Encounters With The Dancing Man

The following is a true log of unexplained phenomena that have been noted by myself and other visitors to my family’s house in Northern Wisconsin. Enjoy.

background info header

When I was 14 years old, my dad saw his dream project realized. Several years back, he acquired roughly 40 acres of farmland that had previously been owned by my great-grandfather. My dad spent most of his summers up there as a kid where he would help his grandfather on the farm. Ever since he was 10, he wanted a house of his own on grandpa’s farm.

The house sits in an open field surrounded on all sides by a dense timber line. It has a screened porch out back, a fire pit, a metal pole barn, and a pond that make up the “back yard.” The first time I saw the house, I loved it. And 4 years later when I turned 18, I decided to spend my entire summer at the house while working as a waiter in a restaurant about 45 minutes away. All told, I spent three summers alone in the house. The summer of 2011 is when the activity began. 

Journal Entries header

I recently went through an old journal that I haphazardly kept while I was staying at the house. Here are some excerpts that I found and converted to text.

June 2011

It would be impossible to say that staying at this house alone isn’t a bit creepy. I never spent much time in big cities, but the total absence of artificial light is one of those things that doesn’t really strike you as strange until you experience it regularly. I made a few friends my age who live in town and went to a few parties hosted by them. It’s good to get out of the house for something besides work every now and again. Whenever I talk to Dad on the phone he asks, “So, are the spooks leaving you alone?” I guess he thinks that’s funny.

Once he called the landline here and when I picked it up he said, “The call is coming from inside the house.” Of course I knew it was him. That prank worked on me when I was home alone at 13, but it really loses its luster when you recycle a joke.

June 2011: later date

This will probably sound weird but I’m starting to get uneasy staying here some nights. Yesterday, I felt really uneasy for some reason. I was in the living room watching TV and suddenly felt really creeped out. I turned off the TV and stood up. For some reason I just stared up at the loft, like I was expecting something to walk out of the bedroom up there.

I started imagining a black mist oozing out of the bedroom and over the balcony. That probably sounds weird. I didn’t actually see anything like that. But I was imagining it in a “wouldn’t that be creepy” sort of way.

Anyway, it was Friday so I called one of my friends in town to see if anything was going on. A few people were hanging out and she said I could come by if I wanted, so I left. I crashed on the couch at her place and drove back to the house this morning.

July 2011

Ok. Something really weird happened today. It was my day off so I figured I’d go spend a little time down by the pond. I went out the back door and slid it shut behind me. But when I tried to come back in about an hour later, it was locked.

How was it locked? You can’t lock that door from the outside and if the lock had been set earlier, I wouldn’t have been able to close the door all the way!

I had to get the spare key and let myself in the front door. Really weird.

June 2012

Back for another summer! Since mom and dad sold our house in Newton, I guess this is where I’ll “come home” to now when school isn’t going on and I can’t fly to Florida. Mom and Dad were up here last week with K [my brother] and something strange happened that I thought was worth writing down.

A few nights ago, mom and I were playing chess on the back porch while Dad and K were off in town. All of a sudden we heard this loud BANG! From inside the house. It sounded like one of the doors had slammed shut.

We went to take a look, but all of the doors were still open. We did find this big framed picture that fell down in the loft. The weird thing is, that picture has been hanging there for years, no problem. And it’s not like the wire on the back of the frame was broken. The wall mounts were also in place. It seems really crazy that the picture would just fall like that.

August 2012

It’s 4:12am right now and I can’t sleep. I woke up from a really freaky dream. K says he keeps a dream journal, but I don’t want to start doing that. This dream was really strange though. I was in the house but it was like, underground if that makes sense. There wasn’t anything else around but this really big butterfly slowly flapping its wings while it was perched on the wall. Maybe it was a moth?

No idea why but seeing that thing really freaked me out. I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep. Thank God for King of the Hill reruns. Have work at 10 today. Might go running before my shift.

Sleep paralysis header

The above section contains all of the journal entries that I could find relating to the activity in the house, but they are far from the only strange occurrences. The worst one for me came my third summer in the house. Before I can tell you about it I have to tell you a little bit about sleep paralysis.

Sleep paralysis is basically the opposite of sleep walking. During your REM cycle, your brain releases a chemical that paralyzes your limbs so that you don’t move around when responding to dreams. Sleep walkers are experiencing a state where the chemical hasn’t been released and so they move around and respond to whatever is going on in their dreams.

Sleep paralysis on the other hand, is when your mind wakes up but the part of your brain that’s paralyzing your limbs doesn’t. It’s a pretty freaky experience. I have had episodes of sleep paralysis on and off since I was maybe 13. Some are freakier than others, but an episode I had in that house will forever be the scariest experience.

One night while I was sleeping in the house, I woke up to what felt like a jolt of electricity being shot through my body. I realized that I couldn’t move and for some reason the vague thought, this is what being possessed feels like drifted through my head.

I used all of my energy to turn my head to the left and was immediately horrified. A dark shadow was moving from the corner of the bedroom. It reached out a pitch black hand and started to make its way toward me.

I had to get away.

I used all of my strength to roll myself out of bed. The electric feeling got worse and I felt like some magnetic force was pulling me back toward the bed. I reached up and grabbed the corner of the dresser and used that as an anchor to haul myself through the doorway. Then I was in the kitchen. I pushed off from the door frame and grabbed onto the fridge.

I pulled myself from the fridge to the stove. The stove to the counter. The counter to the sliding door. Then I was outside. I clawed at the ground and pulled up clumps of grass trying to hold myself in place as I tried to crawl away. But it was no use, I ran out of things to hold on to and the magnetic force pulled me back to the house. I got stuck outside of the window that looks into the kitchen, frozen in place.

Then, I saw the black shadow walk out from the bedroom. It stopped in the kitchen on the other side of the counter and turned its head to look at me.

Then I jolted awake.

I was back in the bed. I had never gotten out of it. I sat up and looked wildly around the room, no shadow. I checked the clock and it was almost 4am. I did not go back to sleep.

That was actually the night that I found out what sleep paralysis was. I had had episodes before but had never bothered to look it up because they hadn’t been all that scary. I typed “vivid dream can’t move” into Google and found tons of articles about sleep paralysis.

To be honest with you, knowing that there was a scientific explanation for what happened made me feel a lot better. Apparently hallucinations and fears that you’re being attacked by a demon or an intruder are common symptoms of sleep paralysis. I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t more nervous about sleeping alone in the house after that. But I was more scared about having another episode than I was about actually being haunted.

The Dancing Man header

Fast forward to my senior year of college. My girlfriend (now my fiancée) and I decided to go up to the house for a little R&R after finals during our holiday break. The house is about a 6 hour drive from U Iowa and I had work on the morning we planned to leave, so it was pretty late when we finally made it up to the house.

We had been up there together a few times in the past and I never told her about my private opinion that the house might be haunted. I definitely never told her about the sleep paralysis episode because I figured that would really freak her out.

Anyway, we got in around 10pm and unpacked the car. We built a fire in the fireplace, had a small dinner with some wine, and eventually decided to call it a night. When we climbed into bed she pretty much fell asleep right away. I was still in the process of nodding off and almost asleep myself when suddenly she sat bolt upright in bed.

I heard her give a half gasp before she leapt out of bed and ran over to the light switch. The lights came on and I sat up rubbing my eyes saying, “Wh-what’s going on!” When my eyes adjusted to the brightness, I saw that her face was pale and she was pointing a shaky finger toward the corner of the room.

“What was that!?” She demanded.

“What are you talking about?”

“There was a man! There was a man in that corner dancing. First he was sitting. Then he got up and started dancing! I thought it was you at first, but then I looked down and you were still in the bed.”

The corner of the room that she was pointing to was the same one that I had seen the shadow come out of during my episode of sleep paralysis.

Additional Encounters header

At first my family would only tease me when I started to hint at the possibility that there was something in the house. But now that they have had their own experiences, our conversations about the ghost have become more like a series of reports.

Because my parents live in Florida, they have to fly up whenever they want to use the house. Because of different schedules, my dad will occasionally fly up a few days before my mom and then pick her up at the airport when she flies in.

During one trip, my dad left to pick up my mom and when they returned to the house all of the doors that lead into the house were wide open. My dad swears that they were all shut and locked when he left. When the house was being built, we had a TV stolen by one of the construction guys. Since then, my dad has been extremely particular about locking the doors and arming the alarm system when he’s not there.

On that same trip, my mom got out of bed to sleep up in the loft to get away from my dad’s snoring. In the middle of the night, she says that she felt someone sit on the edge of the bed.

“I thought it was your dad at first.” She told me later. “But I said something to him and he didn’t say anything back. So I flipped on the lamp, and no one was there!”

A similar thing happened to my aunt while she was sleeping downstairs.

“It was the fourth of July.” She said. “Your uncle and a few other people were still out by the fire but I had had a long day so I decided to go to bed. I was laying there and I felt something crawl over me and get on the bed next to me. At first I thought it was Marcus (their dog) since he sleeps right next to the bed when we’re there. But I reached over the bed and found him still on his mat!”

Both my parents and my aunt & uncle have reported arriving at the house to find different pictures on the ground, fallen down at some point with no explanation.

I had one more sleep paralysis experience there. This one was last October. Since that really horrible one, I’ve gotten pretty good at waking myself up from sleep paralysis episodes. Just hold your breath. It’s the one thing you can control and if you hold it, your body will wake up. This night I woke up, realized I was experiencing sleep paralysis, and woke myself up. The moment that I woke up, I swore I heard a noise come from upstairs in the loft. It sounded like a door closing.

Theories header

My mom is fond of insisting that the Dancing Man, as he’s come to be called, is the ghost of my great-grandfather who originally owned the land. While our house is new, it was built on the foundation of an old farmhouse where great-grandpa originally lived.

By several accounts, my great-grandpa was a notorious prankster. Apparently, my grandma and her sisters would often take him to church when he was in his late 80s. This was a small town church where the congregation was made up of regulars and everyone sat in their usual seats. Grandpa and his family would always sit behind this couple who had a young boy who was maybe 7 years old.

Apparently during the service, my grandpa would reach out and lightly tease the back of the boy’s head. The boy would whirl around to see who was touching him and see an old man, resting his hands on his cane, and paying attention to the service. The boy’s parents would scold their son and tell him to, “leave that nice man alone.”

Later at my grandpa’s funeral, the boy’s parents came up to my grandma and told her about it. She looked mortified and apologized up and down but the boy’s parents laughed and said, “Oh please! Don’t be sorry! That was the only reason our son liked going to church.”

I told this to my girlfriend the night that she saw the Dancing Man. After we started talking about it, I remembered my mom telling me at grandpa’s funeral that “Grandpa has a new body now and he’s probably dancing with grandma in heaven.” We asked “grandpa” to please let us sleep and we didn’t have any other experiences on that trip.

It’s nice to think that the Dancing Man might be the spirit of my great-grandpa checking on people while they sleep and trying out some dance moves with his new body. But sometimes I still have my doubts.

Whatever I saw during that episode of sleep paralysis terrified me and it didn’t feel like a prank. It felt…well to be honest, kind of sinister.


One thought on “Encounters With The Dancing Man

  1. Keegan, just read this now and enjoyed it. Your Grandma, Uncles Jim & John and I were all born in the house that was originally on that site. Yes, your Great Grandpa was a prankster. Ask Terry about a cold shower, if you don’t know that story. I also know that that 7 yr. old boy who sat in front of him at church, cried when the Pastor announced that he had died earlier that morning. Would love to send you “Herb’s Humor”–quotes and stories from your Great Grandpa, but I don’t have you current email.


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