Haunchyville of Waukesha County, Wisconsin
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You know what place in the world is absolutely loaded with dark legends, freaky tales, unique cryptids, and deadly ghosts?
No idea, but it's almost like the Bermuda Triangle of supernatural stories.
Right off the top of my head: Beast of Bray Road, Hodag, Pfister Hotel Ghosts, Ridgeway Ghost, Summerwind Mansion, the Rhinelander Dome, Boy Scout Lane, Whitewater's Witches, the Lake Monster of Rock Lake, Maribel Caves Hotel, UFO sightings, Bloody Bride Bridge, Dartford Cemetery, and Kettle Moraine State Forest hauntings.
Oh, and the murderous dwarves and the albino old man with a shotgun in Waukesha County.
Where is Waukesha County, Wisconsin?
I bet you're already wondering if we're talking about Tolkien dwarves or people with dwarfism. First, we need to know where exactly Waukesha County is located in case you decide to go wandering around the woods there.
Waukesha County is in the southeastern portion of Wisconsin and offers picturesque scenery, small-town friendliness, and suburban charm. It is also home to a legend that would make the Brothers Grimm take note.
The name "Waukesha" is thought to be derived either from the Potawatomi name "Wau-tsha" or the Ojibwe word "Waagoshag" (meaning "foxes").
In addition to being known for bloodthirsty dwarves and a homicidal hermit with a shotgun, the area is known for its spring waters, purported to have healing properties. The city of Waukesha (not confusing at all) became a thriving resort town in the 19th century when many people were seeking mineral-rich healing waters.
But, deep in the dense forests of Waukesha County (about a twenty-minute drive outside of Milwaukee, using only major highways) near the town of Muskego, there's a place where the likes of us aren't welcome, a place called Haunchyville.
What is Haunchyville?
The grim story of Haunchyville begins with a simple but strange description: in the seclusion of the forest, somewhere outside Muskego, lies a small town with houses no taller than an average person's chest. The town was built by short-statured folks, people who were once paraded before gaping circus crowds seeking oddities and making a mockery of them. So, they took off, banded together, and created Haunchyville.
What does the actual town look like?
Legend has it...it's short.
Thank you, Legend Has It, for that meticulous and evocative description. I can just picture myself there right now.
Within the boundaries of their town, the only law is against outsiders invading their territory. Trespassers who violate this law are held and have their legs chopped off at the knees. That's if you even make it that far because a guard is waiting just outside town, keeping a watchful eye for lookie-loos and lost hikers. The guard is a grizzly old albino man with a shotgun (presumably also from the circus, though the legend doesn't say). And if old man shotgun gets you...well...he'll make you wish you had your legs chopped off instead.
But that's not all—surrounding the area of Haunchyville are traps, hidden away and waiting to spring on unsuspecting berry pickers and birdwatchers. Some traps are deadly; some just mangle you, while others hold you until the old man comes to get you.
Of course, authorities are tight-lipped about the place, choosing to remain deliberately ignorant—or perhaps, fearfully respectful.
Why are the residents of Haunchyville so bent on murder? Well, like all humans, they aren't content to simply live out their lives in peace. Instead, these ex-circus folk have a vengeful streak—against anyone of average height.
The legend doesn't say precisely why old man albino shotgun is malevolent, which leaves us to make our own assumptions. Perhaps he's only interested in guarding his friends, or maybe he has a vengeful streak of his own against anyone who isn't albino like him—or maybe he's just a crazed bushwhacker who jumps at any opportunity to unleash mayhem. I think that fits pretty well, considering he's said to reside at the end of Mystic Drive—a real road in Muskego that, according to real estate websites, is full of shanty $1 million+ homes with roomy multi-level floorplans, massive garages, chef kitchens, large lots, and finely manicured lawns.
That's pretty much the legend of Haunchyville in Wisconsin.
Origin of the Haunchyville Legend
As of writing this, I have been unable to dig up any information on the origin or truth of this legend. It's unsurprising because the origin of most urban legends is impossible to track. Is there a shred of truth buried somewhere in history? I'd like to know, but I suspect that there isn't. If we apply Occam's razor to this one, is it more likely that the legend is real or that a fourteen-year-old said their friend's cousin's uncle twice removed stumbled across Haunchyville, saw it with their own eyes and barely escaped to tell the tale?
That's the problem with our old, pesky friends "Legend Has It" and "It Is Said"—no one ever has any clue who precisely started saying any of this stuff in the first place.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for horror stories. But...seriously? Murderous, knee-chopping, runaway circus dwarves and a crazed albino old man with a shotgun? Even the name "Haunchyville" seems to have been created to promote a stereotype. Wisconsin, come on. Where in the cheese curds did this legend come from? It sounds like the Midwest equivalent of cannibal hillbilly horror.
Although, I'd like to imagine that perhaps, maybe...just maybe, some circuses broke up and made a settlement for themselves, fabricating a legend of their own to keep prying eyes out of their business. That's just my own imagination, of course. If anyone is reading this and knows the origin or has any evidence, I'd sure like to hear about it.
Relevant & Related
- Learn a little about Potawatomi History and Ojibwe History.
- Read more about the strange legends of Wisconsin in Weird Wisconsin: Your Travel Guide to Wisconsin's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets by Linda S. Godfrey and Richard D. Hendricks.
- There was a low-budget horror film released in 1975 called The Giant Spider Invasion that was shot in rural Wisconsin. It's now considered a cult classic.
- And, for more low-budget film fun, check out the 1999 release of American Movie, a documentary that follows a Wisconsin filmmaker as he tries to create his own low-budget horror short.
- For other strange tales nearby, check out Hodag of American Folklore | The Ridgeway Ghost of Wisconsin | Resurrection Mary | Zombie Road in Wildwood, Missouri | Green Clawed Beast of the Ohio River | Old Book Ghost of Peoria State Hospital in Bartonville, Illinois | Seven Gates of Hell in Hellam Township, Pennsylvania