Youthful Indiscretions at Holy Cross
When I was a kid, long before I began delving into folklore, collecting stories, and thinking about how differently stories are told in an oral form than a written one, my friends and I used to visit Holy Cross Road in an effort to experience supposed supernatural phenomena. This concept is commonly referred to by folklorists as Legend Tripping. Adolescents tend to venture out at night to explore places that are considered supernatural or haunted. Often certain rituals are carried out in order to either prove that kids were there, or just to prove that they aren't scared. Holy Cross was definitely the premier place for teenagers to go when I was in High School. I'm not certain it still maintains this status, but we certainly had fun going there.
Our first trip there was an adventure in itself. I had heard many stories about the place -- it maintained quite a reputation. These stories ranged from the tame (unexplained noises) to the truly bizarre (gnomes, floating men, shot gun toting priests). For all the stories about mysterious events, at Holy Cross, we had a really difficult time finding it. My friend Jason, Jerry, and I had piled into the car. I think Joe might have been there as well. I was there enough times that the trips get jumbled up. In small towns, kids find fun where they can; most find themselves driving around aimlessly looking for something to do. Holy Cross Road is on Hwy 13 between Park Falls and Phillips, and is clearly marked, but we still missed it. We ended up in Phillips looking for Jason's sister who worked at the Citgo gas station. She wasn't there, but the clerk knew right where it was and told us another story about murders in the woods near the site. We were on our way finally. I breathed a sigh of relief and hoped that it would at least prove interesting.
I first heard about Holy Cross in the school hallways. I don't remember who first mentioned it, but the stories escalated in power and audacity. Like most urban legends, the area was haunted, and there were many contradicting reasons for this. Children were murdered, a man killed his wife, a priest guarded the church at the end of the road with a shotgun and would kill teenagers and bury them in shallow graves. One of my friends said that both Holy Cross and the nearby Lake Coolidge were haunted. His story was the most complicated I have ever heard. Gnomes would attack you. There was even a man who floated over the lake. If you threw a rock at him, it would be thrown back by an unknown force. He claimed that he almost got hit. I never went out there with him, so I never saw the exact spot where he claimed this would happen. Others claimed that they had been chased by the priest and even shot at.
I have heard a few variations on each of these stories. Most, though, just talked about strange phenomena that surrounded three areas: the church, the lake, and the railroad tracks that crossed the road. It was said, echoing many other places, that if you stood on these tracks, you could feel power coursing through your body. Some argued that the tracks didn't go anywhere, but trains still used them.
Of course, none of this was verified. It just seemed cool to our teenage minds. All communities have these types of stories and places, yet Holy Cross seemed special at the time. It wasn't too far from my town and it didn't require trespassing into a house, maybe just on someone's land. I have often heard more complicated stories of other friends checking out fenced off graveyards; my Stevens Point friends even trespassed on Ed Gein's property; his tragic murder house had long been torn down -- I once visited the hardware store in Plainfield where he shopped. We were less organized, just wanting to go there.
I made the trek to Holy Cross many times throughout my High School years, although I haven't been back in the last decade. Life has taken me far away from Park Falls and I can't imagine going alone; these trips are far better with others. I saw and experienced a few odd things there, yet most can be explained.That first trip there was fairly staid -- I don't remember anything much happening. We headed home disappointed, swearing we would make another trip. We did some research, asking more questions, fearing that the stories of the priest might be true and that we might end up dead.
I don't really believe in ghosts or haunted places; like Fox Mulder, I just want to believe. My experiences at Holy Cross were far more mundane than the stories I had heard. Jerry and I once saw the train go by without hearing anything. We were in the car, and music might have been playing, but we were sure that we saw a ghost train. The track is still active, despite stories to the contrary. At that moment, we really wanted to believe. Another time a friend and I were on the tracks, trying to feel the power -- which I now chalk up to pure imagination, twitchy legs, or the sensation you feel when standing in one place for a long time -- and we heard a noise like a ball dropping. A quick, distinct, throbbing sound continually resonated in our ears. My companion thought it was his father coming back from the grave and became extremely scared. I had no ideas what it was. Needless to say, we got out of there as fast as we could. Later, I realized it was the sound of a partridge beating its wings, a truly scary sound near midnight deep in the woods.