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Kemper Center, Kenosha, Wisconsin


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Posted (IP: Staff) ·

I thought I would put a haunt up that isn't on UM yet. Kemper Center in Kenosha, Wisconsin. This is a place of some repute in the area I grew up in. I've been there myself and am not quite sure about something there. Lovely place, you can feel the history.

First, some serious historical background.

Kenosha is the most southeastern county in the state. Hugging the shoreline in downtown Kenosha lies a gem of a property that was first founded in 1836 by Charles Durkee and his young newlywed bride, Catherine. While blown over by a storm on the way to Milwaukee they had to put ashore- and promptly loved the spot. They built a cabin and bought a nice chunk of land right on the lake with dreams of building a proper home. Sadly, it was not long till Catherine passed away in their newly acquired and already beloved property in 1838.

After her passing, Mr. Durkee set aside a chunk of land that was a favorite area of his wifes to become Green Ridge Cemetery, she was the first official internment. The property where the cabin sat eventually became Library park.

Mr. Durkee went on to be driven in his work and in politics. A wealthy landowner and seller. He was elected as a member of the Free-Soil Party to represent Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District 1849 to 1853. He was then elected as a Republican Senator from Wisconsin 1855 to 1861.

He returned home with a second bride, Caroline, in 1861. He proceeded to build the house that stands at the heart of Kemper Center today. They lived there together.. Till he was appointed governor of the Utah Territory in 1865, and left his wife behind. He gave the property entire to St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in exchange for a lifetime annuity for Mrs. Durkee in the mansion they built. Good thing he did so, he passed a mere 5 years after, in 1870. His body sent home to rest beside his first wife in the cemetery he created for her. Caroline lived on till February of 1911.

Caroline and Charles had a son, Harvey. He passed in 1858 aged three, and is interred in the family plot.

Shortly after Charles gave away the property , the church started working on new buildings. In 1865, it became a boarding school for young women, St. Claire's School. That became Kemper Hall in 1871, in memory of Bishop Jackson Kemper. In 1875, the chapel adjoining the mansion was built. When the Episcopal Sisters of St. Mary assumed the leadership of the school in 1878, Kemper Hall also became a regional Mother House. Simmons gymnasium was built in 1901. In 1904 the chapel was expanded and the baptistery was added. St. Mary's convent was built in 1911. It was a mother house till 1974 and now is known as Ambrose Hall in honor of the mother superior and headmistress of Kemper Hall for 40 years.

Kemper Hall closed in 1976, and was sold to the county. At that time it became known as Kemper Center.

Adjacent to the south end of the property, Mr. and Mrs. James Anderson built a home during 1929-1931. Janet, a 1910 graduate of Kemper, deeded their home to Kemper Center in 1977, living in the house till her passing in 1989. In 1992, it was opened as the Anderson Arts Center.

The last building to be added was the Kady B. Faulkner building, in 1957.

Now for the fun haunting part. Kemper Center is reported to be haunted all over the place.

The Durkee Mansion: a nun is said to have died in a fire on the third floor and still haunts there. There are also some claims of other ghosts, possibly Charles or Caroline, walking the halls. The general run of footsteps, voices, bad feelings or being watched reported.

Simmons Gymnasium: More than just a gym, it also held student housing as well as a full science lab including a 5 story tower topped with Griffin Observatory. Tales are, a sister fell or was pushed down the stairs of the observatory to her death. She is occasionally named Mary Terese, but more often called Margaret Claire. Sometimes you see a nun tumbling down the stairs, sometimes just peeking at you from the top of the stairs. She is probably the most commonly seen ghost at Kemper. There is also a tale of a lovelorn student to threw herself off the top of the observatory that is occasionally seen again in her act. Shadows are seen on the science lab floor. A woman in a brown skirt was supposed to have been seen on the stairs by the kitchen back in the 30's. Someone/something watches you from the foot of the gymnasium stairs, and sometimes you hear them climbing the stairs to the balcony.

Lakeside: more than one nun is said to have sought her own death in the waters. A sister Augusta did, and it was a to-do at the time. Her spirit is said to wander the halls.

There have been tales of schoolgirls being seen here and there on the grounds and in windows. And a strange black shadow that crawls the grounds and outer walls of the buildings.

There are lesser rumors about monks being seen on the campus, but those are fairly uncommon.

Green Ridge Cemetery: Not really part of Kemper Center, but a big part of the history. It is reputed that if you throw stones over the wall, they might get thrown back at you! Reports of general feelings of spookiness or being watched.

Library Park: Another place not really part of the Center, but part of the history. Charles and Catherines log cabin originally there. Simmons Library was built there in 1900. Steps are heard above and on stairs, voices are heard. Even books are sometimes pushed or dropped off the shelves. A woman has been said to be seen on occasion, the ghost of Catherine Durkee. Zalmon and Gilbert Simmons, the gents the library got it's name and building funds from, are also said to walk the library. It is rumored that Charles might be hanging around, visiting his first wife.

An urban legend has sprung up here as well- it is rumored old Zalmon built a tomb under the library, where he, Gilbert, and several librarians are interred. This practice came to an end in the 30's when a librarian was mis-diagnosed as dead, and security found here screaming in the vault.

Please note that these places do have public hours, please don't go there against that. Hope you all enjoyed reading about a haunt you might not have known before :tu:

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  • rashore


  • coolguy


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Very cool I like knowing and finding out about the history of old homes haunted and not.this place is very haunted it seems

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