Sunday, October 20, 2013

Day - er Night - hike trail haunted by Wisconsin’s most famous ghost

Wisconsin’s most famous ghost allegedly haunts a segment of the Military Ridge State Trail, which can be day (or night) hiked. The Ridgeway Phantom has been scaring travelers on what used to be the famous Ridge Road since the 1840s.

To reach the trail, from U.S. Hwys. 18 and 151 just east of Ridgeway, turn northwest onto Hi-Point Road, which becomes County Road Hhh. At the County Road H intersection, park in a gravel lot at the junction's northwest corner; follow County Road H about 100 feet to the trail.

Mother's revenge?
Before hitting the tail, however, continue past to the Eastside Cemetery on the road's right side…if you dare. You’ll find headstones there dating to the 19th century.

Head back to the trail, going a right/southwest onto it through the edge of town. Since the late 1800s, travelers on the Ridge Road between Blue Mounds (to the northeast) and Mineral Point (to the southwest) have reported a number of spectres, ranging from a headless man and animals to an old woman and balls of light.

These ghosts allegedly are the different forms that the Ridgeway Phantom took before it attacked travelers. The attacks grew so numerous that for a quarter century many travelers refused to take the road at night or without an armed escort.

The Ridgeway Phantom may be the mother of two teenage boys who suffered gruesome deaths at McKillip’s Saloon in downtown Ridgeway. One night in the 1840s, a bunch of drunken toughs tossed one of the boys into the fireplace where he burned to death. The other teen froze to death after fleeing the saloon. Others believe the phantom is the boy burned in the fire, as he was given a less than respectful burial the next day.

Doc Cutler's scare
After passing downtown, head into a wooded area for the middle third of the trail. Among the most famous sightings on this stretch of the Ridge Road occurred when Doc Cutler of Dodgeville would take his buggy to Ridgeway for a house call. The phantom often jumped on the buggy’s tongue and stared at the doctor – who soon started taking another road to Ridgeway!

Upon reaching the Temes Court road, turn back, following the trail to your parking lot for a 1.2-mile round trip.

Sightings of the Ridgeway Phantom apparently ended in 1910 after the town burned down; apparently the ghost had its revenge. Still, others say the phantom remains out there in the Ridgeway woods, and if you listen carefully, you’ll hear its howl in the chilled night air.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.