The History and Spooky Legends of Lake View Hill Park
by Zainab Yahiaoui, age 15
There is a fascinating and ongoing story happening in Madison’s northside. It is a story rich with mystery and local history, and it’s a story you can explore for yourself. Legend has it that Lake View Hill County Park is haunted by spirits. The forest and graveyard behind the Lakeview Lutheran Church next to the park are the site of the most suspicious activity, even though the park was the location of an old hospital. Some say the site is haunted because before the building was built the land was sacred to Native Americans.
As local legend has it, people who visit the area often connect with the dead as they walk through these ancient grounds. People who visit the woods come out with stories of what seems like paranormal activity. These strange occurrences include cold spots, awkward mist in some places, and sometimes they report a feeling of something grabbing them. Despite the rumors swirling around about the haunted forest, Lake View Hill County Park is also known for another thing. A sanatorium was built on the site in 1930. This sanatorium was made to accommodate tuberculosis patients since there was no cure for tuberculosis at the time.
Tuberculosis is a lung disease that affects breathing. In the 19th century Tuberculosis was located everywhere around the world and was considered a pandemic. Much like our current pandemic, everyone was concerned about contracting the disease. There was no vaccine to combat tuberculosis until 1921. The sanatorium at Lake View Hill County Park was home to up to 100 patients.
Nurses and other staff stayed at the facility in a dormitory that had electricity and running water. When patients in the hospital died, it was the staff’s job to dispose of the bodies by cremation. Staff would move the bodies through an underground tunnel. They could not burn a lot of bodies at once because the pollution and the smoke affected the patients’ breathing in the sanatorium. Even today, some people still believe the legends. As with most legends and mysteries, the origins are unclear. But to this day some visitors say they can hear voices calling out as they walk through the forest and graves around the original hospital site.
Believe it or not, the tuberculosis pandemic and the COVID-19 pandemic are as similar as they are different. Both diseases attack the respiratory system, the parts of your body that help you breathe. The tuberculosis pandemic was named the “White Plague” in the 19th century. It was the leading cause of death in Wisconsin at the turn of the 20th century, claiming 2,500 deaths annually. This number is high compared to the current fatality rate of COVID-19, but the number is growing day by day.
During the 19th century, doctors would isolate tuberculosis patients in nature for them to get fresh air. Does that ring a bell? People who have COVID-19 are usually isolated in their room and everyone limits contact with the infected person. To stay in a tuberculosis hospital you would have to pay 18 to 30 dollars every week. Unlike tuberculosis, COVID-19 patients are often able to recover at home without visits to the hospital. This strategy helps stop the spread from happening in the hospital.
The one big difference between the two pandemics is that the tuberculosis pandemic is over and there is a treatment for it. People still get it, but it’s treatable with the right antibiotics and is relatively rare. The COVID-19 event, however, is not over. People are still getting infected and dying. Scientists are trying to develop a vaccine but haven’t been successful yet.
All this adds to the mystery and fascination surrounding this storied Dane County Park. It is a beautiful site with panoramic views and plenty of local history. Lake View Hill County Park is open to the public. You can go there to enjoy the nice weather, walk your dogs and even experience the supposedly haunted forest for yourself. With the COVID-19 pandemic, staying at home can be boring and flat out terrible. Going out for some fresh air is a safe and fun option. What better place to go than Lake View Hill County Park?
As we all become more and more accustomed to life indoors in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dane County parks can be a great, free opportunity to get outdoors. Dane County parks are spacious natural areas that allow for safe social distancing. The parks offer hiking and bike trails, picnic areas, campgrounds, places to fish, boat launches, and far more various amenities and activities. Dog permits are required to bring dogs to most of the parks, however, there are several dog parks available. Due to the pandemic, many park restrooms will be closed, so plan accordingly. Visit the Dane County parks website for more updates and information. Get outside, soak up some sun, and spend some time in nature!
[Sources: Dane County Land and Water Resources Department; onlyinyourstate.com; madisonessentials.com; madcitydreamhomes.com]