November 20, 2012 by kittynh
Many years ago I lived in the lakeside town of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Manitowoc is known for making cranes, ice machines and at one time submarines. The submarines had to launched sideways, since there wasn’t room in the river for a typical tail first launching.
Manitowoc also had the “holy beers” painted on the side of a giant grain silo. This silo was at the end of the very long main street. As you drove down the street, your view was that of a multi story beer bottle. The holy rays were leftover from something that had been painted on the silos before the beer. Johnny Carson once joked that he had never seen more bars than there were in Manitowoc. My husband and I once went for a walk to count how many bars were within a 15 minute walk of our home. We came up with 20. Yes, we lived in a very nice neighborhood!
Our home was 823 North 9th street. It was a huge old brick Italianate style Victorian. “This Old House” was big on TV and we were more than willing to “roll up” our sleeves and fix it up. Years later when we left our only concern in buying a home was that it be “NEW”. We enjoyed fixing up our old home, made with a level of construction that can not be duplicated today, but we were tired of weekends spent stripping layers of wallpaper.
Our family really enjoyed the big old house in town. Mark, Evelyn, later Aynsley, our cats Toni and Othello, myself and Mr.Hubbard resided there. Mr.Hubbard was not a boarder or a relative. He was the ghost. I like to think he’s still living there, he was certainly the kind of ghost you would want living with you. He never bothered us at all.
We were only told about the ghost after we moved in. Our neighbors had seen him. He would leave our front door, and go for a walk in the early evening hours. He had a long white beard and was fairly thin. The descriptions of Mr.Hubbard came from some of the more elderly relatives, that remembered seeing him as a child as he did his evening walk.
He was also seen looking out of windows of the house, and sometimes in the yard. He had also been seen in the basement by workmen.
Mr.Hubbard’s description did not match that of most elderly men in the town of Manitowoc. The town was largely populated by people of German and Scandinavian heritage. The names “Schutte” and “Larson” populated pages in the phone book. People were, larger than average in town. The entire time I lived in Manitowoc I never thought for a moment of going on a diet. Since leaving, I’ve worried about my weight a lot more. Mr.Hubbard being tall and thin, just didn’t seem right to me.
I went to the local library and looked up the history of my house. It seems that a family named Hubbard lived there. They were among the earliest settlers of the town. Mr.Hubbard was known for his bravery. When Manitowoc was first settled the local native population quickly died out from smallpox and other diseases. A native died in a field, of smallpox, and no one in town knew what to do about it. Young Mr.Hubbard went into the field and buried the native. This was considered an act of such courage that it was mentioned in more than one report of the early history of the town.
Mr.Hubbard then went on to help raise funds so that young men in Manitowoc could buy their way out of serving in the Civil War, something I was unaware was possible before reading of Mr.Hubbard’s efforts. The money was to buy substitutes, and it was not considered any blemish on his reputation that he helped lead this effort.
Now the interesting thing about Mr.Hubbard was that he was of English background, not German or Scandinavian. This lead to the next interesting thing about Mr.Hubbard, he looked exactly like that descriptions of the ghost that lived at our house! There in the library records were photographs of Mr.Hubbard. He was not thin, by most standards, but was certainly thin by Manitowoc standards. He had a long white beard also. At first I was in shock. I had found the ghost!
However I was also puzzled, if people were imagining they were seeing a ghost, why would the ghost look exactly like Mr.Hubbard. Why wouldn’t people imagine a ghost that looked like most old men in the area, shorter and much fatter? Did this mean there truly was a ghost? I was unsure.
We never saw Mr.Hubbard. At this time I wasn’t much of a skeptic. I was certainly open to seeing a ghost. Mr.Hubbard never appeared to his biggest fans, our family. I even made a copy of a photograph of him from the library, and places it on our piano in the front room (from which he peered out at passersby). Nothing at all. I began to wonder if there was a more down to Earth explanation for Mr.Hubbard’s ghost.
I began to ask my neighbors that had seen him walking a few more questions. They were all quite elderly, in their 80’s (this was during the early 1980’s also). They spoke of seeing this tall, thin man with the long white beard walking in the early evenings. Most of them remember looking out of their bedroom windows as young children and seeing his spooky figure. What I hadn’t taken into account is that most people born in Manitowoc, spend their entire lives there, often in the same house or neighborhood. These sightings took place when these people were very young, living close by or even in the same house they lived in now in their 80s.
The problem was, when they first sighted Mr.Hubbard on his nocturnal walks, he was still alive. He didn’t die until well into the 1920’s. I found out Mr.Hubbard did indeed go for a walk every evening from one of my neighbors who served as a maid in the house (she was in her 90s and later died while we lived there).
This did not explain more recent sightings of Mr.Hubbard. It seems that the seniors remembering Mr.Hubbard as a spectral (but actually real) old man walking alone at night would tell this ghost story to their children. The children also grew up and never moved away, and retold the story to their children. This explains how the ghost looks just like a real person, and how any weird sightings, including vague images or reflections from the many windows of Mr.Hubbard’s home became the wandering ghost of the neighborhood. As for the workmen in the basement, they saw a vague imagine in their periferal vision, that became a ghost because of course everyone knew this was a haunted house.
Haunted by a tall thin man with a white beard.
The only hint we might have a ghost was that late in the evenings when we would be watching TV, we would sometimes hear an odd banging noise by the front door. My husband and children took to saying “Goodnight Mr.Hubbard!” whenever we heard this. We joked it was him going out for his nightly walk.
When we were renovating we tore out all the wonderful old cast iron water heaters, and put in new forced air. While this allowed us to air condition the house (for a child that has asthma), we found it also ended the noise we had heard most evenings. Those that have lived with vintage heating systems know of the knocks, pings and other strange noises they make. Mr.Hubard’s door opening and closing was simply the heat kicking on. It was only after the renovation, and the loss of our ghostly door closing noise, that we remembered we only heard him in the Fall and Winter when we had the heat on.
It would be so easy to think of Mr.Hubbard as a true ghost. My shock at finding out descriptions of the ghost matched a real person, along with the noise that sounded just like our front door closing, would be proof enough if I had stopped questioning that we were haunted. Skepticism is often looking beyond that first “oh my gosh!” moment (in my case the discovery of the photograph of Mr.Hubbard), and to keep investigating.
I’m sure to this day 823 North 9th street in Manitowoc is reputed to be haunted. Those walking down 9th street at night may just come face to face with Mr.Hubbard taking his traditional walk. Or you may just hear stories about it, which is future generations will be even more removed from the actual truth. The ghost I believe is based on memories of an old man going for a lone walk at night when most good children should have been asleep, not peeking out their bedroom windows. The people that told me about seeing Mr.Hubbard in their childhood are now all dead. The ability to connect Mr.Hubbard and his nightly habit to the ghost is fading away, while the rumor and mythology around the 9th street ghost grows.
Who knows how many other ghosts had a much more mundane explanation that could have been discovered if only enough people had been interviewed before they died?
I have to say our family had a sense of loss when we did renovate. We liked having Mr.Hubbard around, and the thought of him eternally leaving and going for a walk from our home somehow made us feel special. We were the house with a ghost, and when what little what we thought was paranormal activity left with the introduction of modern heating technology, we missed our ghost. However, we were sensible people, and tried as best we could to explain why our home was truly not haunted. I think that the people where we lived, like us, felt they would miss having a ghost, and so ignored our explanations.
Sleep well Mr.Hubbard, where ever you are.