Friday, June 13, 2014
Summerwind Mansion, formerly known as Lamont Mansion, is a now derelict foundation & cellar located on the shores of West Bay Lake in Vilas County, Wisconsin. It is reputed to be one of the most haunted locations in Wisconsin. Due to abandonment, the elements and fire, little of the mansion currently remains standing. Summerwind was originally constructed during the early 20th century as a fishing lodge.
In 1916 it was purchased by Robert P. Lamont, who employed Chicago architects Tallmadge and Watson to substantially remodel the property and convert it into a mansion. The mansion provided a comfortable place for Lamont to escape the pressures of everyday life in Washington D.C., as he would later go on to serve as the Secretary of Commerce under President Herbert Hoover. Lamont remained in Summerwind for approximately 15 years, during which time the maids told Lamont that the mansion was haunted, but he did not believe them. However, he is then reported to have abandoned the property suddenly in the mid 1930s after witnessing an apparition in the mansion’s kitchen. Legends of the house say that Lamont actually fired a pistol at a ghost that he believed was an intruder. The bullet holes in the basement door from the kitchen remained for many years. After remaining vacant for some time, the house became the residence of Arnold and Ginger Hinshaw and their four children, who moved in during the early 1970s.
It is from this time forward that most of the haunting reports originate. After taking up residence, the Hinshaws reported a number of strange occurrences, ranging from flickering shadows that appeared to move down the hallways and soft voices that stopped when they entered rooms. There were unexplained electrical/mechanical problems and sash windows that raised themselves. One particular window, which proved especially stubborn, would raise and lower itself at all hours. Out of desperation, Arnold drove a heavy nail through the window casing and it finally stayed closed. They also reported seeing the ghost of an unidentified woman who appeared several times in the vicinity of the house’s dining room. On another occasion, Arnold walked out to his car to go to work and the vehicle suddenly burst into flames. No one was near it and it is unknown whether the source of the fire was supernatural in origin or not, but regardless, no cause was ever found for it.
Undeterred by the strange activity, the Hinshaws wanted to make the best of the historic house...so they decided to hire some men to make a few renovations. It was most common for the workers to not show up for work, usually claiming illness, although a few of them simply told her that they refused to work on Summerwind...because it was reputed to be haunted. That was when the Hinshaws gave up and decided to try and do all of the work themselves.
The family had begun painting a closet in one of the bedrooms. A shoe drawer was installed in the closet’s back wall and Arnold needed to pull it out so that he could paint around the edges of the frame. When he did, he noticed that there was a large, dark space behind the drawer. Ginger brought him a flashlight and he wedged himself into the narrow opening as far as his shoulders. He looked around with the flashlight and then suddenly jumped back, scrambling away from the opening. He was both frightened and disgusted...there was a supposed corpse jammed into the secret compartment!
Believing that an animal had crawled in there and died many years ago, Arnold tried to squeeze back in for a closer look. He couldn’t make out much of anything, so when the children came home from school, he recruited his daughter Mary to get a better look. Mary took the flashlight and crawled inside. Moments later, she let out a scream...it was a human corpse! She uncovered a skull, still bearing dirty black hair, a mummified arm and leg. The body was never reported to the authorities. It is one of the odd mysteries surrounding the mansion and the time during which the Hinshaws lived there. It was later revealed that the corpse was placed back where it was found. Shortly after the discovery of the body in the hidden compartment, things started to take a turn for the worse at Summerwind.
Arnold began staying up very late at night and playing a Hammond organ that the couple had purchased before moving into the house. He had always enjoyed playing the organ, using it as a form of relaxation, but his playing now was different. His playing became a frenzied mixture of melodies that seemed to make no sense, and grew louder and more macabre as the night wore on. Ginger pleaded with him to stop but Arnold claimed the 'demons in his head' demanded that he play. The family was so badly terrified that they often huddled together in one bedroom, sobbing and cowering in fear.
Within six months of moving into Summerwind, Arnold suffered a breakdown and Ginger attempted suicide. Regardless of these event, the Hinshaw family’s connection with the house would continue for years to come.
While Arnold was sent away for treatment, Ginger and the children moved to Granton, Wisconsin to live with Ginger’s parents. Ginger and Arnold would eventually be divorced. Ginger later recovered her health, away from Summerwind at last, and remarried.
Ginger was doing well in her new peaceful life, until a few years later, when her father announced that he was going to buy Summerwind. His name was Raymond Bober, a businessman who with his wife Marie, planned to turn the old mansion into a restaurant and an inn. He believed that the house would attract many guests to the scenic location on the lake. The problem was that Ginger never told her parents about the activity in the mansion. She had never given them all of the details about what had happened during the six months that she had lived in the house and she refused to do so now. She begged them not to buy Summerwind.
Bober’s mind was made up however. He announced that he realized the house was haunted, but this would not deter him. He claimed that he had spent time at the house and knew the identity of the ghost that was haunting the place. According to Bober, the entity was a man named Jonathan Carver, an eighteenth century British explorer who was haunting the house and searching for an old deed that had been given to him by the Sioux Indians. In the document, he supposedly had the rights to the northern third of Wisconsin. The deed had been placed in a box and sealed into the foundation of Summerwind. Bober claimed that Carver had asked for his help in finding it.
The Carver Effect: A Paranormal Experience
After the property was secured, Bober and his family search high & low for the deed. There were several events of strange activity occurring as well.
The anticipation of turning the house into a restaurant did not go as planned. Workmen refused to stay on the job, complaining of tools disappearing and feelings as if they were being watched. Marie Bober was always uneasy in the house and frequently told people that she felt as if she was followed from place to place whenever she was inside.
The most disturbing phenomena to Bober was the apparent shrinkage and expansion of the house. Bober would measure rooms one day and then find that they were a different size the next day. Usually, his measurements were larger than those given in the blueprints of the house...sometime greatly larger. At one point, Bober estimated that he could seat 150 people in his restaurant but after laying out his plans on the blueprints of Summerwind, he realized that the place could seat only half that many. Photographs that were taken within the house, using the same camera and taken only seconds apart, also displayed the variations of space. Bober also compared his photos of the living room with those that Ginger had taken when she and Arnold moved in. Ginger’s photos showed curtains on the windows that she took with her when she moved out. The curtains were physically absent in the room that Bober photographed...but somehow appeared in his photos.
The project was eventually abandoned and Bober would never see his dream of a restaurant and inn. Strangely though, despite his claims that he was an earthly companion of the ghostly Jonathan Carver, the Bobers never spent the night inside of the house. They chose instead to sleep in an RV that they parked on the grounds. Also strange was the fact that Carver (if the entity even existed) chose to manifest itself in such malevolent ways...especially if he was looking for help in finding his deed. Bober’s explanation was that Carver resented anyone living in the house or trying to renovate the place, at least until the deed was found. Bober spent many days searching for the deed in the basement, chipping the foundation and peering into dark holes and crevices.
To this day, the mysterious deed has never been found.
There has been much speculation as to the true nature of Summerwind Mansion, but it is truly a paranormal mystery that may never be resolved.
The house was completely abandoned in the early 1980's and fell deeper and deeper into ruin. In 1986, the house was purchased by three investors who apparently thought that they could make something of the place again. But it was not to be...forces greater than man had other ideas. In June 1988 Summerwind was struck by lightning several times, resulting in a fire that destroyed much of the mansion. Today, only the house’s chimney stacks, foundations, and stone steps remain.
Haunted Wisconsin: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Badger State (Haunted Series)
The Wisconsin Road Guide to Haunted Locations
Haunts of Wisconsin