Dunn County Haunts and Folklore: The Mabel Tainter Theater
Regarded as “the best preserved Ellis building in the upper Midwest”, the Mabel Tainter Theater is a stunningly preserved masterpiece from the Gay Nineties Era. Located on Mainstreet in Menomonie, the theater continues to be a local center for the arts and culture. It is also rumored to be haunted.
The theater was built in 1889 in honor of the Tainter’s daughter Mabel, who had died at the early age of nineteen due to a ‘cancer of the side’ or a ruptured appendix. However, popular rumor reveals that there could possibly be more to the story. The Tainters were a well-off family. Captain Andrew Tainter was born in New York and came to Wisconsin in 1850 to enter into into the booming lumber business. He became vice president of Knapp, Stout and Co. Lumber, the largest lumber company in the United States at the time. Later, the firm bought their first steamboat the “Chippewa Falls” and Andrew commanded the craft for around two years. He was referred to as “Captain Tainter” from then on.
Here’s where the rumor about Mabel’s death begins. According to local sources, Mabel fell in love with a logger from her father’s lumber company. Due to the difference in their social status, the two lovers were not allowed to be wed. Soon, Mabel became pregnant and her parents became open to the idea of marriage. However, the logger disappeared. To avoid shame, the Tainters urged Mabel to get an abortion. Unfortunately, Mabel died due to the procedure. The Mabel Tainter theater was erected a few years after Mabel’s death in her honor.
Throughout the years, many workers in the theater and actors have reported multiple eerie happenings. These include seeing a lady in white, lights turning on by themselves, and disembodied footsteps when no one is in the theater. The police still receive calls to this day from people walking by the theater at night, insisting that they saw someone inside the building long after all the workers have gone home.
Regardless of if the theater is haunted or not, its a beautiful representation of the grandeur in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Its also filled with artifacts from the time period including, Mabel’s piano, Bertha’s sewing chair, and numerous portraits of the family.
The best part is that the theater is literally a 15 second walk from Harvey Hall on the UW Stout campus. Go take a look if you’ve never been inside!
A few years ago a few Stout students spent the night in the Mabel Tainter to see if it was really haunted. Check out the video here!