The Ghost and the Paper Mill

Oct 30, 2019

The Rhinelander paper mill on the Wisconsin river
Credit Wisconsin Historical Society

In the early morning gloom, it is easy to imagine what might the thing be that goes bump in the night.  Sometimes the thing that is really there turns out to be so unusual that it is hard to believe.  Such an event happened at Rhinelander’s Paper Mill in 1935.

In 1932, during the waning hours of the night shift at the Rhinelander Paper Mill, two employees were gazing out at the night shadows and started to ruminate about life and death issues.  In the early morning mist, the first man turned to the second and said, “When I die, I am coming back to see you some night.”  One year later in 1933, the first man passed away.

In 1935, the second man was still in the employ of the paper mill.  He was working the early morning shift and was alone in the gloom of the engine department at the mill.  Suddenly, without warning, a dark form came soaring in through the air.  In the eyes of the startled man, the apparition paused in mid-flight, turned, and landed right beside him.  He immediately began yelling at the top of his lungs: “It’s George!”  George, his friend who had died two years earlier, was back to fulfil his promise of visiting him some night.

Except that it wasn’t George.  A little earlier that morning, at around 2:00 am, Night Watchman James Clermont heard the baying of a pair of German Shepherds in pursuit of a deer.  The frightened deer didn’t even pause at the chain link fence surrounding the mill yard.  It simply leaped up and over in order to escape the pursuing dogs.  Nothing much happened for the next few hours.  Having found a haven, the deer browsed around the mill yard and didn’t do much of anything.  Even Murphy, the paper mill dog, left it alone as he was trained to chase woodchucks and not deer.  But the German Shepherds were determined to get their prey.  They dug furiously and a little before 6:00 am they managed to wriggle under the fence and enter the mill yard.  The pursuit was on again.

In desperate fear and with nowhere to turn, the deer plunged through an open door and suddenly found itself in the boiler room.  With the dogs in hot pursuit, the deer leaped at the only opening it saw and went through an open window, sailing into space and landing right in front of a startled man who swore he saw his old friend’s ghost.  The window led into the Turbine Room, which is where the terrified deer landed.  Once everyone realized that there was no ghost, the mill workers gathered around in awe as the unexpected visitor stumbled around in a daze, looking desperately for an escape.

The workers called in Chief Engineer Bob Jensen and Game Warden Harley McKeague.  They spread out a 45-foot trammel near a turbine condenser.  Then, while some workers manned the net, others drove the deer toward it until it was ensnared.  The men carried the deer to the Warden’s vehicle, after which it was transported two miles out of town and set free.

It is not often that a deer can masquerade as a human ghost, but for a short time in 1935 one doe managed to do just that.