A few nights ago a resident shared an odd experience he had in the middle of the night. He claimed he saw a foggy apparition moving around in the back room of the men’s dorm. He vividly remembered that he could not move his arms or legs for a short period of time, and then suddenly he could move. At the time he was sharing this he was unclear if he was awake or dreaming. He asked if anyone else had an experience like his. I smiled and told him it sounded like he had met our Emma as others before him had. Most notably was the experience of a former resident who slept in the bed he was currently occupying. This man shared that he was laying in bed reading when he felt and saw the mattress move as if someone was sitting on the edge of his bed. He reported he was not at all frightened by this occurrence that lasted only a few minutes. I reassured the freaked out young man that he did not need to be frightened and then went on to share a little about Emma and a few ghostly events that have occurred. As I spoke I made the decision to no longer keep Emma a secret and share without concern that I, or we, would be labeled “looney toons.” The personal experiences of staff and residents are not the types of events you would see in a horror flick. They range from subtle events one isn’t sure really happened, to events that have no explanation other than otherworldly involvement. I suspect some of you will be skeptical just as many of us have been and still are. It doesn’t matter to Emma if you believe in her or not. If she’s here, she’s here, and lack of belief doesn’t change her world. I should let you know that I am one who does believe Emma is real. I have had too many of my own experiences, and it is next to impossible for me to pretend she isn’t here, right now, looking over my shoulder as I type…..
Neither Tammy, Becca or I can remember how we initially found out about Emma. It just seems like she has been here since we began this adventure. My first experience with odd goings on came in the fall of 2011. We had gotten a new type of drug test, so my co-worker Gloria and I decided to familiarize ourselves with it. I did a test myself. Now, I know with 100% certainty that I shut the bathroom door, but as Gloria and I concentrated on the test, I saw the bathroom door slowly open. We both forgot about the test and stared at the bathroom, not sure what to say. If memory serves me, I believe that was the first time I said out loud, “Must have been Emma.” Not too long after that I was in the kitchen around 2 AM when suddenly the three coffee mugs on the wood coffee mug tree began swinging back and forth at distinctly different speeds and directions. I had not bumped the counter or done anything to cause this. All I did was walk into the kitchen. I stared at the swinging mugs for quite awhile before I said, “Ok, Emma, you can quit. I believe in you.” As soon as I said that, the mugs quit swinging as quickly as they had started. I found this odd, but it did not scare me. After the mug incident not a whole lot happened for awhile. There were minor oddities we all noticed such as the radio in the office turning on all by itself, lights we knew we had shut off were turned on, and a weird knocking noise in the office that could not be attributed to anything structural. The next big event that we were aware of was the experience of the former resident I described in the first paragraph. I fully believe others have witnessed things they could not explain but kept quiet so as not to appear crazy. In all honesty, staff didn’t talk about Emma to residents either.
That all changed one day when Emma’s grandkids stopped by and gave us a picture of Emma. Knowing what she looked like made her real to us. Until that point, we knew her first name and that she had died in the house in 1976. I think Emma was pleased her grandkids visited because she became more and more active…..especially in the basement. The basement seems to creep out every co-worker I’ve had except for Cindy who is a believer and comfortable with sharing a space with spirits. To be fair to my Fred Family, the basement is quite creepy. If one lets their imagination run wild, one could conjure up all sorts of horror inducing scenarios. I rather like putzing in the basement, so I find myself working down there a lot after all are in bed at 11 pm. Countless times I have heard my name spoken and came upstairs to find...nobody. One night I went up and down six times, because I was sure I’d heard my name. Another frequent occurrence is the sudden smell of fresh cigarette smoke. Somewhere in my memory bank is the notion that Emma was a smoker. There have been numerous times I’ve been working away and suddenly it smells like someone is right next to me smoking away. When that happens I just tell Emma hello and keep working.
After quite a long stretch with no major events, Emma made her presence known with a vengeance. One morning after I had been home a bit, I received an “I’m freaking out text” from Jamie. After I left, she found herself drawn to the camera monitors in the office closet. While she was looking at them she saw one curtain, and only one, being pulled open like one would do if waiting for a ride. The next major paranormal event involved a resident who had been here once before and was well acquainted with the legend of Emma. When Dan arrived he had his own pillow which he loved. Well, one day his pillow was missing, and he enlisted Becca’s help in finding it. The two of them tore the dorm apart. I looked for it in the basement, but it was nowhere to be found. Becca suggested that Dan ask for Emma’s help; which he did. The next day Dan’s prized pillow was sitting on his bed. It could be that another resident was just messing with Dan, or it could have been Emma. We will never know unless Emma starts talking or leaving notes. By far, the most disquieting occurrence happened to Jamie right before Christmas. As she walked through the Gathering Room she looked towards the window and saw a female silhouette sitting on the couch, a silhouette whose hair was eerily similar to Emma’s hair in the picture we were given by her family. That incident got to me more than anything else that I’ve witnessed. I am now incapable of walking through that room in the dark without looking towards the window. I have yet to see Emma, and I’m honestly not sure what I would do if I did.
Now that you know our secret I bet many of you are wondering who the heck Emma is/was. The easiest way to introduce you to this amazing lady is by sharing archived articles I discovered online. I italicized these sections and left the author’s words as they were originally printed. Some word choices are definitely not politically correct.
Julius F. Lassig, proprietor of Evergreen Hedge Farm in the town of Pelican, Oneida County, was born in Germany, February 28, 1862. Julius received his education in Germany and was engaged in market gardening there until 1881, when he came to the United States. He came to Oneida County in the summer of 1887. Here he first located in Rhinelander, where he helped to erect Oneida County’s first courthouse. In the summer of 1888 he took a homestead of of 160 acres in the town of Pelican, and he set to work to carve a farm out of the wilderness, erecting a set of log buildings and proceeding to clear the land. The task was a formidable one, before which any but the stoutest of hearts would quail: Mr. Lassig, however, was of the stuff of the true pioneer, with the high courage and fortitude which marked that hardy race of men who built up the Northwest, and he was undaunted by the hardships which beset his path. Gradually the trees fell away before his axe and new buildings arose; he bought an adjoining 80-acre tract of land, bringing the total acreage of his farm to 240. Eighty acres of his land are cleared, and in 1920 he erected a new barn. He is carrying on general dairy farming, and truck gardening, and makes a specialty of raising strawberry plants, which he sells throughout the state. Mr. Lassig supplied logging camps with fresh produce and eventually dairy. Mr. Lassig donated land and built Ferndale School next to his farm so the children did not have to walk five miles for an education. He was an acquaintance of the prankster credited with creating the myth of the Hodag, Gene Shepherd. Mr. Lassig was married at Rhinelander on January 18, 1893 to Miss Mary Scheidegger. Mrs. Lassig’s parents were natives of Switzerland and her mother died in that country; the father came to America in the early 80’s and after living for a time in Ohio, went to Indiana, from which state he came to Wisconsin and settled in the town of Pelican, Oneida County, spending the remainder of his life here. Mary was an extremely hardworking woman and helped homestead the rough country. Fifteen children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Lassig, namely: Mary, Anna, Frieda, Helen, Beatrice, Emma, Carl, Herman, Everett, Harry, Gladys, Theodore, George, Erwin and Elaine
(1924 by H.C. Cooper Jr. & Company, Minneapolis-Winona, Minnesota)
Emma Lassig married Charles DeCanter of Rhinelander and they had eight children; one son and seven daughters. Tragically one of their daughters died in an accidental drowning death six months before her second birthday. Charles was in the Bayfield Sanitarium (presumably for tuberculosis) for four years prior to his death in 1942. Emma is not mentioned in his obituary at all, and I could not find a definitive reason for this. Emma raised their seven children while still managing to receive a college degree.
Mrs. Emma Lassig DeCanter was awarded a bachelor of science degree from Stout Institute on August 1, 1947. She has accepted a position as dietician and food supervisor at Principia College. It took Mrs. DeCanter 8 years to obtain her degree. She had attended State Teacher’s College before her marriage. This enabled her to teach rural education at Ferndale School. This was not enough for this ambitious mother of seven children-who later had to earn her own liveliehood. She returned to Stevens Point College. Meanwhile, when working in the tea room at the Country Club here, someone suggested she attend Stout Institute. She did. She started at Stout in 1945 and last year served as house mother at one of the dormitories. Besides her seven children, Mrs. DeCanter has four grandchildren.
Emma purchased the house which is now Frederick Place in 1956 and remained in it until her death on July1, 1976.
Mrs. Emma DeCanter, 78, of 204 West Frederick St., who spent most of her life as a teacher, died in her home Friday Evening. Born in 1898 in the town of Pelican, she was raised there. Surviving are her six daughters, one son, six sisters, five brothers, 17 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. She graduated from Oneida County Normal School and Stout University. She taught classes for the mentally retarded in Rhinelander and did volunteer work at the Jolly Fisherman. She also did volunteer work at the Logging Museum and traveled extensively in the United States and Europe. She was a member of the national, state and local retired teachers associations. She was past noble grand of the Rebekah Lodge, Rhinelander, and she was active in the Christian Science Church.
Emma was very active in the community. Besides the above, she was a member of the Pelican Women’s Club, a wildlife association, and the VFW Auxiliary. She belonged to local, state, and national retired teachers’ associations, and gave lectures concerning the education of mentally handicapped children in the area.
I’ve truly enjoyed scouring the internet on Emma’s behalf. I hope she likes what I’ve shared. I’m thinking she approves, as I’ve not heard my name called, smelled smoke, or had an electronic device turn on or off by itself. I have yet to walk through the Gathering Room though….maybe I just won’t look towards the window.