Doveland, Wisconsin: The Urban Legend Of The Town That Disappeared

Ghost towns or vanished towns are staples of the horror genre, whether it be the Silent Hill games based on the real-life ghost town of Centralia, PA, or the SyFy masterpiece Wraiths of Roanoke, loosely centered around the disappearance of the Roanoke colony.

But these two places are real; you can go there if you really want to, although few would recommend Centralia, as underground coal fires are still burning and filling the air with toxins.

The same can’t be said for Doveland, WI, a small midwest town that seemingly never existed, despite those online who claim to have heard of it - or been there. What likely started as a copypasta shared around the internet for the spook factor has taken on a life of its own. Now you can even buy souvenirs for the likely imaginary town.

Photo: Gary Todd / Flickr / Public Domain

  • Doveland Was Supposedly A Wisconsin Town That ‘Disappeared’ In The Early 1990s

    Firmly nestled in the quiet midwest of America, Wisconsin features plenty of charming small towns with picturesque families living the American dream. These communities are usually tight-knit and perhaps a bit isolated, making them especially vulnerable to even the smallest of changes. With that in mind, it’s not hard to imagine such a small town dying out for any number of reasons.

    But in the case of Doveland, WI, there’s no actual evidence it ever existed in the first place. No old maps or historical records await eager eyes in dust-filled storerooms with evidence of this town’s existence. All anyone has is the grainy picture above, which was posted on various forums with the claim that it was “recovered” from Doveland.

    There’s no telling where this mysterious town would’ve been in Wisconsin before its alleged disappearance. It’s simply a ghost, only summoned in the past few years by posts on 4chan, Reddit, and Tumblr.

    This then begs the question: Why do some internet users recall Doveland being a real place up until the early 1990s? Many of these users are too young to have visited it themselves but claim their parents or grandparents mentioned the town in passing. Some even claimed to live near Doveland or even in the town itself for a time.

  • Some Wisconsin Citizens Allegedly Have Doveland Memorabilia

    Original posts, namely the one on Tumblr, mention the existence of tourist memorabilia from the town, such as T-shirts, mugs, and postcards. As discussion of this disappearing town grew, it wasn’t long before companies began capitalizing on the phenomenon.

    Soon enough, online vendors were producing and selling merchandise bearing Doveland’s name, making it theoretically impossible to know what was newly created and what could be legitimate. It’s safe to say, however, that anything found today was almost assuredly made to exploit the conspiracy hype.

  • Online Theorists Speculate Doveland's Disappearance May Explain Over 1,000 Vanished Wisconsin Residents

    What anyone could write off as a potential ARG (Alternate Reality Game) or a simple case of people mistaking “Doveland” for “Delavan” (an actual Wisconsin town) was soon forgotten when internet users noticed an odd set of Google search results: For the curious sleuths researching Doveland, two local news articles began popping up, despite neither of them mentioning “Doveland” by name.

    Both articles are about missing people; one is titled “More than 1,000 Wisconsinites reported as missing,” and the other is “Who are they? Wisconsin's missing children.” Considering online claims that the town supposedly disappeared, these articles did nothing to quell people's conspiracies and speculation.

    While it’s likely that common search terms like “Wisconsin” and “disappeared” are responsible for such spooky Google search results, these articles no longer show up as the first suggested links.

  • Some Believe Damming Destroyed Doveland

    One explanation for Doveland's supposed disappearance is damming. According to historical evidence, damming has actually destroyed small towns in Wisconsin, specifically due to the numerous hydroelectric projects executed there since the late 19th century.

    Werner, WI, is a perfect example: The small town was sacrificially flooded in the 1920s by the Wisconsin River Power Company for the creation of Castle Rock Lake. Both Werner and many parts of Germantown, WI, were flooded, leaving behind a new and unique landform where Werner once stood called the Buckhorn Peninsula.

    Werner is by no means the only town in America to meet such a watery fate, but it has led many to hypothesize that perhaps Doveland now sits at the bottom of a lake, no memory left behind in the name of progress; however, we know Werner existed, as evidenced by maps still accessible today.

    How could a town be flooded far more recently than Werner and yet not appear on any map? This irrefutable lack of evidence has led many to dismiss Doveland as an urban legend.

  • An Old Tumblr Post Suggests Doveland's Residents All Moved Away Due To A Failing Economy

    The next theory comes from the original Doveland Tumblr post, which postulates, “the locals up and left due to untenable circumstances,” such as economic or health issues.

    This explanation is certainly within reason, especially considering how vulnerable small towns can be to even the smallest changes to their economy or local resources. Mining towns are frequent victims of this - once the earth has nothing left to offer and the mining boom dies, small towns slowly fade out, and residents move on to greener pastures.

    Using this theory, many suggest Doveland may have died slowly and of natural causes, gradually receding from the minds of locals.

  • A Few Theorist Claims The Town Was Related To Project Sanguine

    As with many government projects, Project Sanguine's name was far more exciting than what its plans actually entailed. The project's true purpose was to better communicate with deep-sea submarines worldwide, as radio waves were ineffective at traveling through water. The solution? Bury an enormous grid of cables under roughly 41% of the state of Wisconsin, thereby turning its bedrock into the world’s largest radio antenna.

    US Navy officials crafted the project in the 1960s, highly motivated by pressures from the Cold War and the desire to send important intel to nuclear-powered subs that stayed submerged for months at a time. This state-sized antenna would allow the Navy to transmit extremely low-frequency (ELF) waves capable of penetrating water and reach the subs.

    The project never came to fruition, however, due to its immense cost and the environmental disturbance it would require. The Navy instead opted for the smaller version, Project ELF, which was built in Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula and operated between 1989 and 2004.

    Many of the online comments about Doveland include the detail that it was inhabited mostly by military personnel and their families, ostensibly for the construction of this antenna array. This has led many to speculate that perhaps people simply left the town once Project Sanguine was canceled and, being a military-based town, it simply faded out of people’s minds.

    Others, however, believe Project Sanguine was, in fact, completed and somehow caused Doveland's disappearance, perhaps making it "fall into another dimension” - despite the fact that ELF waves are harmless and lack dimension-shifting abilities.