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 Retlaw Plaza Hotel - Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

 

Synopsis

 

The Hotel Retlaw was the work and creation of Walter Schroeder (1878-1967). Mr. Schroeder commissioned the building of the hotel and it opened in 1922. He decided to give it his first name spelled backwards. At the time of construction, the city of Fond du Lac called itself "the Gateway to the Fox River Valley." The Schroeder Hotel Company chain was one of the largest hotel chains in Wisconsin in the 1920s. In addition to the Hotel Retlaw, the chain operated the Hotel Northland in Green Bay, the Hotel Loraine in Madison, the Hotel Wausau in Wausau and the Schroeder Hotel in Milwaukee. In 1964 the hotel was purchased by Nick and Albert Frank. It was then sold it to Charles Barnum and Melvin Lynn in 1976. Eventually Fond du Lac investors purchased it in 1982. From there it was sold to Clarion Hotels, then the Sheraton Hotel chain, Ramada Hotels and now is operated by Semina and billed as Retlaw Plaza Hotel.

HOTEL RETLAW 1922

It is also a confirmed fact that there were once many underground tunnels beneath the hotel. It is however speculated that these tunnels were used during prohibition for people staying at the hotel to partake in illegal gaming and use of the speakeasies. It is also thought that some of these illegal activities were organized by John Dillinger. Unfortunately, the tunnels became unsafe and were walled up in the late 1980’s.

Several articles state that Mr. Schroeder was murdered in the hotel. This however is untrue. Walter Schroeder passed away on July 18, 1967 of natural causes in Milwaukee.

Retlaw Plaza Hotel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. It has catered to some very important people over the years such as; Alice Cooper, Paul Newman, Tom Cruise, Eleanor Roosevelt, President Kennedy and the First Lady, The Oak Ridge Boys, Gene Autry, Brad Pitt and Jack Dempsey to name a few.

On March 9, 2013 the Wausau Paranormal Research Society spent a night at this beautiful hotel to try and debunk some of the paranormal claims.

 

Paranormal Activity Reported

Activity occurring in the hotel includes some of the following:

        Many paranormal incidents have occurred in room #717. Unexplained screams, kicking and banging against the door have been reported by staff. Guests have reported that sometimes they have heard a man calling out, “help me, help me”. When they try to enter the door is found locked. When staff finally was able to gain access, no one was present inside.

        Other activity reported in room #717; pulling of guest’s hair, television channels changing on their own, lights and faucets being turned on and off by unseen hands and loud banging noises heard on the walls within as well as a woman’s blood curdling screams.

        Disembodied male voices are heard.

        Unexplained footsteps reported by staff and guests.

        Strange humming and whistling noises with no explanation.

        A redheaded woman in a white bathrobe has often been seen, when noticed she disappears down a hallway, never to be found.

        The ghost of a ballerina who committed suicide by jumping out of her 7th story window has been seen. Some say she was murdered.

        The ballroom is said to be haunted by a man who had hanged himself there many decades ago.

        A ghostly couple has been witnessed dancing in the Crystal Ballroom only to vanish moments later.

        Various apparitions seen throughout the hotel.

        Unexplained green glowing lights seen in one of the smaller banquet rooms.

        An apparition of a male has been seen vanishing into walls.

        The chandelier in the Crystal ballroom has been seen to sway and tremble of its own accord.

        Unseen bodies have been reported to have bumped into guests and staff.

        The lockers in the staff locker rooms have been known to rattle and shake with no explanation.

        A green glowing light has been seen under the stage in the ballroom area.

        Items have been thrown at the kitchen staff, by an unseen entity.

        Unexplained movement and activity with the elevators.

        Brand new candles placed in the ballroom by the staff the night before were found the next morning all burnt down halfway.

        Stomping and dancing noises heard from within the ballroom when no one is present.

        A phantom ballerina has been seen dancing in the ballroom.

        About 7 years ago a man committed suicide by throwing himself from the hotel parking ramp.

 

Investigation

The WPRS investigated the hotel on Saturday March 9, 2013 from approximately 6:30pm to 4:30AM.  Investigators Blaschka, Beaudry, Spialek, Williams and Coates were present.  The client gave us a partial tour of the property and explained where some of the above activity had occurred. After the tour of the property was complete we moved our equipment to the second floor Crystal Ballroom. We decided to start our investigation there as many of the reports have been from that area of the hotel.

Basic equipment used during our investigation included digital cameras, digital voice recorders, Tri Field Electro Magnetic Field (EMF) meter, a 4 channel DVR camera system, K-2 meter, Infrared and Full Spectrum cameras, Geiger counter and infrared/ambient thermal probes. Several DVR cameras were placed at various angles throughout the ballroom area. Also one camera was trained on the promenade leading to the main doors of the ballroom. Unfortunately, no paranormal activity was caught on our video system during the evening.

We began by obtaining temperature, Geiger counter and EMF readings as well as a sketch of the floor plan of the ballroom area. Hundreds of infrared and full spectrum photographs were taken in various areas of the ballroom as well as throughout the entire eight floors of the hotel, the health club, locker rooms and swimming pool area.

The ballroom had temperatures between 61 and 64 degrees, with EMF readings varied throughout.  The North side of the ballroom had EMF readings that were around 0 miligauss. The West side of the room had readings that ranged from 1.0 to 4.0 miligauss; these readings were static in nature which means they could be recreated. The South side of the room had EMF readings around 0 miligauss. The East side of the room was much different from the rest of the ballroom. These readings ranged from 0.0 to 100.0 miligauss. None of these readings were static in nature and they would come and go unexpectedly. Considerable effort was made to find a source of these extreme fluctuations in the energy field but no reasonable explanation could be found. Many times throughout the evening these high readings would occur only to dissipate minutes later in the same area. We also used a K-2 meter as well as a REM Pod. Both of these units reacted the same way that our EMF meters had.

While in the ballroom we investigated a storage area on the East side of the room. When in that area Blaschka noted that he felt very strange. Beaudry reported that while he was near the entrance to the storage area he experienced what felt like a person running their hand along his hair on the side of his head. Another personal experience was noted by Spialek while in the promenade area. She heard a voice say, “Hey, what are you doing”? No one else was present at the time. Also during our initial setup Coates captured on her audio recorder some possible responses. One of our members (Anji) had asked (Sharon) if she wanted to stay here (in the ballroom). Right after the question was asked our Rem Pod reacted audibly. The question was again asked and the same reaction was noted.     

We conducted a half hour EVP session in the ballroom area. Four of our group members with recorders in hand spread out on each end of the ballroom. During our EVP session we obtained several EVP’s. The first EVP was captured about 10 minutes into the session. In that recording a man’s voice can be heard to say “Walter”. The second EVP about 20 minutes into the session sounded like a low moaning noise. A third EVP during the session was captured after one of the team members asked if the ghost that haunts the ballroom liked older music. After this was asked a very soft “yes” is heard. None of these sounds were heard by any of the team members while recording, only after review of the recordings could these sounds be heard.

Upon review of our photographs we found several possible paranormal shots. One infrared photograph in the ballroom is likely a picture of a spirit. The shot was captured by team member Beaudry on the East side of the ballroom. Below in the first photo you see a white image on the right side of the photograph.

The next photo below that was taken of the same area only a few second later, the image is all but gone.

The picture at left of the man closest to the portrait on the wall is a side profile from 1957 of Walter Schroeder the hotel's founder. The photo at right is one we captured from the ballroom area. The shape has some similarity to Mr. Schroeder's head.

The photo above was taken again in the ballroom while our Rem Pod was reacting to an unexplainable high field. If you look closely above the device you can see an oblong white shape forming above the Rem Pod.

In this photo above taken in one of the hotel hallway’s two orbs can be seen. These could be spirit energy but we can’t say proof positive that they are paranormal in nature.

In this final photo above the infamous room #717 can be seen. Many reports of paranormal activity have been reported in this room. If you look closely underneath the door handle you can see a large orb. Is this the spirit of the man that haunts this room?

 

Conclusion

Upon review and consideration of all the evidence collected we feel that it is likely that the Retlaw Hotel is haunted. We do not make this assumption easily as it is rare that we come across a building that has so much correlating evidence. It is impossible to know exactly whom it is haunted by but various spirits could be present as the hotel has had a very long and rich history. The Retlaw’s founder may have some earthly attachment to the building as well. We are not saying proof positive that this ghost is Mr. Schroeder but simply it is a possibility. What further supports this theory is the fact that we captured a very subtle EVP in the ballroom that we believe says "Walter". It seems easy enough to consider since he had named the building after himself.

We have validated some of that activity thru the EVP’s that we have obtained. We have also strengthened the theory of this haunting by some of the photos we captured, the coinciding rise of the magnetic field in that same area as well as personal experiences in the same vicinity.

In closing we hope to return to the Retlaw Hotel and continue our research into the activity within.

 

Below is a journal kept by hotel staff of some personal accounts …..

 

1. A few years ago, we had an employee that was working

in banquets. One night he was working set-up with a female employee on

second floor. According to him, while he was setting up in the Regency

room the female employee came running into the room screaming for him to

come with her. He immediately ran down from the Regency to the Ballroom figuring he had a spider

 to kill or something else silly.

He opened the Ballroom doors. All the lights were off, but in the

corner, underneath the risers, there was this unmistakable glowing green

light. There are no electrical outlets in this corner, just so you know. He

mustering up all his courage, grabs a broom from the banquet kitchen and

decides to charge toward the light. He swings at it trying to brush out

whatever is glowing. Still the light glowed, nothing helped. Soon he

became too frightened after noticing nothing was under there.. ..just a

mysterious light. He threw the broom underneath the risers and the light

disappeared.

Later that same night, he was downstairs in the basement, changing

in the men's locker room. That same female co-worker was in the girl's

locker room. Suddenly he heard her scream! He rushed into the girl's locker

room and saw all the locker doors shaking and rattling. They both ran

upstairs to the main floor as quickly as they could.

Needless to say, that girl quit very soon afterwards. Her co-worker worked here for many years,

but nothing else ever happened to him as strange as what

happened that night. To this day, he insists everything in that story is the

absolute truth.

 

2. Taken from the front desk employee log book January 27, 2001....

Housekeeping called to front desk at 11:00am Saturday January 27,

2001 to report a disturbance. The housekeeper, said she heard

screaming coming from the 7th floor! The other housekeepers said they could

hear it down on the 6th floor as well. It seemed to be near 715 or 717. Now 717

was vacant and cleaned already that morning. It had been rented out by a

regular guest from Marian College, and she had checked out much earlier

that morning.

When the front desk clerk, got the call she followed procedure

assuming someone was being hurt. She called maintenance on the walkie

talkie to have them head up there with their master keys.

Then she began calling all the occupied rooms on 7th floor. She

called room 702 who was a frequent guest. "Hi, this is the

front desk. I heard reports of a disturbance up there, so I just wanted to make

sure you were okay or see if you had heard anything unusual." He'd heard

nothing. Neither had 706 or 722. Room 715 was the only occupied room that

didn't answer. It had been rented to a young lady; only one adult had

registered in that room. The front desk clerk began calling the rooms on the back wing.

General consensus of the employees that morning was that 715 was

just engaging in some unorthodox activity, so to speak. Unfortunately, this

was proven incorrect when desk clerk called 724. The guest from 715 was in that room with some friends.

She had no idea what was going on. Everyone was beginning to get worried. What could that noise possibly

have been? Two housekeepers heard it.

By that time, maintenance called down via the walkie

talkie. They started checking all the unoccupied rooms for anyone who had

maybe sneaked in somehow.

Then the front desk clerk called the resident in room 718, who'd been staying with us for several weeks.

She hadn't called him earlier because normally he

would be working Saturday mornings, but she decided to try anyway. We

weren't getting anywhere in uncovering the mysterious noise, and what if

someone really was being hurt?

"Have you heard anything?" she asked him.

The guest replied, "as a matter of fact, yes, I have. It's happened the

last two nights, too. I hear a man screaming 'help me, help me' over and

over, and pounding for several moments, and then it just stops. I never

reported it because I know how people are sometimes, and I didn't want to

interrupt anything", and he laughed and hung up.

Without giving her time to fully digest what had just been told to her,

maintenance called down on the walkie talkie. He said, "Em, I hear a man shouting for help, 'help me,

help me' and you can see the door moving!!!"

"What!?!" she asked, confused.

"It's like someone is kicking it. He kept Yelling, help!"

"What door?"

"717! It looks like someone is kicking it!"

"There isn't anyone in there, they checked out! Just open the door!"

"I can't! It's stuck!"

As suddenly as it had started, the door stopped shaking. Maintenance went

inside. They radioed, the room is completely clean. There isn't anyone here, for that door to be moving like that,

there should be damage to the door or wall or something. There are no scuff marks on the door anywhere.

While maintenance was investigating the room, the desk clerk checked the guest register.  The resident had

said he had heard the noise for a couple days. No guest except for that one resident had been staying with us on the 7th floor

for more than one night. Who or what had made that commotion?

Prior to checking out another guest came to the front desk. "This place is haunted. I'll never set foot in here again.

You people are crazy to stay here!" Not surprisingly, she never returned. Neither has the disturbance to 717.

 

3. Years ago, we had an employee working in the kitchen. One morning she was talking to another employee in the kitchen.

She had her back to a wall, which was a few feet behind her and had a few shelves on it.

Out of nowhere, a bottle of syrup flew off the shelf, smacked her on the back of the head and landed behind

 her on the floor. There had been no one standing behind her.

 

4. This story happened six years ago to our assistant manager

of housekeeping. Back then, security at night was stricter, we locked up

the kitchen and service elevator at night. You needed keys to get into the

kitchen and to unlock the service elevator, and only maintenance and

housekeeping had those keys.

The Housekeeping Manager came into work about 3:30-4:00am one Sunday morning.

There was no pool man here nor anyone else from maintenance. She went to the front desk and said

hello to the Front Office Manager. The Office Manager informed her that

 it was just the two of them there that morning, which was common on Sundays.

The Hotel Manager went into the kitchen and turned on the service elevator. She went down to

housekeeping to prepare her cart to begin cleaning the rooms. As always, she locked

down the elevator behind her in the basement. She felt safer that way and always

made a point to lock it. After getting her cart ready, she went back to the service

elevator, but it wasn't in the basement. How was that possible if she locked it down?

She went to see the Front Desk Manager and asked if anyone had come

in. She told her that it was still just the two of them. She began to search

each floor for the elevator. She found the elevator on the 6th floor, locked

down with all the lights off. The odd thing was, the doors leading to the

service elevator were locked as well so no one on the 6th floor would have had

access to get back to the elevator.

 

5. The employees in banquets were preparing for a big wedding one

Friday night. They were setting up the tables and centerpieces with brand

new candles that had just been delivered. After they were done for the

evening, they locked up and went home. The next morning, the staff came in

to finish the preparations but something was wrong. Every single candle had

been burned down exactly halfway.

 

6. Our night auditors often bear the brunt of our ghost's mischievous

nature. For instance on February 21, 2002, our Front Office

Manager left this in her report: "Midnight-ish. I'm all alone in the lobby of

the hotel and hear a crash up on 2nd floor, right above me. Sounded like

books or something falling. Two people I know walked through to go to

Dillingers shortly after it happened, and I had them go to 2nd floor to check it

out and they didn't find a damn thing!"

Later that same evening:

"Wednesday, February 21, all alone still - sometime before

local bar time I heard somebody whistling a tune. Nobody came downstairs

from the guest rooms and nobody walked in from outside. So what the hell! Yes, I am scared!"

 

7. This was another report from a Sunday night in September, 2001.

This can be verified by several other staff, so that should stop any doubt.

Although this employee is a believer in all this ghost stuff, staff from the restaurant is not

sure yet if they believe, and the bartender is a complete skeptic and this really bothered him.

So today I was working front desk alone... I heard like two or three

women above me... not really talking, though. Kind of yelling. Then

screaming. Definitely a woman's voice. I look up and say to another employee, did you hear that?"

She goes by another employee and he says "what the hell was that?" I walked out into the

 lobby and looked up where hotel staff was standing. They heard screaming again for a few seconds,

then it kind of got muffled and it stopped. We never heard the elevator. We never saw that door open;

 we never heard footsteps. I grabbed a walkie talkie immediately and ran upstairs. I didn't

see anyone. I got to the ballroom (in the dark) and heard a loud banging noise.

Not from the air conditioner, I know that sounds different. Then I got freaked and ran back.

The cook and waitress/hostess, respectively went up to investigate more because

I am a chicken. They found the inner doors to the stairway by the ballroom unlocked,

but the outside doors were locked, so no one came in or out through there.

That's odd in itself because the security guard’s report from last night shows

the doors were all locked and we all know how security is about locking doors!

The banquet staff turned in their keys and left hours ago. I'm still freaked.

What was that screaming? And why does this stuff always happen when I'm here!

But I'm not crazy because other staff heard the same thing!"

 

8. The Manager on duty for 2nd shift one night was walking on the second

 floor doing his rounds and he heard a noise coming from the Ballroom.

It sounded like people stomping or dancing. He yelled to see if anyone was in there,

and the noise stopped. He looked around, nothing. He turned off the lights

and closed the door. The noise started up again. He called out, the noise stopped.

He was spooked. He went downstairs looking white as a ghost.

 

9. March 17, 2012: A guest who was staying in room 729 was taking

a picture with her brother. Her nephew jumped in front of her brother to

block the picture. Usually when someone jumps in front of the camera, you

can see their body. But not in this case, instead it was as if the nephew's

body was transparent. She could literally see her brother through her nephew

with just the outline of her nephew. Some other events that occurred during

their stay included her brother encountering an old musty smell that nobody

could smell but him lasting only a couple seconds. As well as noticing a

lamp that had been moved back to its original spot after they moved it earlier

that evening.

 

10. Many reports have come from kitchen employees. They say the

radio turns itself off and on... the dishes shake and the glasses rattle. Many

nights if you are working late and you get the chance, walk through the

kitchen. You never know when you might hear something unusual.

Housekeepers are constantly being called to turn off loud TVs or

alarm clocks in rooms that haven't been occupied for days. They often have

things moved on their carts or have problems with our elevators. Many

housekeepers tell stories of seeing a ballerina dancing alone in the ballroom.

A former Front Office Manager claims to have seen a white cloud

floating on the second floor one night. Some guests have reported lights going on an off,

their televisions changing channels or being stuck on a single channel - C-Span seems to be a favorite for some reason.

Restaurant and Bar staff often hear footsteps above the restaurant in

banquets when everyone is gone for the night.

Walter's Pub was the most likely place for events to occur in its

heyday. He was constantly playing with lights. Cabinets would open and

shut. The contents of the glass cabinets could be found on the floor, but the

cabinets would remain closed. Glass would break for no reason, falling to

the floor from the hanging racks. Sometimes you could hear glass break but

no broken shards could be found. The Jukebox and dartboards would turn

off and on by themselves. Faucets would run on their own and bartenders

would be unable to shut them off.

One time we had a psychic profiler staying with us; he was incredibly secretive

about who he was and what he did. He was here to investigate an event at a local business.

He had a strange feeling when driving through Fond du Lac and felt the urge to stay with us.

He sat in the pub and was able to recount several strange events here and

spent hours talking to several employees about events here at the hotel.

Luckily when the employees asked the former General Manager,

if they could sit and speak with him, he approved. He decided it would be in the employees best interests to sit

and speak with this man to see if they could learn anything more about the

strange occurrences we have here.

 

Many other groups of people claiming to investigate these types of

stories have stayed here, but few have ever heard or experienced anything.

For some reason, these things only happen to employees for the most part

and nothing is anything more than that of a mischievous nature, simply

announcing Walter's existence.

 

*Any use or reproduction of this documentation is prohibited without the sole permission of Shawn Blaschka or the WPRS.