You can imagine my excitement this last winter when the fearless editor of the Riverwest Currents, Alice, messaged me to say that I had received a mystery letter at the office talking about an urban legend of Riverwest. Wow!
I made my way over to the office ASAP and Alice handed me an envelope with no return address. Inside was typewritten letter that read:
Attn: Tea Krulos
Dear Sir or Madam:
Hello, have you seen the enclosed flyer has been posted all over the east side? The one enclosed was posted on a bulletin board on Prospect Ave. The story mentions Riverwest. I thought it might be of interest since it mentions “specters and ghouls” but I cannot find any information about it- nobody around seems to know anything about it.
Thank you very much.
No signature. Enclosed was the said flyer, a photocopy of an “article.” It was smudged with grime and pocked with staple holes. The article was titled “More ‘Oak Leaf Man’ Sightings Reported.” Handwritten at the bottom in black marker was an asterisk with the words “Neighborhood Alert.” The article included a black and white photo “taken by two anonymous cross country skiers” of what looked maybe like a pumpkin or basketball in a hoodie peeking through snowy tree branches.
Reading through it, I rolled my eyes and assumed it had been the shoddy work of a college paper, doing what skeptics would call “mystery mongering.” It seemed immediately obvious to me that the story here was not a supernatural one, but possibly young college kids new to an urban environment. Young Johnny or Susie moved to the dorms from Mequon or Appleton or Whitefish Bay and were terrified to see the apparition of…a homeless man wearing a hoodie, wandering the Oak Leaf Trail…ooo-weee-woo!
But when I read through it again, several things jumped out at me as being too fake for any publication (at least I would hope so!) and I believe this is a hoax.
There is no attribution as to where the article is from and nothing came up on Google. The hoaxer shot themselves in the foot by listing it as being on page A3 of a State & Local section of an unknown publication, with a date of September 29, 2014. “State & Local” means it would have to be a Wisconsin paper, however the style matches nothing I am familiar with. I consulted with two librarians at the Central Library periodical department and they agreed the style was unfamiliar.
Then there is the fact that the article isn’t credited with a byline, but is signed off at the end as “-t.k.” Um, are you trying to rip off the supernatural reporting style of one Tea Krulos? Your kung fu is weak!
I suppose there is a small possibility this is from some small town Wisconsin paper, but I don’t think so. I think it was created in Photoshop.
Another red flag here is the quotes from “some Riverside High School students,” “a group of college students at UW-Milwaukee’s Riverview Hall,” and “some long-term residents of Milwaukee’s upper east side and Riverwest neighborhoods.” See the problem? There are no actual names listed as sources anywhere in the article.
Through my connections to local paranormal investigators, I soon discovered the same article had also been mailed or e-mailed to Allison Jornlin, a local ghost story expert, as well as local groups Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee and Brew City Paranormal.
Why? I think someone was maybe bored and wanted to create their own urban legend, a myth for the ages, and possibly have fun freaking out some college kids.The “report” says this Oak Leaf Man, a “man with a lot of scars, wearing a long coat” had been spotted staring into a dorm window at Riverview Hall “during a party.” I think trying to spread this tale is a Halloweeny prank.
As for exploring the Oak Leaf Trail this Halloween season— I would be a little cautious walking down there, especially at night. Unfortunately, there have been incidents of crime on occasion, but it is a beautiful place to walk with a friend. I wouldn’t worry too much about the Oak Leaf Man swooping in to steal your soul, or whatever he’s supposed to do.
Happy Halloween, my friends!
My book Monster Hunters: On the Trail With Ghost Hunters, Bigfooters, Ufologists, and Other Paranormal Investigators has been a popular topic this Halloween season. It made Cult of Weird’s 2015 Fall Reading List and was recently featured on Wisconsin Life. You can order a copy here: www.chicagoreviewpress.com/monster-hunters-products-9781613749814.php