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A Haunting In Horicon *long*


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Posted 10 June 2005 - 10:58 PM


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 rumors of a ghost in his town on January 21.
     "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."


The deluge
     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.


'Herd journalism'
     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."


Defining 'news'
     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."  





The thing that immediately came to my mind were the comparisons to the Amityville case, they even fled their home in January too!!! This was one of the only accounts of this story that I could find on the net, but the one that I read in "Haunted Heritage" was just *way* too long to type out!!! biggrin.gif
In the account that I read, the pastor upon his first visit immediately told the family it was the Devil. I though that was a bit harsh!! He also told the family that it happened because they didn't go to church, my second thought was "what a load of malarky!!" (to the priest's comment anyway!)


#2 Purr

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Posted 11 June 2005 - 06:57 AM

This is one of my all-time favorite haunting stories.  For a second I thought you HAD typed out the long one from the Norman-Scott books and I was impressed.

I agree that the pastor seemed pretty harsh and wanted to put his own spin on things, but if you read a lot of the details it sounds like maybe he was right? Maybe.. I'm not sure I even believe in "The Devil."

The things that creeped me out most about the account was looking outside the window and seeing the glowing red eyes, and the night when the father was sleeping with the girls and the misty figure formed in the room.  Gahhh!!

Was that the story, too, where the mother had told the children that the apparition they saw was the Baby wow, so they wouldn't be scared? And at one point the little kid is telling everyone not to be scared, it's just Baby wow?  I got such a huge kick out of that!  laugh.gif

I have GOT to find and re-read this one.. I know I said that the other day but these books are just golden.. Golden baby!
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Posted 11 June 2005 - 08:34 AM

Yes Purr, this was the story where the mother tells the kids that the ghost is baby Jesus, and the youngest girl, at the point when the activity gets to be at its worst tells her brother and sister, along with their 16-year-old uncle that the misty figure is baby Jesus.

I agree that the red eyes were really creepy, but the way that the father saw them, the green eyes with the blazing red pupils creeped me out the most. I don't think I could get over that one myself.

It's interesting that the family while the haunting was going on went through the attitude changes as well. If I remember correctly, Dark Angel mentioned that this is very common in extreme hauntings.

With the pastor, I felt like he was *almost* blaming the haunting on the family because they didn't attend church regularly enough. That's the thing that really ticked me off.

I have been trying to find more about it on the net, and the few stories that I have found said that the hauntings started to intensify after the family bought a set of bunk beds for the little girls.

Oh, and I almost forgot, the youngest girl, who was about 2 when the hauntings began for her, used to sit up at night and talk to someone or something in her room, and her sister that shared a room with her was never disturbed. Her parents would hear her giggling and almost playing with whatever was in her room.

Another thing that the story in the Norman/Scott book, was the fact that the enetity seemed to single out the children. What I mean to say is, that if one child saw it, and was frightened by it, the other to would be in a dead sleep, and not bothered by it, no matter how loud the poor victim was. I also believe that it affected Debbie and Allen the same way.

Edited to add: Interestingly enough, the Tallmann's sold their house and the people that bought it have not reported any strange activity.


#4 Purr

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Posted 11 June 2005 - 09:30 AM

QUOTE(HelenaHandBaskettGStudy @ Jun 11 2005, 11:34 AM)

I have been trying to find more about it on the net, and the few stories that I have found said that the hauntings started to intensify after the family bought a set of bunk beds for the little girls.

Edited to add: Interestingly enough, the Tallmann's sold their house and the people that bought it have not reported any strange activity.

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Perhaps it was a 3-way conglomeration of that particular family, the bed, and the location?  Or maybe the new family actually attended church!  Just Kidding, of course.. playing the part of the pastor from that story wink.gif
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#5 Augustine

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Posted 11 June 2005 - 01:27 PM

I think I remember watching this on television--perhaps it was "A Current Affair" that I saw it on.  (I'm ashamed that I watched that trashy show as a kid, but for some reason I did.   unsure.gif )  It scared me at the time, especially the idea that the haunting may have centered around something so innocuous as a childrens' bed, but looking back I wondered how much was actually true and how much was hype.

[rant mode]

The public's reaction to all this makes me mad.  The townspeople behaved like cattle and the press behaved like vultures.  Rumor really brings out the best in folks, doesn't it?   dry.gif  

Sorry...it hasn't taken long at all for me to become very cynical.  I just feel bad for this family that the real h*ll came from the publicity as opposed to whatever was haunting their house.  The ghosts seem almost friendly in comparison!  Jeez!

Oh yeah...they were haunted because they didn't attend church?!?  Please!   mad.gif   If that were the case, then my house would be putting Amityville to shame.  The silly things people say!  

[/rant mode]


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Posted 11 June 2005 - 02:26 PM

This story was on Unsolved Mysteries way back when...

Also, when I was at a Lutheran Youth Conference in Atlanta in 1998, I had the pleasure of listening to a lecture by a Lutheran pastor who was in service in Horicon while all of this was taking place.  As "easy" as it is to read about the events here, to hear about this strange, strange haunting from someone who had to deal with the results was quite bone-chilling.  I left that room more scared than I had ever been.  Although we will never truly know what happen in Horicon, I thank G0d that I was not in the place of that family, the police chief, or anyone else even remotely connected with this case.

Immediately after the conference, I had emailed the pastor for a copy of his presentation, which I, or course, have since lost.  I am trying, however, to contact him in order to present this information to everyone here.

Edited by Guardian, 11 June 2005 - 02:44 PM.


#7 Ladywilde

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Posted 11 June 2005 - 03:27 PM

Yeah, this story always scared the poop out of me. I had read it in a Haunted American Anathology I believe and then I saw it on Unsolved Mysteries. That is some scary stuff... It reminds me so much for some strange reason of another story I read as a kid.. it was in a Daniel Cohen book. Anyone remember those? well there was this story called the closet or something... but it was about a back bedroom in a small tract house that was haunted by this appration of a women all decayed and what not.... it scared me so bad as a kid.. I didn't sleep for a week...
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#8 Augustine

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Posted 11 June 2005 - 07:19 PM

QUOTE(Ladywilde @ Jun 11 2005, 06:27 PM)
It reminds me so much for some strange reason of another story I read as a kid.. it was in a Daniel Cohen book. Anyone remember those? well there was this story called the closet or something... but it was about a back bedroom in a small tract house that was haunted by this appration of a women all decayed and what not.... it scared me so bad as a kid.. I didn't sleep for a week...

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I remember this story!!!  I used to get nothing but paranormal books from the library when I was a kid, and this story especially gave me the willies.   ohmy.gif   I remember being VERY glad I didn't have to sleep in a cramped back bedroom while I was growing up!


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Posted 13 June 2005 - 06:07 AM

I have received the contact info for the pastor and I will forward anything I find out from him, with his permission, of course...

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Posted 13 June 2005 - 01:42 PM

Awesome!! It would be kind of cool to get some information from someone who was involved in the actual case!
I do know that the police in the town (city?) did a thorough investigation of the house, and no evidence of a hoax was found. No recording devices, no wires, not evidence that the dust in the house was disturbed by wires and recording devices. smile.gif


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Posted 14 June 2005 - 12:48 PM

OK, I have contacted the preacher, who has just gotten back from vacation.  He said he will need a couple of days to find the information, but that when he sends it, I may share it with all of you.  I will definitely post as soon as I hear something back from him!

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Posted 14 June 2005 - 04:34 PM

w00t.gif I look forward to finding out what he has to say! smile.gif

#13 greeneyes

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Posted 15 June 2005 - 09:11 AM

I live fairly close to Horicon, and I have never heard of this event! Must have been to young at the time to remember. That poor family, having the press attack you on top of everything else. Thanks for a great story so close to home!

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Posted 15 June 2005 - 02:31 PM

QUOTE(greeneyes @ Jun 15 2005, 12:11 PM)
I live fairly close to Horicon, and I have never heard of this event! Must have been to young at the time to remember. That poor family, having the press attack you on top of everything else. Thanks for a great story so close to home!

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I live pretty close myself.. but wasn't living here at the time of the haunting. smile.gif
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Posted 15 June 2005 - 07:18 PM

QUOTE(greeneyes @ Jun 15 2005, 11:11 AM)
I live fairly close to Horicon, and I have never heard of this event! Must have been to young at the time to remember. That poor family, having the press attack you on top of everything else. Thanks for a great story so close to home!

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It's not the first time the media has attacked a family that has supposedly gone through an extreme haunting. Look what happened to the Lutz's in Amityville.

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Posted 17 June 2005 - 11:23 AM

This is a portion of a speech by a Lutheran pastor about the House of Horicon.  He was the pastor who performed the cleansing on the Tallman's house.  I think I have removed all of the religious aspect, just to get to the series of events.

I conducted the usual investigation of the circumstances in the Tallman home. No, they had no Ouija Board, they had not held a seance and, as far as they knew, there was no such activity going on their home. Well, I said, do you have any occult books or other occult things in your house.  No, they replied.

There were only a few other possible answers. A demonic power could have been invited in by someone who was babysitting their 3 children or by someone who had been in the home before. I never was able to determine the exact cause of the “haunting” of the Tallman home.  That’s probably why the Cosgrove-Meurer Production Co. decided to tell this story on UNSOLVED MYSTERIES. The Police Dept. and I were able to learn that there was an Astrologer in the neighborhood, a woman with whom Mrs. Tallman did not get along. There was a strange note that Debbie Tallman received several weeks afterwards. It read: “Dear Debbie: I’m sorry I did this to you. Signed, A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

Let me review for you what we have learned thus far by asking the same questions you would use when making a sign or writing a term paper
>>WHO? The Allen Tallman Family of Horicon, WI, as you saw on the video, but I soon learned that there were many more such cases out there. Whether they called me or the Chief of Police, they said the same thing: “Believe them; they’re telling the truth.  Pretty much the same thing happened to me.”
>>WHERE?  Horicon, Wisconsin, a town of 3700 people in Southeastern Wisconsin about 50 miles from Madison and Milwaukee, but it could just as easily have been your town. How do I know that? Because our local Police Chief followed guidelines for handling such a case which he received from The International Police Chiefs Association, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. He later received an award from this organization for his handling of THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORICON.  Here’s my point: If a heavy-weight organization such as The International Police Chiefs Association has guidelines for the handling of “haunted houses”, it’s happening a whole lot more often than just once in awhile.  At least 28 States have a law regarding a realtor’s responsibility to disclose what is called “a stigmatized property.” One such stigma is a “haunted house.”
>>WHAT?  All I can say for sure that these things happened.  The family saw/experienced:  1) a fiery, witch-like figure that appeared to all 3 of the children in their rooms. 2) an invisible being that changed stations on the radio, moved suitcases in and out from under the bed and snatched the dinner bucket out of Allen’s hand one nigh after work.  3) a visible fog-like entity that threatened Allen Tallman and later, his brother, with death.

I saw the direct effects upon Allen Tallman and his brother after they were confronted by the presence in their house on separate occasions. Their body language was one of terror.

When demonic spirits are driven out of one place or person, they go where there is a spiritual vacuum or where they have been invited.

That takes us to the next question: How did this happen? Again, the details are sketchy, but we can point to several well-documented “ports of entry” for occult happenings such as in the Tallman home. The scary things happening in the Tallman home for 9 months, culminating with the abandonment of their home, were not nearly as unusual as I first thought. I had handled such a case twice before, so I knew a few of the things to look for and a few of the right questions to ask.  One of the first things you ask people who are experiencing such things is whether or not they have any occult objects in their possession.  A Ouija Board is the first suspect. A Ouija Board is a DIVINATION DEVICE. It seeks to use the power of Satan to obtain information that is otherwise unavailable. Occult experts tell us that this is the most common means of demonic possession, either of a person or a home.

Another suspect is occult activity in a seance. I recall a young couple inviting me to their apartment. She began the story in familiar fashion--”Pastor, please don’t think we’re crazy, but there are some strange things going on here.”  She then told me of a dresser which would shake and make noise with no one near it. I told her that this usually doesn’t happen unless this object has been set aside for some form of occult activity--Seance or the use of a Ouija Board. Did you do anything like that? I asked.  “Yes,” she said, “ we used the dresser as a table for a Seance. “


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Posted 17 June 2005 - 08:30 PM

QUOTE
If a heavy-weight organization such as The International Police Chiefs Association has guidelines for the handling of “haunted houses”, it’s happening a whole lot more often than just once in awhile. At least 28 States have a law regarding a realtor’s responsibility to disclose what is called “a stigmatized property.” One such stigma is a “haunted house.”


I think that it's interesting that over half of the states in the US have disclosure laws. Maybe sometime in the future, there won't be the stigma on a "haunted house".
Thank you for getting this information Guardian! It's fascinating to get the information from a source close to the haunting! smile.gif


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Posted 18 June 2005 - 05:00 PM

QUOTE(HelenaHandBaskettGStudy @ Jun 17 2005, 11:30 PM)
I think that it's interesting that over half of the states in the US have disclosure laws. Maybe sometime in the future, there won't be the stigma on a "haunted house".
Thank you for getting this information Guardian! It's fascinating to get the information from a source close to the haunting! smile.gif

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One day a few months ago, I was wondering why I chose to go to that one seminar out of a week's worth of speeches.  We're talking over 100 presentations, and this is the only one I went to in the entire week.  Now I guess I know!  This whole situation is still fascinating to me.

Also, I know that the disclosure laws in Indiana are that the realtor only has to mention something if they are DIRECTLY asked.  Other than that, it's don't ask, don't tell...lol.


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Posted 18 June 2005 - 09:46 PM

QUOTE
Also, I know that the disclosure laws in Indiana are that the realtor only has to mention something if they are DIRECTLY asked. Other than that, it's don't ask, don't tell...lol.


Which kind of amounts to they don't really have to say anything right? I mean honestly, present company excluded, how many people would think to ask if the house that they are considering buying is haunted?

#20 Purr

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Posted 18 June 2005 - 09:51 PM

QUOTE(HelenaHandBaskettGStudy @ Jun 19 2005, 12:46 AM)
Which kind of amounts to they don't really have to say anything right? I mean honestly, present company excluded, how many people would think to ask if the house that they are considering buying is haunted?

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Honestly? Depends on how old the house is.  I am perfectly aware that a house doesn't have to be old to be haunted, but I'm such a fraidey purr that if the house were over 50 years old I'd be asking the realtor.  Especially if it was spooky and had red eyes glowing in the window.  tongue.gif
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