Thursday, April 29, 2010

Summerwind Mansion, Wisconsin

Considered the most notorious haunted house in the state of Wisconsin, Summerwind mansion is steeped in legend and mystery. Many purchasers reported an unease about the property even though even if they had never experienced any ghostly activity themselves. Now a burned-out ruin among the pines of the Northwoods, the former mansion has gained a cult following, becoming a place for those looking to experience bizarre phenomena themselves.

Built in 1916 by Robert P. Lamont for himself and his family on the shores of West Bay Lake in northeast Wisconsin, the mansion was an escape from the pressures of political life in Washington D.C. during the summer months. The original structure, a fishing lodge, was purchased by Lamont, who employed Chicago architects to remodel the property and convert it into a mansion.

During his 15 years at the mansion Lamont believed the structure was haunted. Lamont suddenly abandoned the mansion in the mid 1930s after one particularly frightening evening. He and his wife had just settled down to an evening meal in the kitchen, when the door to the basement shook itself open and a ghostly form of a man appeared. Lamont grabbed a pistol and fired two shots at the apparition as door swung shut. Holes in the basement door could still be seen many years later after the home came under new ownership.

From the 1940s to the 60s the house was owned by the Keefer family but remained largely unoccupied. When Mr. Keefer died his widow subdivided the land and sold it to purchasers but they experienced financial difficulties in keeping up payments.

When Arnold and Ginger Hinshaw and family moved to the house in the early 1970s many strange occurrences began to unfold and much of the haunting seemed to take place during this time. Shadows would be seen moving down the hallways, whispers would be heard but then stop when the Hinshaws entered the room, unexplained electrical and mechanical problems often occurred at the home, windows and doors would open and close by themselves. One window raised and lowered so often at all hours that Arnold nailed it shut. An apparition of a woman would appear near the dining room.

During this time the Hinshaws tried to renovate their historic home but had trouble keeping workers because Summerwind gained a reputation for being haunted. Workers would not show up for work, usually claiming illness, a few of them simply outright refused to work. The Hinshaws decided to do the work themselves. During the renovation, Arnold was painting a closet in one of the bedrooms and removed a shoe drawer from a closet. He discovered a hidden dark space behind it. When Arnold investigated the space he thought he saw the remains of an animal. The entrance to this space was too small for him to fit into so he sent his daughter Mary with a flashlight to investigate. Moments later Mary let out a scream and claimed discovering a human skull and strands of black hair. For some reason no report was made to the police. The body mysteriously vanished when Ginger's father and brother investigated the space many years later. The discovery of the corpse marked a turning point for the family. Arnold began display strange behavior, staying up late at night playing their Hammond organ that they purchased before moving into the house. The music became a strange mixture of senseless melodies which grew louder during the night. Ginger pleaded for him to stop but Arnold claimed the demons in his head demanded that he continue to play. He often played the bizarre music until dawn as his frightened wife and children took refuge in one of the bedrooms. Six months after moving into the house, Arnold suffered a breakdown and Ginger attempted suicide.

Several years later Ginger's father, Raymond Von Bober, bought Summerwind and wanted to turn the house into a restaurant. The Von Bobers' attempts to renovate the house suffered the same problems as the Hinshaws' years ago. Von Bober's son Karl experienced a variety of unnerving events. While walking through a hallway he heard a voice call his name, but he was the only one in the house. Then he heard what heard what sounded like two pistol shots and ran into the kitchen to find the room filled with smoke and the smell of gunpowder, an apparent supernatural reenactment from the 1930s Lamont incident.

During Von Bober's renovations workmen also began to report uneasiness as tools began to disappear. Furnishings appeared in photographs, which had not been existence since the original owners had possession of the home. Room dimensions appeared to change in these photographs and as draftspeople tried to produce blueprints of rooms.

By the 1980s the mansion was abandoned for good. People visiting during this time reported seeing objects flying around, disappearing and reappearing, and photographs would have odd shadows in them. Some experienced seeing the mansion as it would have appeared in earlier times.

In June 1988 the mansion was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. All that survived was the house's chimney stacks, foundations, and stone staircase.

For us the house seemed to retain its sense of mystery. On our first trip to explore and photograph the house we never found it, despite being within several yards of the ruin. A few days later after further research we decided to try again. This time we found it and we felt a sense of sadness and abandonment contrasting the pleasant sunny day, as we approached the ruin. The chimneys stood like tombstones against the sky, an epitaph to its former glory. The dull buzzing sounds of the spring hatching of flies on the mansion grounds added to the eerie atmosphere. As we walked around the ruin among the weeds and wild growing trees, Anna and I photographed and talked about the house, how sad that such a grand home had become so desolate. In spite of the walls having burned down long ago, the house seemed to retain its sense of volume. The weed-covered foundation and archways that still remain hinted to a grander time. We both wondered why no one has tried since the 1980s to clear the land and rebuilt another home.
This reminded us of TS Eliot:

In my beginning is my end. In succession
Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended,
Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place
Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass.
Old stone to new building, old timber to new fires,
Old fires to ashes, and ashes to the earth
Which is already flesh, fur and faeces,
Bone of man and beast, cornstalk and leaf.
Houses live and die: there is a time for building
And a time for living and for generation
And a time for the wind to break the loosened pane
And to shake the wainscot where the field-mouse trots
And to shake the tattered arras woven with a silent motto.
- excerpt from EAST COKER
(No. 2 of 'Four Quartets')
T.S. Eliot


  1. these are amazing!

  2. Put a Newsletter on your blog, it's an amazing blog and I can read anywhere by mail!
    Nice work!
    Well done!
    I'll come back.

  3. Good Idea! How do you suggest we add one.

  4. check out on youtube "the secrets of summerwind"

  5. lmao the secrets of summerwind are a bunch of frauds going around looking 4 attention to themselves.. they steal information to better themselves..devon the lead weirdo is an egotistical pig..look at her pics..they know NOTHING of real fact they disabled comments so u cant correct them or post directly they are losers

  6. Not sure how someone would know if the summerwind history is false (this is in response to the secrets of summerwind video-comment posted on feb. 22nd, 2013) I mean, did they live there and do they know everything that happened? If the history is wrong, then why not point out on your comment what was incorrect so everyone else will know.

    also the person who posted on may 17th, 2011 regarding secrets of summerwind and wrote very harshly about the "lead weirdo devon"....they are just a hater and jealous of people who actually have an interest, a goal, and make it happen. This woman has some mental problems so I wouldn't put too much stock into what she has to say. btw: for some reason she has it out for just ONE person and forgets there are more people who were involved with the short summerwind documentary. I know her name but won't post it out and about like she does to other ppl. I just want to say that the group who put out this video have an interest in summerwind and wanted to share it with everyone.

    paranormal is tough because you can't say yes or no for sure. just keep an open mind and be aware there are haters out there who just get their kicks out of badgering others. I actually feel sorry for this woman because she really is sick, can only hope she gets some help in the future. Maybe if she put the time and effort into bettering her own life rather than sitting on the net and bad mouthing multiple people, she wouldn't be so bitter and depressed. Just saying!

    That being said, Summerwind Mansion is so cool and I love the photos on this blog- they are wonderful! I am really enjoying looking at all the photos of the site, keep 'em coming! :)