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Molly’s Rock: The haunted boulder of Sugar Camp

Molly's Rock
Pioneer Park Historical Complex
The famous Molly sitting atop her rock around 1957.

Rumors about Molly’s Rock in Sugar Camp are plentiful. But what’s the true story behind the legendary haunted boulder?

Molly’s Rock. Ask anyone who’s lived in the Sugar Camp area for a long time, and they can point you to its location. A large boulder and roadside landmark, the geological feature dubbed “Molly’s Rock,” sat at the corner of Hunter Haven and Pine Lake Road just north of Rhinelander.

For many years, it had been painted with the pointed words, “Keep Off Molly’s Rock.” Naturally, that led to a number of stories about who “Molly” was, and how she came to be known. One theory is that a horse and buggy from long ago crashed into the rock, killing a woman named Molly. Or was it a car accident, or drowning in a nearby lake? However it occurred, the huge rock was most assuredly haunted by her spirit. What became a driving marker for locals also turned into the site of teen pilgrimages to the rock to test its theory about ghosts and spooks. Urban legend says if you sat on the rock, Molly’s ghost would push you off!

The real story isn’t as mysterious as local legend deemed, and is actually quite endearing. Around 1934, Joe Sasek from Berwyn, Illinois was working for the Sinclair Gas Company. During his frequent travels for work, Joe would bring mineral specimens’ home for his beloved wife, an avid rock collector, Molly.

Upon returning home from a business trip to the Northwoods, Joe told Molly he had found a very special rock near Sugar Camp, Wisconsin, but she must go and see it for herself. It took the Saseks two years to finally get up north together where Molly found Joe had painted the rock in bold red letters “Keep Off Molly’s Rock.” Imagine Molly’s delight to see this big rock Joe had “collected” for her. Molly and Joe bought a cabin nearby where they vacationed for many years.

After Molly passed away, Joe continued visiting the rock, touching up the paint in memorial to his wife. Over time, the reason behind the message on the big stone was lost, and people created the well known local legend.

Molly’s Rock then became a site of vandalism as it was spray painted with graffiti. The owners of the property where the rock was were constantly covering up foul language applied by spray can. Eventually a loon was painted on the rock, but even that didn’t stop vandals from visiting.

Around 2006, much to the dismay of Sugar Camp locals, the rock was deemed a road hazard. The town drilled holes in the boulder and proceeded to blow it into smaller pieces, bulldozing Molly’s Rock further off the road where its remnants are today.

Stories still persist that anyone who takes a piece of the old rock will be cursed until they return it. But the truth is that there is no ghost, and no curse, only a story of the love between Joe and Molly Sasek.

Sources: Rhinelander Daily News 1989, and personal accounts from local residents.

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Kerry Bloedorn joined WXPR in 2022 as the host of A Northwoods Moment in History. A local historian, Director of Pioneer Park Historical Complex for the City of Rhinelander and writer for The New North Magazine, he loves digging into the past and sharing his passion for history with the Northwoods community.