There is a haunted history in Menomonie, and a collection of unexplained occurrences in the Mabel Tainter Theater have only become more unusual over time.
In the late 1800s, Mabel Tainter, daughter of Andrew and Bertha Tainter, inspired what has become one of Menomonie’s most treasured and haunted pieces of history. Mabel was a passionate advocate for the performing arts whose dreams were cut tragically short.
“One weekend, at age 19, [Mabel] grew desperately sick and she died suddenly,” said Executive Director of the theater, Steve Renfree. “The death certificate identifies her illness as cancer of the side, which we think was a burst appendix.”
Mabel’s death prompted the Tainters’ unitarian minister, Henry Doty Maxson, to encourage the family to construct a performing arts center that would celebrate their daughter’s life. The monument would also mission a venue that would bring together local residents for years to come.
However, there is a darker and more mystifying side to the Mabel Tainter. “For many decades there have been reports of visitations and spiritual occurrences happening in the theater,” said Renfree. Though Renfree cannot offer a personal haunted experience, many others have eerie stories to tell.
Elizabeth “Izzy” Merrill, hospitality supervisor and bar manager, has experienced several paranormal events over the course of her employment. One in particular involves Bertha Tainter’s dress. Merrill was alone in the box office when she witnessed the gown move on its own. The gown is enclosed in glass.
“[Bertha Tainter] was actually very interested in the paranormal. She actually had a seance [in the theater] after Mabel passed,” said Merrill.
Was Bertha’s fascination with the afterlife what invited entities to lurk the theater? Was Mabel’s death the birth of these spiritual experiences?
There are other instances of coughing, voices, odors of tobacco smoke and even encounters of what the guests refer to as the “Lady in White” and the “Lady in Gray.”
The subtle and drastic references of spiritual inhabitations have even struck the curiosity of the Johnsdale Paranormal Group. The group spent two nights in the Mabel, uncovering unexplained occurrences. Merrill was able to participate in the overnight investigation.
It seems that whatever the group discovered confirmed that the Mabel Tainter spirits are not malicious. Following the events that Merrill had witnessed with the group, she noted, “After that, let me tell you, I have no problem walking through this building in pitch black.”