American Getaway is an audio documentary series that was created and produced by Austin Sailsbury and Lars Hauschildt for Camp Wandawega. It features original instrumental music and new recordings of classic American songs, produced specially for the series. To support the launch of American Getaway, a fully branded graphic identity was created and released alongside a series of promotional trailers and short films. This visual universe incorporates the existing branding of Camp Wandawega with a set of unique creative elements.
American Getaway: The Very True, Very Strange Story of Camp Wandawega is available to stream and download on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. This limited series tells the stranger-than-fiction story of an infamous lakeside property in southeastern Wisconsin that was once a brothel and speakeasy before later transforming into a family resort, a Catholic retreat center, and a summer camp. Today, the property is owned and operated by David Hernandez and Tereasa Surratt, and is listed on the Wisconsin Register of Historic Places. Camp Wandawega has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, GQ, Esquire, and Dwell magazine.
Pioneers and profiteers, the first Americans, a murdered Mormon ‘king,’ and the intriguing origins of the name ‘Wandawega’ – there’s a deep shadow of mystery that surrounds the pre-history of what is today known as Walworth County, Wisconsin. And yet, it is here that our story begins.
Loved by some, feared by others, but respected by all – no single person has left a more notorious mark on the history of than Anna Anderson, the legendary madam of the Wandawega Hotel, the county’s most infamous speakeasy and brothel.
Every summer camp in America is haunted by at least one ghost. At , it’s the specter of John Gabriele who wanders the campgrounds at night. Known in the Chicago papers as ‘Johnny Sweetheart,’ Gabriele was a murdered on the run who met his desperate, violent end on the shores of Lake Wandawega in 1942.
In 1951, a family of immigrants took over the old Wandawega Hotel and converted it into a ‘vacation wonderland’ for middle-class Americans, ushering in a wholesome new era for a property that had long welcomed bootleggers, gamblers, mobsters, and prostitutes. But it wasn’t all sunshine and wonder in Walworth County. There was tragedy too; an era of sorrow for a family trying to create a wilderness escape for themselves and for others.
In 1961, the Vatican sent a brotherhood of priests from the Catholic order of Latvian Marian Fathers to the shores of Lake Wandawega. The plan was to create a quiet retreat for retired priests. Instead, something entirely different happened: they created a summer camp and a gathering place for Latvian-American families in the midwest. This was the golden age of ‘Vandavega,’ an American summer camp unlike any other.
When David Hernandez and Tereasa Surratt bought the old ‘Vandavega’ campgrounds in 2004, they had no idea what they were getting into. Throughout the property, they discovered countless mysteries: trap doors, secret rooms, boxes of old photographs and letters. Before long, a century’s worth of stories began unfolding for the new ‘innkeepers’ of . For David and Tereasa, their lives were about to change forever.