A Haunting In Horicon *long*
Posted 18 June 2005 - 09:56 PM
Me:"So, how's the plumbing?"
Realtor:"Like new, as well as the carpets."
Me:"That's good to hear, is the house haunted?"
Posted 18 June 2005 - 09:59 PM
And btw.. Thanks Guardian!!! That was awesome info to add to the story.
1 witty phrase
1 cool picture
2 links to your sites
Mix together, add some formatting.
Click 'Update my Signature'
*sigh.. I never do anything right*
Posted 18 June 2005 - 11:07 PM
Thanks for sharing the article. It is cool reading all of that having just watched the episode so recently.
Posted 20 June 2005 - 04:38 PM
Posted 01 July 2005 - 09:49 AM
Posted 02 July 2005 - 10:43 PM
That's probably not something that you needed to hear right at that moment, but I sure the priest had good intentions!! This has become one of my new favorite stories. Funny thing was, I was having a really hard time trying to get into the book it was in, but I kept at it, and boy! was I glad I did!!!
Posted 09 January 2006 - 12:01 AM
Thanks for sharing the article. It is cool reading all of that having just watched the episode so recently.
I went out and bought the box set of "Unsolved Mysteries" Scariest Ghost Stories, and this one was on it like you mentioned DaleJr. What the story that I posted left out, was that the haunting began shortly after the use bunk bed they brought was brought upstairs. I thought this was a pretty freaky one!
Posted 22 January 2006 - 01:25 PM
I have been shopping for houses this past summer and one thing I did mention in what to look for and not to look for was that the house could not be haunted, nor could anyone have died in it....
I told this to a local realator.
I never heard back from him...
I do not know if Illinois has that type of law, but the way the guy talked after I told him that was nervous and dissapointing.
Guessing I freaked him out...
Like most cases like this, I wonder if the family still is haunted....?
Posted 21 May 2010 - 09:37 AM
I miss Robert Stack...
On another note, it has been said that the family created the story because they were having financial difficulties. Any thoughts on that?
Posted 21 May 2010 - 11:33 AM
Posted 21 May 2010 - 01:40 PM
Posted 21 May 2010 - 02:52 PM
Posted 21 May 2010 - 03:56 PM
I suppose it's always possible. I have noticed, however, that this seems to be the "go to" claim whenever an alleged haunting becomes somewhat famous.
Posted 04 June 2010 - 06:15 PM
Posted 06 July 2010 - 06:54 AM
And it's also a trend to accuse anyone who questions these kinds of stories of being a non-believer. And I also question why some of these stories become so famous to start with, when there is absolutely NO evidence at all. No one at all except the family seems to have seen, heard, smelled, or otherwise sensed anything at all. We never even hear from the kids, just momma "quoting" the child. All anyone ever presents as "proof" is that the people are so "sincere".
I also question what "deal" the family made with the reporter, because all his "legwork" sounds a lot like illegal invasion of privacy to me. What business did he have calling all the relatives just to get his news story? What deal did he cut with the police chief to cause him to betray the families trust? Or maybe the whole back story of them hiding out is just a front. If no one outside the family saw anything, then how did the news get all over town about the haunted house unless the family told them.
And also I don't feel the pastors reaction was unusual, since that belief seems to be totally in line with his denominations beliefs.
Edited by Judecat, 06 July 2010 - 07:07 AM.
Posted 26 January 2018 - 06:57 AM
Bumping this Ghost Story
Reporting on the haunted house of Horicon
By Barrett J. Brunsman
'Devil be gone'
Douglas D. Glamann, the chief of police of Horicon, Wisconsin, first heard rumours of a ghost in his town on January.
"My nightshift officer came in to see me mid-morning that Thursday and said, 'Did you know that we have a haunted house,' " the chief recalls.
"I said, 'Right. Get outta here.' And I just dismissed it as, you know, someone was just screwing around. I never even bothered to pursue the matter."
By lunch time, five people had asked the chief about the haunted house.
"I was hearing it wherever I went," Glamann says. "I was catching this 'blood is oozing from the wall' and I was very skeptical because I thought, 'If it was your house and you had blood coming out of the walls, wouldn't you call me?' "
The Tallmann family -- husband, wife, two toddlers, and an infant who lived on Larrabee Street -- were the presumptive hauntees. Neither Allen nor Debbie Tallmann had called the chief.
Glamann, who didn't know Allen Tallmann, got on the phone and tracked the man down at work. Tallmann was edgy; he hadn't had much sleep because he had been staying up at night with his kids, who were frightened.
They had reason to be. Tallmann described the unnerving things the family had seen and heard in the four-year-old house since June 1987. On January 11 of this year, the family left home for good and moved in with relatives.
At the chief's urging, Tallmann and his wife came to the police station the next morning, a Friday.
Allen Tallmann sat in a chair, his head down, refusing to make eye contact, Glamann says. The man appeared deeply troubled; Debbie Tallmann's words were punctuated by nervous laughter.
Glamann became convinced that the Tallmanns were serious about what they claimed to have seen. The chief promised to search the house and to shield the family from the press and the public as best he could.
Late that night, however, Glamann and his men were nearly overwhelmed by the onslaught of people who came to gawk at the Tallmann home, a small, three-bedroom ranch house.
Ghost rumors had swept through the crowd at the Friday night basketball game at the local high school. Hundreds of cars swept down Larrabee Street past the Tallmann home. People walked through the yards of the other nine houses on the block, climbing over fences, peering into windows.
Drunks showed up -- they weren't afraid of no ghosts. They tried the doors and windows of the Tallmann home, intent on getting inside to prove their bravery.
When the police ordered the drunks and gawkers to stay away from the house, a few would-be ghostbusters told the cops to "go to hell."
Arrests for disorderly conduct were made; the street was barricaded.
But people began driving around the roadblocks. Others viewed the rear of the house from a parallel street. More arrests were made.
About 2:30 Saturday morning, a man from Waupun, Wisconsin, a small town about 15 miles from Horicon, showed up. After the police stopped him for driving erratically, they noticed he had open beer in the car -- and a Bible.
"I come to help you guys, you're my buddies," the man told police. "I'm going to perform an exorcism on the house and say, 'Devil be gone,' and it's going to be all over, and you guys can go home and go to bed."
"Super," Police Chief Glamann responded. "Thanks." The man was arrested.
Glamann worked more than 21 straight hours, from 8:00 a.m. Friday to 5:30 Saturday morning, as he attempted to keep the lid on and the drunks at bay.
The runaway snowblower
Midnight, Monday, January 25: Milwaukee Sentinel reporter James B. Nelson was alone in his apartment, catching up on some reading, when the telephone rang.
He picked up the phone to find the Sentinel's state editor, Richard Feyrer, on the other end of the line. Feyrer had a peculiar assignment for the reporter: a ghost chase in Horicon, 60 miles northwest of Milwaukee.
Nelson did not second-guess his editor, though the assignment was a far stretch from Nelson's last story: How low-calorie artificial fat developed by the NutraSweet Co. might affect the dairy industry in Wisconsin.
Nelson made the one-hour drive to Horicon early Tuesday morning.
Though it has a population of just 3,800, Horicon is one of Wisconsin's best-known towns, because it lies at the southern end of the Horicon Marsh, a major stopover on the Mississippi Flyway, a migratory route for fowl.
Each fall, Canada geese stop at the marsh for a few days, and sometimes weeks, on their journey to warmer climes. Last fall, more than 400,000 geese were at the marsh during the peak of the migration.
But on that day in late January, most of the giant birds had long ago departed. Instead of geese, the talk was of ghosts and of blood dripping from the ceiling of a house on Larrabee Street, of a hole to hell in the basement of the house, and of a snowblower that had been seen running up and down the driveway by itself.
Unfortunately, Nelson was unable to locate anyone who had seen any of these things.
Nelson stopped at the office of the chief of police, located in the basement of the Horicon Library, just across the street from Fat's Tavern.
The chief wasn't in, so Nelson sat down to wait.
An amazing story
Shortly thereafter, Connie Polzin Dornfeld, a reporter for The Daily Citizen in nearby Beaver Dam, dropped by the chief's office. What's the word on the haunted house? Nelson asked.
Dornfeld showed Nelson a clip from her page?one story from the previous day's edition of The Daily Citizen. The head read: "Haunted House in Horicon?"
The story said: "Rumors have it that furniture is flying about the house, blinds are going up and down, blood is dripping from the ceiling, lights coming on with the power off, writings on the walls, and green lights flashing...."
Says Nelson: "It was the most amazing newspaper story I had ever read."
The article, written in a light style, poured on the details, including reports that "exorcists" had come to Horicon from as far away as California, and that sight-seeing traffic near the house had gotten so bad that the mayor had declared that the commotion was "scaring the hell out of the children" in the neighborhood.
Dornfeld had not used the name of the family in her piece. Nor had she talked to the Tallmanns. Only the chief of police knew where to find them, and he wasn't telling.
When Nelson had first heard about the Horicon ghosts, he had figured -- as had his editor -- that pranksters might be lurking about, rather than ghosts. Nothing much would come of the trip to Horicon, Nelson had thought, other than a funny feature story.
But as Nelson skimmed the Daily Citizen piece, he sensed that a light approach might not be the right one for the Sentinel. If townspeople and others in the area were really that worked up over reports of a haunted house, maybe the Sentinel ought to report the story straight.
Shut down the bar talk
Chief Glamann finally arrived, and he ushered Nelson into his office. The interview was not enlightening.
Yes, there had been reports of a haunted house. Yes, the chief had been in contact with the family. No, he couldn't confirm any of the rumors. No, he wouldn't tell Nelson how to contact the family. In fact, the chief wouldn't even tell the reporter the name of the family.
Glamann wasn't playing fast and loose with the press. He had promised confidentiality; that promise was the only thing that had persuaded the Tallmanns to talk to him.
But Nelson was undaunted. He walked the five feet from the chief's office to the city clerk's office, where he ran a tax check on the address of the house, which he had obtained from the Daily Citizen reporter. The computer check, which took about 15 seconds, told Nelson the name of the house's owner, Allen Tallmann, the purchase price of the house, how much Tallmann paid annually in taxes, how long the family had lived there, and the name of the previous owner.
Then Nelson pushed on to South Larrabee Street, just a little more than a half mile from the police station. The reporter found the home, but he discovered that the family had moved out.
Neighbors said they didn't know where the Tallmanns had gone. And, no, the neighbors hadn't noticed anything strange about the house. Only one neighbor told the reporter that the family had mentioned weird events. But all the neighbors had heard the rumors.
Nelson then drove to the manufacturing plant where Allen Tallmann worked. Tallmann had taken a few days off, the reporter was told.
Nelson drove to several churches in the community, trying to find out where the family worshipped and whether church officials knew anything about the haunted house. The reporter tracked down the family's church, but the pastor refused to speak about the matter.
Then, it was on to the Dodge County clerk's office in Juneau, some 15 miles from Horicon. Nelson figured the couple's marriage license might provide a lead - the names of relatives with whom the family might be staying.
He hit paydirt. The marriage license included the names of the couple's parents, as well as the names of other relatives. Nelson then had the birth certificates of the Tallmann family members pulled, looking for any other details that might aid him in learning more about the Tallmanns and where they might be staying.
Armed with that background information, Nelson began calling relatives. Some hung up on him after he identified himself and said he was looking into the haunted house story; others seemed interested. In any event, the reporter succeeded in leaving the message that he would like to speak to Allen and Debbie Tallmann.
Nelson returned to the police station about 4:00 in the afternoon. He had amassed a lot of detail and a lot of hearsay, but he still didn't have enough information for the kind of story he wanted to file. So he had decided to take another crack at the chief.
"What in the name of God is going on around here," Nelson asked Glamann. "Rumors, rumors, rumors. I can't believe some of the crap that's flying around this town. Things are way out of hand."
The rumors were so bizarre that it was no wonder people were rushing to Horicon to take a gander at the house, Nelson said to the chief.
If the family would speak to the press, stating for the record what they had actually seen, perhaps the wild rumors could be quelled, Nelson argued. A complete story might "shut the bar talk down."
No 'Joe Idiot'
Nelson wasn't the only person to want the whole story to come out. Chief of Police Glamann wanted it, too. It might satisfy the curiosity of those who had been flocking in from all over the state. The situation had gotten out of hand. Glamann and his seven officers were being pushed to the limit in trying to keep order.
And, so far, news coverage -- which had been extensive -- had been of no help at all. If anything, it had made matters worse.
Though Nelson had shown up while the story was still fresh, other news people had been on the scene for two days.
The story about the haunted house was first reported Sunday, January 24, by WMTV in Madison, one of the most intellectually and culturally sophisticated small cities in the nation.
Horicon is about 40 miles from Madison, and WMTV News Director Brian Brosamle says the station learned of the haunted house after making a routine anything-happening-there phone call to the Horicon Police Department.
The station sent a crew to Horicon, and an item on the Horicon ghost was featured on Sunday's 10 o'clock news.
In Milwaukee, the state's largest city, the morning drive?time comedy team of Bob Reitman and Gene Mueller on WKTI-FM picked up on the story the next day, Monday. They milked it.
The Beaver Dam Daily Citizen, a 10,000-circulation afternoon paper, followed with its Monday page?one feature story.
WBEV-AM in Beaver Dam did a live interview with the police chief, and WISN?TV and other Milwaukee television stations sent feature reporters to Horicon to prepare pieces that would air that night. (It was the Monday night WISN story that tipped off the Sentinel's state editor.)
None of the reporters, however, was able to track down the Tallmanns to get the family's version of what had happened in the house. The reporters were content to report the hell-hole and oozing-blood rumors that were flying around town.
But, Glamann told The QUILL, there was something about the Sentinel's Jim Nelson, who arrived Tuesday, that led the chief to think that Nelson might be different; maybe the family ought to talk with the reporter.
"I didn't realize it till he appeared back at my door with a little smile on his face at four o'clock in the afternoon that he had been out pounding the pavement and doing his homework," Glamann says.
"He had all the answers to all of the questions. He sat down and went through the whole thing ... and he was on the money with everything he was talking about, so I knew I wasn't just dealing with Joe Idiot."
The Tallmanns, Allen and Debbie and the children, came to the station that Tuesday night, entering through a back door. Glamann suggested that they meet with Nelson, whom the chief had told to return to the station around 7:30.
The Tallmanns were wary. But they, too, were fed up with the rumors. They agreed to speak with Nelson.
Playing it straight
That night, Nelson filed his first story. The piece ran at the top of page one of the Sentinel's Wednesday, January 27, editions. It said, in part:
"HORICON -- A local couple Tuesday night told of terrifying experiences they said included months of paranormal events -- including an apparition of an old lady and flames shooting from their garage -- and vowed never again to live in the home they fled two weeks ago.
"Although rumors of mysterious incidents at the house have swept through this small Dodge County community ... Police Chief Douglas Glamann said that, until now, the facts about what happened to the young couple, parents of three children, had not been revealed.
"In an interview, the couple said the experiences began about six months ago when a clock radio in their son's bedroom kept changing stations by itself."
The story also said:
* That the couple had heard inexplicable strange noises; that a suitcase once had slid out from under their son's bed and back again by itself?, and that a baby?sitter had told the parents that a kitchen chair "had started rocking back and forth" on its own.
* That the mother had quoted her two-year-old son as having said, "I saw an old lady standing in the door of my room. A little old lady, really ugly, with long black hair and a glow about her like fire."
* That the father said he had "challenged" whatever mysterious entity had been causing the commotion. Nelson quoted him thusly: "I walked in the house yelling at the top of my lungs, 'Pick on me. Leave my kids alone. If you want to fight, I'll fight.' "
* That a day after making the challenge, the father said the entity had spoken. The father's quote went like this: "It said, 'Come here!' real loud. Then it was glowing inside the garage, an orange red. There were flames coming out of the overhead door. There were two eyes in the windows."
* That, around the beginning of January 1988, the father said the entity made a threat. The quote:
"This thing came right out of the floor. It was gassy and foggy ... it rose up there and that voice came out of there and it said, 'You're dead.'
"These green eyes appeared right out of this thing, and then I saw flames and it was gone."
Nelson's story was a straight account of what the family had claimed to have seen. It noted that the police had found no evidence that any of the alleged paranormal events were pranks, that no damage had been done to the house, and that no family member had ever been harmed.
As a condition of the interview, Nelson did not name the family or report the address of the house. The story caused a stir.
The Associated Press rewrote the Sentinel piece for the wires, and it wasn't long before calls from media outlets throughout the country -- and from Canada and from abroad -- began coming in to the Sentinel, the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen, and The Horicon Reporter, the town's 2,500-circulation weekly.
The Horicon Police Department was inundated. Chief Glamann did hundreds of interviews over the next three days, many of which were live radio interviews, including one with the BBC. Even The Times of London wanted an interview.
Glamann, his secretary, and the department's second in command "were on the phone all the time," the chief says. "And when you hung up the line, there was another one waiting to be answered.
"I occasionally stopped answering the phone to go on TV. I'd be doing the interview, and a lot of reporters [in the room] didn't have to ask me very much because while they were waiting to talk they got most of the information they needed just by listening to my conversation with the TV guy."
In response to a question, the chief declined to be specific about how the reporters acted.
"There are good reporters and there are bad reporters," he said, "Just like there are good cops and there are bad cops."
But he notes, when prodded, that some reporters, particularly TV reporters, were a little "more pushy" than others. They seemed offended when the chief refused to tell them how to contact the family.
"Do you know who I am?" was a phrase Glamann heard too often from television journalists.
Drive-time radio personalities of the zany persuasion from around the country joined the rush to interview Glamann. A few radio people did live remote broadcasts from Horicon, in which they needled the town and its response to the rumors.
Even "mainstream" radio stations had fun with the story. When Chief Glamann picked up the phone to do a live interview with WGN-AM in Chicago, a national heavyweight, he realized that the station was playing the theme from the movie The Exorcist in the background.
Glamann, who upon becoming chief of police had instituted a departmental policy calling for cooperation with the press, tried to meet every media request for an interview. He mentioned that the family was having a hard time dealing with the strange events and the attempts by the media to interview them. But he refused to expand the story beyond what Nelson had written.
In fact, Glamann would refer to Nelson's story during his interviews. The chief had highlighted quotes from the family, and he simply passed those quotes on to the press.
Some broadcast stations reported the address of the house and noted that it was owned by the Tallmanns. The family and the Tallmanns' neighbors were upset by that, telling Chief Glamann that they feared more gawkers would show up.
Glamann says he figured it might have been a good thing that the address of the haunted house was reported by the press -- since he had heard that someone might try to set fire to the house.
At least if someone did want to torch the vacant Tallmann home, Glamann thought, the arsonist would know the right address -- and not burn down a neighboring house with a family inside. Nothing came of the rumor that the house would be burned down.
In the meantime, the Tallmanns continued to duck reporters, except for Nelson. Only two media outlets, other than the Sentinel, were able to get anything from the couple.
A Current Affair, the quasi-news program produced by the Fox Television network, managed to get a brief voice-on-tape interview with the Tallmanns one night after the couple showed up to meet Chief Glamann at the police station. The arrogant attitude of the crew and the subsequent caustic story annoyed Glamann, who by then had become very protective of the family.
Milwaukee's WISN-TV also managed to get a brief voice-on-tape interview with Debbie Tallmann after bumping into the couple at the police station. Reporter Julie Matsko was polite, and she played the story straight.
But Nelson had the inside track on the story -- and for a week the Sentinel ran page-one scoops about the family, the house, and the parapsychologists called in by police to investigate.
Peculiar by its absence, or rather by the absence of stories on the haunted house of Horicon, was The Horicon Reporter.
The local paper ignored the story until Thursday, February 4, when it ran a page-one column that said the Reporter hadn't run any stories previously because a "haunted house" was not a legitimate news story.
"The basic story did not really involve the people in the house, nor did it really involve the Horicon Police Department -- who were caught in the middle especially the middle of the media attention," wrote columnist Ed Marolla.
"What brought on the big media attention to Horicon around the state and the country was not so much what did happen in Horicon, but rather the reaction of morbid curiosity seekers and people who 'got their kicks' out of what might have happened to somebody else," Marolla said in his column.
And the "mass hysteria" that had gripped the town was the direct result of "cruel witticisms, gleefully recited by people who invented things out of thin air, plus irresponsible daily newspapers, TV stations and radio who kept playing up a story where a story didn't really exist," he wrote.
The columnist noted that the Tallmann family had never been physically harmed by any ghosts, and that the house itself had not been damaged. "The only real damage was done by the curiosity seekers, the rumor mongers, and the media that reported the rumors," he wrote.
Marolla bought The Horicon Reporter 30 years ago but has since retired, except for the column he writes. But his viewpoint was in harmony with that of his two sons, Ed junior and Julius, who put out the Reporter.
"It was a non-story," Ed Marolla Jr. said in a recent interview with The QUILL. "There was no story here; it was a case of herd journalism. Unless something is significant news, we're not going to run a story about it.
"We sympathize with the family," Marolla added. "This man believed he saw something, but that doesn't mean he did. It was just a minor incident that got blown out of proportion."
The Sentinel's stories "stank of sensationalism," Marolla added. "They were trying to sell papers. We don't have to do that; people buy the Reporter anyway."
Why discuss it?
While the Sentinel is Wisconsin's oldest paper, The Milwaukee Journal is the state's largest, richest, and most prestigious paper.
Both papers are owned by the Journal Company, a media conglomerate of modest size that embraces TV, radio, and commercial printing operations.
The Journal and the Sentinel share facilities -- the building (actually, two buildings, joined), presses, advertising staff, business offices, art and photography departments, even a cafeteria.
But the news staffs are separate, and hotly competitive.
Nevertheless, like the Horicon paper, the Journal ignored the story -- until Sunday, February 7, when the Journal ran a story by science reporter Paul G. Hayes.
Hayes quoted from the senior Marolla's column about the matter and then echoed the weekly's assertion that the "haunted house" didn't deserve coverage.
The science reporter took a not-so-subtle jab at the Sentinel, saying the police chief's "strategy" to quell the rumors, by introducing the family to Nelson, had "backfired."
"Instead of squelching the rumors, the publicity fueled them," Hayes wrote of the first Sentinel story, which had recounted what the family had claimed to have seen.
Hayes later amplified his criticism in a conversation with The QUILL.
"Why do we even have to discuss whether there's blood dripping from walls or other supernatural events," Hayes asked.
"We [at the Journal] just began with the presumption that this was just another claim of spiritualism. I don't doubt that belief in spiritualism is rampant, but reporting on it in a way that suggests that a daily newspaper believes in it is the real story here.
"That's not objective at all, to give credence to haunted houses," he adds. "Anybody can claim anything. That's just letting people get away with unsubstantiated claims.
"Ghosts never occur to the skeptical," Hayes notes. "Just because someone claims something and claims it sincerely doesn't mean we're obliged to run it. We're not the supermarket press; we have a certain obligation to our readers to test these claims."
As for the hometown paper ignoring a story that was the talk of the town, Hayes says:
"I'm a science reporter, and I think community newspapers ought to be pretty chary about reporting on supernatural events, even if the individuals claiming to have witnessed these events are sincere."
Adds Hayes: The Horicon Reporter had taken "an incredibly enlightened and responsible stand."
Chief Glamann disagrees with Hayes. He told The QUILL that the citizens of Horicon were well served by the Sentinel stories because they did end the wild rumors that had been circulating.
'Ghosts make news'
Not expectedly, Dick Feyrer, the Sentinel's state editor, takes issue with Hayes and The Horicon Reporter. "I don't buy the argument that because the local paper doesn't pick up on the story it is, by definition, improper for a major daily to do so," Feyrer says. "I think there's a wide interest in phenomenon such as this. At one meeting when the [Sentinel] editors discussed it, a senior editor said, 'Ghosts make news.'
"It never occurred to us that we couldn't cover a ghost story responsibly," Feyrer adds.
"There was no indication that this was in any way a publicity stunt," says the state editor. "I just felt it had to be treated as a legitimate news story."
Tom Luljack, news director of WTMJ?TV in Milwaukee, says he didn't see anything wrong with running the story, either -- as long as a station or newspaper didn't take the alleged paranormal events seriously.
"We took a light-hearted approach to the story, to be honest," Luljack said. "We did not report any of the supernatural occurrences up there as fact, and I think some people in this town -- the Sentinel and WISN -- came very close to taking the family at their word."
WTMJ's feature reporter handled the first story that the station aired, and a subsequent longer piece was promoted with the teaser "Spooky or Kooky?"
"We chose not to approach it in a serious way," Lu1jack notes. "If a ghost appears on camera on our five o'clock newscast, I'll change my mind."
However, said Lu1jack, the story could not have been ignored -- if for no other reason than because of the uproar in the community.
"For us to totally ignore the phenomenon is to ignore the definition of what news is," Luliack said. "It certainly was very important to the people of Horicon; it was interesting to the rest of our viewers.
"My advice is to be skeptical, but not to be blind to the fact that something is going on in the community," he added. "Don't simply spike a story because we say to ourselves that it can't possibly be true. These people were upset and excited. We had a responsibility to cover it."
Steve Olszyk, news director of WISN-TV, one of the media outlets that treated the story straight, echoes Luljack's viewpoint that the story deserved to be covered -- particularly because of the town's reaction to reports of ghosts.
"Everybody in Horicon was talking about it before the first newspaper story or the first television story, and to ignore something that everybody is talking about is ridiculous."
As to his decision that the station should cover the story without making light of it, the WISN-TV news director has no regrets.
"These people were very, very genuine people," Olszyk said of the Tallmanns. "I was able to do some background checking, and they're as solid as the day is long."
The Sentinel's Nelson echoes that point: "The thing that should really be stressed is that all the way down the line, the family wanted to avoid the media they didn't want to be news.
"They were offered $5,000 to be news," Nelson says, alluding to an offer The National Enquirer made in an attempt to get an interview with the family. "And when they became news, they hid because they were afraid of being exploited.
"They were staying with relatives in another town, Nelson adds. "They did not return to their house at all. And eventually, they moved to a motel, and then on to another one because they were afraid the media would be able to track them down....
"I don't care whether they saw a ghost or not," Nelson says. "They've lost their home, they've moved out of their home, they're living in a motel. It's not like they're sitting on a flagpole trying to draw attention to themselves."
With regard to how the family views the press coverage, Nelson says: "My impression is they are just stunned by how the media did this. I felt sort of funny being a part of the pack, though they trusted me. They knew I wasn't going to turn around and make fun of them. I mean, it's not our job to make fun of them."
Jeff Hovind, editor of the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen, acknowledges that his paper treated the story as less than serious at first -- but he adds that it wasn't long before the paper changed its approach.
"The question I had at the outset was, 'Is this a joke? How do you cover a ghost story? Is this something that actually happened to the family?' " Hovind says. "It was definitely the brunt of many jokes in the area, and in our newsroom too.
"So, do you cover it as a legitimate ghost story?" the editor says he kept asking himself. "Or do you cover it as a troubled family?
"From our perspective, the focus of the story changed from, 'Is there a ghost or isn't there, did these things happen or didn't they,' to, 'This is happening to this family.'
"And our stories from that point on took a more sympathetic approach," Hovind says. "It was basically based on my perception that we weren't going to answer the question, 'Was there an apparition or not?' "
Hovind dismisses assertions that the haunted house story didn't merit coverage. "How can a guy say it's a non?story? It's what everybody in the whole town was talking about. It's probably the most newsworthy thing to come out of Horicon in as long as I've been here, eight years. For anyone to say it's a non?story, when it's the big event in town -- that's just mind-boggling."
Whether the haunted house of Horicon merited the coverage it got depends on how one defines "news" and "newsworthy."
For some -- particularly The Milwaukee Sentinel- - the story was the definitive example of what news is at its most basic: the talk of the town.
For others, such as The Milwaukee Journal, the story was not legitimate, except insofar as they might comment on how bizarre it was for others to treat it as if it were.
For many news operations -- especially out-of-state media -- the story was just something to be mined for yuks, for further proof that anything can happen amid the barns and silos out there in the boonies.
But for the Tallmann family, the story was just one long nightmare. The apparitions they saw, or that they think they saw, prompted them to abandon their home. And their desire to avoid the media glare caused them to move from the home of relatives to a motel room then to another motel room, living, as Chief Glamann told The QUILL, "like criminals."
Though the Tallmanns may never know what caused the strange sights and sounds they experienced, or thought they experienced, they have decided that the events were somehow linked to a second?hand children's bunk bed set that the couple had bought for $ 100.
On February 19, Nelson reported in the Sentinel that the family had buried the bunk beds in a private landfill in the Horicon area where no one is likely to build a house.
That story also noted that the Farmers Home Administration, which held the mortgage on the Tallmann's $50,000 house, had agreed to assume title. Mrs. Tallmann estimated that the family would lose about $3,000 on the deal.
The wire services picked up the Sentinel's bunk-bed article, and papers and broadcast stations in the area -- and nationwide -- reported the final chapter of the Horicon ghost story.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin's paper of record, The Milwaukee Journal, was content to let the rest of the press cover the burying of the beds, much to the approval of science reporter Paul Hayes.
"Do you think we ought to run stories about quartz crystals being a cure for cancer?" Hayes responded when The QUILL asked why the Journal hadn't run the bunk bed story. "Do you think we ought to report as fact that UFOs will determine the fate of Milwaukee?
"In fact, ghosts are a little more preposterous than UFOs -- at least there's a percentage of a chance that other forms of life exist out there in the universe.
"It's far easier to explain this as the imperfectability of the human brain," Hayes says, noting that people throughout the United States have claimed to have witnessed paranormal events.
"Many people throughout the country believe in the supernatural," Hayes adds. "In that respect, Horicon is no different from any other place.
"What was different about the events in Horicon was that no one bothered to ignore the story."
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