In early summer of 2019, 2 PIM members attended a public investigation at the ruins of Summerwind Mansion located near Land O’Lakes Wisconsin. Their goal was to gather information of the haunting claims, interview area locals, and investigate the history of the location. PIM understands that to conduct an outside investigation is extremely difficult due to sound contamination and the difficulties of being with other investigators who have their own style and protocols of investigation which are different from those of PIM. This article will present a brief history of the Summerwind Mansion, the paranormal claims, possible logical explanations for some of the claims, and the present condition of the mansion.
The 2 members drove to the property with some difficulty as the private roads are off grid and the GPS system was not reliable. Upon arriving at the site, they were impressed with the two standing chimneys tied together by the back porch made of stone arches, and the deep, overgrown basement where debris and twisted metal appliances distorted by the fire and time still remain. The paranormal investigators and visitors were gathered around a campfire giving off much smoke. That smoke turned out to be very important as the sun set and darkness arose as it helped keep the ravenous mosquitos at bay.
Summerwind Mansion was built in 1918 and was initially called the Lamont Mansion. Originally the site held a bed and breakfast called West Bay Lake Fishing Lodge. In 1916, US Secretary of Commerce Robert Patterson Lamont purchased the 80 acres property and converted the lodge into a mansion with servants’ quarters attached. At that time period, the isolated mansion was difficult to reach due to the poor road conditions. The amount of snow fall in the area is deep. The Mansion faces the lake and it used to have a dock for boats. The master bedroom was above the kitchen facing the driveway. There was a building next to it where the servants lived. The mansion had 3 large chimneys, guest quarters, and a large basement.
Lamont servants alleged that they saw a translucent woman walking around the mansion’s driveway but he discarded their claims. Interestingly, one evening, while he and his wife were eating dinner on the first floor, they heard the basement door rustle. Mr. Lamont went downstairs to investigate, gun in hand. He stated that he saw a ghostly form of a man and so fired two shots. When others went to investigate, all they found were two bullet holes in the door. After this incident, the Lamonts left the property, never to return, and the property stayed vacant for decades. The mansion remained in the family until Mr. Lamont’s death in 1948. The Mansion was sold several times before Mr. and Mrs. Keefer purchased the property. Mrs. Keefer reported not feeling safe in the house and started to believe the house was haunted. Unexpectedly, she left the Mansion, abandoning all her belongings (clothes, food, furniture). She told her neighbors that they could take anything from the mansion but that she was not responsible if something bad happened to them.
In 1969 Arnold and Ginger Hinshaw bought the mansion from the Keefers and moved in with their six children. They stayed for 6 months only. The Hinshaws reported seeing a ghost of a woman floating back and forth past the French doors leading off from the dining room, seeing vague shapes and shadows flickering throughout the hallways, claimed to hear muffled voices in empty rooms, and when they would walk around the house the noises would stop. Arnold nailed shut some windows because they were allegedly opening by themselves. Two appliances, a hot water heater and water pump, would break down but suddenly work again before a serviceman was called to the house. During renovations, the skull of a human with black hair was allegedly found in a crawl space by one of his daughters. However, this was never reported to the police and the skull was never seen again. Arnold would constantly play an organ very late at night and eventually quit working. He said that the spirits told him to play. Within 6 months, Arnold suffered a nervous breakdown and was sent off to treatment whereas his wife Ginger contemplated suicide. She eventually moved to Granton with her children to live with her parents. The property was sold back to the Keefer family who, in turn, sold it to the father of Mrs. Hinshaw, Raymond Von Bober, Sr. When Mr. Von Bober began remodeling the mansion to convert it to a Bed and Breakfast, workers complained that some of their tools would disappear, only to reappear at different locations. Also, the rooms would change length and width on a daily basis, forcing an end to the renovations.
The house was purchased by Harold Tracy in 1986 as a wedding anniversary present to his wife Babs. The current owners live in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The current value of the lot is $246,000 for the 1.5 acres and the property taxes are about $5,000 a year.
The popularity of the mansion as a paranormal site exploded when it was covered by Life Magazine in November 1980, featured as one of the top 9 most terrifying sites in the United States. Summerwind was portraited with a dark sinister photograph of a decaying structure. The information was presented based on myth and legends, different from the information uncovered by more recent investigators. The abandoned mansion became a magnet for thrill seekers and young teenagers who wanted to hang out (possibly as a place to smoke, to consume alcohol and to use drugs). The building was in decay, with the attic full of bats, with the theft of many of the belongings, and vandalism of the property.
On June 19, 1988, the mansion burned to the ground. The local media reported that the fire was caused by a lightning strike but others dispute that account. The landscape of the property had changed over the years of abandonment, with an overgrowth of trees and under-brush. Yet, none of the surrounding vegetation burned, only the building. In addition, the mansion still had functioning lightning rods. One local resident interviewed by the PIM team claims that the Fire Marshall sent a letter to the neighbors warning that the property was condemned as unsafe and was going to be burned by the fire department. Today, only some of the stone structures remain: two of the three majestic chimneys, the foundation, the basement, the stone arches facing the lake, and the stairways leading to the main entrance of the mansion.
PIM members interviewed a next door neighbor’s nephew. He stated that he use to enter the Mansion and played billiards in the basement with his friends. He reported that he and his friends made up many haunted stories about the mansion such as a “haunted sofa” which was taken out of the mansion so they could hang out. He also shared that as young teenagers, they used to sneak inside the mansion to scare the trespassers for fun and never reveled themselves to the visitors. This increased the reputation of the Mansion as a haunted place. He also reported that Mrs. Keefer was emotionally fragile. He stated that she left the mansion in a hurry.
Past Paranormal Claims and Investigation Update
Basement Spirit: Around 1918, during the Victorian Era, spiritual sessions were very popular. A medium would help patrons communicate with the spirits of the dead, and many wealthy socialites had parlors dedicated to communication with spirits. The idea that a spiritual world existed that would sometimes manifest in our dimension was accepted by many in the educated class. In the 1930’s at Summerwind Mansion, Mr. and Mrs. Lamont were eating upstairs when they heard the basement door moving. He went to investigate, thought he saw someone, and shot his gun. He then noticed that no one was there. Blaming the incident on an apparition, they two abandoned the mansion. Photographic evidence shows a basement door with 2 bullet holes. A possible explanation is that due to the isolation of the location and the servants telling him that they saw someone or spirits around the mansion, he concluded that he needed to protect his family from an intruder. Electrical service at the time was uneven in the house. In fact, the first electric house in Land O’ Lakes was not built until 1922 (landolakes-wi.org, accessed September 24, 2019), and so Mr. Lamont had to use other light sources such as candles or a kerosene lamp, both of which create flickers and shadows. Mentally, he was ready for an intruder and was ready to shoot. Anxiety could create the misinterpretation of the visual play of light and shadow to “see” a form, and he proceeded to shoot the door.
Skull in the wall: While remodeling, Arnold Hindshaw asked his daughter to check a hole inside the wall. His daughter screamed and said that there was a head full of hair. However, they did not contact the police or find the head or any hair. A possible explanation is that there was a furry animal inside the wall space that escaped when the girl screamed. This could explain why they could not find the hairy head again but interestingly they never contacted the police, an expected behavior in 1969.
Owner playing music on organ: It has been stated that Arnold was playing constantly an organ late at night. He said he could not stop playing to prevent a tragedy from happening. This is one of several criteria for people who experience Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). In addition, he was sleeping very little. Therefore, it appears that he was experiencing sleep deprivation with poor sleep hygiene. Studies show that sleep deprivation in people suffering sleep disorders results in visual, tactile, and auditory hallucinations. This can increase the inability to process information properly and create distorted thoughts and memories.
Arnold and Ginger showed several symptoms which may fit some of the criteria for a psychological diagnosis. Arnold had poor sleep hygiene and was obsess with playing the organ constantly. Within 6 months of developing his symptoms, he ended up receiving psychiatric treatment. Meanwhile, Ginger was a housewife witnessing her husband behaving illogically while raising 6 children in a socially isolated environment in 1969. They lived for 6 months in the property. Ginger contemplated suicide and eventually move back with her parents after treatment.
Rooms changing sizes: Construction workers were hired to do renovations, and many quit, stating that the house’s rooms changed size. After consulting several professional carpenters, each affirmed that it is customary to measure a location multiple times because everyone has an approach to measuring and each comes up with different results. This could explain why the rooms of the house appeared to change sizes.
Missing tools: Construction workers reported that their tools would disappear while working at the mansion, only to reappear at a different location.
The Lady in a white dress: 2 teenager girls were canoeing near the Mansion when the saw a lady in white waving at them to come to shore. They beached their canoe and follow her to the mansion as a storm approached. Once inside the mansion, the woman dematerialized. Both girls got scared and left. Later that summer, the girls decided to find the lady in white and returned to the mansion by canoe. This time, they saw the lady but she was waving them away. The girls decided not approach the mansion. Later, they found out that there was a servant in the mansion who was threatening people with violence. This claim was reported by an old lady during her last year of life. We have not been able to independently verify this claim.
Indian Mounds: Recently, a Native American expert was brought in to survey for potential Indian mounds on the property. A spot was identified and he collected some soil for analysis. According to the host, the results were inconclusive and it is not clear if Indian Mounds dot the property.
The paranormal claims of the mansion began in earnest when Life Magazine described the location. Various paranormal groups have attempted to investigate the location but it is difficult to conduct a scientific outdoor paranormal investigation due to noise and people contamination. The Land O’Lakes fauna includes bears, deer, badgers, racoons, foxes, wolves, possums, and many birds. Some of the noisy insect include crickets, mosquitos, and kadydids, while fireflies help illuminate the night. The waters of the lake help to carry any sound for very long distances, including human voices and motorboats clatters. Finally, a public investigation has the additional challenge of cross-contamination from the many on site.
Summerwind Mansion is a richly historic location. It is a secluded lake front property on a private road shared by many other property owners, surrounded by water, forests, song birds and water fowl. Some of the paranormal claims may have logical explanations, while others do not. The PIM investigators were not able to document any paranormal activity during their brief time on site and hope that others will continue to investigate the claims at the Summerwind Mansion.
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