Wisconsin Death Trip

January 22, 2011 § 2 Comments

Michael Lesy’s book of the same name was first published in 1973. Lesy discovered a striking archive of black and white photographs in the town of Black River Falls dating from the 1890s, the photogrpaher was Charles Van Schaickand. Lesy married a selection of these images to extracts from the town’s newspaper from the same decade. The effect was enchantingly disturbing. The town of Black River Falls seems gripped by some peculiar malaise and the weekly news is dominated by bizarre tales of madness, eccentricity and violence amongst the local population. Suicide and murder are commonplace. People in the town are haunted by ghosts, possessed by devils and terrorized by teenage outlaws and arsonists. A wonderful tale about the art of documentation.The case has also been turned into a film.

Studio portrait of deceased twin infants in coffins. They are Robert and Janet Fitzpatrick, born July 5, 1885, and died April 20, 1886, children of Robert and Martha Fitzpatrick.


A medical student plays with electric shock equipment as Dr. Eugene Krohn, sitting at his desk with his feet up, looks on.


Studio portrait of William Tennant, standing with short pants that reveal his prosthetic legs.


Studio portrait of William Tennant, a magazine and newspaper agent in Black River Falls, sitting in a chair holding a magazine. His artificial legs are propped on either side of him, the stumps of his legs exposed. Copy beneath the image reads, ""Mr. E. H. Erickson of Minneapolis, Minnesota made me these legs on credit, August 1, 1908. Since then I have made nearly every county in the state, and a good many in Minnesota, selling magazines and newspapers. My credit is good wherever I am known, and my legs have carried me thru a great many counties during the last four years."



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