Saturday, September 29, 2012
Elk Lake Dam, Wisconsin
The year was 1974. On February 15, 25 year old Mary K. Schlais, an artist and recent graduate of the University of Minnesota, was found dead in a ditch on 408th Avenue, a half mile away from the Elk Lake Dam. She was found stabbed to death after a man in the neighborhood (Denny Anderson) reported seeing a man driving an orange or gold compact car, possibly a Vega, dumping the body. When Dunn County Sheriff Daryl Spagnoletti arrived on scene, the body was still warm. Her coat and personal belongings were gone. In all, Mary had received at least 12 stab wounds, not including the defensive injuries on her hands and arms where she fought her attacker. It was theorized that Mary was hitchhiking to an art show in Chicago. She had been known to hitchhike before, and her body was found a mere three hours after she had last been seen leaving her apartment.
Mary had been a suma cud laude graduate, and was about to apply to graduate school when she passed away. In May of 1974, a new student art gallery at the University of Minnesota was dedicated in her honor.
Unfortunately, Mary's killer was never brought to justice, and even when her body was exhumed in 2009 from the Champlin Cemetery in Minnesota for DNA testing, the case remains a cold case, with many believing the killer was a local resident of Dunn County, Wisconsin. In one lead, a photograph of a man was found at Mary's apartment, who slightly resembles the police sketch taken after the witness saw the man dumping the body. No one has ever been able to identify the man in the photo, and Mary's brother, Don, theorizes that he may have simply been someone posing for one of Mary's art projects.
Over the years, there have been many ghost sightings from local citizens in and around the lake area that many believe are attributed to Mary. Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk have researched the case and compiled these reports in their Unexplained Research website, as well as a book, the Wisconsin Road Guide to Haunted Locations. Most of these sightings involve seeing a young girl along the side of the road, near the bridge. Some have seen the full apparition, while others only report a shadowy figure that darts out of sight. In one incident, two fishermen on the bank of the lake reported seeing the glowing apparition of a young woman behind them. In another incident, a local elderly woman claimed to have daily conversations with a young woman who frequently showed up in her garden. This young woman appeared every day, in the same outfit (a pink sweater and capris), and identified herself simply as Mary. This incident happened in 1994, 20 years after Mary's death. The woman's daughter thought her mother was experiencing dementia until she attended a lecture and learned of the murder that occurred in the neighborhood. This elderly lady passed away in 1995, and its important to note that the clothes she saw Mary in were NOT the clothes she was found wearing when she passed away.
As this murder is still an open case, if you have any information that could help track down a killer and bring justice to Mary K. Schlais, please contact the Dunn County Sheriff's Office.