The strange story of Summerwind Mansion. Wisconsin’s most infamous haunted house.
There are few places as beautiful as northern Wisconsin. It’s northwoods and numerous lakes make up a landscape that make outdoorsmen and nature lovers gush; however, the are northwoods also home to a strange place, a place that continues to attract attention. A place with a long, strange and haunted history. Summerwind Mansion.
The mansion originally started out as a fishing lodge when, in 1916, it was purchased by Robert P. Lamont. Lamont started out as a civil engineer working mostly out of Chicago and was a future Secretary of Commerce for the Hoover administration from 1929 to 1932. Lamont wanted a tranquil getaway retreat for his family of five and a summer home on West Bay Lake in the northwoods of Vilas County was perfect. Employing the Chicago architects Tallmadge and Watson, Lamont spent two years renovating the property. Summerwind was then sometimes host to the upper echelon of the U.S. Government, including President Warren G. Harding.
Life at Summerwind wasn’t completely idyllic. The maids of the mansion started reporting strange occurrences on the premises. Lamont wasn’t a believer in ghosts or the paranormal so he brushed aside their claims as so many stories with the resolute of a logical man. According to legend, that changed as Lamont and his wife were eating dessert one evening in the kitchen. The basement door shook open revealing a ghostly figure of a man. Shocked by what he was witnessing, Lamont pulled out a gun. The door swung shut and Lamont fired two bullets into it. The legend goes on to say that Lamont fled mansion with his wife after this event. Summerwind remained Lamont’s property until his death in 1948 when it was sold to the Keefer family. It remained in the Keefer’s possession and it mostly remained unoccupied and quiet. The paranormal activities died down and the weird tale of the haunted Summerwind mansion began to fade away.
After remaining largely unoccupied for 20 years, the property then became the home of Arnold and Ginger Hinshaw and their four children in 1969. It was at this point in history that Summerwind and it’s haunting legend began in earnest.
The Hinshaws claimed to experience paranormal occurrences the mansion. Oddly flickering shadows that seemingly moved through hallways, muffled voices in empty rooms, and windows that opened and closed on their own. In addition, water pumps and heaters would break down and repair themselves. Repairmen would routinely show up but would find nothing faulty with the equipment. Reported sightings of a ghostly woman occurred regularly in the mansion’s dining room, frightening the family members. One Morning, the Hinshaw’s car reportedly caught fire allegedly on it’s own. No cause was ever found. Problems for the Hinshaws continued when they tried doing renovations on the property. Workers would call in sick or flatly refuse to work on the haunted estate. Deciding to do the work themselves, the Hinshaws began the renovation of Summerwind.
According to legend, Arnold made a startling discovery. While painting a closet in one of the bedrooms he pulled out a shoe drawer and found large open space behind it. Grabbing a flashlight and peering into the opening, Hinshaw found what he thought to be the remains of an animal that had wandered into the space and found itself trapped. Not being small enough to get a good look inside the darkened space, Arnold recruited his daughter Mary to crawl into the hidden area. Mary entered the area and let out a scream. Reportedly, she found a human skull with brown hair along with arm and leg bones. No police report was ever filed and the story remains unconfirmed. The gruesome discovery had apparently vanished before it was investigated years later by Ginger Hinshaw’s father and brother.
Six months into living at Summerwind Arnold suffered a mental breakdown and began behaving erratically. He took to wandering Summerwind at night and playing the organ into the early morning hours, claiming the demons in his head demanded it. Ginger attempted suicide and the Hinshaws moved out. At this point, Arnold received treatment for his mental health problems and Ginger moved to her parents with her children. Only six months after moving in, the Hinshaws were already gone and Summerwind was once again vacant.
Years Later, Raymond Bober decided to purchase Summerwind with plans on turning it into a restaurant. Bober, who also happened to be the father of Ginger Hinshaw, enlisted his wife Marie and son Karl to help repair the property. Problems began as fast as the work started. Experiencing many of the same problems as Arnold Hinshaw had, progress was difficult. The tools reportedly started disappearing, workers felt watched and stopped showing up. Claims were also made that proper measurements of the structure were befuddled with being at one measurement one minute and being a completely different measurement the next. Karl, while checking on some pest control, claimed to have heard someone call his name and gun shots downstairs. This was apparently a paranormal reenactment of the Lamont shooting in the 1930’s. Ignoring the pleas of his daughter Ginger, Raymond investigated the hidden space in the closet where the human remains were supposed to be. He found nothing.
Bober abandoned his plans for turning Summerwind into a restaurant. In 1979 he published a book on his experiences at Summerwind called “The Carver Effect: A Paranormal Experience.” Bober claims to have been contacted by the spirit of the 18th century colonial explorer Jonathon Carver. Supposedly Carver had been deeded the land by the Sioux. The ghost of Carver was said to be looking for his deed hidden somewhere in the mansion. No such deed was ever found on the premises.
The mansion had fallen into disrepair and in 1986 was purchased by a group of three investors. However, all of them backed out of the deal to open Summerwind as a Bed & Breakfast. The abandoned, decaying structure burned down 1988 after being struck by lightning during a violent storm. Only the chimney and the foundation remain.
The haunted history of Summerwind has cemented the mansion, not only as a Wisconsin most famous paranormal oddity, but a worldwide one as well.