ... you know, witchcraft. It just, it would not have settled here.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] They had a hard time with just the spiritualist school, didn't they?
KAREN WESTON: A lot of them did, yes.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] There was a lot of upheaval in town, I know, when he chose this--
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] As the ... as the cornerstone for it.
[cut to another shot of the archivist being interviewed]
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] You don't collect history--
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] But you're the caretaker for it here.
KAREN WESTON: I collect it, too.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] You do?
KAREN WESTON: Collect local history, yes. A large percentage--
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Well, you sound like you have a passion for it, definitely.
KAREN WESTON: Uh, I have two degrees in history. I have an undergraduate degree in ... basically, we call it an Atlantic major, but primarily American history. That was from Mount Holyoke College, where I did my undergraduate work. And then I have a masters' degree in history from Madison.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] So when you are locking up at night, or when you're looking through the shelves, what's going through your mind as history? What's going through your mind as legacy? What's going through your mind as not legends and lore and superstition and student ... Do you understand, though, how this is so appealing to kids?
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] And how do you feel about that personally?
KAREN WESTON: I'm more of a genealogy ... My personal area, when I'm looking at the stacks, is genealogy.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Mm hmm.
KAREN WESTON: I've been doing family history for forty ... more than forty years. A lotta the patrons I help are genealogists, who are looking for their families. So I know a lot about the families in the Whitewater area, because I've been helping those people since I've been archivist, which is almost, which is twenty years.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Twenty years.
[cut to another shot of the archivist being interviewed]
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Can you tell me, in terms of those twenty years, have ... the kids who have come in, or the general public who's come in looking for information on Morris Pratt--
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Or on the superstitions and legends, have you seen the legends build? And add--
KAREN WESTON: A little bit.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] A little bit?
KAREN WESTON: A little bit.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Like, have they changed over the years at all?
KAREN WESTON: No, it's pretty much the same superstitions we've had.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Okay.
KAREN WESTON: The university ... my predecessor, or not my predecessor directly, but the head of reference when I came, had started a file or articles and things that were talking about the spiritualists.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] The spiritualists, okay.
KAREN WESTON: The spiritualists, uh, haunted Whitewater. This has been ... questions have been coming to the reference desk, I think, y'know, at least back into the Fifties.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Mm hmm. Okay.
KAREN WESTON: So the reference department knows it's coming every year. If we see something, we clip it. If we see something on the web, we mark that. Y'know, made a note of that. I think there's been more recently because of that "haunted Whitewater" movie they were gonna make a couple of years back, Witches of Whitewater--
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] What happened to that, do you know?
[cut to another shot of the archivist being interviewed]
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] I couldn't find out what happened ... I mean, it looks like they did a lotta filming, but anyway.
KAREN WESTON: Yeah, well ... and the place doesn't look anything at all like Whitewater--
[she laughs]
KAREN WESTON: Since there's fountains in the picture!
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] So, so what ... Do you believe any of this? Do you believe in the witches' book?
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] Or ... I mean, do you think it's all--
KAREN WESTON: I, I don't ... Let's put it this way.
[she pauses]
KAREN WESTON: I am not closed to the idea of there being ... ghosts, in particular. Um, the spiritualists certainly believed in them, y'know? I live in a house that's a hundred and fifty years old. There are noises in the night that I don't know what's causing them.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Mmm.
KAREN WESTON: Uh, I'm not gonna go investigate 'em ... Put it this way. I have never spoken to somebody who has been a resident of Whitewater, for more than ten years, who even gives any of this any credence at all. Um, I'm good friends with Carol Cartwright, who's the museum curator for the local museum, who talked about Morris Pratt and things at the spiritual tour. Carol's never really heard anything. We think it's a lot of stuff that just goes back to the spiritual school, the Underground Railroad, and the Ku Klux Klan.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Kinda the perfect storm ...
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] And also, people dip in and--
KAREN WESTON: People dip in and pull things out.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Yeah.
KAREN WESTON: It's like, I guess they did something with Mary Worth at this tour. I have been through every census record for Whitewater for the appropriate period, there is no Mary Worth in any census record. We don't know where this is coming from.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] But there is a legend about Mary Worth and--
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Can you tell us a little bit about that?
KAREN WESTON: I really don't know much about it.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Okay.
KAREN WESTON: Other than the issue is supposed to be a murderer.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Oh.
KAREN WESTON: And supposedly there's a gravestone up in Calvary Cemetery, which ... y'know, if she is, she's not in the census. She was brought from somewhere else and buried there, if there's a Mary Worth in that cemetery. And I think, I can show you the cemetery list, I don't think there is one even in the cemetery list. So--
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Well, you would know.
[she laughs]
KAREN WESTON: I've got it out at the desk, if you wanna look at it.
[she heads out towards the desk, as the camera follows her]
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] You said there's a file that you keep ... um, it's mainly on the Pratt Institute, but you also have--
[the archivist stops]
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] You kinda just use it as a catch-all?
KAREN WESTON: It's all the ... Yes, we use it for all the haunted Whitewater stuff.
[cut to the archivist pointing at a poster hanging on the wall, which reads "Andersen Library's Haunted Book Panel Discussion"]
KAREN WESTON: Last year, or actually three years ago now, we did a haunted book panel.
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] Ooh!
[the camera zooms in on the poster]
KAREN WESTON: We had Linda Godfrey come, who's written a number of things on haunted Wisconsin. And there are plenty of people who write about haunted Wisconsin, we must have five or six books in the special collections on that topic. And they're down here because they'd get stolen if they were upstairs.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Really? Makes sense.
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] We had Linda here last week shooting.
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] Because she went to school here, she's got a history--
KAREN WESTON: Yeah, she did a lot of her research here.
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] Yes.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] She told us a story about being in Wells ...
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Um, she lived in Wells, and my daughter goes here now and she said that, y'know, that the kids talk about Wells being haunted--
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] And, I mean, I think every university has--
KAREN WESTON: And see, as an archivist, as a faculty member, I'm not in the dorms.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Sure.
KAREN WESTON: I don't know what's going on in the dorms.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Right, right.
KAREN WESTON: I only hear what the students come in and bring me ... and we had a student do a video a couple of years ago about haunting in Whitewater, which was quite well done. I don't know--
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Was it for a project, or--
KAREN WESTON: I think it's on YouTube somewhere.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] Oh, we'll have to take a look at that.
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] Yeah, right?
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] But so, do the kids come in and say--
[cut to another shot of the archivist being interviewed]
PHIL BONYATA: [from off camera] The Underground Railroad, are there underground tunnels that are in Whitewater? Or--
KAREN WESTON: There are, in some of the older homes. Particularly some of the old Cream City brick homes, like the Hamilton house and the house ... I think it's the old Edgar Brickson, some of the older homes in Whitewater have bricked-in cellars. And it's possible that they were used, some of them are old enough to have been used by the Underground Railroad. We have no evidence in Whitewater.
[cut to another shot of the archivist being interviewed]
KAREN WESTON: Y'know, I'd have a lot more belief in this haunted book, which of course they say we aren't giving the right book anyway, if they had an author or a title or a publisher, or something. A date.
JESSICA FRANZENE: [from off camera] So, if they came in with more specific information?
KAREN WESTON: We'd certainly look and see if we ever had a book by that information. Um, but with what we're given, most librarians say, "Oh, it's just ... they're just being weird again."
[she laughs]

"The Witches of Whitewater"
Complete Interview Sessions #5
"The Librarian"

Produced by ReelLifeTV &
The Lake Geneva Regional News

To see our full length documentary
"The Witches of Whitewater" go to
www dot ReelLifeTV dot net
Facebook - The Witches of Whitewater
www dot witchesofwhitewater dot com (Coming soon)

Stay tuned for additional extended
outtakes in the coming weeks



What most of us know about Whitewater are of a fine university, great parks and our old neighbors to the north located in the northwest corner of Walworth County, Wisconsin. But, what many of us don't know are the things that lurk in the shadows there and ignite the subconscious in uncharted areas deep in the mind. The sleepy college town, also known as the Second Salem, is rife with legends of witches and other paranormal activities.



The Witches of Whitewater

Documentary | 23min

Produced by ReelLife TV & The Lake Geneva Regional News

Filmed and Edited by Phil Bonyata & Jessica Franzene

Narration by Chris Schultz and
co-written by Jessica Franzene

Production Assistant
Emily Franzene - Costa

Filmed on location in Whitewater, Wisconsin

Special thanks to:
Author Linda Godfrey
The U.S. Paranormal Research Team
Pagan Spirituality Student Organization
UW-Whitewater Library and Campus Police
City of Whitewater Water Dept.
Jerry Wendt owner of Victoria-On-Main B&B
Christ Christon - Second Salem Brewing Company
& Morris Pratt for your unique vision



A history of terror
The Witches of Whitewater
(A paranormal investigation)
Whitewater, WI
October, 19, 2009

Whitewater is rife with dark legends and lore. Some trace the origins of these tales to The Morris Pratt Institute - a Spiritualist college that was founded in 1889.

Morris Pratt purchased the property in 1888 with the vision of having a place where the studies of the occult could be held equally among other respected institutions of learning. The classes taught at the Pratt Institute were Science, Mathematics, and Language, Oratory, Voice and Physical Culture, English and Rhetoric, Bible Exegetics, Higher Criticism, Logic and Parliamentary Law, Comparative Theology and Psychic Culture.

There was a hall that was called "the all white room" where seances were conducted. Whitewater locals called it "The Spook Temple." Surprisingly, the college and wary townsfolk coexisted until the school held its last classes there in 1930s. After that it became a boarding house until it was torn down in the 1960s.

In Morris Pratt's obituary, published in The Whitewater Register in January 1903, Pratt was quoted as saying shortly before his death "Death is neither to be dreaded or feared - in fact, it is only a birth out of the physical body into the spiritual world."

The tales grow even stranger - some believe that there was a coven of witches here in the late 1800s. Local folklore has it that the witches maintained an altar and would hold satanic ceremonies in Oak Grove Cemetery. Perhaps the lure of the supernatural here is the fact that Whitewater's early developers built over early Indian burial grounds.

In fact, the stone water tower in Starin Park is supposedly a place where witches rituals were held. Evil forces are said to be lured to this place. The earlier fence that encircled the water tower had spikes that were pointed inward (to keep the bad forces in rather than to prevent the curious from entering?).

It is believed by many locals that there is a Witch's Triangle. Formed by the three cemeteries in town - Hillside Cemetery, Oak Grove Cemetery and the eerie Calvary Cemetery. Many houses and buildings contained within the perfect isosceles triangle are said to be haunted.

My daughter, her dog Peyton and I decided to investigate the dark and surreal grounds of the Calvary Cemetery. It is believed by many that dogs sense the paranormal before humans do. As we approached the lone gate we noticed the foreboding barbed wire atop the chain link fence that encircled the oblong cemetery. Mary Worth is purported to be buried here. Legend has it that if you say her name three times in front of a mirror at midnight she will kill the summoner in an extremely violent way.

Another interesting inhabitant here is Nellie Horan, a young woman who was accused of poisoning her sister, but acquitted in 1885.

The remains of a baby girl were dug up from these grounds and left on the steps of the university's student center. Some say it was an anti-war protest while others say it was something far more sinister.

As we entered the cemetery the legends started catching up with us - the grey skies appeared bleaker, the wind colder and ordinary sounds became unfriendly. The thought of a UW/Whitewater student who committed suicide by hanging himself there last year also weighed heavily on our thoughts. As we parked the car at the end of the cemetery we walked about 10 feet and our dog started to bark violently.

My daughter and I looked at each other in amazement as his barks intensified. There was nothing we could see that would prompt this people, no animals, but he fixed his attention on one spot...and barked with continuous fury for more than 30 seconds, understanding something that we couldn't or wouldn't. Peyton calmed down after we hurriedly moved on.

It wasn't until later when researching for this story that I found that the student had died in the northeast corner of Calvary Cemetery. Peyton's unusual behavior occurred in the same northeast corner where we started our venture.

The story of "The Witches Book" makes the tales of Whitewater even creepier. There is rumored to be a book written by the witches of Whitewater that if read would result in a nasty death by suicide or go completely insane. There are believed to be at least four student suicides attributed to the turning of it's pages. The book is rumored to be housed and protected under lock and key in the basement of the UW/Whitewater library.

Deronica Goldsmith, Archives Assistant for the Anderson Library said, "The Witches Book" doesn't exist and as far as I know there are or never were witches here in Whitewater." A reliable source, who was once a library assistant at Anderson Library, told me that as part of the hiring process they are instructed to deny the existence of "The Witches Book."

You be the judge. Take a stroll through the Calvary Cemetery on a cold and late afternoon without a companion or walk around the stone water tower in Starin Park a few dizzying times. I promise that you will become disoriented if you look up at the top of the tower the entire time. The curse of the witches or simply vertigo?

Dig deep inside and ask yourself if you are ready to accept the things that could be.



One local community alleged to have a dark past is the subject of a feature film. But is there any truth behind the plot?

Behind lock and key, in the old wing of the university library sit shelves, stocked full of history.

Karen Weston, UW Whitewater's archivist, has fielded questions about one specific book for years.

"Certainly it's a regular reference question," Weston says.

It's also mentioned in a movie trailer.

"Before they were sentenced to death, they wrote a book," a character in the movie trailer says.

The film's title -- The Witches of Whitewater -- boldly claims to be inspired by true events.

"Spiritualism, yes," Weston says, "Witches, I've never seen any evidence, and I've lived here for nearly 25 years."

But Whitewater has a history of seances and psychic studies.

"The Morris Pratt Institute was a school for the study and practice of spiritualism," Carol Cartwright, with the Whitewater Historical Society, says.

One of the area's early settlers founded the school in the 1880s after striking it rich.

"It started out with people who claimed they could communicate with the dead," Cartwright says.

It is perhaps the basis for why some refer to Whitewater as "The Second Salem."

"And every person who opened that book, died," a character in the movie says.

"Supposedly it's in a locked box," Weston says.

Weston says -- the book -- does not exist.

"There was a child's coffin put in the center of the mall long before I came to campus, but it did happen," she says.

And, she says the city's three cemeteries do form a triangle.

"But I don't think anybody planned it that way."

One of the most infamous sites is Starin Park. It is home to the city's oldest water tower.

"Supposedly, at some point, someone saw people dancing around it at night in loose robes," Weston says.

But what does Weston think of The Witches of Whitewater coming to a theater near you... ?

"I can just see my email filling up with questions from people wanting to know what does this mean, and I don't think the university has the budget to pay for an assistant for that," Weston says.



You've probably heard the horror stories or seen the eerie movie trailer about the infamous "Witches of Whitewater." Although it is hard to say what is true about the local tales, during this time of year you can't help but get a dark and creepy feeling.

The urban legend of the witches and spiritual happenings began in the late 19th century, leading Whitewater to become known as the "Second Salem."

It is said that the tales began around 1889, when the Morris Pratt Institute was built in town. The Institute was known for teaching spiritualism, which was a popular belief during the 1800s, and regular lectures were given on psychic subjects and paranormal activities. It is said the building had an "all-white" room that was used to conduct seances.

"That's probably the spookiest thing in Whitewater, the old Morris Pratt school," said Karen Weston, a UW-Whitewater's archivist of 27 years.

The school functioned for about 40 years until it was turned into a telephone office. In 1946, the institute was moved to Milwaukee where it still exists today.

What many people find intriguing is the story about a locked book in the special collections section in the basement of Andersen Library.

Rumors say that the dark contents of the book have driven three students and a professor to kill themselves. According to legend, one person who borrowed the book was locked in a mental institution. Because of this, the book is not hidden under lock and key at the Andersen Library. If you ask to see the book, you will be expelled, or so they say.

"The only locked book we own is actually a Catholic hymnal," Weston said. "We think the stories about it come from the fact that up until 1989, 100 years after the Morris Pratt Institution was founded, the storage we used for the book was a locked cage because it's the only storage unit we had. A locked book in special collections got this image of being dangerous. However, none of the people who have ever talked about this Catholic hymnal have given us a publisher, a title, an another, no date, nothing."

It is unknown if the mysterious book remains unlabeled for a reason or for a coincidence.

Adding to the town's eeriness, Whitewater's three cemeteries have something unusual about them:

Calvary Cemetery, which sits on the northern edge of campus, Oak Grove Cemetery, located up on a hill near next to the Washington Elementary School on the east side of town, and Hillside Cemetery adjacent to Cravath Lake, are positioned in the shape of a perfect isosceles triangle. Legend has it that the "triangle" can be connected to witchcraft.

"There was a coffin of a little girl mysteriously put on campus back in 1970 during Halloween week. People think it was taken from one of these local cemeteries," Weston said.

Oak Grove Cemetery is said to be the final resting place of axe-toting murderess Mary Worth. On Halloween Eve, legend says that Mary can be spotted among the tombstones.

But the haunting stories continue about this small Midwestern town including one about the stone water tower in Starin Park.

Stories say that witches would surround the tower at night, performing rituals in the park. An iron fence was put up around the tower with the barbed wired spikes pointed inward as if it was trying to keep something in, rather than keep people out.

The tower sits just south of Wells Hall, which also has been said to have had many hauntings since it was built the late 1960s.

Wells Hall is not the only student housing that has had questioning stories. In 1981, the girls of the Alpha Sigma sorority heard loud noises coming from the basement while they ate dinner. Bricks of the basement floor were found scattered everywhere when they went to check it out, revealing a never before seen tunnel entrance.

The story says that the tunnel system was used by witches as a way of traveling between the town's oldest mansion-sized homes without being spotted by the civilians.

The most recent story about the witches took place in 1992 when three students witnessed a late-night ritual on the beach near Whitewater Lake, watching the ritual until it appeared as if a huge object was coming out of the lake.

As time passes, the stories become more unusual and persistent, and although they are all undocumented and extremely vague, they do a good job of keeping their creepiness factor haunting students year after year.

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