With such a long and storied family history, it is no surprise that a few of the Woods family’s haunts are rumored to actually be haunted. For instance, Nebraska Row is a “street” of vacation homes on Madeline Island, Wisconsin, that are owned and enjoyed by Nebraska residents. The island has been the Woods family’s summer getaway since the early 1900s. Ghost gossip has long been part of the Woods family lore during summers up in Wisconsin.
The stories run from puzzling and eerie, to warm and welcoming. Family member ‘LB’ describes the mystical feeling of the island and of the Woods family cottages as, “safe, loving, and mostly magical.” ‘LB’ continued to say that she took from the spectral presences, “… a welcome feeling.“ She described a time from earlier in her life when she was alone in one of the Woods family cottages. In the spacious and beautifully decorated room there was a pleasant warmth. The room filled with dancing flashes of light, like sunlight diffused through water playing on every surface of the walls, floor, and ceiling. This visitation from family ghosts gave her a longstanding feeling of family community, like the opposite of loneliness. “It makes me want to be there.”
The original Woods family patriarch, Colonel F.M. Woods, built a cottage that still stands called the Dew Drop Inn. It has a haunter that some believe to be the ghost of the Colonel’s wife, Eliza. Others think that from time to time Eliza has even crept over to the cottage next door that was built for Helen Woods Haecker.
Of the Colonel himself, his spirit has been seen a number of times in the cottage that was originally owned by his son George. The family claims that the Colonel’s ghost has been seen only once by a blood relative. The incident involved a young woman of the family who was too young to have known the Colonel but knew him from photographs and family stories. She awoke in the night to see him standing at the foot of her bed. She added with a shiver, “He did not look happy.” The Colonel is apparently a stern apparition, and the main targets of his hauntings have been prospective husbands and husbands newly wed into the Woods clan. They have often been paid visits from the Colonel’s spirit as if in ominous warning.
Of all the Woods Brothers, perhaps George has the most claims to the Madeline Island title “resident poltergeist”. He loves to play tricks. According to ‘GH’, a family member and longtime Madeline Island summer habitué, “Uncle George” (the ghost of George Woods) “favored paying his visits to the younger ladies of the family.” Maybe they are more fun to trick.
Uncle George was married to Aunt Rachel. Of Rachel’s spirit, multiple family members have said, “You know if Rachel is in the room because you can smell her perfume.” Rachel had a signature fragrance of lavender perfume. Even now, the hallways in their former cottage will take on the surprising, distinct, and pleasant bouquet of lavender, and the current residents of the cottage feel her friendly presence.
‘GH’ went on about his Uncle George, “While he was living, Uncle George was a kindly soul. As a very little boy, I once found myself alone and a bit lost downtown in Lincoln. This was the early-1940s. Uncle George found me. Without hesitation, he pointed me in the right direction, and gave me a quarter—lots of money then—to catch the streetcar back home.” He concluded wistfully of the ghost of his kind uncle, “I myself can confess no visit (from the spirit), but I liked him so well and would be glad to say hello and see how things are going.”
Clark Pace Woods, the wife of Mark Woods, was a rather eccentric woman who is the subject of lots of wonderful stories. Her nickname was Gigi, and, Great Grandmother Gigi is referred to as, “one ghost you don’t want to mess with.”
At a recent summertime cocktail party held at Uncle George’s former island cottage, one family member, ‘SW’ was telling an eccentric Gigi story to a group of guests. Included in the group was ‘SW’s cousin, who was filming the story with his phone. As the story was unfolding, a framed photo of Gigi and Mark’s island cottage fell off the wall. Everyone gasped. All supposed that Gigi was mad or offended by the story. In the film, one can see a tiny glow of light that goes from the photo on the floor into the dining room where the lights began to go on and off. Then the lights began flickering in the downstairs bedroom as well. Startling the guests – well, that is one way to shake up a cocktail party!
Back to George’s ghost and the spookier side. Perhaps, as ‘GH’ said, “younger ladies” were more fun to trick, but George’s ghost has, at least on one occasion, provided a trick so chilling, that it has kept a family member away from the beloved island.
‘LB’ related the story of her husband. One day he was in a basement room where boat rigging and sails were kept. He decided to rest for a bit and dozed, but was sleeping lightly. On that day there were workmen in the house. He was awakened and assumed that one of the workmen had needed something – had joined him in the sail room. But what ‘LB’s husband saw, no workman or live soul could do: Recognized from hundreds of photographs, it was the ghost of Uncle George. He was in a hat and a fisherman’s vest and he was hovering -missing the lower half his body. Staring over his shoulder, Uncle George floated away from the awakened man, not through an open doorway, but through a solid wooden door.
The specter of paranormal activity is all around us at this time of the year, and it is noteworthy that the Lincoln Ghost Tour (with several stops in the Country Club area) is sold out months in advance. If you are interested in learning more about the spirits in our midst, visit: http://www.ghostsoflincoln.com or http://www.spiritexpeditions.com.