Summerwind: A Haunting Legacy in Ruins
In the annals of American ghostlore, few names hold such allure.
In the furthest North Woods of Wisconsin, at the edge of the Michigan wilderness, roads run through vast evergreen forests bordering clear blue lakes.
Hidden in the shadows of the towering cedars and firs of this tranquil Land O'Lakes setting, however, is one of America's most notoriously haunted places: the ruins of the fabled mansion known as Summerwind.
Locals still call it the Lamont Mansion, but it's hardly a mansion anymore. In the 1980s fire destroyed all but two chimneys and a few broken walkways of this once magnificent home on West Bay Lake. Still, the destruction of the building has done little to kill the ghost stories.
A Shadowed History
The history of Summerwind is as sparse as its physical remains. According to word of mouth accounts, the mysterious structure was erected in the earliest days of the 20th Century to serve as a fishing lodge for sportsmen traveling to West Bay Lake. It became known as the Lamont Mansion in 1916, when Robert Patterson Lamont purchased the lodge and remodeled it, allegedly hiring the Chicago architectural firm of Tallmadge and Watson to design the renovations.
Patterson moved his family into the newly refurbished home around 1918, and it was at this time that the shadowy history of the house really begins.
Stories began to circulate that the house was "not quite right." Bizarrely, during the reconstruction there were reports that the dimensions of the rooms of the house would change size from day to day, and experiences of footsteps, shadow figures, noises and other phenomena plagued the family.
Events escalated until one night when the family was dining and Patterson fired a pistol at a ghost, leaving bullet holes in a door.
According to most accounts, this event was the last straw, causing the Pattersons to flee and never return.
The next owners suffered similar experiences.
Arnold and Ginger Hinshaw were so tormented by the hauntings that Arnold reportedly suffered a nervous breakdown and Ginger attempted to take her own life.
The Carver Effect
It was Ginger's father, Raymond Bober, who formulated a lasting theory about the haunting of Summerwind. In fact, it was Bober who christened the old Lamont Mansion with its infamous, romantic new name. Bober claimed that he, too, had experienced the mysterious changing rooms while he attempted to do work on the house, and he claimed that this was what caused him to abandon the property.
In 1979, Bober published a curious book called The Carver Effect: A Paranormal Experience, in which he theorized that Summerwind was haunted by an 18th Century explorer named Jonathan Carver, but the publication of the book did little to convince locals, who became suspicious that Bober had invented the stories of the house's haunting as a money-making scheme, especially coming as the book did on the heels of the staggering, sensational "Amityville Horror" case's publicity.
With few believers in Bober's tales, stories of Summerwind might have passed into oblivion. In 1980, however, Life magazine published a photo essay on "Terrifying Tales of Nine Haunted Houses."
Among the homes featured was Summerwind.
The End of Summerwind
In 1985, Summerwind had become a thorn in the side of local officials, as the building had become a staging area for local thieves and vandals. Plans to raze the house were discussed, but it was fire that destroyed Summerwind.
On June 19, 1988, a bolt of lightning struck the legendary mansion, waking neighbors nearby. The ensuing fire brought Summerwind to the ground.
(Above, the ruins of Summerwind. Milwaukee Journal Sentinal)
Today, Summerwind is quickly fading from memory as one of "America's Most Haunted Houses." The lack of many standing remains, the remoteness of the area and the "private property" status of the land have combined to make the trip to Summerwind a rare pilgrimage for ghost hunters, despite the place's notoriety.
Though it has little company, the stories of Summerwind remain, and some still tell of a woman in white seen among the ruins, the lingering smell of fire, the murmuring of disembodied voices, and other reportedly paranormal phenomena.
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Thanks for coming on this legend trip!