Nestled within the woodlands that line the shores of West Bay Lake, in Vilas County, the Summerwind Mansion once stood. Long known to be the most haunted house in Wisconsin, the legends surrounding the house are as plentiful as the number of owners who have tried to live within its walls. And while the stories that surround the house have taken root, the same cannot be said for the people who attempted to call Summerwind home. Today it stands in ruins, burned to the ground after being struck by lightning, but long before the fire the house played host to restless spirits, demonic activity, grisly discoveries and even a mysterious case of a disappearing skull.
While the house may be gone, the many mysteries of Summerwind Mansion remain, waiting to be revealed.
It seemed the house was haunted from the start. Purchased in 1916 by US Secretary of Commerce Robert Lamont, the house was used as a vacation home for Lamont and his family. Over the next fifteen years, the family experienced some odd happenings inside the walls of the seemingly peaceful retreat. It was long after moving in that the Lamont’s began to share with friends and neighbors their ghost stories of objects that moved by themselves, strange noises echoing from seemingly empty rooms and shadows that flitted from room to room. While the family found these occurrences strange, they were never enough to stop the Lamont’s from visiting the house, that was, until one evening when the ghosts of Summerwind really made themselves known.
According to Lamont, while he and his wife were dining one evening in the kitchen, the basement door flew open of its own accord. Startled, the couple watched in horror as an apparition of a man materialized from the basement. Believing the specter to be an intruder Lamont reached for his gun and fired two shots, but each bullet passed through the mysterious figure with no effect. The couple fled and never returned to the house, leaving the bullet holes from the fired shots in the basement door, a lasting mark of their time in the house.
After sitting empty for years, Summerwind was sold in the 1940s to the Keefer family who also used the house as a vacation home, renting the large property out to visitors. Many passing tenants claimed Mrs. Keefer rarely set foot inside the house, often handing the keys to guests and leaving them to their own devices. Then in the early 1970s the house was once again put up for sale and purchased by a new family, and with it, the haunting of Summerwind Mansion began again.
Arnold and Ginger Hinshaw moved into the house with their six children intending to restore the dilapidated home to its former glory, but could find no local contractor willing to help them for fear of the house and its haunted reputation. Undeterred, the family decided to take the work on themselves. While painting the closet in one of the bedrooms, Arnold discovered a hidden crawl space. Unable to fit inside, he sent in his youngest daughter, Mary, to investigate. Inside the sealed room she discovered a pile of bones and a human skull with knotted black hair still attached. Why the Hinshaw’s never reported the grisly discovery to the authorities remains a mystery, but according to the family they put the skull back and sealed up the crawl space. Years later, they would reopen the crawl space and find only an empty space, the skull and bones seemingly had vanished into thin air.
The macabre discovery seemed to act as a catalyst for the paranormal activity that followed. Over the coming months, the spirits of Summerwind Mansion awoke and quickly made themselves known to their new house guests.
Ginger and her children began to experience the sensation of being watched in the house. Then unexplainable noises were heard coming room seemingly empty rooms. Furniture and objects moving by unseen hands and then one afternoon an apparition of a woman appeared before Ginger in the dining room. Arnold too found himself tormented by the spirits. He began to suffer from insomnia and reportedly took to playing the Hammond Organ at odd hours of the night. He claimed the music kept the demons at bay. When Arnold lost his job, the couple began having marital issues and finally after all the stress of the previous months Ginger began to contemplate suicide. The family could take no more. After just six months, hopes of turning the house into their dream home had descended into a living nightmare. Ginger and the children moved out to live with her parents and, soon after Arnold left as well, leaving the property empty and abandoned once more.
A few years later, apparently unaware of his daughter’s harrowing experiences in the house, Raymond Bober, Ginger’s father, decided he would purchase the property, finish the renovation and turn it into a restaurant and inn. However, during the construction of the restaurant, Ginger’s brother reportedly saw an apparition on the second floor and, upon running down to the first floor, witnessed a residual haunting in the form of a “replay” of the Lamont’s confrontation with the ghost in the kitchen, so far as to hear the gunshots and smell the gun powder. Like others before him, he left and refused to return.
Construction workers and contractors complained to Bober that tools and blueprints had gone missing. Stranger still, they claimed that dimensions in various rooms seemed to change as they worked, never matching the blueprints or dimensions they’d only just recorded. Unable to work with the strange goings-on, many workers quit the project refusing to enter the house again.
Fascinated by the paranormal activity taking place, Bober began communicating with the spirits using Ouija boards. Convinced something evil resided in Summerwind he underwent a hypnosis session and began speaking in a deep and unrecognizable voice. Later, he described what had taken place while he was under, detailing his mental journey to the basement of the property where he had uncovered the deed to the house that was signed by Jonathon Carver. He came to believe that Carver was a frontiersman who, according to the deed not only built the house but also owned, at one point, a third of Wisconsin’s land. However, after searching the basement the document was never recovered. It was during this search that the crawlspace in the upstairs bedroom was reopened and the bones and skull were discovered missing.
Eventually, the project was abandoned altogether. Raymond Bober went on to pen a book in 1979 titled The Carver Effect, about the supernatural events he had experienced during his time at Summerwind.
And so the house sat empty once again until, what would be its last owners, purchased the house in 1986. Three investors hoped to turn the mansions fortunes around but it was not to be. During a storm in 1988, the house was struck by lightning and burned to the ground, leaving only the stone chimneys standing, which remain to this day. Since then the legend of Summerwind Mansion has grown, luring locals and paranormal thrill seekers alike to explore the haunted lands and remains of the house. And according to those who have walked amoung the ruins, while the house may be gone the ghosts are still as restless as ever.
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