Janesville52.3°

‘Tobacco Rowe’ spooks, delights Edgerton residents

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Stacy Vogel
October 29, 2007
The year was 1893.
Tobacco baron J.P. von Brule had just begun construction on a glorious estate that would become the wedding gift for his future bride, Elizabeth. The mansion, located in downtown Edgerton, was constructed on land once held sacred to the Cherokee Indians centuries earlier.

The history of Jason Egner’s home has all the makings of a great ghost story. An eccentric tycoon. An Indian burial ground. Gruesome medical experiments.


Add it all together, and you have a story that’s uniquely Edgerton.


Actually, Egner made up the story. The fun, however, is all real.


Egner created a fictional history of “Tobacco Rowe” for his third annual Halloween gala Friday night. He concocted the story based loosely on the Stephen King TV miniseries “Rose Red,” replacing an oil tycoon with an Edgerton tobacco baron and throwing in the American Indian connection for good measure.


“I kind of wanted to use the tobacco baron; it’s part of Edgerton’s history,” he said.


Halloween wasn’t on Egner’s mind when he bought his Victorian-era home at 104 E. Rollin St. four years ago, but he quickly saw its potential, he said.


“I started looking at it and thought, ‘Oh, this would be perfect,’” he said.


For the past two years, he has hosted typical Halloween parties for neighbors and friends, but this year, he decided to go all out.


He started work over the summer, creating Styrofoam headstones for his characters and a spooky “laboratory” on his porch made from used water softener parts. He kept his eyes peeled at garage sales and thrift stores for anything that could enhance his display.


A few weeks ago, he mailed about 40 invitations with the story of J.P. von Brule and his ill-fated bride. Egner planned to dress up as the “caretaker” of the home and take his guests on a tour of the grisly scene.


Egner will leave up his outdoor display through Halloween for curious passersby. So the question remains:


Do you feel brave enough to face the spirits at Tobacco Rowe?

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The Story of Tobacco Rowe
The year was 1893. Tobacco baron J.P. von Brule had just begun construction on a glorious estate that would become the wedding gift for his future bride, Elizabeth. The mansion, located in downtown Edgerton, was constructed on land once held sacred to the Cherokee Indians centuries earlier.
Soon after completion, unexplained phenomena began to occur. Mysterious disappearances and ghostly sightings became commonplace at the estate that had come to be known as Tobacco Rowe.
In the spring of 1902, Elizabeth fell violently ill with a mysterious sickness that perplexed doctors. Elizabeth immediately blamed the house and its malevolent spirits. J.P., unconvinced, sought help from an unconventional source, the local self-proclaimed psychic Madame Leota. She confirmed the angry spirits buried on the property were taking revenge for being disturbed.
Elizabeth’s deteriorating health forced the increasingly eccentric J.P. to take matters into his own hands. He used his years of medical school education to conduct experiments on local transients in an attempt to cure Elizabeth. When finished, the bodies were buried in shallow graves throughout the property.
Following Elizabeth's death in October 1905, the von Brule's only daughter, Tabitha, fell ill. A year later, Tabitha passed away and upon investigation of her death, local police discovered von Brule's grisly secrets. Unwilling to be taken alive for his gruesome crimes, J.P. hung himself in a large maple tree on the estate's front lawn.
Throughout the years that followed, persons living at Tobacco Rowe have reported seeing ghostly figures roaming the hallways and grounds of the estate. Though their claims were never substantiated, several people were even taken to Mendota Mental Health Institute in nearby Madison for their crumbling mental states. Deemed haunted by the locals, Tobacco Rowe was condemned and has stood empty for the past thirty years. Until now ....
Do you feel brave enough to face the spirits at Tobacco Rowe?

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