In 1890, hard times fell on the town of Black River Falls, Wisconsin. The mines shut down, dooming its residents to poverty. Over the next 10 years, many people left, and those who stayed–mostly German, Norwegian and other immigrants–succumbed to despair and madness.
A woman is buried alive. Two boys run away from home, find a farm, and promptly murder its owner. A young woman takes her three children to the beach and drowns them, one after the other, while other people watch. A woman is repeatedly arrested for smashing windows. A Norwegian farmer goes insane every winter. Another farmer commits suicide by blowing his head off with dynamite. A woman, afraid the rash on her back was lethal, burned herself alive with gasoline.
In 1973, Michael Lesy collected images by Charles Van Schaick and newspaper articles depicting murder, insanity, hauntings, suicide, disease and devil worship in his book WISCONSIN DEATH TRIP. In 1999, the book was made into a documentary, which you can watch below. Grim stuff.