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Do ghosts roam the halls of the Dousman Stagecoach Inn?

Dousman inn has had fair share of the unexplained

Lynda Thayer strides through the front door of the Dousman Stagecoach Inn.

Lynda Thayer strides through the front door of the Dousman Stagecoach Inn. Photo By Mary Catanese

Oct. 24, 2012

Is the Dousman Stagecoach Inn haunted?

Lynda Thayer, vice president of the Elmbrook Historical Society, won't say that.

"I'll tell you about my own experiences, and you can decide," she said.

But Thayer, who has spent countless hours alone at the Brookfield landmark, has experienced things at the inn she can't explain, as have other volunteers and visitors.

The reports focus on the master bedroom and the privacy room, a small room off the ladies' parlor used for moms to nurse their babies.

The unusual activity is very sporadic, Thayer said, and much of it can be attributed to the age and condition of the building that pre-dates the Civil War.

"Whatever presence there is, we believe it's benevolent … not something evil," said Thayer, who noted that while several people had died in the building over its long history, there were no reports of any type of tragedy occurring there.

Thayer shared her ghostly encounters Sunday as she and others were making preparations for next week's Halloween at the Haunted Inn.

One afternoon, while cleaning, she heard someone knocking; then more knocking, knocking, knocking, Thayer said. Then it stopped.

After looking, inside and outside, she found nothing.

Then she heard it again.

Thayer, with a smile, attributed the knocking to "weary travelers trying to get in."

On another day, Thayer had placed her keys, as she always does, in the pantry, and needed to make several trips carrying boxes from her car to the inn. As she approached the door with her arms full of boxes, it opened for her.

"I chuckled, 'Thank you,' " Thayer said.

On her next trip, as she approached the door, she heard her car doors lock - even though the keys were in the pantry. It seemed playful, "like a game," Thayer said.

Other society members, too, have felt a presence or had unusual experiences in the inn.

During preparations for last year's Halloween event at the inn, a volunteer was standing on a chair putting up decorations when she started falling backward.

"She swears someone caught her before she could fall," Thayer said.

More recently, as society volunteers were preparing for Arts at the Inn in August, Thayer said, she was alone at the inn when she "had a feeling" that something wasn't right and made her "a little uneasy."

Later that same night, another of the volunteers told Thayer that she, too, felt something unusual, something not quite right and had to get out of the house.

"She preferred to go outside in the pitch dark - there are no lights out there - than stay in the house any longer," Thayer recounted.

And just a few weeks ago, a bride and groom scouting locations where they could take their wedding photos had decided on the inn. When the couple arrived with their entourage, including two photographers, the group went up to the master bedroom. As they all entered the room, the rocking chair started to rock - and the bride rushed out.

"I think it was all of us walking on the floor," said Thayer, who noted usually very few people are allowed in the room at the same time.

Thayer also shared but could not corroborate another report claiming to have evidence of a presence in the inn.

After learning the inn's story, two French paranormal investigators visited the building last year. They did not experience anything unusual during their visit, but when they developed their pictures, they reported finding one they said showed a ghostly image in a ball of light.

Thayer also disavowed any knowledge of reports found on some websites devoted to haunted buildings in Wisconsin that tell of a figure that rushes people and has impacted them with such force that they fly backward off the porch.

"We don't know where that came from," Thayer said.

Those kinds of reports, however, keep interest alive in the inn as a potential haunting. The society has received lots of requests from paranormal investigators and students to spend a night in the inn over the years.

"We don't allow that," said Thayer, noting the society takes great care in its efforts to maintain the aging building and its artifacts, handling some only while wearing gloves.

And while the stories of hauntings help spur interest in the inn, the real story is its historical significance.

Built in the 1840s by Talbot Dousman, a key figure in the early development of Waukesha County, the building was sold several years later to Daniel Brown, who ran it as a stagecoach inn to accommodate travelers going between Milwaukee and Watertown on the plank road. It later became a farmhouse and eventually was donated to the city of Brookfield, which leased it to the historical society.

The inn was moved in 1981 from its original site at the corner of Bluemound and Watertown Plank roads, where a North Shore Bank building now stands, to the society's property at 1075 Pilgrim Parkway.

In addition to the former inn/farmhouse, the site includes an ice house, smoke house, wagon/blacksmith shop, former Woodside School bell tower and a gift shop in a former log cabin.

Halloween at the Haunted Inn will be held from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Oct. 28.

For more information about the inn and the historical society, visit www.elmbrookhistoricalsociety.org.

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