Paranormal author and investigator Chad Lewis’ favorite place in the Chippewa Valley is the Elk Lake Dam in Dunn County. He plans to tell the dam’s story during his visit to the Chippewa Falls Public Library on Oct. 30.

It’s near the place where 25-year-old Mary Schlais was murdered and her body left in February of 1974. The young woman appeared to have been stabbed multiple times. Even though her body was exhumed in 2009, Schlais’ case remains unsolved.

Lewis says the alleged haunting of the Elk Lake Dam is the first place he ever investigated. He says that over the past few decades, several people have heard what appears to be a woman’s voice — and some claim to have seen Schlais herself.

“I love places that have a little bit of a history and mystery to them,” Lewis said.

“Every town has its own legend — you might just need to dig a little.”

Lewis, an Eau Claire native with a master’s degree in psychology, considers himself a folklorist, author and lecturer. “I’ve been called many other things,” he said. “The career path I’ve chosen, you can’t really say professor or doctor. It’s something that doesn’t really exist.”

Lewis travels Wisconsin and the nation, documenting haunted places with videos and stories. He takes the local history seriously, visiting historical societies and talking with both kids and seniors to understand how a folk legend changes from generation to generation.

Lewis also emphasizes the importance of investigating in person. “When you’re talking about a haunted cemetery where someone’s seeing mysterious balls of light or hearing disembodied voices, it’s important to be there to see exactly what they’re experiencing. The first thing I try to do is sort fact from fiction,” he said. “If there’s a story that says Old Man Smith murdered his daughter, I want to figure out if that actually happened.”

Though Lewis has been around the nation investigating and researching paranormal circumstances, some of his favorite haunted places are right here in the Chippewa Valley. The Sheeley House Saloon in Chippewa Falls, the Elk Lake Dam and Meridean Island on the Chippewa River, which Lewis says is home to ghostly dogs he calls “the hellhounds of Meridean.”

“These stories always progress and move,” he said. “That’s the fun of the folklore, seeing how these things move over the years.”

Lewis will speak about investigating the paranormal at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 30, at the Chippewa Falls Public Library.

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Sarah Seifert covers the city and community of Chippewa Falls. Contact her with tips or story ideas at 715-738-1608 or at sarah.seifert@lee.net.

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