By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Aug 01, 2005 at 5:02 AM

{image1}The "boo" in Baraboo might start at the historic Old Baraboo Inn.

Members of the Southern Wisconsin Paranormal Research Group, based in Janesville, recently completed an investigation of some strange happenings at the 141-year-old building and have concluded there are some unexplainable phenomena going on.

The group detected movement on tapes and high electromagnetic readings in areas of the building. The findings don't surprise the owner of the building, B.C. Farr.

"I don't really care what people think," said the 42-year-old Farr. "I know what I've seen."

What Farr has seen includes dishes flying off a rack, a floating broom and doors opening and closing on their own. He's not alone in seeing these things. At last count, more than a dozen people have reported seeing things since Farr renovated and opened the restaurant and bar in 2002.

One of the tenants in an upstairs apartment, who is trying to get out of his lease, claims he hears a woman's voice calling his name. He told a Lee Newspapers reporter a few weeks ago that he once joked, "C'mon, Casper, come and get me." Suddenly, he heard an eerie tapping on his door.

The Inn is a former tavern and brothel, located across from the site of the old Baraboo train depot. Baraboo once was a railroad hub between Minneapolis and Chicago.

A prostitute named Mary reportedly bled to death in the building around the early 1900s. Several other people have reportedly died in the building, including two former owners.

Farr bought the building in 1998 and first renovated the upstairs apartments. The first tenant of those apartments reported hearing honky-tonk piano music, people laughing and singing in the downstairs bar before it even opened and seeing a female figure dressed in a saloon dancer costume.

"We kept it quiet for a long time," said Farr in an interview with Beyond Milwaukee. "I was raised in Baraboo, and my dad ran a tavern just down the street. This place had a fire in 1988 and was deteriorating badly. I was taking care of it -- shoveling the snow, fixing windows, dealing with the vandalism and that -- after a friend from Madison who had bought it died.

"The more I was around the building, the more attached I felt to it. I didn't want to see this area lose any more of its history, so I threw every penny I had into it and bought it."

Farr said even when he was working on the building's renovation, which took four years, he frequently heard and saw things and "never felt like I was alone."

He kept it quiet because he felt it would hurt his business, but "too many people have seen and heard things at different times of the day and night" to keep it under wraps any longer.

Farr said the strange happenings have made it hard to keep tenants in the apartments and help in the restaurant and bar. "My own sister, who has worked on our books, won't go down in the basement where our office is," Farr said.

Some recent coverage by Madison area media have led to people coming in out of curiosity, but "they aren't staying that long" or spending a lot of money, according to Farr.

Farr said the old inn has seen a lot over its history. "There were gunfights in here. There are bullets in the walls," he said. "It was a brothel and tavern, so you had so many emotions in here."

Rob Johnson, the lead investigator for the paranormal team that visited the inn, told Lee Newspapers that equipment they use picks up on the energy of emotions.

"We use them (the equipment) to pick up spirits, and in our opinion that is how they manifest. They have to get the energy from somewhere. Emotions are made of energy, the base principle of energy," Johnson said.

"My opinion is the majority of spirits we deal with don't know they have died. One of the biggest keys in dramatic events -- untimely deaths."

Farr said he was very impressed with how professional and high tech the paranormal investigators were. He said another research group from Antioch, Ill., has contacted him about doing more studies of the site.

"Now that it's out in the public, I'm as interested as anybody in seeing what is going on here," Farr said.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.