Wisconsin Death Trip. Edited with text by Michael Lesy. Illustrated with photographs by Charles Van Schaick (taken between 1890 and 1910). Pantheon Books, New York, 1973. Unpaged (appx. 250 pp). Oblong folio. Clothbound in photo-illustrated dust jacket. Black-and-white reproductions.
"[Author Michael] Lesy discovered a striking archive of black and white photographs in the town of Black River Falls dating from the 1890’s and married a selection of these images to extracts from the town’s newspaper from the same decade. The effect was surprising and disturbing. The town of Black River Falls seems gripped by some peculiar malaise and the weekly news is dominated by bizarre tales of madness, eccentricity and violence amongst the local population. Suicide and murder are commonplace. People in the town are haunted by ghosts, possessed by devils and terrorized by teenage outlaws and arsonists."--from production notes for director James Marsh's 1999 film adaptation of Wisconsin Death Trip
"The heart of the book consists of formal portraits of Black River Falls’ upright citizens taken by the town photographer, Charles Van Schaik. Their stony death-mask visages (precursors of Diane Arbus’s most disturbing work) suggest that in the worst of times the town had deteriorated into a real-life village of the damned. The accompanying newspaper accounts of the violent acts of the townspeople are so dryly factual in their understated way that read alongside grim photographs, they convey a mood of gallows humor. The very term “deathtrip” has an aura of sardonic hippie nonchalance."--from critic Stephen Holden's New York Times review of Marsh's film