Sunday, August 1, 2010

Plover Restaurant Serves Up Mysteries

Article from the Milwaukee Journal.

Oct. 28, 1985

Haunted Heartland.

7th in a series of 12.

Tim and Louise Mulderink are an energetic couple who always dreamed of owning a restaurant. In November 1982, they bought a 125 year old house in Plover, Wisconsin. As they would discover, not all the former residents of the attractive, two-story clapboard dwelling had moved out. Someone they couldn't see opened the front door, knocked glass off the bar, tramped the upstairs rooms and turned lights on and off.

At first, Tim and Louise were so busy remodelling that they didn't notice any peculiarities. They put in new wiring and plumbing, installed a new roof and insulated the walls. Tim, who had an extensive background in food management and catering, did much of the planning, including the conversion of the former garage into a kitchen. Louise, a vivacious, willowy blonde, supervised the redecorating of the house. The main color scheme of petal pink and burgundy created an elegant ambiance for fine dining.

The Mulderinks named their restaurant the Sherman House to identify it with the famous Sherman House restuarant in Chicago, their hometown. They also wanted to honor Eugene A. Sherman, the most historically significant of the home's previous residents. Sherman had operated a sawmill and general store in Plover, moving into the house in 1891. Now, nearly a century later, the Sherman House restaurant was ready for its first guests. The well attended grand opening in April, 1983, pleased Tim and Louise.

A month later, Louise was standing behind the bar, facing a glass-shelved, glassware storeage cabinet, when a glass exploded.

"It just shattered," Tim remembered. "Louise never touched it. There was glass on the bar, everywhere." The glass had been in the center of a row of glasses. Had a vibration of some sort caused it to break? Tim didn't think so, or other glasses in the cabinet would have broken also.

Shortly afterward, two women in the bar ordered drinks. No sooner had the bartender set the first drink down, when the glass exploded, showering one of the women with liquid and glass fragments. Fortunately, she wasn't hurt. The bartender, a waitress and Charles Grachan, Louise's father, witnessing the incident, said no hands had been touching the glass.

On a Friday night, Paul, one of the dishwashers, experienced a similar incident. Five minutes after he pulled a rack of glasses out of the machine to air dry, he heard a loud popping noise. Tim, who was standing near by, said "What are you doing, Paul? Breaking glasses?"

"I didn't even touch it," Paul said, holding a stack of plates he had just removed from another machine.

On another day, during the lunch period, a fourth glass exploded, throwing shards ito the liquid and ice bins. "The pieces looked like a windshield somebody'd taken a sledge hammer to," said Louise.

By this time, Tim, convinced that the glasses were defective, talked to the company representative. The man could not explain the explosions; he said that an occasional glass shatters, but it is highly improbable for several glasses to do so.

Meanwhile, the heavy front door developed a will of its own. It opened six or eight inches by itself. Tim discounted an air current caused by the kitchen exhaust fan because the doors between the kitchen and entrance lobby were always kept closed. There was never any wind on the days the door swung open, and the Mulderinks never found anyone who might have opened it as a prank, or carelessly failed to shut it.

The restaurant opens at 4:30 on Sundays, and one afternoon, Louise's father was alone in the house answering the telephone and taking dinner reservations. Suddenly, he heard someone unlock the front door and open it. He called out jokingly, "Come in, Mr. Sherman. I'll buy you a drink."

No one came in. Thinking it must be a cleanup man, Grachan went to check. The door opened just wide enough for a person to slip through, but no one was in the house.

"Only a few people have a key to that door," Mr. Grachan said. "Whoever opened it had to have had a key. I heard it click."

But that was not the end of Grachan's experiences. Late one evening, he, Tim and a friend named Rick were lounging after hours in the bar. At midnight, the mantel clock in the center of the top shelf behind the bar began striking the hour. The men looked up at the clock and counted. It struck 13!

"I've had enough for tonight," Grachan said. He had bought the clock new in April of 1983, and this was the third time it had struck an extra hour. He examined the battery operated device carefully, but could find nothing wrong with it. "I'm not scared of anything," Grachan explained, "except anything I can't see. I have trouble with that."

Corinne, the cleaning lady, felt the same way. A religious woman who always carried her Bible with her, she reported to work early each morning....until she quit. "Whatever is in there," she told Tim, "I can't work there any more."

"She was scared out of her wits," Tim said, shaking his head. "She would constantly talk about kitchen pots clanging or shadows in the bar; when she was near the entrances she could see shadows going by."

Tim thought it was probably the wind and the old house creaking, although he admits that the structure is quite solid.

Even though other employees besides Corinne were nervous about working in the house, Tim and Louise were not inclined to accept a supernatural basis for the incidents. Tim, especially, sought logical explanations for everything -- but never found them. Louise, however, soon experienced an incident that changed her mind. It frightened her so badly that she refused afterwards, to stay alone in the house.

That night, while John, another dishwasher, finished up in the kitchen, Louise emptied the cash register and went upstairs to the office to count the money and put it in the safe. She kept the office door open. Suddenly, it closed. She got up to open it. Returning to her task, she heard footsteps cross the hall. Then she noticed that the door to the banquet room opposite -- which was always kept closed -- was open.

Louise raced downstairs to ask John if he had come up. No, he said, he had not left the kitchen. Louise went back upstairs, turned on the banquet room lights and checked the room. Nothing was disturbed. By the time she returned to counting the money, John was ready to leave.

"I counted very fast," Louise remembered, "put everything in the safe, made sure the back (fire escape)door was locked, turned off the lights in the office, and made sure all the upstairs lights were off. John and I walked out the door together and he got in his car and left. My car was parked in the back, so I had to walk around the building and......I heard this tapping on the upstairs window.

I got in my car, locked all the doors and backed the car up to see if the branches of any trees were scrapping the window. I looked up and the office light was on. I knew I'd turned all the lights off, and I wasn't about to go back in. So I went home and woke Tim up. I had to tell him what happened."

In the morning, the office light was off!

Louise said her father had a similar experience while managing the restaurant when she and Tim were out of town. Grachan finished counting the money, put it in the safe and turned off all the lights. While walking to his car, he looked up and saw the office light was burning. He went back inside and the light was off.

Louise was not the only one who heard footsteps. One Friday night, Tim and Louise and four of the employes, were gathered in the kitchen when they heard distinct thumping noises overhead.

"Stop talking for a minute!" some one shouted. Heavy footsteps crossed the upstairs hall as if to enter the banquet room. Tim searched the entire upstairs. He found nothing.

On a fall night in 1983, Louise witnessed a second disturbing incident. She was upstairs when the fluorescent lights in the office flickered, but did not go out. Then Louise heard a tinkling noise. On the back of the office door is a rack holding light weight metal clothes hangers. As Louise turned from the safe, she noticed the hangers swinging back and forth, including one that held a shirt of Tim's.

"It was as if somebody had brushed passed them," she said. But she was alone. No air was moving, nor was the air conditioner running. Louise could find no explanation for the movement of the hangers.<.p>

"I went home and told Tim that the ghost was here again," she said.

But who is the ghost?

The Mulderinks still hope to find out. Wendell Nelson, a Portage Country historian, provided the couple with much background information on the house and its residents. And Louise also gathered information from customers familiar with the place. The only person known to have died in the house was a two day old infant.

However, all of the families who have lived in the house were Methodists, and teetotalers. Especially the Pierces who owned the house from 1903 until 1945. James W. Pierce was a grocer in Plover. The deacons and the Men's club met in his house, and Mrs. Pierce regularly entertained the ladies' sewing circle. Louise thought the Pierces were probably offended by the transformation of their homestead into a restaurant. Especially after she and Tim unwittingly converted Mr. Pierce's old bedroom into a bar!

"He's probably just having kittens over that!" exclaimed Louise.

Does the ghost of James Pierce haunt the house? If so, he was there long before the Sherman House began operations. The Mulderinks believe the house has been haunted for at least 25 years. The last residents, the William Sowiaks, who owend it from 1957 until 1982, also witnessed strange phenomena. When the Mulderinks bought it, Tim and Louise became aquainted with Mike Sowiak, son of the owners, who had grown up in the house. Mike told them this story:

The rear portion of the upstairs banquet room was once Mike's bedroom. (Tim and Louise had removed a wall.) The Sowiaks had a friendly dog who was also fearless...except at certain times when it refused to go upstairs. It would stand at the foot of the stairway and bark and howl. Once, Mike pushed the dog up a couple of steps, but it came right bak down.

In the 1970's, Mike married and moved to Chicago. Each time he and his wife, Sue, returned to visit Mike's parents, they slept in Mike's bedroom. But they got little rest. The couple would hear someone enter the room and approach the bed. It was as if a parent were coming in late at night to check on a sleeping child. But no one was ever there.

After a few such nocturnal checks, Sue refused to sleep in the room anymore. Mike stuck it out until one night when something awoke him He refused to say what had frightened him.

A few sensitive Patrons of the Sherman House may suspect that someone invisable may be watching them in the oak-trimmed bar or in one of the comfortable dining rooms. But luckily, since the bar glasses shattered, there have been no further incidents involving customers.

They also know that the front door, secure as it seems, may open mysteriously at any time....that someone prowls the banquet room upstairs....that the mantel clock in the bar can't be depended upon to chime the correct hour. And that the woman who lives next door may greet Tim and Louise in the morning by asking, "Did you know your office light was on all night?"

Meanwhile, the Mulderinks are working hard to complete the restoration of this lovely vintage home. Eager to forge a link with the past, they're named the various dining rooms in honor of previous residents and they are collecting pictures of the families. They have little time to ponder what their resident ghost might do next.

Louise's father, who believes in ghosts, offers the last work. "He's just a nice friendly guy."

And hopefully an asset to the restaurant business.

1985, by Beth Scott and Michael Norman, reprinted from Haunted Heartland.

Related Posts:

Sherman House post 1<.p>

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