Growing up in northeast Wisconsin, I looked forward to regular visits on the weekends to my family’s 80 acre wooded property in scenic Marinette County. With our hand-built log cabin as our base, my father and I would spend endless weekends fishing and hiking in the area’s natural locations. Among our recurring destinations were the grand Twelve Foot Falls Park (and to a lesser extent 5 foot falls, the humble Wausaukee River, and, most memorably, McClintock Park. Having made my uneasy entry into adulthood, a number of my life’s reference points have since changed; this area and its geographic accoutrements have decidedly not. Especially….McClintock Park.
Unlike the other locations I mentioned, McClintock Park is known not only for its natural characteristics, but also its’ features of human origin. Over the years of its existence as a public attraction, architects have endowed it with two arched wooden bridges, a necessity given the park’s being parroted by the flow of two large streams. These large and intimidating structures possess a dual quality for those walking them; the elevation at which one is standing, and the corresponding distance to the bottom, simultaneously frightens and excites, depending on which aspect first claims your focus. In reflecting on this, I have come to see it as a microcosm for the geographic entity as a whole.
It is said that every negative experience possesses a silver lining. The logical inverse of this would be that every positive one possesses a black underbelly. And a night spent camping out in our subject is no exception. For, just like the arches that dominate its skyline, the park both excites and frightens. The former response is experienced during the daytime, when the sun is present, the sky is blue, and one is engaged in their outdoorsman’s pastime of choice. The latter is felt after the aforementioned factors have retired, and the moon and stars have assumed their post in the enveloping darkness. One would assume himself to be alone in such a scenario, save the disinterested presence of local fauna; however, as many overnight visitors have come to lean, in McClintock this is not the case.
The company one can expect during the nocturnal leg of their visit seems to have distributed their duties in accordance with the human senses. Orbs, spheres of glowing light, behaving with an apparent sentience, are present for the eyes. Other entities prefer to remain invisible, instead sending the percipient scrambling to determine the origin of disembodied voices and whispers. Even further into the realm of abstraction are rumbles and noises of unknown origin. The closest to a concrete face one could attach to this is literally that, the colorless face of a woman that materialized in a photograph taken on the grounds. The sources of this phenomena, unlike the Department Of Natural Resources and its staff, do not charge fees and assess fines to prospective visitors, but can be a source of irritation in a deeper, more genuinely troublesome way. And, unlike the park’s human overseers, their arrival cannot be anticipated.
Their arrival from where, not just nightly but ultimately? I am no metaphysician, but a rather profound footnote from the park’s history may brighten the path to the answer. In midsummer 1976, a twenty-something couple (names withheld) ventured from their Green Bay home to Marinette County for a weekend sojourn. Their exact destination? McClintock. During their trip, they were the victims, not of the weirdness that would be described there in the future, but of a flesh and blood menace. On July 9th, they were discovered bound to chairs and terminated with shotgun blasts to the head in the manner of an amateur execution. The woman was also assaulted sexually prior to her end at the barrel of a shotgun; although accounts from other visitors described an elusive man carrying a shotgun through the vicinity, the incident to this date lacks any conclusion.
The identity of this marauder remains unknown and for our purposes immaterial. What is relevant is the possibility of a connection between the events on that fateful day and the abundance of strange phenomenon occurring now. Using our skills of inference, one could opt for the conventional ghost story explanation, which gives us two possibilities: that the voices heard and orbs seen constitute the spirits of the victims, or that of their assailant, the former unable to depart the scene of their earthly demise and the latter returning to his territory from beyond. If this explanation appears too mundane, one could posit an explanation of spiritual manifestation, that residual negative energy induced by the event has facilitated the presence of things that never were “alive” in the human sense. Or, one could synthesize both explanations, and argue that the intelligence operating there has been since time primordial, possessing and influencing the backwoods butcher to carry out an agenda not his own.
Initially, the first explanation seems the most plausible, if stereotypical. However, one must remember that spirits of the deceased do not typically assume an orb form, and that of all the murmurings distantly overheard none of them have consisted of the replayed screams so characteristic of murder hauntings. The second has slightly less believability, as like their victims the spirits of earthly criminals are rarely reported to have re-emerged as amorphous orbs. Moreover, the presence of a deceased murderer is near always accompanied by a sense of evil and dread, something not reported by overnight percipients. The third explanation is the one I most favour, but in order to explain why I must first dissect the fourth. The fourth I feel is unlikely in that negative entities tend to attach themselves to specific individuals and travel with them under their influence, not geographic areas. If the killer was already present in the park with his pivotal weapon in tow, then the psychological cause of his action must be found elsewhere. The additional fact that orbs are not considered negative in origin or intent also diminishes this possibility.
Which brings me to my final conclusion, that the activity experienced in the park is neither wholly negative nor wholly of a single origin. It is to be remembered that hauntings and orbs are not mutually exclusive; although at times experienced together, they are both most often present in the other’s absence. One overlooked fact in most speculation about this is that no visible ghosts have ever been reported there. Only disembodied voices, which may indeed belong to ghosts but also of other, nonhuman spirits. The third category of phenomenon described, that of unexplained bumping and rumbling sounds, is typically not caused by human ghosts. My personal theory, in summation, is that McClintock is indeed haunted, not by deceased persons but by a non-human intelligence likely to have been present long before the 1970’s slayings and what connection the two have remains as mysterious as the identity of murderer. But don’t allow any of this to dissuade you from paying the place a visit on a convenient weekend.