Every town has its tales of ghosts, some the product of overactive teenage imaginations, but some just plain difficult to dismiss. Take the historic Showboat Saloon, a 100-year-old wedge-shaped building located at 24 Broadway in downtown Wisconsin Dells, that's long been regarded as haunted. Employees tell stories of the ghost of a past resident, believed to be named Molly, who haunts the upstairs kitchen, opening and closing doors and fiddling with appliances. She's non-threatening, but her appearances have understandably spooked staff, including kitchen manager Dave Pugh, who once lived upstairs. As he tells it, "It was eight years ago, early morning and I heard the door open and close and then felt someone tickling the bottom of my feet. When I opened my eyes, no one was there." Current owner of Showboat Saloon, Jesse DeFosse, says he no longer allows people to live upstairs because "too many strange things were happening." The bar area has apparently seen some supernatural activity too, with stories of human forms in turn-of-the-century clothing materializing in mirrors, sometimes appearing to be walking along the bar toward the exit door. Some say a strange voice has been heard numerous times near the stage area. In the cellar, unusual cold spots are apparent and employees have been known to experience feelings of nausea and sudden anxiety in this area. One little disclaimer - the sightings seem to happen after 3 a.m.
Others in the community say the ghost of riverboat captain Leroy Gates haunts the waters of the Wisconsin River. More than 150 years ago, visitors first came to the Dells for up-close tours of the craggy sandstone cliffs that tower over the river. One of those first entrepreneurs to see the sightseeing potential in the waterway was lumber rafter Leroy Gates. In 1856, he took out an ad declaring he had purchased a boat for the purpose of touring occult caves of the Dells. Gates met his death on September 8, 1895, but not before he carved in the sandstone bluffs an inscription that would preserve his place in Dells history forever: "Leroy Gates, Dells & River Pilot, from 1849 to 1858."
Then there's Belle Boyd, famous Confederate spy who spent her final days in Wisconsin Dells. As the story goes, Boyd, who hailed from Virginia, bravely aided Confederate generals, using her flirtatious charms to get information from a Union general's aide, even setting out on horseback that same night to personally deliver her findings. By the end of the war, she traveled the country to present dramatic narratives of her spying adventures. On June 9, 1900, she arrived in Wisconsin Dells to give a speech to veterans of the Union Army. Two days later, at the age of 56, she suffered a fatal heart attack. Her gravesite in the Wisconsin Dells' Spring Hill Cemetery was completed with stones from each of the Confederate states. Some claim her ghost wanders the paths of the cemetery yet today.
Apparently there is also a ghost haunting Highway 12 between Lake Delton and Baraboo. The man, dressed in a green jacket and seemingly transparent, is said to be hitchhiking, disappearing and then reappearing out of nowhere farther down the road. Drive carefully!