Saturday, September 12, 2009

Summerwind Mansion

Summerwind was built in the early 20th Century as a fishing resort for West Bay Lake in Vilas County, Wisconsin. In 1916, Robert Lamont renovated the building for use as a summer home for his family. Lamont would actually serve as Secretary of Commerce under President Hoover but life was not simple at Summerwind for the Lamont family. 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. Upon the death of Robert Lamont, the house was sold ... and sold again. It seemed that nothing out of the ordinary really happened there, save for Lamont’s encounter with the phantom intruder, until the early 1970's. It was in this period that the family living in the house was nearly destroyed...supposedly by ghosts.

Arnold Hinshaw, his wife Ginger, and their six children, moved into Summerwind in the early part of the 1970's. They would only reside in the house for six months, but it would be an eventful period of time. From the day that they moved in, they knew strange things were going on in the house. The Hinshaws, and their children, immediately started to report vague shapes and shadows flickering down the hallways. They also claimed to hear mumbled voices in darkened, empty rooms. When they would walk inside, the sounds would quickly stop. Most alarming was the ghost of the woman who was often seen floating back and forth just past some French doors that led off from the dining room. On one 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. The Hinshaws decided to do some renovations and hired a crew to do them, unfortunately the workers stopped showing up because of the strange occurrences. The Hinshaws decided to do the work themselves.

While painting a closet, they found a shoe drawer built into the wall and pulled it out to paint the drawer. Arnold found a large, dark space behind the drawer. Upon searching the dark hole, they found a human corpse. Instead of telling the police, the Hinshaws apparently left the body where they found it and things just got worse for them. Arnold soon had a mental breakdown and Ginger tried to commit suicide. Arnold was sent away and Ginger and the kids moved to Granton with her parents, where she soon divorced Arnold and married a man named George Olsen. Things were going well for Ginger when her father announced that he was going to buy Summerwind.

Raymond Bober was a popcorn vendor and 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. Ginger hadn't told him what had happened at the house. Bober 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 ghost 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 supposedly been placed in a box and sealed into the foundation of Summerwind. Bober claimed that Carver had asked his help in finding it.

When Bober and his family, including Ginger and her new husband, went back to Summerwind, they began exploring the house and Bober began pulling out drawers to see if anything was in them (which is weird considering his daughter and former husband were the previous owners and inhabitants). Ginger finally told everyone about finding the body and Bober went to investigate but the space behind the drawer was empty.

The plans to turn the house into a restaurant did not go smoothly. Workmen refused to stay on the job, complaining of tools disappearing and feelings as if they were being watched. Marie Bober agreed with their complaints. She 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. Most disturbing to Bober however 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 half that many. Finally the Bobers abandoned the house and it has remained empty ever since.

After that, many people have come forward trying to poke holes in the Bober's stories. The big one being that Jonathan Carver died more than 130 years before the house was built. In 1986, the house was bought by an investment firm hoping to renovate the house but again, that was not to be. In June of 1988, Summerwind was struck by lightening during a storm and burned to the ground. All that remains is the stone fireplace, foundation and stone steps.