St. Nazianz: Haunted Wisconsin Town Founded by Heretic Priest and Mystic Cult Followers
The small town of St. Nazianz in Wisconsin is said to be cursed by the heretic priest of the Catholic mystic cult that founded it in 1854.
The crypt of Father Ambrose Oswald. Photo: Charlie Hintz
The town of St. Nazianz is believed to be one of the most haunted places in Wisconsin. It was founded by a rogue priest who, upon his death, is believed to have cursed the town he built. Throughout the years, natural disasters and numerous accounts of bizarre, unexplained phenomena have helped keep the legend alive.
Father Ambrose Oschwald was fleeing religious persecution when he came to Wisconsin in 1854. The Roman Catholic Church had suspended him from his duties in the parish of a small town in the Black Forest of Germany due to “mystical, prophetic, and heretical works.”
When Oschwald left, the congregation uprooted and followed him to the US. They made their way to Wisconsin where, a 1920s newspaper article reported, a divine white heifer lead the group to the site that would become St. Nazianz.
The community thrived there for many years. They called themselves “The Association,” agreeing to share everything in common and work without pay. But strange things began to happen when Oschwald fell sick in 1873.
The Death of Father Oschwald
A man named Anton Still stayed at Father Oschwald’s side while he was on his death bed. He wrote:
“A number of times, I have observed that he, with closed eyes, when there was no one else in the room but I alone, would extend his hands in blessing, and then with his hand, signal someone away, and yet I saw no one in the room.”
Throughout the night of February 26th, as Oschwald lay dying, there were reports of mysterious pounding on the walls of his room, as well as residences throughout the town. The sounds stopped when Oschwald died the following morning.
A judge from Manitowoc came to view Oschwald’s body the day before the funeral. He was taken aback by the liveliness of the corpse, warning not to bury it because Oschwald was not dead.
Oshwald’s tomb had not yet been complete, so his coffin was placed on view in a crypt beneath the high alter of the old St. Ambrose church. The coffin was reopened on April 29th for examination before it was to be placed in the completed chamber. A priest by the name of Father Mutz, along with a group called the Oschwald Sisters, noted that his body had not decayed, and there was no odor of corruption. Oshwald’s eyes had sunken in, but his skin had a lifelike complexion, his hair and fingernails were growing. They washed his face and noted that it served to give him an even more natural complexion.
1925 postcard from St. Nazianz of the tomb of Father Oschwald
The next day, 63 days after his death, Oschwald was finally sealed in his coffin and moved into the completed burial vault.
The coffin was opened again on October 4th, 1926, when it was being moved into a new stone mausoleum below Lorreto Hill. Local health officer Dr. L.W. Gregory, as well as many other members of the clergy, observed through a glass cover that Oschwald’s corpse was still in remarkably good shape after 53 years. His skin had become shriveled and sallow, but his body and vestments were still very much intact. The iron on his coffin and rusted and fallen away long ago.
The crypt of Father Oschwald with the Chapel of Our Lady of Loretto on the hill above. Photo: Charlie Hintz
The Salvatorian Priests & Brothers arrived at St. Nazianz in 1896 to continue what Oschwald had started.
Oschwald remains in the mausoleum at the base of the hill, overlooking a cemetery full of priests. Legends of a “Catholic mystic cult” whose “secret practices” drove them from their home in Germany to found St. Nazianz still persist today.
JFK Prep & Salvatorian Seminary
Salvatorian Seminary. Photo: Charlie Hintz
The old Salvatorian Seminary, now known as JFK Prep, is a huge abandoned building rumored to be haunted by the tortured souls of kids who suffered at the hands of abusive nuns.