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Unsolved Mysteries is Still Fascinating and Chilling Nearly 30 Years Later

Thanks to the miracle of Amazon streaming video, Unsolved Mysteries is once again reminding us that the world is terrifying and full of psychopathic killers.
Unsolved Mysteries host Robert Stack
Robert Stack, host of Unsolved Mysteries, now streaming on Amazon

I was seven years old when the Unsolved Mysteries series began airing in October of 1988. It didn’t take long before the theme song, along with the ominous tones of Robert Stack’s voice, became synonymous with scary things: Murders, missing persons, UFOs, ghosts. For many of us, this show may have been our introduction to enduring mysteries like the D.B. Cooper skyjacking, the haunting of the Queen Mary, the Beale Ciphers, the haunted bunk bed, not to mention an endless stream of horrifying cold cases. We willingly gathered together around our flickering cathode ray tube televisions to be imbued with a Hitchcockian, Rear Window-esque sense of paranoia and dread.

“Perhaps someone watching tonight knows what happened, and can reveal the truth,” Robert told us. “Perhaps it’s you.”

Suddenly you realized that yes, your new neighbor does kinda look like that bloodthirsty convict with the 1970s Ron Jeremy mustache who escaped prison 10 years ago and remains at large to this day….

Unsolved Mysteries season 1 on Amazon
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Until now, if you wanted to relive those cherished anxieties of days gone by, you had to dig up one of the out-of-print DVD collections compiling episodes by type, i.e. Ghosts, UFOs, Psychics, Miracles, Strange Legends. A couple years ago, when I was trying to track down the episode about the haunted Tallmann house that happened so close to home, it was apparently going to cost me $140 for the disc on eBay.

However, the almighty gods of Amazon have now made these episodes available to us through streaming video right here to remind us why we should never leave the house, and instill terror in a whole new generation.

Praise be to Amazon.

Unsolved Mysteries

What was your favorite Unsolved Mysteries story?

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.

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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.