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Odd Wisconsin Archive

The Curse of the Hille Farm

In honor of Halloween, we offer a little-known Wisconsin ghost story.

John Hille was a German immigrant who came to America in 1837. He was a skilled cabinet maker and made his living as a carpenter. After marrying fellow immigrant Magdalena Jaquitard, the pair settled in Waukesha Co., where John built a beautiful farm house and where they raised six children.

For decades the Hilles were typical Wisconsin farmers — hard-working, helpful to others, respected by their neighbors and successful. But that was going to change. The Curse of Hille Farm was about to wreak havoc on the family and community for generations to come.

First Signs of the Curse

In the couple's old age, misfortune struck. First, Magdalena became ill and died from a lethal dose of drugs the physician accidentally gave her. Then, oldest son Michael died unexpectedly in an accident and, in 1899, John Hille died of natural causes.

Three of the remaining children, Oscar, William and Hulda took over the farm. Tragedy struck again in 1916. While Oscar was leading a bull to the barn, it got spooked by something unseen and crushed him to death against a wall.


William and Hulda continued to operate the family farm. As World War I approached, they felt conflicting emotions. The United States was the land of their birth, but their father had filled them with glorious stories of Germany, and they were still practicing many German traditions. As anti-German sentiment swelled around them, their fear of persecution increased.

In 1918 William and Hulda hired a farmhand named Elder Krause. A few weeks into his employment, Krause convinced the Hilles that he was a secret service agent and threatened to turn them in as spies. Although there is no evidence that the Hilles had anything to hide, he demanded money from them to keep quiet. William and Hulda, afraid of prison or lynching, agreed to pay.


On June 11, 1918, Klause and a friend entered the Hille kitchen to demand his payment. A fight ensued, and Hulda called a neighbor for help. As the neighbor approached the back door, she heard a blast. William ran by her, carrying a shot gun. Hulda emerged next, handed her a small wooden box, and told her to flee. The neighbor ran home to call the police. When they arrived, they found a massacre.

William had shot Krause's friend in the kitchen, though Krause was able to escape. Next, William went out to the barn and shot their five horses. He then returned to his favorite chair and shot himself. Hulda, after giving the box to her neighbor, went upstairs to her bedroom and drank a bottle of arsenic.

What did the box contain? Inside was a letter from Hulda stating that she knew she was going to die because she had seen the signs.

Haunted Heritage

After the war, the house was rented twice, but each family who moved in was quickly struck by tragedy. It was considered cursed by local residents, and abandoned. It was falling into decay when a Chicago couple named Ransome noticed it while vacationing. They loved it, bought it, and lovingly restored it. But this did not protect them from the Hille curse. Their grandson was tragically crushed while playing in the barn. And they claimed to regularly see a ghost — an old man walking back and forth from the kitchen to the barn.

[Source: Beth Scott and Michael Norman. "Haunted Wisconsin" (Stanton & Lee Publishing, Inc., 1980)]

:: Posted in Strange Deaths on October 20, 2011
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