According to legend, the Ridgeway Ghost is not only a ghost, but a “phantom that could change its appearance at will.” Anecdotes include people claiming to have seen the ghost of a man with a whip, walking with them or chasing them,domestic animals such as dogs, sheep or other farm animals, and various human forms, including a headless horseman, and a young or old woman.Regional folklore holds that the Ridgeway Ghost is a combination of two brothers who had the misfortune to be murdered as a result of a bar brawl sometime in the early 1840s and was sighted anywhere from the village of Blue Mounds to the town of Dodgeville in Iowa County, Wisconsin a 25 mile stretch of old mining road, since the 1840’s. Sightings of the “Ridgeway Ghost” supposedly escalate in cycles about every 40 years, starting in the 1850’s and occurring more frequently again in the 1890’s, the 1930’s and the 1970’s. According to the tale, Dr. Cutler of Dodgeville was the first to announce seeing the Ridgeway phantom, claiming that it appeared on the pole of his wagon as he was riding home one night past the house of the deceased. A man named John Lewis claimed that some “supernatural agency” was the cause of his ailments is said to have died as a result of seeing the Ridgeway Ghost, as are other unnamed individuals.
Route 151 winds through Wisconsin’s best-known ghost country. The stretch from Dodgeville to Blue Mounds became so famous for hauntings that by 1943 folklorists had collected several hundred tales of the Ridgeway Ghost. Though most were undocumented, one incident appeared in The New York Times on Dec. 7, 1902.The paper reported that John Lewis, “prosperous farmer living in the vicinity of Ridgeway, a man of sober life, (and) undaunted courage,” cut through the fields one night after helping a neighbor with some butchering. Climbing a stone wall, “his attention was arrested by the sight of a figure that seemed to have gathered itself together out of the just now tenantless air and stood confronting him in a menacing attitude.” Lewis fled, but the ghost stepped across his path and raised its arm. Next morning a neighbor found Lewis lying inside the wall in a semi- conscious condition. . . . He said he had been hurled in the air as if in the vortex of a cyclone, pounded, crushed into insensibility. He died a few hours after he was carried home, asserting with his dying breath that he had come to his end by a supernatural agency. Many local residents gave accounts like this between 1840 and 1900. Although reports of the Ridgeway Ghost declined over the decades, claims of mysterious manifestations occurring as late as 1993 have surfaced on the Internet. The supposedly haunted house collapsed in ruins a few years ago, but legends about its ghostly occupant live on.