The Retlaw

Archival Digital Print

12" x 12"


Erik and I were visiting Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, for his exhibition opening at the Thelma Sadoff Center For the Arts. Shane Mcadams, the curator at Thelma, showed us a fun time in town: great company, good food, beers, and lots of laughs. At the end of the night, he drove us to our hotel and said, “You guys are all set! Just go in, give the front desk your name, and you should be good to go.” We thanked him and crawled out of his van. As the van door closed, he shouted, “By the way, the hotel is haunted!”

I turned to Erik and raised my eyebrow as Shane drove away. “Did he just say this place is haunted? He is joking, right?” I grabbed my phone and started googling the hotel’s name. I hadn’t finished typing in “retl…” when google suggested “retlaw hotel haunted.” Seriously.

I clicked on the first link; it’s a TripAdvisor review titled “Extremely Haunted,” followed by over 100 other questionable reviews. I skimmed the articles, shook my head, and clicked on www.hauntedrooms.com as we walked toward the hotel entrance. I read it aloud to Erik: “ ‘Walter Schroeder, the person responsible for building the hotel, continues to haunt the establishment until now…Rumor has it, Walter was murdered in the hotel and has since remained. Most paranormal incidents center in Room 717. Guests and hotel staff have heard screams coming from Room 717. Hotel staff tried to unlock the door but they were unable to. The screaming continued and the door was moving, as if someone was kicking it from the inside […] Other haunting reported by guests were disembodied male voices, strange humming, phantom footsteps and unseen bodies bumping into people […] Retlaw is Walter spelled backwards.’ ”

“Eh, don’t worry Honey. No big deal,” Erik says.

We get to the front desk and I try to shake off the jitters. As we check in, I ask the front desk lady, “We’re not in 717, are we?”

“No,” she says. “That room is booked months ahead of time. Everyone wants a haunted experience.”

Not me, I think.

“You’re in 817.”

Great. Right above Walter.

We go to the hotel bar for a quick beer. It’s late, and I need some liquid courage. It helps marginally.

The 8th floor hotel hallway feels electric; I tell myself it is all in my head. We get to our room, exhausted from a long day, and flop down on the bed. I turn on some cheesy TV show that will hopefully help put me to sleep. Erik falls asleep almost immediately. I try to relax. About a half an hour later, I hear a tapping sound.

Tap. Tap tap. Tic tap. Tic tic tap…Like a fingernail tapping on the metal doorknob. I freeze in bed.

It continues. I look to the heater. I try to rationalize that it could be the heater. But it’s not; the heater has its own distinct hum. My body feels stuck, like the comforter blanket is a thirty-pound weight on my chest. I search my mind for some other logical reasoning.

The knocking continues. On the doorknob. On the other side of the room. Tic tic tic. Tic. Tic. Tap tic. It’s nonstop, like some sort of Morse Code.

Then the door handle jiggles, and then it turns. I jump out of bed, half freaked out, half telling myself that maybe someone on the hotel staff does this for fun. I look out the peephole, but no one is there. I fling open the door. Nobody in sight. I exhale, part relief, and part exasperation. I crawl back into bed and shake Erik awake. “Do you hear that tapping?!” I ask him.