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Haunted bunkbed terrorized the Tammann family of Horicon, Wisconsin

Inside the Haunted Tallmann House: Photos from the Bizarre 1988 Case

Photos surface from the 1988 paranormal investigation of the Tallmann house and the haunted bunk beds that drove the family from their home.
Investigating the haunted Tallmann house in Horicon, Wisconsin, 1988
Investigating the haunted Tallmann house in Horicon, Wisconsin, 1988

30 years ago, on January 11, 1988, the Tallmann family fled their home in the middle of a frigid Wisconsin night to escape a seemingly evil entity that had taken up residence. In the months prior, Allen, Deborah, and their three children had been experiencing increasingly more harrowing events that began, or escalated soon after they bought a bunk bed from a second-hand shop.

The story made international headlines, and thrill seekers poured into the small community of Horicon in droves hoping to catch a glimpse of furniture flying around the house, bleeding walls, the snowblower driving itself up and down the driveway, or any of the other rumors being sensationalized by the media.

The Tallmanns disposed of the bunk bed and abandoned the house.

From the Cult of Weird archives:

The story was featured in an October episode of the television series Unsolved Mysteries that same year. It was filmed on location inside the house with permission from the new owners, and local talent was hired for the reenactments. The real bunk bed, however, was long gone by then – buried in a private landfill – and I came to believe there were no existing photos of it. Not that I assumed it would appear to be anything but an ordinary bunk bed, of course. But, however skeptical I may be, curiosity gets the best of me when ghostly activity is attributed to an inanimate object. Especially one as mundane as children’s bedroom furniture.

The Tallmann story is among the strangest paranormal cases in American history and, since Horicon is mere miles from my hometown, it captured my attention as a child.

I needed to see the notorious haunted bunk bed.

Recently, my friend Allison Jornlin of MilwaukeeGhosts.com was granted access to the files of the late Dr. Don Mueller, the associate professor of social welfare at UW-Milwaukee, and avid researcher of the paranormal. Mueller investigated hauntings and gave presentations – complete with photos – on the cases he was involved with.

While going through Mueller’s 2,000 presentation slides, Allison discovered a series of photos taken when Mueller and several others were called in by Horicon Police Chief Doug Glamann to investigate the Tallmann house.

The Investigation

After spending time with the family, Glamann was convinced they had genuinely experienced something horrific. They were a respected and hardworking family, not to mention that since the story of a “ghost house” had gotten out, they had been hiding from the media for fear of being exploited.

Prior to the events that drove them from their home, their pastor, Reverend Wayne Dobratz, had visited several times and blessed the house to drive out the evil. On January 25, several weeks after the family left, Dobratz decided he wanted to return to the house to see if he could incite whatever demonic entity inhabited it.

Glamann, unwilling to accept the idea that the house was haunted, but sure the family had experienced something traumatic, accompanied the minister along with two other officers. They were looking for recorders or projection devices, any evidence that the Tallmanns had been the victims of some cruel prank.

They found nothing.

Disturbed by a lack of physical evidence to explain the ordeal, Glamann called in experts to conduct a psychic investigation of the home. That’s when Mueller arrived, along with parapsychologist Carl Schuldt and retired professor Walter Uphoff, who had authored two scholarly books on apparitions, clairvoyance, witchcraft, and other paranormal phenomena.

What they determined, if anything, is unclear, though attendees of Mueller’s seminars were likely treated to a thorough analysis of the investigation as the professor enthusiastically clicked through his slides.

The Basement

The basement of the haunted Tallmann house in Horicon, WI

The basement of the haunted Tallmann house in Horicon, WI

Allen had been painting the basement one night, preparing to finish it and build extra rooms. When Deborah called to him to help put the kids to bed, he placed the paint brush on the tray and went upstairs. He returned about 30 minutes later to find it stuck upside down in a can of paint.

That was the moment he realized something was actually going on in the house.

Another time, they found a basement window had been removed and neatly propped up against the wall. There was no evidence that anyone had entered the home, and nothing was missing.

The Garage

The garage of the haunted Tallmann house in Horicon, WI

The garage of the haunted Tallmann house in Horicon, WI

Deborah would sometimes hear the garage door opening and closing for no reason, and Allen was beginning to feel uneasy. He felt like something was watching and waiting for him there. When he closed the door, he said he felt like he was “shutting himself in a tomb.”

One night, Allen returned home from work, parked in the driveway, and started walking toward the front door. A strange howling sound caught his attention, then he heard a voice beckoning him. “It said, ‘Come here!’ real loud,” he told journalist James B. Nelson of the Milwaukee Sentinel. He ran back toward the garage, sure someone was hiding nearby trying to scare him. “Then it was glowing inside the garage, an orange red. There were flames coming out of the overhead door. There were two eyes in the windows.”

The Bunk Bed

The haunted bunk bed

A closer look at the haunted bunk bed

One night, not long after moving into the house, Allen and Deborah hired a babysitter and went out for dinner. When they returned later that night, the babysitter was upset. She claimed a kitchen chair suddenly started rocking back and forth while she and their 7-year-old son sat at the table playing a board game. She said it bounced around, then stopped. The next morning their son corroborated the story.

Nothing happened for months after that.

Allen and Deborah bought the bunk bed to accommodate their two young daughters. They moved the older boy into the smaller bedroom, and the girls got his old room. The first night after the switch, Deborah tucked him in and turned on his clock radio to play music as he fell asleep. Not long after, he came out and said the radio station had changed. Deborah got him back into bed and tuned the radio back to the station it had been on. He came back out a few minutes later, frightened. He said the station changed again, and this time he watched the dial move on it own.

The boy soon became uncomfortable sleeping in his room, kicking and screaming when it was time for bed.

As the summer of 1987 progressed into fall, restless nights became common for the whole family. Allen and Deborah would hear their youngest daughter talking and giggling at night. They thought she was playing with toys. But the late night conversations progressed into nightmares, and she started running into her parents room, telling them about the sounds she was hearing. “Don’t you hear it?” she would ask them.


From left: Walter Uphoff, Mike Smith, Doug Glamann, and Carl Schuldt in the basement of the Tallmann house

Things were fine during the day, but as the sun set, so did the oppressive feeling of something sinister occupying the Tallmann home. The family has many sleepless night, and tensions were running high. The increasingly violent activity escalated through Christmas and into the new year.

Allen was at work on the January 11, 1988, when chaos erupted at home. A teenage relative of Allen’s, was over helping Deborah with the children. It was bedtime, and he was getting the kids into bed when he began shouting for Deborah. Something had manifested itself, and all the kids saw it. They were hysterical.

After everything that had happened, Deborah couldn’t bring herself to even go down the hall into the bedroom. Panicked, she rushed everyone out the door, got them into the car, and fled.

All photos by Dr. Don Meuller. Provided courtesy of Allison Jornlin of MilwaukeeGhosts.com

Thank you for sharing these photos Allison!

Allison was named the Wisconsin Researcher of the Year at the 2016 Milwaukee Paranormal Conference. Recently, she has been investigating reports of Mothman sightings around the Chicago area. Follow her Youtube channel to keep up on the latest: youtube.com/mothman

Unfortunately, the Unsolved Mysteries segment featuring the story of the Tallmann house is no longer available, and was not included in the recent streaming release of the series. For a complete and detailed account, read “Something Evil on Larabee Street” in the book Haunted Heritage by Michael Norman and Beth Scott.

Tracking Down the Haunted Tallmann House of Horicon, Wisconsin

Tracking down the Tallmann house in Horicon, Wisconsin, which made headlines in 1988 for the story of a family tormented by a haunted bunk bed.
The haunted Tallmann house in Horicon, Wisconsin
The Tallmann house in Horicon, WI

The Haunted Tallmann House

Earlier this month I shared the story of the haunted bunk beds in Wisconsin. Well, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hunt for the notorious Tallmann house while passing through Horicon for a family wedding over the weekend.

The articles I found during my first round of research did not provide an address, only that it was on Larabee Street. Originally, the exact location had been kept secret. It wasn’t until threats of arson that the chief of police released the address in order to keep nearby homes and families safe.

But that address didn’t seem to make it into any of the original reports that are currently available, so I resorted to Google Maps. Larabee, it turns out, is a short street with few homes architecturally similar to the Tallmann house as seen in the Unsolved Mysteries segment. It didn’t take long to pinpoint a contender from satellite view.

Recent: Lost photos from the haunted Tallmann house discovered

A five minute detour from our route to the wedding had us idling suspiciously in front of the infamous house while my kids grumbled in the back about how “Dad always has to stop and take pictures of stuff.”

One end of the quiet street dead ends at a long line of rusted Amtrak passenger train cars with the words “Horicon homeless shelter” spray painted on the side. On the other end is the small, unassuming ranch home with cream-colored siding and wood paneling that was once plastered across television screens and newspapers.

It is an unlikely location for a haunting of Hollywood proportions. Nevertheless, the Horicon haunted house gained quite a bit of notoriety for a series of mysterious phenomena as menacing as anything depicted in Poltergeist or The Amityville Horror.

Hysteria in Horicon

In 1988, the Tallmann family fled their home after nine horrific months of torment by what seemed to be an evil entity connected to a bunk bed they had recently purchased second-hand. Frightening visions of a haggard old woman, fire, ghostly mists and demonic death threats pushed the family to the fringes of their sanity until, finally, they packed some bags and escaped the nightmare on the night of January 11th.

By the end of the week the town was whispering about bleeding walls, a hole to Hell in the basement, and an apparently ghost-powered snowblower that cleaned the driveway all by itself. The media quickly descended on the otherwise sleepy neighborhood, along with hordes of curious thrill seekers.

In the April 1988 edition of The Quill, Barret J. Brunsman wrote:

Ghost rumors had swept through the crowd at the Friday night basketball game at the local high school. Hundreds of cars swept down Larabee Street past the Tallman home. People walked through the yards of the other nine houses on the block, climbing over fences, peering into windows.

Drunks showed up — they weren’t afraid of no ghosts. They tried the doors and windows of the Tallmann home, intent on getting inside to prove their bravery.

When the police ordered the drunks and gawkers to stay away from the house, a few would-be ghostbusters told the cops to “go to hell.”

Arrests for disorderly conduct were made; the street was barricaded.

While it’s unclear how the community first learned of the family’s experiences, it is worth noting that the Tallmann family did not seek out media attention. They were hiding from the press. After talking to the family and becoming convinced of their sincerity, police chief Douglas Glamann was intent on protecting them, as well.

In the absence of facts, the media sensationalized the haunting and regurgitated the gossip circulating around town. Eventually, Glamann talked the Tallmanns into speaking with the press in order to dispel rumors and, hopefully, put an end to the unruly mobs on Larabee Street. He met with journalist James B. Nelson from the Milwaukee Sentinel, who was more interested in writing an article about a genuinely troubled family than exploiting a ghost story.

The family agreed to talk to him.

Tallmann House Unsolved Mysteries Episode

Horicon haunted house where the Tallmann family lived
The Tallmann house on Unsolved Mysteries, 1988

The producers of Unsolved Mysteries, then a brand new television series in it’s first season, soon caught wind of the story. It wasn’t long before a film crew rolled into town to shoot a segment on the haunted bunk bed. They hired local talent for the dramatic reenactments, and filmed on location inside the house with permission from the new owners.

The “Tallman House” episode aired on October 26th, 1988.

Notably, the segment was not included when the series was released to stream on Amazon in 2017. A Reddit AMA with series creators Terry Dunn Meurer and John Cosgrove helped shed some light on why it may have been excluded.

One fan on Reddit asked, “Can you help me understand what happens behind the scenes that would prompt you to remove individual segments?”

Meurer and Cosgrove responded:

We have a legal staff that keeps track of the cases to make sure that we do not infringe on anyone’s rights. Sometimes a statute of limitations on a case has passed. We always try to be as respectful as we can be to the people who were featured in the segments.

What happened to the bunk bed?

Nelson wrote in a February 19th, 1988 article for the Sentinel that the family had buried it in a private landfill in the Horicon area where they felt no one was likely to build a house.

The exact location remains unknown.

Now, 30 years later, there is no evidence whatsoever of the hysteria that once gripped Larabee Street. Comments on my last post expressed doubt over the Tallmanns’ story, and claim the current owners of the house have never experienced anything out of the ordinary.

This post was updated on January 3, 2018

Haunted Bunk Bed in Wisconsin Torments Horicon Family

A family in Horicon, Wisconsin experienced nine months of torment after purchasing a second hand bunk bed that unleashed an evil entity into their home.
Haunted bunk bed of Wisconsin from the Horicon haunted house
Haunted bunk bed depicted in the Tallman House Unsolved Mysteries episode, which aired October 26th, 1988.

When I was young, my family drove through Horicon often on the way to visit relatives. I was seven when the story hit the media and someone, probably my mother, told me about the haunted house there. Every time we passed through I wondered which house it was and what horrors had happened there.

The story, it turns out, is pretty damn weird.

Related

A Haunting in Horicon

In 1987 a family living in the small town of Horicon, Wisconsin was gripped by what may be the only case ever of haunted children’s bedroom furniture. Allen and Debbie Tallmann bought the bunk bed from a second hand shop and moved it into their home on quiet Larabee Street. Strange things began happening almost immediately. The radio would switch stations on its own. The children saw an ugly old woman in their room. She had long black hair and a glow like fire. Doors banged open and shut, a chair rocked by itself. Disembodied voices called out from empty rooms.

The Tallmanns decided to bring in their pastor, who said he felt the presence of the devil and blessed the house.

But the activity continued, and their son soon became so scared he no longer wanted to stay in the house. Frustrated one day, Allen walked into the house shouting at the top of his lungs, “Pick on me, leave my kids alone!”

The next day, whatever entity was inhabiting his home accepted the challenge. Allen heard a voice from the garage say “Come here.” When he went to investigate, he saw the orange glow of fire inside, with red eyes staring at him through the garage door windows. Later, while in bed sleeping with his frightened children, Allen witnessed a fog rise out of the floor. It turned into flames with green eyes. A voice emanated out of it, telling him “You’re dead,” and then it was gone.

A few days later, a relative of the family spent the evening at the house, helping Debbie with the children while Allen worked late. A skeptic of the paranormal, this relative became a believer that night when a horrific figure materialized in the bedroom as he was putting the children to bed.

The Tallmanns fled their home that night in the dead of Wisconsin winter.

Horicon Haunted House

Horicon haunted house where the Tallmann family lived
The haunted Tallmann house in Horicon, WI ca. 1988

As rumors began to spread, the media and hordes of people flocked to Larabee Street to see the house. One notable visitor was a drunk guy with a bible intent on performing an exorcism. Instead of casting the devil out and saving the town as he bragged to police officers, he was arrested for drunk driving.

The story of the haunted house in Horicon quickly took on a life of its own, growing to include blood oozing from ceiling, a hole to Hell in the basement, and a snowblower that cleared the driveway by itself.

The sheriff contacted the family and met with them at the station. Many harrowing and sleepless nights had Allen and Debbie on edge. After hearing their account of the events over the last nine months, he became convinced of their sincerity. At his request, they eventually shared the details of their experience with a few select members of the press who were not seeking to sensationalize their story and promised to protect their identities. The sheriff hoped the truth would quell the growing hysteria around town.

But the interest only continued to grow.

Following threats of arson, he eventually decided to release the address of the vacant house to ensure a neighboring home with a sleeping family didn’t get set on fire.

Unsolved Mysteries

Sometime after the house was sold, the Unsolved Mysteries crew arrived to shoot on location with permission from the new owners. The episode, filmed inside the actual house, aired in October of 1988. Reenactments of the events featured local Milwaukee actors portraying the Tallmanns.

The episode is only available on the out-of-print Unsolved Mysteries: Ghosts DVD, a compilation of haunting stories featured in the series.

Unsolved Mysteries Ghosts DVD
Unsolved Mysteries: Ghosts

The Tallmann family disposed of the bunk beds. The house still stands on Larabee Street and, as far as I know, no further activity has been reported by the subsequent owners.