Kewaunee Inn

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Spirits like to supervise, share their feelings in a
variety of ways, and get their chuckles as well.



The Historic Kewaunee Inn is a three-story, 23 room, historical Victorian/Arts and Crafts, 1912 brick hotel, that has been kept in good shape throughout the years by owners who truly loved this place. An elegant yet comfortable lobby, an impressive historical Tap Bar with lovely stained glass, around its original wooden Karsten bar, a huge, airy dining room, friendly atmosphere, beautiful woodwork and antiques, plus great traditional hospitality offered by Mayor John and Mary Blaha, welcome the guest into the Victorian/early twentieth-century era.


Walking into the hotel through the covered front porch, the beauty of this hotel is there, for all to see; like stepping back into the historical, Karsten family hotel. The hard work and love put into this hotel by all the past owners still shines forth. Such details as the lovely reconstructed 1912 reception desk, the fine Victorian decor on the ceiling, the grand lobby with an aura of friendliness, the glorious, wood-floored ballroom/dining room and the elegantly carved staircase are all lovely to behold!

Each floor has its own sitting area, where there is a refrigerator with complementary drinks, and other treats. A lovely continental breakfast is also available in this sitting area. The hallways on the second and third floors are really wide, giving the rooms more space and privacy. The hotel’s themed, comfortable and airy 23 rooms offer King, Queen, and Double bed accommodations, with many having a huge jacuzzi in the bathroom.

The Paranormal Investigation Team, made up of three very differently skilled investigators; Joe Couto, Kale Kelly and Dave Olsen, plus one incredibly talented psychic medium, Lori Manns, came for a weekend to investigate here and be filmed for a project.

Tom and I came along too and stayed a night on the beautiful, haunted third floor. We fell in love with the place. We stayed in Room 311, and enjoyed the huge jacuzzi bath tub, a lovely queen bed, TV, a fridge, a nice, big heater, a desk, and lights to read by! A lovely, extra warm comforter was offered if needed as well. We didn’t hear anything all night when the investigators were coming and going to the rooms just across from us, as they investigated most of the night.



Since 1858, it has been proven that a large hotel in this spot could be profitable. In 1836, the city of Kewaunee was chosen to be the site of a trading post, because of its natural harbor. By 1858, Kewaunee was a booming port town for lumber and commerce, whereas many as 20 schooners and steamers arriving each day, for both commercial enterprises and carrying passengers/settlers as well, making the need for a large hotel evident.

So in 1858, Charles Brandes built a wooden structure called, “The Steamboat House” to accommodate visitors. The Steamboat House had a large ballroom that was used for community dances, events of all kinds, and even served as a Kewaunee County Courtroom, until 1873.

Edward Decker bought the hotel in 1864 and sold it just one year later, in 1865, to John Erichsen, who changed the name to “The Erichsen Hotel”. John Erichsen enjoyed running this hotel until he died, in 1911. William Karsten then bought the hotel in November of 1911, from Mrs. Erichsen. However, a fire that started in the kitchen, in 1912, burned down this wooden hotel in four hours. It was reported that the cause of the fire was an accident, and no one died.

William Karsten

William Karsten received almost all of his money back from the fire insurance and made lemonade out of lemons by rebuilding the hotel of his dreams. During 1912, Karsten rebuilt a luxurious, three story brick hotel with a large lobby and sitting room, a fabulous bar, a huge dining room/ballroom and a basement, costing $60,000!!! Some of the money was raised through private investors, and the hotel was managed by Karsten’s company, Karsten Hotel Company. This labor of love was renamed “The Hotel Karsten,” offering 52 rooms for their many guests, opening up once again on February 14, 1913. The dining room could feed 90 people at once. The bar had its own entrance and was located in the ground floor basement.

William Karsten at this point in his life was a retired Sea Captain who had made his money establishing Pabst Brewing Company in Kewaunee. He was the Mayor of Kewaunee, and was quite a heavy fellow, a whopping 375 pounds! All through his life he was blessed with excellent health, never catching any of the diseases which plagued sailing vessels and turn-of-the-century towns. Even with this weight, he lived until he was 78, and died of a heart attack in his hotel suite, on January fourth, 1940.

Always a gregarious fellow, despite his weight and arthritis problems, William Karsten’s personality changed when the love of his life, his wife Catherine, died in 1928. He was lonely and not very happy, but found pleasure in looking at the view of Kewaunee Harbor and Lake Michigan from his second floor suite; (rooms 205-210). Another joy of his was sharing his memories with guests while sitting in his favorite chair in a fancy lobby. Most of all, William Karsten enjoyed the company of his very special grandson, William “Billy” Karsten III.

When William Karsten, Sr. retired, his son, William Karsten, Jr., ran the Hotel Karsten. Because William Karsten, Jr. spent so much time at the hotel, his young son, Billy Karsten III spent every minute he could with his adoring grandpa, William Karsten, Sr. The two of them were kindred spirits. Oddly, three weeks after William Karsten, Sr. died, young Billy became very ill and died in the hospital of complications of Haemophilus influenzae Meningitis, at the age of 5.

The Karsten Hotel Company sold the Hotel Karsten, in 1948. Many owners followed, who owned it for 5-8 years. Hersche Hardy, Hardy International Hotel Company bought this property, in 1950, lasting 8 years as the owners. Mr. and Mrs. Otto Hoffman of Frontier Properties became the owners, in 1958, and owned this property for 6 years. The Hotel Karsten by this time needed a boatload of money to upgrade the features of this now aging hotel.

In 1964, The Hotel Karsten closed and the building stood idle for two years. In 1966, new owners bought this fixer upper opportunity. Brothers Charles and John Schmitt were a pair of hardy entrepreneurs with bold plans and lots of renovation fervor. They changed the name of the hotel again to “Schmitt’s Coach Inn,” and proceeded to give this aging hotel a much needed “facelift.”

Brothers Charles and John put in a new boiler, a concrete floor in the basement, a sprinkler system throughout the hotel, paneling in the lobby and walnut room, dining room and bar, plumbing and wiring, new fixtures, and paneling & carpeting on the 2nd floor. The brothers opened 26 rooms on the 3rd floor, restoring water, heating, and plumbing to all the rooms. The Schmitt brothers added ceramic tile in all the bathrooms, and repaired the roofing. In 1970, they enclosed the front porch, and restored the curved stain glass in the Tap Bar.

Brothers Charles and John sold the hotel to Tom Gottheardt and five other investors, in 1984, after owning it for 18 years, breaking the 5-8 year time record for the average ownership of this hotel. Tom Gottheardt and friends sunk the money into remodeling and bringing up to code the basement, the first and second floors before reopening the hotel, with its original name, “The Hotel Karsten”.

Owners Doug and Toni Charles bought the Hotel Karsten, in 1991, with great plans of their own. They restored the original 1913 decor. Toni redecorated some of the third floor rooms, sprucing up their appearance, that needed some refreshing, on this third floor. They put the hotel to work, hosting all kinds of events.

In 1996, Dave and Therese Jacek, who were another energetic couple, bought the hotel. Using a Victorian theme, they reconstructed the front check-in desk, by studying old photos. They repainted the lobby ceiling a chocolate brown, and added Victorian wallpaper there and all around the hotel. They added many antiques as well. They completed the renovations which both restored the hotel to its original splendor and added more “amenities,” that people would enjoy and maybe expect. The 52 rooms were converted to 23 rooms with private bathrooms; some with a jacuzzi. The results created a more luxurious hotel, not only steeped in beauty and history, but also more pleasing and attractive to current clientele. It reopened once again with a slightly new name, “The Historic Karsten Inn”.

Five years later, in 2001, Roswitha and Ron Heuer and two foreign partners bought The Historic Karsten Inn, becoming the new owners, with new ideas on how to plan and execute events. Throughout their five years of ownership, they made the most of the opportunities to use the ballroom and hotel for a variety of events, as well as renting rooms to their guests.

They sold The Historic Karsten Inn in 2006, to another energetic entrepreneur who changed the name of the hotel to “The Historic Kewaunee Inn.” He continued to upgrade the hotel and owned it until November of 2012.

The Historic Kewaunee Inn, as of March third, 2013, is now owned by the bank, and is being temporarily managed by experienced hotel proprietors, Mayor John Blaha and his wife, Mary. The Historic Kewaunee Inn is looking for a new owner, and has a lot to offer as a property. It has the advantage of having owners in the past that kept up with restoration/renovation efforts, and this 100 year old Dame is in very good shape.

Besides having the 23 guest rooms, the possibilities to bring in money through various events is very apparent and promising. The Historic Kewaunee Inn has the “mother-of-all” hotel kitchens, and a large dining/ballroom room to match. The bar is large and historical, and the other common rooms have possibilities as well; inviting and suitable for all kinds of parties, events, dinners, etc.

The City of Kewaunee is a bustling place during spring to late fall, drawing lots of people in search of summer recreation and fall events. Tourists of all sorts come through Kewaunee when snow isn’t on the ground. Activities in the winter months, such as retreats, receptions; (people still get married in the winter), special events, etc., can be planned as well to help bolster income, as many owners have done this in the past successfully.


The Historic Kewaunee Inn, as of November 2012, was owned by the bank, and was temporarily managed by experienced hotel proprietors, Mayor John Blaha and his wife, Mary. The Historic Kewaunee Inn was looking for a new owner, and has a lot to offer as a property. It has the advantage of having owners in the past that kept up with restoration/renovation efforts, and this 100 year old Dame is in very good shape.

As of May of 2013, Dave Watters from Appleton, WI, bought this property, being familiar with the Inn, and buying it with eyes wide open to The Historic Kewaunee Inn and its problems over the past several years. Mr. Watters also saw its positive qualities, and has plans in mind to revive the inn!

Besides having the 23 guest rooms, the possibilities to bring in money through various events is very apparent and promising. The Historic Kewaunee Inn has the “mother-of-all” hotel kitchens, and a large dining/ballroom room to match. The bar is large and historical, and the other common rooms have possibilities as well; inviting and suitable for all kinds of parties, events, dinners, etc.

The city of Kewaunee is a bustling place during spring to late fall, drawing lots of people in search of summer recreation and fall events. Tourists of all sorts come through Kewaunee when snow isn’t on the ground. Activities in the winter months, such as retreats, receptions; (people still get married in the winter), special events, etc., can be planned as well to help bolster income, as many owners have done this in the past successfully.



Dramatic restoration and renovation of a fixer upper opportunity can be a huge environmental trigger to draw attached spirits back into our world.

All the spirit activity began to happen during and after the huge restoration/renovation efforts done by the Schmitt brothers, in 1966.

People who have enormous emotional and financial ties to a structure, that has given them emotional well-being and comfort as well, sometimes decide to spend their after-life there, perhaps watching the living run their business, sometimes wanting to help or supervise.

The Hotel Karsten was the labor of love and full-time retirement occupation of William Karsten Senior, who loved his suite and view of the lake, talking to guests, and playing with little Billy. He died in his favorite chair in his suite.

Family that is close during their lives in this world, will sometimes stay with loved ones who pass over and don’t want to leave their earthly home. They too love the same structure as their loved one.

William Karsten and his little grandson were “kindred spirits”; two peas in a pod, and adored spending time together at their favorite home in this world, their family’s The Hotel Karsten, now The Historic Kewaunee Inn.

People who identify a little too strongly with their job, and enjoy the fulfillment that they feel while employed, will sometimes choose to continue in their job duties after they pass over.

The Entity of the Housekeeper, Agatha – Her history is a sad one:

In 1921, young Agatha was raped by a drunk neighbor near her father’s farm. She had a child as a result of the sexual assault, whom her parents graciously raised, alongside their other seven children. I doubt she received any therapy. Nothing is reported about her getting any justice either. Being raped, having the rapist’s baby, and perhaps being blamed for the neighbor’s crime probably traumatized her on several levels.

Her parents needed more money, so Agatha went to work. She became a housekeeper who worked at the Hotel Karsten, from 1925-1937, a place where she was important, valued as a housekeeper of such a grand hotel, a positive escape from her tragic circumstances.

Women who experience the heart-break of abandonment/loss of their beloved or of unrequited love, sometimes will spend their after-life in the place where it happened, hoping that their beloved will find them there, or that in spirit form the man that rejected them in this world might change his mind in the after-life. They sometimes act upon their feelings as well.

It is said that Agatha fell in love with William Karsten, Sr., who didn’t love her back; another inadvertent form of being tortured; unrequited love. This didn’t improve her feelings about men.

She was given a room on the third floor, “310”. Some claim that she hung herself in 1937, but the truth is that she left the Hotel Karsten, a place she loved, to take care of her ailing father back on the family farm. She then stayed and lived out her years there, and died way too young, from cancer, in 1954. She never married. Besides having a negative mind-set against men, she also perhaps may still be carrying a torch for William Karsten.



The Entity of William Karsten, Senior

Described as being friendly and gentle, but does get upset once in a while.

When angry, frustrated, or annoyed, he will physically move his furniture around the room, when the living are not there.

When upset, he will create a sour smell in his room.

When feeling sad about his wife’s death:

He sometimes lets off a smell of a person who hasn’t taken a bath for a while. He communicated in some way to a psychic astrologer Rita Freedman, that old men without wives often do smell, because their better-half is no longer there to remind them.

He doesn’t pay attention to the no smoking policy, and the smell of cigar smoke is noticed in his suite, in parts of the hotel and 2nd floor.

His apparition has been noticed in rooms 210-215, where he stayed on the 2nd floor.

His strong, unseen presence has been felt by some people on the 2nd floor, being a kind host.

He is willing to talk to mediums and let his voice be recorded on EVPs. He is still the gracious host of the hotel, and will also communicate when worried about things that concern him.

The Entity of Young Billy Karsten III

Described as being friendly, gregarious and gentle; not shy at all with the living.

The entity of young Billy still does what he liked to do while alive, and is still a very energetic five year old: outgoing and gregarious.

Runs up and down the wide hallways.

Plays in the basement.

Plays with living children on the 2nd floor.

Will reach out and be social with people in this world, even talking with psychics and investigators; His voice has been recorded on EVPs.

Loves to run down the 2nd floor hallway to visit with his grandpa in William Karsten’s suites. They are together a lot now, still having fun together.


The Entity of Agatha

It is not surprising that Agatha is the most active entity. Agatha shows a variety of emotions and behaviors, ranging from being helpful to being mischievous with guests and staff. She has been described as being very opinionated, and not afraid.

She has been known to show dissatisfaction with decisions made by past owners and staff; even been a little nasty on one occasion. In a fit of temper, on one occasion only toward a staff member, but never evil.

In 1988, She became angry with the hotel manager, Barbara Pelnar. Agatha lost her temper and shoved Barbara hard from behind, while Barbara stood on the second floor landing. Barbara inadvertently lost her balance and fell down the stairs. Agatha hasn’t done anything like this, since.

She likes to be noticed by the living, and lets them know she is there; especially in her old room, on the third floor, the lobby area, and the kitchen.

Her unseen presence manifests itself with a wafting aroma of roses, or flowers, and in creating very cold spots as well.

While cleaning a mirror, a staff member saw a woman in a 1930s maid uniform standing behind him, with her hair up in the customary bun of the time.

A staff member, alone at the time in the hotel, was taking down the 3 boxes of Christmas decorations that were stored on the top shelf of a 3rd floor storage closet, and then dragging them downstairs. When she made her final trek up the stairs to the storage closet, she saw to her amazement that her last box had been moved off the top shelf, and was put right beside the open door, on the inside of the room. While the entity of William Karsten, or the unknown male entity may have been her unseen helper, Agatha was given the credit, as this would’ve been in her job description while she was alive.

Agatha is thought to be the entity who sets the alarm clock in the kitchen periodically to go off at 12 midnight. Staff and some investigation groups have experienced this.

Agatha also likes to play with the stove burners, and turns them on and off. The ovens and stoves of 1925-1937 were quite different from today’s commercial stoves and ovens.

When the dining room is open for food service, Agatha gets her chuckles by knocking over salt shakers and sugar bowls.

The Lobby Area:

Guests and staff have seen the apparitions of Agatha materialize in the lobby.

2nd and 3rd floor activity:

Her apparition has been seen and heard sweeping the 2nd and 3rd floor hallways, and causing other mischief for certain people.

She did so endlessly with a fervor, especially when workmen are on her floor, as she still bears a grudge;

(Still has a strong dislike for men in general, especially in the working class, as she associates them with drinking problems, and with the drunk farmer who raped her, and changed her life forever.)

During the renovations done in 1984, this activity was first reported by workmen, who were repairing the 2nd and third floor areas. The floors at this time had no carpet, and they were probably making a mess.

The workmen also felt really uncomfortable cold spots in their work areas.

She also hid their tools, turned them off and on, played with the lights and generally was a pest, but didn’t harm them.

In 1991, when Toni Charles was re-decorating a 3rd floor room, she heard someone walking in the hallway, right outside the room. She opened the door, and saw footprints of an unseen presence in the carpet proceeding down the hall. Agatha was thought to be this presence.

Agatha opens and closes doors, and apparently chest tops as well.

I had a personal experience when we stayed in room 311, right across the hall from 310: March 2nd, 2013.

I opened up a chest by the bathroom, with a sliding-hinge type lid that raises up, in order to bring out the extra comforter for our bed. As much as I tried, I couldn’t get the lid to slide down as I couldn’t push the hinge button in enough to release it due to arthritis in my fingers. Giving up, I thought I would wait for Tom to come up, and have his help in doing so.

But, I wasn’t as alone as I thought! I walked toward the bed, and then as I turned around, I saw it slam down suddenly by itself. I said, “Thank you!” I think that it could’ve be Agatha, trying to help, and get some chuckles at the same time, in a mischievous way.

In Room 310: Her room while alive, and in the afterlife as well:

Guests and staff have heard strange knocks, faint crying and sounds.

One guest was awakened in 310, when a book was dropped right next to the bed.

Guests and staff have heard a woman’s voice, and various investigators have recorded her voice in her room as well.

She has been known to appear so people in this world can see her: in her room.

One guest was sitting on the bed in Room 310. She felt very cold suddenly, and then saw a misty form of a woman cross the room, disappearing into the wall.

One guest reported having seen a face of a woman in a corner of room 310, looking down at her.

Apports, such as old-fashioned gray hair pins are found by guests and staff.

There may be another male entity,

a former hotel employee who “works” in the basement, and perhaps other places of the hotel as well, continuing with his duties, not letting death get in his way.

His shadow in the basement and perhaps elsewhere has been noticed and sometimes caught on film by paranormal investigators, and a psychic or two as well (Wisconsin Ghost Investigations Team * Team).


The Male Entity of a former Bar Patron

Likes to visit on occasion. Though it could be William Karsten, Sr. in disguise!

He was seen by bar patron Bonnie Jeski, as she was sitting with her husband, enjoying a drink in the hotel bar. She spied the white form of a man, wearing a workman’s or fisherman’s hat, who was sitting on a bar stool at the bar, drinking beer out of a stein. Her husband saw her looking at someone and asked her what she saw. When she turned around again to show him, the beer-drinking entity had vanished.



Since 1966, many people, including owners, staff, visitors, guests and investigators have reported their personal experiences with these spirits, many of which have been recorded in written material, on-line magazines, the Historic Kewaunee Inn’s ghost experience journals, and their huge, historical and informational archives, kept in a large notebook binder.

Two successful Psychic Investigations have confirmed and gathered more information not known before on the spirits that stay here:

  • One in 1988 with psychic astrologer Rita Ann Freedman.
  • One in March of 2013 with Team member psychic medium Lori Manns.

In 1988, Rita Ann Freedman read and analyzed the personalities of William Karsten and Agatha:

Rita Ann encountered Agatha on the third floor, sweeping the hallway, not in a good mood. She sensed that Agatha was still really attached to The Hotel Karsten. Rita described her as “an omnipresent, possessive entity who could be nasty”.

Furthermore, Agatha was extremely opinionated, and will let the living know if she is displeased.

According to Rita Ann, William Karsten was anchored in his hotel, because of his personality, thoughts and love for his hotel.

(Taken from original Scottie Dayton article, a copy of which was posted in The Historic Kewaunee Inn’s archives.)

In 2013, during the March 3rd, 2013, paranormal Team investigation:

Lori Manns, who is a very much liked and approachable psychic medium, also had success; in talking with the spirits at this location. For example, the entity of William Karsten came forward and talked with Lori Manns, telling her of his worries, among other things.

Several paranormal investigation groups have caught hard evidence backing up the existence of these spirits:

The Wisconsin Ghost Investigations Team declared and certified that The Historic Karsten Inn was indeed haunted, in 2002. They experienced activity and caught some evidence on tape as well.

Unexplained Research Investigation team, led by authors/investigators Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk, also caught some hard evidence in their investigation of The Historic Karsten Inn. Activity was experienced and caught on equipment, and a real cold spot was recorded and documented in Room 310. Also, the alarm clock in the kitchen did indeed go off by itself.

Individual investigators have caught intelligent EVPs of little Billy on the second floor.

The most evidence, however, was caught by our own team.

Joe Couto, Kale Kelly & Dave Olsen caught many EVPs, some ghost box stuff, some digital recordings, and an interesting picture of perhaps the entity of Agatha, in perhaps the same mirror that the workman cleaning the windows saw her apparition. When the evidence is fully analyzed, Team member, Lori Manns’ psychic investigation results will hopefully be backed up by EVPs and other hard evidence caught by the other team members.

All of the results of this March 2nd, and 3rd, 2013 paranormal investigation will be revealed in a digital film/dvd, sometime in 2013.




The entity residents and a visitor or two still love their hotel, and are a friendly, sometime a teasing/helpful bunch of entities, who keep the living company. In some instances, supervising, sharing their feelings in a variety of ways, and getting their chuckles as well. They reside in a place they loved on different levels while alive, having strong attachments to the Historic Kewaunee Inn.



The Kewaunee Inn / Karsten Hotel
(formerly the Historic Karsten Inn)
122 Ellis Street
Kewaunee, WI 54216

The Historic Kewaunee Inn, formerly known as The Historic Karsten Inn, can be found just one block east of Highway 42, and one block from the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan. It is two hours north of Milwaukee, 40 minutes from Green Bay, and on the way to Wisconsin’s popular recreation area, “The Dells”.




  • The Kewaunee Inn Archives Book
    (Historical material/info articles/promotional materials from late 1800s to present day)
  • The Kewaunee Inn Ghost Journal
    Used by permission of current staff.
  • “The Karsten Inn Has a Ghostly Past and Present”
    by Scottie Dayton
    Nov./Dec/ issue of NewMonth Magazine
    copy posted in The Historic Kewaunee Inn’s archives
  • Original Karsten Inn Story
    by Julie Carr – 2003
  • The Historic Karsten Inn website
  • The Historic Karsten Inn page on Unexplained * “Haunted Places in Wisconsin” page on
  • “The Historic Haunted Karsten Hotel” by Rita Ann on Myspace * “Review of Historic Karsten

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

Our Photos are copyrighted by Tom Carr

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