Posted October 28,
With Halloween on the way, the Daily Herald did some investigating into a local story of the paranormal. As it turns out, the story, or at least its Hollywood ties, is an urban legend that became twisted along the way.
According to the Wausau/Central Wisconsin Convention and Visitors Bureau and several paranormal Internet sites, a Rothschild home served as the inspiration for the 1982 movie "Poltergeist."
Although the movie's storyline, which features ghosts capturing a family's daughter and harassing investigators, goes to the extreme, the sources claim it was based upon the experiences of a family in Rothschild during the early 1970s.
As much as some want to believe in such a connection, it's not true. Each source contacted reported obtaining its information from the book "Haunted Heartland," written by Michael Norman and Beth Scott in the early 1980s.
The misconception, Norman said, comes from a story in the book. In the story, "The Wandering Dead," Norman and Scott used the release of the film as a way to draw readers into a tale of a poltergeist-like haunting. The authors write, "But, is it possible that a haunting as in the film 'Poltergeist' can actually happen? In fact, yes -- events like those described in the movie did occur in Wausau, Wisconsin, during the early 1970s."
Some readers apparently mistook the phrase to mean the movie was based on the Rothschild haunting, though Norman and Scott were simply trying to draw a comparison.
"What's happened is people said, 'Oh wow, it's based on this story right here in Wausau,'" Norman said. "It was our way of trying to relate (the story) to something that was current and trying to get (readers) into the story."
Although the Hollywood connection doesn't exist, the house described in the book does. According to the story, Harry and Jackie Fischer lived in a split-level house in 1972. At first, pots and pans would rattle in the cupboards and high-pitched sounds would emanate from a radio.
By 1975, the incidents became more intense. Jackie Fischer reportedly had a safety razor fly past her head, missing her by a couple inches, while she was shaving her legs in the bathroom. Eventually, they moved out of the house and sold it to a Jim and Mary Strasser in the late 1970s.
The house remains in Rothschild today, according to the Wausau Paranormal Research Society, but its location is unclear. Extensive research failed to turn up an address, and the society's founder, Shawn Blaschka, declined to disclose the house's location.
As for the movie's true inspiration, the Daily Herald was unable to track that down, either. It's writer, Steven Spielberg, did not return an e-mail requesting an interview.