Over its 160 years of existence, Miller Valley has been the home of plenty of stories and, most importantly, tasty suds. According to employees and historians, however, some spooky spirits – and not of the alcoholic beverage variety – call the Miller Caves and Miller Inn home as well, and they don’t seem to have a problem with making themselves apparent to the area’s more earthly employees and visitors.
Miller Valley guest relations manager Kindra Loferski has managed to go eleven and a half years at the company without personally having any first-hand interactions with the otherworldly former workers that supposedly wander the halls. From her first day at Miller, however, Loferski was warned of their existence, and considering all of the stories she’s heard over the years from those who actually have met the ghosts, she’s a believer.
"The stories that are told to me by previous employees, new employees and future employees all have the same exact feel and sound," Loferski said. "These are people who don’t know each other or have any affiliations with each other, so it’s funny how familiar these stories get to be. So it makes a lot of sense that it’s probably actually happening."
There is a record of the hauntings written back in 1955 in the Milwaukee Journal, but the ghosts’ origins go much further in time to the turn of the 19th century, when the Miller Inn was built and used by founder Frederick Miller in order to house his workers.
"When he started the brewery, the folks, at best, had a horse to get back and forth to work; otherwise, you were walking, and there weren’t a lot of houses right here on top of the brewery or on site, so you had a haul to get to work," Loferski explained. "He soon found that it was in his best interest to actually build a place for them to live, and that’s what the Miller Inn was originally used for. They ate there, they slept there, they drank there, they enjoyed each other’s company there and then they went to work, and they were right here at the brewery ready to start.
"If Frederick Miller took that great of care of his employees and his workers," she added, "I wouldn’t want to leave either if I felt like this was home."
One of those former Miller employees that called the Inn home was Hans, who according to company legend served as its barman before losing the lease and dying shortly afterward. Or not, as according to Loferski, several members of her staff, usually while alone, have witnessed Hans still milling about the building, which is now used to serve tour guests and host special events.
"I wouldn’t say he shows himself visually as an apparition, but he does things to let us know that he’s there," Loferski said. "One of the girls told me today that she was up there setting things up one morning while no one was in yet, and the phone was ringing in the front room near where she was. She came around the corner to answer the phone, and as she walked out from the back room, the lights in the rear area started flickering on and off, and she could actually hear the light switch – and there’s only one light switch that functions those lights – flipping up and down. And it wasn’t a short in the electricity."
That employee’s particular story – in which she says, from her vantage point, she could see no one over at the switch – is in line with other tales of Hans’ spiritual shenanigans at the Miller Inn. Lights flicker on and off. The phone will ring in one room, and the caller ID will say the call is coming from the room you just left. Player pianos will play without being plugged in, and he can supposedly make things instantaneously cold, making your breath fog up on 70 degree days.
Luckily, Hans is more of a ghost prankster than a vengeful spirit – and all things considered, a pretty polite prankster at that. In fact, according to Loferski, you can even get Hans to stop messing around if you’re not in the mood for haunted hijinks.
"You literally just have to say, ‘Hans, knock it off,’ and he’ll stop," she laughingly said.
The other famous ghost tale from the Miller Valley comes from the Miller Caves, where supposedly a couple would romantically meet every Saturday – until one day, the man never showed due to an accident that knocked him unconscious and eventually killed him. According to lore, after discovering her lover’s tragic fate, the woman passed away as well – in her case, due to a broken heart. As some say, however, the two are now together in the afterlife – and still in the Miller Caves.
"The couple in the Caves, regardless of whether they’re from my team or other teams, they’ve been experienced by many," Loferski said.
"People have reported seeing a man and a woman in the caves together," added Noah Leigh, lead investigator for the Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee.
Leigh and the Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee were actually contacted by Miller in September to come investigate the Caves and see if there was any genuine backing for their supernatural claims. By the end of their first go-around in the Miller Valley, Leigh and company deduced in Miller’s video on its haunted history that, "we’ve had definitely much less happen on entire investigations that we’ve been on."
"We were looking for noises or responses to things we were doing, like putting objects in the middle of the Caves that would’ve been familiar to someone who worked there during the time when they were operational," Leigh explained. "During that investigation, we heard some things – I thought I heard a female voice at one point – and our other investigator thought she saw a shadow moving in one area. Most of the time when we do investigations, we don’t hear or see anything, so it’s very odd for us to come across something like that."
Leigh admits that the evidence they witnessed on their initial investigation can’t be proven to be paranormal in nature. In their work, however, they do their best to control the environment and know where everyone is so that if they do experience something, they can eliminate the most rational explanations.
"We can never say 100 percent, but it’s odd, and it’s something that we take a lot of effort to make sure that it’s not something explainable or something that’s easily explainable," Leigh said. "I’m not saying the shadow that I saw or the voice that I heard was a ghost; I just don’t know what exactly it is."
Leigh and the Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee plan to make a second visit to the Miller Valley in January to move beyond simply fact-finding and research the space further to hopefully find out more about whether or not Hans and the couple are real. In the meantime, however, those questions will have to remain unanswered. There is one important question, though, that can be answered right now: Are these supposed ghosts swiping any of the suds?
"Those tangible things, they can’t really do much with any more – probably much to their dismay if I were them," Loferski said.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.