The informant likes telling this story because he experienced it himself and believes in its truth. It happened in the town of Merrill, Wisconsin. He lived in the mansion from 1971 to ’72 during his years in junior college and learned the story while he was there, later adding on to it his own experiences.
This story was told to me after I listed off a number of genres that could be defined as folklore to the informant, and was told for the purpose of collection. Usually, however, the informant likes to tell this story to his children and grandchildren on occasions one would think to tell similar scary stories, like on Halloween or during camping trips.
“I lived in the mansion for a year and a half. The story goes he was a prominent, well-known lumberman in the community. He built a mansion overlooking a river on this bluff. In the course of building this mansion, he hung himself in the bell tower–he really did. Every person who then owned the mansion had some horrible stuff happen: the son, before the house was completed got in a physical fight with the architect and he got stabbed and died. An the wife was on a buggy ride one day, and she felt this impending doom and darkness upon her and they got her home and she died. Supposedly the curse was–on the property–a white man promised to marry the daughter of an Indian chief but the white man didn’t go through with it. The daughter ended up dying from smallpox and so the chief cursed the land-this was all true. So Mrs. Scott died after the buggy ride. So the house was sold to this guy from Chicago, he was at the train station in Milwaukee coming to the house in Merrill and he was stabbed by the Black Hand-the mafia- and never even got to see the house. Later there was a guy that was caretaker for the property, he had one arm and ran a popcorn stand in town–popcorn Dan, they called him. He was English and he was going back to visit family, so he booked a passage back–and it was on the Titanic! he went down with the ship. Then the next guy that bought the mansion went insane! He suffered major financial losses and went to a mental asylum. And the next guy, he had an office in the mansion but–he went into Merrill one day and disappeared, nobody ever saw him again. Now the house and property is cursed and nobody wants to buy it. So the house was offered to a convert of nuns–the Order of the Holy Cross–if they would establish a hospital for the community. And for a while, none of them died so everyone thought the curse was over. So later it turned into a junior college, and my friends and I went there. There was about 10 or 11 of us that lived there. And nothing weird besides like flickering lights ever happened. But after we moved out one of the guys–Jim–I was in a band with him, died of an aneurysm. After that one died in a car accident, and another in a motorcycle accident. And then the fourth one died of a drug overdose. So out of ten guys in their early twenties, four of them die. After the second one died all of us who lived there were like ‘holy shit,’ what’s gonna happen to us. When the third and fourth ones died we were all scared. They tore the mansion down this year.”
This piece was really fun to collect, as I had no idea how long the history of the house was or how cursed it truly seemed to be. Whether or not curses are real, it was interesting to see how a piece of folklore can be revitalized after lying dormant for years. Although everyone thought the curse to have been lifted by the Order of the Holy Cross, it came back to haunt the next group who lived at the Scott Mansion. Along with this, I think that although it’s tragic to hear that as a young man my informant experienced so many of his close friends passing away, it’s also fascinating that he was part of this story–knowing that I’m able to collect a tale of haunting such as this from one of the folks who took part in the narrative has made it feel much more authentic.