On Nov. 17, 1883, Louis Anderson began a strange adventure in La Crosse.Found at the "Odd Wisconsin" column at the Wisconsin State Journal.
He had left St. Paul, Minn., the previous week with just a few dollars, hoping to find work as a lumberjack. His funds soon ran out, though, and unable to pay for lodging on a cold and stormy night, he took shelter in a haystack on the city’s outskirts.
The early winter storm was severe, and winds toppled the upper portion of the haystack directly onto him. Anderson later said that the impact was not painful, but it pinned him down so tightly that he couldn’t move.
At first he spent his time calling for help, but when none appeared he eventually gave up. He drifted in and out of consciousness for days at a time, chewing on his handkerchief for sustenance, eating a little tobacco, and licking water from ice that formed on the hay.
On Dec. 10, two boys walking nearby spotted what they thought was a corpse protruding from the haystack. When uncovered, Anderson’s body was thin as a skeleton, and his lower legs were purple and gangrened.
After a doctor found that Anderson was in fact alive, he was taken to the county poor farm to recover. He had lost more than 50 pounds, but the only permanent injuries were to his legs, which had to be amputated below the knees. He eventually returned to Minnesota.
Though it seemed amazing that anyone could survive for so long, investigators found that Anderson’s story held together, and no evidence was ever discovered to contradict it.