Paranormal Activity at
- The apparition of a former owner is seen on the second floor and around the bar
- Faucets have been turned on by unseen forces
- The unexplained smell of cigar smoke has been reported
- The ghost of a former owner is said to create foul odors near people he doesn’t like
- Room 310 is reportedly haunted by a former housekeeper, who often appears as an apparition
- The phantom housekeeper is said to hide tools and knock over objects set out by staff
- Sounds of a child playing and running around the halls have been reported
- The ghost of a young boy is said to play games with children who stay at the inn
History of Winsconsin’s Karsten Inn
Steps from the shores of Lake Michigan in the sleepy town of Kewaunee, Wisconsin, is an unassuming brown brick building with a long history of spooky happenings. The first things you’re likely to notice at the Karsten Inn are its inviting front porch and well-decorated interior spaces.
But, there’s more to this historic inn than meets the eye.
Ghosts of former owners and workers reportedly linger the Karsten’s halls. Some even call it Wisconsin’s most haunted hotel. But just what inspired the listless souls to never checkout from the inn?
Timeline of Karsten Inn's History
Swipe or use timeline points to see Karsten Inn through the years
Before the current hotel existed, Karsten Inn’s property had long been home to hotels. A large wood inn, The Steamboat House, sat on the property for decades before burning down in the early 1910s. The inn had just come under the ownership of William Karsten when the blaze occurred.
So, in 1912, the inn’s new owner resolved to rebuilt. The new brick hotel opened on Valentine’s Day 1913, then called the Hotel Karsten. This new hotel boasted 52 rooms, a dining room that could seat 90, and a full bar.
William Karsten managed the hotel well for years after the rebuild. It soon after became a family business as William’s son, William Jr., became old enough to help. When William Karsten Sr. died in 1940, William Jr. inherited the Karsten Inn. But, William Jr. would soon after face more grief when his son, Billy, died less than two months after William Sr.
Despite this, William Jr. kept the Karsten Inn running smoothly. The inn would run for over two decades after the death of William Sr. but, in the 1960s, business began to slow, and it closed in 1964.
Coupled with lower guest traffic and rising maintenance costs, the inn seemed doomed. Luckily, the Karsten’s closure was short-lived because it was bought and extensively remodeled in 1966.
Reopened with a modern look, the Karsten did well through to the late 20th century. In 1991, it came under new ownership once more. The new owners remodeled again, this time bringing the original 1913 appearance back to the hotel’s interior.
The inn would go through several more renovations over the following years. In 1996, more historically-accurate renovations were done, adding a replication of the original check-in desk. The hotel also saw its room total fall from 52 to 23 as private bathrooms were finally added.
Thanks to careful restorations and updates, the hotel is a popular northern Wisconsin inn still today. But, some say the numerous renovations have stirred up ghosts from the hotel’s past. Particularly, the ghosts of the Karsten family themselves.
Is the Karsten Inn haunted?
Ghost stories have swirled around the Karsten Inn for over 50 years. In fact, many say the hauntings began in 1966 with the first major restoration. An oft-stated theory within paranormal circles is that major reconstructions in a building can stir up ghostly activity.
And, that seems to be the case. Not long after the renovations began in the mid-60s, ghosts started being reported throughout the entire hotel. And one of the most commonly spotted entities is none other than William Karsten Sr.
Karsten Inn’s Odorous Entities
The ghost of William Sr. is most often reported in rooms 210-215, the areas of his former owner’s suite. His broad, shadowy figure has been seen gazing out the window in these rooms, as if trying to get a view of the sea. A similar apparition has been seen at the hotel bar area.
William Sr. is also said to give off noticeable smells. In the rooms of his former suite, guests often report the strong smell of William Sr.’s cigars. And when he encounters someone he doesn’t like, it is said that William Sr. will conjure a pungent smell, likened to intense body odor.
Family Phantoms Linger at Karsten Inn
William Sr. is not alone in haunting the hotel. In fact, his grandson Billy is also said to haunt the building. Billy died not long after William Sr. at the age of five, and now many guests report his ghost lingering in the inn. Billy’s ghost is often heard playing around the building.
He is frequently heard running up and down the halls on the second and third floor. Similar sounds are also heard in the basement. But, Billy doesn’t like to play alone. When children stay at the Karsten, they often claim to play in the halls with Billy, identifying him by a photo of him in the hotel.
Karsten Inn’s Haunted Room 310
Along with the Karsten family ghosts floating around their namesake inn, the spirit of a former housekeeper is said to cause trouble around the hotel. Named Agatha, this ghost has become an infamous presence in room 310. There, she is known to appear suddenly as an apparition. Agatha’s shadowy figure has also been seen materializing in the lobby and dining room.
Aside from sudden appearances, Agatha is known for causing mischief. The faucets in room 310 are often found turned on, with Agatha being blamed.
Additionally, Agatha’s ghost is said to knock over sugar bowls and salt shakers in the dining room. When the building was being renovated, workers’ tools would go missing, with many of them blaming Agatha’s pranking.
Book Your Spooky Stay at Karsten Inn
Whether it comes through the historic aesthetic of the spaces, or the historic spirits who haunt them, the Karsten Inn’s storied past stays at the forefront of its present. Though ownership is understandably more focused on the hospitality than the hauntings, they stay open about their ghost stories.
Ghost hunters and paranormal enthusiasts alike often book stays in the Karsten Inn’s haunted rooms, hoping for something spooky.
And some do report that something spooky finds them during their stay. So while the Karsten Inn may book up sometimes, it seems there’s always room at the inn for a few ghosts.