Land O’ Lakes, WI
Land O’ Lakes, WI
With its long and eerie history, Summerwind Mansion may be the most haunted place in Wisconsin. It’s certainly the most notorious of all Wisconsin hauntings, having been featured in numerous paranormal TV shows (watch A Haunting S1.E2) and books (Haunted Summerwind).
Legend says Summerwind was haunted from the day it was built in 1916, as its original owner U.S. secretary of commerce Robert Patterson Lamont, once took aim and fired at a ghost he encountered in the house, leaving permanent bullet holes in the wood.
Other paranormal phenomena:
Summerwind was abandoned after driving the Hinshaw family mad during their brief six months occupation of the home and scaring off workers attempting to restore the dilapidated property in the 1970s. The mansion burned to the ground in 1988, leaving only its old stone foundation and towering chimneys. The cause of the fire was said to be lightning striking the house, but some suspect it was intentionally set ablaze to deter visitors drawn by the haunted legends.
Wisconsin is no stranger to legends of ghosts and haunted places, but few can compare to the tale of Summerwind Mansion. If the stories are true, then this cursed estate is undoubtedly one of the most haunted houses in America.
Summerwind was built as a summer home by Robert Patterson Lamont in 1916 on the shores of West Bay Lake in Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin. Lamont would later serve as the U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President Herbert Hoover from 1929 to 1932.
But before that, he was shooting at ghosts in Summerwind.
Legend has it that Lamont once fired his pistol at what he believed to be an intruder, only to watch in horror as the bullets passed right through and into the wall behind the specter.
The bullet holes were said to have still been visible in the wall right up until Summerwind’s destruction in 1988.
After Lamont’s death, Summerwind changed hands several times and spent some time vacant before Arnold and Ginger Hinshaw moved in with their children in the 1970s. Like similar cases of hauntings, though, their dream home soon turned into a nightmare. They quickly began to experience strange phenomena, including the apparition of a woman, mumbling voices in empty rooms, and doors and windows opening and closing by themselves.
Things took a turn for the worse when a human corpse was discovered in a hidden closet compartment, and then vanished.
Workers hired to make repairs to the dilapidated mansion felt so uneasy around it that one day they left and never returned.
Arnold began to have a nervous breakdown, often playing his Hammond organ late at night in a frenzy while his frightened family huddled together and cried. Arnold claimed that demons in his head demanded that he play.
Ginger attempted suicide, and eventually, Arnold was sent away for treatment.
After only six months, Ginger and the children moved out of the house.
However, the story doesn’t end there.
Ginger’s father, Raymond Bober, decided to buy the house and wrote about his time there in the 1979 book The Carver Effect: A Paranormal Experience under the name Wolffgang von Bober.
In the book, he claimed that the house was owned and haunted by the ghost of 18th-century explorer Jonathan Carver. Carver, he claimed, was searching for a deed sealed in the mansion’s foundation that gave him rights to vast swaths of Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Carver explored areas of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa, mostly in the vicinity of the Mississippi River, from 1766-1768 as part of an expedition to find a Northwest Passage. The king of England was offering a reward for discovering the passage, but Carver’s efforts were not recognized. He wrote a book about the expedition, then traveled to England in hopes of getting some of the reward.
He never returned.
Carver died in poverty in London in 1780.
After his death, his heirs claimed two Sioux chiefs had given Carver a land grant to a triangular tract of land comprising 10,000 square miles of land from Steven’s Point to Eau Claire to modern day Minneapolis. The deed, they said, was signed at the “Great Cave, May the 1st, 1767.”
The grant was never found, nor Carver ever make mention of it in his book or other writings. Sioux elders stated that no chiefs had ever existed by the names said to have been on the deed.
In 1823, Congress informed Carver’s heirs that they would not be giving them any rights to the land they claimed belonged to them.
“Modern scholars who have reviewed all the evidence cannot confirm the existence of any such grant to Carver, who never mentioned it in surviving records,” the Wisconsin Historical Society wrote. “They have, however, documented a great deal of deceit, manipulation, and self-delusion by his heirs and their agents as they attempted to sell portions of the land in the decades following his death.”
The idea of an explorer’s ghost haunting a crumbling Northwoods mansion in search of a lost land grant makes for a compelling campfire tale, but some believe all the claims of paranormal activity were made up.
Neighbors claimed Bober never even actually lived in the house, staying instead in a trailer on the property. Previous owners had stated the house was not haunted. It wasn’t even called Summerwind. Locals knew it as Lamont’s mansion.
They believed Bober invented the whole story for his book, which was perpetuated the following year by a November 1980 Time magazine photo essay titled “Terrifying Tales of Nine Haunted Houses.”
Summerwind sat abandoned and rumored to be haunted for years. Vilas County officials tried to get the authority to tear it down in 1985, citing the location as the staging site for teenagers to vandalize and burglarize area cottages. The attention from Bober’s book and the Time article was also bringing unwanted visitors to the property.
Approval to demolished the property failed, but the problem seemed to take care of itself a few years later.
On June 19th, 1988, Summerwind Mansion burned to the ground.
Neighbors claimed they were awakened that night lightning that struck the house and set it ablaze. The local fire department stated the cause of the fire was not arson, though they contended the teenagers who had parties on the property could have left a fire burning.
However, some believe the fire was lit intentionally to deter visitors drawn by the creepy legends.
All that remains of Summerwind Mansion today is the fieldstone foundation and chimneys rising out of the forest and overgrown brush. Although the truth of the haunting may never be fully known, its story continues to captivate and terrify those who dare to listen.
Have you had an experienced at Summerwind? Tell us about it in the comments below.