Goth Talk With Milwaukee Ghost Tour Founder Anna Lardinois
There are a lot of weird and creepy stories to tell about downtown Milwaukee (I’ve told many myself), but Anna Lardinois, a former high school English teacher, does her storytelling on-site and in character. As the founder of Gothic Milwaukee Walking Tours, she leads summertime tours of some of Downtown’s most notoriously haunted spots, all while in era-appropriate costuming. She has since branched out in the kid-friendly Holiday Lights Tour (she dresses as an elf for that one) and the Walking Milwaukee self-guided tours as well as a GPS-based audio tour. Lardinois recently sat down with Around MKE to talk about tours, hauntings and the “guests” on her tours that don’t buy tickets.
What first got you into the idea of doing a ghost tour of Milwaukee? Was it inspired by anything supernatural?
While I was teaching, every year I would go on a solo road trip for my spring break. I was in a different town every night and I discovered Ghost Tours were the ideal way to spend my evenings. It is a great way to get to know a city, and the activity seemed to attract nice, interesting people. I fell in love with the mixture of history and storytelling and these nights became an integral part of my annual adventure. When I turned 40, I decided to do one new thing a week, and creating this tour was part of that challenge. I wanted to give my hometown the same kind of quirky fun I experienced on the road. At the start, it was meant to be an entertaining, temporary side project, but I quickly discovered how much I enjoyed every aspect of doing the tours, and the endeavor grew.
Obviously some people very much believe in ghosts, while others are more skeptical. What kind of balance between the two mindsets do you usually get on your tours? How many people change their minds afterward?
It is not my aim to change anyone’s beliefs on the tours. I consider the tours to be in the “info-tainment” category and you can take from them what you want. Even if you aren’t onboard with the supernatural aspects of the stories I tell, the historical and architectural information on the tours is all objectively accurate. My disclaimer for the tours is “if you like history, storytelling, walking around and middle-aged ladies in hoop skirts, you’ll enjoy the tour.”
Do you have any favorite particular spot or story from the tour?
Milwaukee’s most famously haunted building, The Pfister Hotel, is home to Milwaukee’s most charming apparition, Charles Pfister. City Hall, in my opinion, is the most beautiful haunted building in the city. My very favorite place to tell stories is on the Riverwalk. It is the perfect place for people to get cozy with their walking partners while I tell my favorite stories, maritime disasters touched by the supernatural.
Have you ever had anything happen on the tour that could not be explain by the doings of this realm?
I am pretty busy when giving tours. I need to watch out for cars, make sure my guests are always safe and keep an eye on the clock to make sure we finish on time, so I am not very connected to the spirits while leading a tour, however, walkers have sent me countless photos of orbs on the tours and there is a stop on the route of the classic tour where young women often get goosebumps or feel their hair standing on end. As a participant on a Ghost Tour in Asheville, NC, I believe I saw a ghost. You never know what will happen on tour.
And, finally, how can people check the tour out?
If curious, fun-loving walkers want to join me, they should go to my website. All of the tour dates for the season are posted on our tour calendar and tickets can be purchased for $15 per walker.