Quinn and the Dapper Apparition

By Tobias Wayland; images by Emily Wayland

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Storm clouds loom threateningly overhead as Emily and I enter Madison Tap; I can tell by the way the wind has picked up that we’re in for some weather, and soon. It’s the perfect atmosphere for a ghost story, which is a beautiful synchronicity, since a ghost story is exactly why we’re here. Our friend Quinn grew up surrounded by paranormal manifestations, and she’s graciously offered to tell us her story on the record.

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“I had a pretty great experience,” she says immediately. “It wasn’t like those scary ghost stories.”

Quinn grew up in a “fairly haunted house” in a small town about 30 miles northwest of Madison, Wisconsin. The town was one of a handful that sprang up in the early 20th century around the nearby Badger Army Ammunition Plant, providing the munitions factory with plenty of workers.

This house was built by a prominent local family, and generations of them lived and died in the home and its surrounding area.  And while she doesn’t know if anyone has ever died in the house, there’s no denying its significance to so many people over the decades.

“I think that just the sheer connection is probably what it is,” Quinn speculates on the source of the haunting.

 The house is similarly significant to our interviewee. Quinn’s first paranormal encounter happened there when she was only three years old. She was laying in bed one night when she received a strange visitor--an event that is her first memory in the house.

“The earliest one I can remember I was laying in my bed in my bedroom, which was the former master bedroom,” she says. “I was maybe three.”

“I woke up in the middle of the night to a little boy singing the ABCs, and he had a train. And I remember just being like ‘this is kind of weird.’ I wasn’t upset, but I just sat there and watched,” she explains.

Quinn remembers rolling over in bed to see the boy, and she’s sure she wasn’t suffering from sleep paralysis. Naturally, she told her parents the next day, but the encounter was dismissed as the symptom of a child’s overactive imagination. To Quinn the memory remains vivid; not something she would ascribe to fantasy. Her parent’s denial of the experience only served to cement the memory in Quinn’s mind.

“I think I have such a strong attachment to this memory because I remember telling them the next day and them saying ‘that didn’t happen, you were dreaming.’ And I remember being like ‘no, I think it did. I think it did happen,’” she states emphatically.

The next encounter she relates took place when she was 10 or 11 years old. Quinn shared a room with her sister, where they slept in bunk beds--Quinn slept on the top bunk. Their beds were positioned against the wall opposite the bedroom’s door, and a dresser stood a few feet away abutting the perpendicular wall. A second, mirrored dresser was on the same wall as the door, directly across from where Quinn’s head lay while in bed.

“I woke up, and I looked into the mirror and I saw, clear as day, a man in a tuxedo; a nice, 1920s-style tuxedo,” she asserts.

The era of the tuxedo is something she remembers specifically, because years later she was in class when she saw a picture of a man wearing such a suit, and the sight of it jogged her memory.

“I closed my eyes, and I opened them again, but he was still there. He didn’t do anything. He didn’t even make eye contact with me. I couldn’t very clearly see his head, it was pretty much just like a tuxedo,” she continues.

Quinn tried closing and opening her eyes several times, and each time the mysterious tuxedo-wearing apparition remained.

“I was spooked,” she admits, and says that at that point she decided to simply cover her head with her blanket until she fell asleep.

This well-dressed mystery man is a recurring character in Quinn’s haunting--one she’s seen on three separate occasions.

The next encounter with him happened when she was around 12 years old.

Quinn’s bedroom was across a small landing from the stairs leading up from the first floor, a bathroom and another bedroom were to the right of her room on the perpendicular wall, and on the opposite wall from them were two more bedrooms--an entrance to the attic was next to the top of the stairs.

“Out of my bedroom I could see straight down the stairs, and I could see right into this other bedroom. There was one time when I was walking out of my bedroom and I was going down the stairs, and I saw out of the corner of my eye the guy wearing the tuxedo in that bedroom,” says Quinn.

Quinn’s final encounter with the tuxedo man was one that she could have done without.

She was 18 or 19 years old at the time.

“I was sleeping in the attic. I woke up in the middle of the night, and the neighbor’s dogs were barking,” Quinn says. “I rolled over and he was standing above me. There was no face, there was just kind of a grey swirl.”

The ethereal being’s body was simply a misty, grey, humanoid form, although the tuxedo itself was clear and detailed.

Quinn had hoped that perhaps the phenomenon was strictly a part of her childhood, but seeing the tuxedo-wearing ghost after adulthood convinced her of the startling reality of her experiences--and, quite frankly, it frightened her.

“And I have never slept at my parent’s place since then,” she reveals.

Her time at that house seems to have been filled with unusual occurrences, and Quinn carefully recounts much of the phenomena she experienced.

“I would see shadows of kids, or hear kids—I say kids, but really I’d hear little feet running around upstairs when I was the only one home,” she says.

“I used to be a terrible sleeper as a kid…obviously. I would go downstairs and watch TV in my parent’s living room, and when you’re lying on the couch you can’t see the bottom of the stairs even if the door is open," Quinn explains. "There would be times when I’d be watching TV and I would hear; you know when kids jump down the stairs and there’s kind of like a grunt? I would hear that. It would be around 2 or 3 a.m. in the morning and I would hear that."

Another physical manifestation that stands out to her involved the seeming apportation of a child’s bouncy ball.

“In my bedroom we had a circle rug in the middle of the room, and one time there was a bouncy ball on the mirrored dresser across from the bed,” Quinn recounts. “The bouncy ball rolled off the dresser in the middle of the night. I was probably eight or nine. I woke up to it bouncing, and I was waiting for it to stop, but it never did--I noticed it was maintaining its height. I threw it out of the room through the open door, and I heard it hit the stairs. I closed the door, and I was spooked, so I turned the light on and read a book until I fell back asleep. I woke up later, and that bouncy ball was in the middle of the circle rug.”

And to add to the number of unsettling experiences already attached to her childhood bedroom, Quinn would sometimes wake up to see grey, misty phantoms walking through the walls of her home.

“There were other times when I’d be asleep, and I’d wake up, and I would see people walk through walls,” she says. “They were ambiguous people, so I couldn’t tell you what their gender was, but they clearly weren’t my mom or dad.”

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Quinn's siblings had similar experiences as children but have since recanted.

“She said, ‘well, you know ghosts aren’t real,’” Quinn says her sister told her prior to the interview. “And I said, ‘actually, no, I’m quite positive of the alternative.’”

Not all her family is so dismissive; Quinn’s aunt has been supportive of her experiences.

“She’s always been the one who believed me,” she says of her aunt. “I was always able to go to her, and she would say ‘yeah, your house is kind of spooky.’”

Similarly, Quinn relates that her friends would often tell her they had an uncomfortable feeling in the house.

Quinn has had quite a few psychic experiences in her life, and in all likelihood, they’re connected to what she experienced in that old house. It’s something she wants to reclaim as part of her identity.

These experiences are a very personal affair for Quinn, and she knows what she experienced--if not necessarily the root cause of the phenomenon. Whatever it was, it was weird, and that weirdness has imprinted itself on her in the way it does all of us who experience it. We sometimes fight it and long for normality, but ultimately the strangeness in our lives moves back in as inexorably as the tide. Quinn, for her part, is done fighting who she is.

“When you’re 18 or 19 the last thing you want to be is weird,” she says. “I really pushed it down and pushed it away. I’m just getting to a point now where I can not only be cool with it, and talk about it, but maybe get back to that place.”

We spend some more time chatting about a number of strange subjects, but eventually the hour draws late and we've all got our own houses to haunt, so we walk out into the night and say our goodbyes. Despite our departure and the end of the evening I can't help but feel like we're still at the beginning of something. Welcome back, Quinn.