Legends of the Supernatural in Southwestern Wisconsin Project

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CSUMC0002-CG (local)
1991 - 1992 (Inclusive dates)

Fifty stories and story segments, including legends, urban legends, memorates, personal experience narratives, and superstitions featuring the supernatural, recorded by two fieldworkers from six individual tellers and a middle school group of 10-15 in Wisconsin's Iowa County during 1991-1992, consisting of manuscript material and audiocassettes.

Creator and/or Contributor
Stuart Stotts (creator), Elizabeth Matson (creator), Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures (contributor), Lorena Goldsworthy (contributor), Jean Goninen (contributor), Jeannie Lewis (contributor), Helga Kammerud Moen (contributor), Melva Phillips (contributor), Otto Tesch (contributor)
Administrative/Biographical History Element

Storytellers Stuart Stotts and Elizabeth Matson of Madison, Wisconsin, under the auspices of Common Arts, Inc., of Madison, developed the project, wrote the grants, interviewed storytellers, transcribed the tapes, presented a program on their work in Mineral Point, Wis., and published The Bookcase Ghost (Mt. Horeb, Wis.: Midwest Traditions, 1996). James P. Leary served as their adviser under the Wisconsin Humanities Council grant, training them in documentary methods, assisting in evaluating their findings, participating in the Mineral Point program, and acting as the Wisconsin Folk Museum liaison.

Stotts and Matson developed this project to improve their local repertoires by documenting ghost story tellers in Dane and Iowa counties in Southwestern Wisconsin. They first concentrated on Dane County tellers in 1991 and received grant funds from the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission. During this phase of the project Stotts and Matson did not tape-record the stories they heard, mainly at ghost-storytelling events in Dane County. With funds from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, Stotts and Matson next expanded into Iowa County, recording stories from six individuals and a group of teens in 1992. They selectively transcribed these sound recordings, generating 40 pages, plus 2 typed pages of stories provided by Lorena Goldsworthy. They presented some of these stories in a "Supernatural Legends of Southwestern Wisconsin" program at the Mineral Point Civic Center on October 8, 1992. Sponsored by the Mineral Point Library and Common Arts, Inc., the program also featured a talk about legendry by the team's adviser, James P. Leary. In The Bookcase Ghost, Stotts and Matson adapted and published versions of six tape-recorded stories. They also included stories from the Van Antwerp Collection at the Wisconsin Historical Society, and from narrators in Madison, McFarland, Stoughton, Sun Prairie, Tomahawk, and Waunakee, Wisconsin. Two stories credited to Colette Koltes of Waunakee were localized in the Sparta and Richland Center areas.

Scope and Content Note

The collection contains interviews with six tellers of supernatural stories, and 10-15 middle schoolers, recorded in 1992 in Iowa County, Wisconsin. It includes over 50 stories and story segments including legends, urban legends, memorates, personal experience narratives, and superstitions featuring the Ridgeway ghost, ghostly animals, gamblers, vanishing hitchhikers, poltergeists, haunted houses, troubled deaths, and more. The interviewers transcribed the recorded stories and used them as the basis for versions they published in The Bookcase Ghost and tell to public audiences.

Conditions Governing Access

Contact records custodians for access information. Listening and viewing access to the UW-Madison Folklore Program collection is unrestricted, by appointment only.

UW-Madison Folklore Program
Prof. James P. Leary
2315 Sterling Hall
475 N. Charter Street
Madison, Wisconsin 53706
Phone: (608) 262-8107
Web site:

Prof. James P. Leary
209 S. 4th St.
Mount Horeb, Wisconsin 53572
Phone: (608) 437-4816

Conditions Governing Reproduction

Duplication of the materials for non-profit personal, educational, and research purposes within the scope of the Folklore Program's jurisdiction may be arranged. Duplication of materials for public presentation, publication, and production requires negotiation with the Program Director, the fieldworkers, and the people documented.

Related Archival Materials
Summer Field School 2000 Collection, University of Wisconsin-Madison Folklore Program (CSUMC0001-CG), NFAI.O.00000745

Fidelia Van Antwerp Collection, Wisconsin Historical Society (PH 1629, Wis Mss QW)
3 (folders)
6 (audiocassettes)
English (Languages)
Other Subject Headings
Legends (Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH))
Memorates (Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH))
Supernatural (Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH))
Superstition (Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH))
Urban folklore (Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH))
Temporal Coverage
20th century
Geographic Coverage
Wisconsin (state) (Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names)
Dane (county) (Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names)
Iowa (county) (Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names)
Preferred Citation
We suggest the following citation form when using direct quotes from a person documented: [Name of person documented]. [Date]. [Tape/video/other]-recorded interview by [Fieldworker name]. [Place interviewed]. [Name of collection/project]. [Repository, city, state]. When using a specific image: [Identify subject matter/people in caption]. Photo/image by [Photographer/fieldworker name]. [Date]. Courtesy of [repository]. To quote fieldworker, follow bibliographical style.
Related Entities:
Stuart Stotts (creator)
Elizabeth Matson (creator)
Haunted house in Ridgeway where Helga Moen's brother lived. Photograph of framed clipping by Paulette Marty from related collection: Summer Field School 2000, NFAI.O.00000745.

Objects in this Collection