What makes Whitewater the ‘Second Salem’

 

By Robert Jansen

 

The city of whitewater has a surprisingly colorful past, filled with rumors and stories of witches, spirits, and murderers. The town has even been nicknamed the “Second Salem.” The reason for many of these rumors can be traced back to Morris Pratt.

In the mid 1800s he and his brothers moved to Wisconsin from upstate New York. Pratt had a large interest in spiritualism and created the Pratt Institute in 1888, opening it in 1889. During the time he was in control of the institute, he remained tight-lipped. He even designed and contracted the building himself, erecting it on the corner of what is now Center Street and Fremont Street. A few things the Whitewater Register published about the institution during the years include that its curriculum was comprised of psychic research, comparative religion, evolution and Bible study as it relates to the principles of spiritualism. Also, that séances would happen in what was called the all-white room on the third story of the school weekly.

Morris Pratt died in 1902 at the age of 81 but passed the school along to the Morris Pratt Institution Association, which transformed it and started to offer general studies alongside the spiritual studies. The school stayed in operation in Whitewater until 1946, only ceasing for a couple years during the Great Depression. The institute has since been moved to Milwaukee and remains active to this day. In the 1950s, AT&T bought the original building and demolished it.

Some of the hauntings around Whitewater hit closer to campus. In 1996, the newspaper The Week wrote an article about a woman named Myrtle who was a cook for boarding students from our university. She married Edward Shaude, a man who ran a local milk business. They lived a happy life together until Myrtle fell in love with a Whitewater student and poisoned her husband in 1922 so she could be with him.  Because of this, she is better known as the “poison widow.”

The original farmhouse, in which Myrtle poisoned Edward, was believed to be torn down. However, it actually was ordered by Whitewater’s city clerk to be relocated down the road. Its original location was where Calvary Cemetery is now. Myrtle and her husband are buried there, while their old farm house is now used as an apartment building for UW-Whitewater students.

Calvary Cemetery doesn’t end with the poison widow. In the book “Haunted Wisconsin, Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Badger State,” Linda Godfrey mentions what is known as the witch’s triangle. The witch’s triangle is said to be the isosceles triangle formed by Oak Grove Cemetery, Hillside Cemetery and Calvary Cemetery, which is located near the Williams Center and Fischer Hall. Everything within the triangle is said to be haunted, as the spirits move from cemetery to cemetery. Oddly enough, the Pratt Institute used to be located directly in the center of the three burial grounds.

The Wells towers just so happen to be inside of this triangle as well and are known for spooky activity. Walworth County Today published an anonymous article from a former student who lived in Wells West in 1997, speaking of a ghost named Mary Worth. On nights alone with his girlfriend, they would spend time playing with an Ouija board. Their board would become active and spell out the name Mary Worth repeatedly. The student believed the spirit would flip lights on and off, slam doors and make things glow. The spirit never did harm, but the student changed rooms shortly after these occurrences.