Haunted places around the world abound, and it seems that pretty much any location can be haunted by mysterious forces. Yet, the most popular and well-known of these are the classic haunted houses, which have been a feature of horror fiction and movies for ages. One such intriguing place comes to us from the state of Wisconsin, and entails a house that has a history absolutely permeated by tales of the strange and haunted.
What is now known as the Summerwind Mansion began its life in 1916 as a humble fishing lodge and bed and breakfast called West Bay Lake Fishing Lodge, situated on the edge of West Bay Lake in Vilas County, in northeastern Wisconsin. Located amidst breathtaking scenery, the property caught the attention of an executive with the American Steel Foundries Corporation and future US Secretary of Commerce, Robert Patterson Lamont, who purchased the lodge and the surrounding 80 acres of land in 1918 with the aim of turning it into a summer retreat for his family. To this end, Lamont would spend the next 2 years and large amounts of money expanding and renovating the lodge, until it was a sprawling estate called Lamont Mansion, complete with servants’ quarters, and it seemed like a dream house, until one strange incident that would change everything, and launch Summerwind into the pnatheon of great haunted locales.
The story goes that servants on the property would frequently complain of anomalous noises and disembodied footsteps, and although the Lamonts mostly ignored this, one evening would change their minds. According to the tale, one evening Lamont was sitting down to dinner with his wife to celebrate the renovations on their new home, and there was a strange noise from down in the basement. Since no one was supposed to be down there, Lamont decided to investigate, taking along a pistol in case it was in intruder. He then made his way down the darkened stairs into the gloom and there he would see before him the ghostly apparition of a man shambling about, which was so terrifying that Lamont fired two shots at it and it vanished. Others who came to see what the fuss was all about found two bullet holes in the wall, but there was no sign of anyone else other than the frightened Lamont. The incident had a profound effect on Lamont, and he soon after decided to move his family away. However, the hauntings would continue. Interestingly, there was never any report of ghostly phenomena reported before Lamont moved in, leading to speculation that his renovation efforts awoke and annoyed something there.
The house sat abandoned for some time, still owned by the Lamonts but left vacant until it was sold in 1948 to the Keefer family, who used it as a vacation home but they did not last long either, soon abandoning it because they were convinced it was haunted. It sat abandoned once more until it was sold to an Arnold and Ginger Hinshaw in 1969, who lived there with Ginger’s father, Raymond Bober, and their six children, and they also allegedly had numerous paranormal experiences at the estate. It started with frequent sightings of a mysterious phantom wearing 18th century clothing, which would wander about and open or close doors, but this was not the only ghost on the property, it would seem. They also began seeing a woman in a flowing white dress who would float about, as well as various shadow figures, and there were numerous instances of disembodied footsteps or voices, anomalous smells, and cold spots. One ongoing phenomenon was windows that would constantly open by themselves, which got so bad that Arnold had them nailed shut. Appliances would also suddenly stop working without any discernible reason, and it was all very strange.
Raymond Bober, who lived in a trailer on the property, had his share of weird goings on as well. He claimed that he frequently encountered a spirit that he suspected was the ghost of an 18th century English colonial explorer and writer by the name of Raymond Carver. This ghost was apparently not shy at all, appearing at all hours and constantly startling the frightened old man, and Bober would also later claim that the whole house itself was possessed. It was he who would claim that the spirits called the place “Summerwind,” and the name stuck from there on out. To make it all even spookier, when the Hinshaws had renovation work done on the house, a human skull with black hair still clinging to it was supposedly discovered in a crawl space, its identity unknown. In the meantime, Arnold was sort of losing his mind over all of this, obsessively playing the organ because he claimed the spirits demanded it of him, and his wife Ginger suffered a nervous breakdown during which she often contemplated suicide, by some accounts even trying it on several occasions. It’s safe to say the dream had turned into a nightmare for this family, and after only 6 months of living there they moved out and sold the property to Raymond Bober, who was intent on staying, ghosts be damned.
Bober had the place renovated yet again, and during this time the construction workers complained of freak accidents, as well as tools suddenly disappearing without a trace, and most bizarrely of all wallpaper would change colors overnight and there were rooms that seemed to change spatial dimensions for no reason anyone could fathom. It was enough that he eventually abandoned it, after which it was sold it to a Harold Tracy in 1986, but they would not own it long because in 1988 the house was struck by lightning and burned down. Eerily, it has been said that only the house burned, leaving all surrounding vegetation and the woods completely untouched.
Today Summerwind is little more than some feral, weed-choked ruins closed to the public, but of great interest to paranormal investigators who have recorded all manner of strange things there, and it has been featured on TV shows. It is often listed as one of the most haunted places in Wisconsin, and has managed to become a place of pervasive local paranormal lore.