This fall, take a stroll through these graveyards all around Wisconsin… if you dare!
A twilight walk through Wisconsin’s cemeteries can take you past the graves of a notorious Civil War spy, Thomas Jefferson’s Black son, the founder of Milwaukee, and Ed Gein, the murderer and grave robber who inspired Psycho.
Here’s where to find some of the most chilling and unique resting places in the whole state.
Find Madeline Island’s Namesake and the Great Buffalo at La Pointe
From outside the fence at the La Pointe Indian Cemetery on Madeline Island you can still see the crumbling spirit houses that protect the graves of the Ojibwe people buried here.
Here is the grave of Chief Kechewaiske, called Great Buffalo. His leadership helped the Ojibwe people to stay on reservations around Lake Superior following the Sandy Lake tragedy of 1850. More than 400 Ojibwe people starved to death after the government forced them to walk 300 miles to Minnesota in the winter to get their payments, then failed to provide money or food. A memorial to this northern Trail of Tears is near the cemetery.
Madeline Cadotte, for whom the island is named, is also buried here. She was the daughter of Ojibwe Chief White Crane and married fur trader Michel Cadotte.
Forest Hill: Resting Place of Rebs, Yanks, Governors, and a President’s Son
This rolling cemetery not far from the University of Wisconsin campus is the final resting spot of eight Wisconsin governors, a Nobel Prize winner, and scores of Confederate soldiers who died at nearby Camp Randall. Many Union soldiers are buried here, too.
You can also find the grave of Eston Hemings Jefferson, the youngest son of President Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman whom Jefferson owned and had multiple children with. Eston moved to Madison, where two of his sons became prominent businessmen and one, John Wayles Jefferson, rose to the rank of colonel while leading the 8th Wisconsin infantry in the Civil War.
Every October, the Wisconsin Veterans Museum hosts “Talking Spirits” tours of Forest Hill with actors and actresses in period garb.
Green’s Prairie is a Time Capsule of Wisconsin’s Former Prairie Glory
This tiny cemetery north of Monroe gets regular visits from students interested in how Wisconsin looked before the plow destroyed the prairies. This little cemetery, founded in 1845, has never been plowed and is home to more than 60 varieties of prairie plants.
Bluestem and other grasses tower over the old stones; the most recent burial was in 1917. Green’s Prairie is the resting spot of veterans of the War of 1812 and the Blackhawk Wars of 1832. Enjoy the sweeping views of the Blue Mounds 20 miles to the northwest and enter the cemetery over a unique stone stile designed to keep the cows out.
Calvary Cemetery: Home to Milwaukee’s Founder, Solomon Juneau
The Gothic Revival gatehouse of this huge cemetery is a familiar site to Milwaukee Brewers fans on their way to a game via Bluemound Road, Wisconsin’s first territorial highway. The rolling 75 acres of Victorian grounds hold more than 80,000 graves.
The cemetery is home to a memorial to the 430 recent Irish immigrants who died when the Lady Elgin sunk on Lake Michigan in 1860. Another centrograph remembers the 80 who died in the Newhall House hotel fire of 1883. Solomon Juneau, who founded Milwaukee, is buried here, as are founders of Miller Brewing and the Patrick Cudahy meatpacking company.
Plainfield Cemetery: Burial Site of Ed Gein, Who Inspired Psycho
Graverobber Ed Gein is buried in the Plainfield Cemetery, the same place where he dug up the bodies of dead women for his macabre art projects: making lampshades of skin, pickling female genitalia, creating death masks of middle-aged women, and making an arm chair of real arms.
Gein had a mommy obsession, and is believed to be the inspiration for Norman Bates of Psycho. His house burned in a presumed arson fire and his stone was stolen from the Plainfield Cemetery in 2000 by a Seattle-based punk rocker.
But Ed’s still there, buried between his mother and his brother, Henry.
Confederate Spy Belle Boyd Buried Near Wisconsin Dells
During the Civil War, Maria Isabella Boyd, aka “La Belle Rebelle,” would flirt with Union soldiers, pump them for information and pass what she learned on to Stonewall Jackson and other Confederate leaders.
She was eventually caught and imprisoned. After the war, she married three times, twice to former Union officers. She worked as an actress before becoming ill during a speaking tour in 1900 and dying while in the Wisconsin Dells on a tour stop.
She is buried in the Spring Grove Cemetery.
Island Cemeteries Showcase Highs and Lows of Lake Michigan Life
Visitors to the beautiful Schoolhouse Beach on Washington Island pass by the Island Cemetery on their way to the cobblestone beach. A prominent grave is for “Crabby Jack,” a Chicago native who fell in love with island life.
“Crabby Jack” Lindren owned the Washington Island Fish Market and Cherry Bounce Bar (named for booze infused with Door County cherries) in Kenosha. On the island, he ran Lindgren’s Cabins and Crabby Jack’s restaurant.
On nearby Rock Island, hikers can pay respects at the graves of the little Miner girls, whose pioneer parents fished and ran a store on the island. They died of scarlet fever in December 1853, Rosalinda at age 4 and Cecelia aged 3 months. Their parents left the island and divorced.
Another Rock Island cemetery holds the remains of seven unknown victims of a shipwreck who washed ashore on the island.