Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wisconsin Death Trip--Be Warned!

Ah....Wisconsin. Home to infamous homebodies like Ed Gein and Jeffrey Dahmer, as well as the birthplace of Schlitz beer and Usinger's sausage. Mmm...yummy treats. If you thought you knew everything about Wisconsin, then you clearly haven't traveled to the Wisconsin Dells to see the rock that resembles a piano, or learned how to make homemade soap and butter at Old World Wisconsin in the good land of Tichigan. Oh, Wisconsin how I love thee and your infinite weirdness.
But...I digress. Yes, I'd heard of this book in those "bizarro" circles in which it was whispered about as the "it" book when it comes to Wisconsin and it's all-encompassing rural weirdness. Being both a native Wisconsinite and a bit weird, naturally I checked this book out immediately from the library upon hearing about it in those hushed and forbidden circles often referred to as groups of "teenagers." Just in case, here's a picture of one:

If you enjoy books that take a look at society's darker half, it's "underbelly", please do find a copy of this book and sit yourself down for a delicious treat. Newspaper clippings from the State of Wisconsin around the turn of the century provide the meat of the book, but also included are black and white photos from the town of Black River Falls that seemingly correspond with the spine tingling (and often hilarious) true tales from around the state. For example:

"Frederick Schultz, an old resident of Two Rivers, cheated his undertaker by suddenly jumping out of the coffin in which, supposed to be dead, he had been placed." (State, 11/15).

"Constant worrying over the thought that he would be unable to solve the mysteries of perpetual motion has drive A.J. Dayton of Janesville insane. For the past 14 years, the study of perpetual motion has occupied the greater portion of his spare time. he would study at night till way into the morning. It is said that he spent considerable money in his efforts to solve the mystery of perpetual motion." (State, 4/19)."

"Jack the "Hugger" or James Moore who for more than 10 years past has followed the occupation of waylaying lone women after sundown and hugging them then dissapearing before assistance could reach them was caught. There, after a rigid examination he admitted he had committed the offenses of which he was charged. ....he drew his paycheck and left for the north to work in the woods during the winter." (State, 11/23).

"Harry Ehlers, a Milwaukee butcher, died from nosebleed. His nose had been bleeding for 9 days...he was 37 years of age and had been a great meat eater." (State 8/24).

If you don't like disturbing photographs, or cannot find good humor in suicide, dismemberment, arson, murder or thievery, pass on this one. If however, you have a blind date and need an excuse to either up the ante or high tail it home, I highly recommend pulling this one out of your pocketbook.

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