The Glensheen Mansion was owned by Chester and Clara Congdon as well as their children. Chester Congdon was originally an attorney and investor associated with the Iron Range, but later served in politics as a Minnesota legislator and representative. Clara Congdon meanwhile worked alongside the architects in designing the Glensheen Mansion and raised their six children and her nephew. Only the two youngest Congdon children, Elisabeth and Robert, actually spent any part of their childhood in the Glensheen Mansion, both around their young teens at the time of completion. The home was the site of many family gatherings for special occasions and holidays, and remained the family’s home until 1977, with the death of Elisabeth Congdon.
Elisabeth Congdon had become the heiress of the estate after her father’s death in 1916. Though Elisabeth never married, she did adopt two daughters who were raised at the Glensheen, and were presumably to inherit the estate. However, Elisabeth was the last owner of the estate and she lived there until she and her nurse, Velma Pietila, were murdered on June 27, 1977. Charged with the murders was Roger Caldwell, the second husband of Elisabeth Congdon’s adopted daughter Marjorie Congdon. Marjorie herself was charged with aiding and abetting her husband, but was later acquitted. Caldwell later admitted to committing both murders, the speculated reason being that Marjorie was impatient to receive her inheritance of the estate that was to take place after her mother’s death. Though originally tour guides of the Glensheen Mansion were forbidden to mention the murders to visitors, they can now briefly talk about the events upon the request of visitors at the end of the tours.
Since the opening of the Glensheen Mansion to the public there have been several reports of supernatural activity, or hauntings, within the mansion by the spirits of Elisabeth and Velma. Reports include seeing shadowy figures in the basement and hallways, lights flickering on and off without explanation, a sighting of two women standing in an upstairs window looking out towards the lake, cold spots, and a piece of candy rolling back and forth on its own accord atop a dresser. Other reports, however, claim that while the mansion does indeed seem to be haunted, it is not by the spirits of Elisabeth Congdon and Velma Pietila.
Whether you believe in the supernatural or not, the Glensheen is still a place worth visiting. In the late spring and summer the ground’s gardens are in bloom providing a charming outdoor walk for visitors. Within the mansion itself, visitors can enjoy a glance into the past with the historic furnishing and décor of the mansion. The Jacobean Revival style of the mansions architecture gives the estate a grand appearance and the view of the lake is exquisite, especially on clear, sunny days. All in all the Glensheen Mansion provides charming views, both in the mansion and on the grounds. To learn more about the mansion, or to set up a tour, call 218-726-8910 or 1-888-454-GLEN. Further readings on the history of the Glensheen Mansion include “Will to Murder: The True Story Behind the Crimes & Trials Surrounding the Glensheen Killings” by Gail Feichtinger with John Desanto and Gary Waller, “Secrets of the Congdon Mansion: The Unofficial Guide to the Glensheen and the Congdon Murders” by Joe Kimball, and “Glensheen’s Daughter, The Marjorie Congdon Story” by Sharon Darby Hendry.