Glensheen Mansion: Money, Madness, and Murder in Duluth
The Glensheen Mansion
When one thinks of castles, Europe usually comes to mind, but there are castles in the United States too. One of these castles is the Glensheen castle or mansion. Located on the 7.6 acres on the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth, Minnesota, it was designed in the style of 17th century Jacobean Revival. It was built in 1905 and completed in 1908 for Chester Congdon. Chester Congdon was a lawyer, an investor, and a politician in his lifetime. He and his wife, Clara had seven children. However, only the two youngest children, Elisabeth and Robert, grew up there.
The estate has formal gardens, a carriage house, a boathouse, a clay tennis court, and a gardener's cottage. The owner, Chester Congdon, retired one year before Glensheen Mansion was started. He died in November 1916, and his youngest daughter was the last to reside at Glensheen. In today's dollars, it would have cost approximately $30 million to build.
Elizabeth Congdon, Chester's youngest daughter, continued to live at Glensheen during her adult life. Never married. In her late thirties, she adopted two daughters, Marjorie and Jennifer. Although Jennifer was seldom mentioned. Marjorie was a problem child. As a child, she was always throwing temper tantrums and was a pathological liar. In her teenage years, she was diagnosed as a sociopath and even instiutionalized for awhile. After she moved out and married, she was still a source of trouble. She married several times, had numerous children, and was constantly borrowing money from her mother.
The Congdon Murders
Elizabeth Congdon, Chester's youngest daughter, was the last person and family member to reside at Glensheen. Tragically, she and her nurse were found murdered at Glensheen on June 27, 1977. While the partially paralyzed Elizabeth was suffocated with a satin pillow, her nurse was bludgeoned to death with a brass candlestick in the stairway.
Initially, the police had no suspects, and they thought the motive was robbery. An empty jewelry box was found on the bedroom floor and the house was ransacked. A car was also stolen from the estate and found at the Minneapolis airport. Elizabeth's youngest adopted daughter, Marjorie, and her husband, Roger Sipe Caldwell were both suspects in the murder. Before the murder, Marjorie and her husband wanted to borrow money for their dream of owning a horse ranch in Colorado. While Roger admitted to the murders, Marjorie was eventually acquitted.
Since the murder of Majorie's mother, Marjorie has been in and out marriages and trouble with law.
- In 1951, she married Richard "Dick" LeRoy, an insurance executive and had seven children with him. Because of her lying and compulsive spending, he divorced her.
- In 1975, she married Richard Caldwell. Although Marjorie expected to get millions from her mother's estate, her children sued her for the right to the money stating that they could prove she conspired with Caldwell to kill her mother. She settiled out of court.
- While Caldwell was in prison, she befriended Wally Hagen and his wife. His wife mysteriously died after eating Marjorie's marmalade. Hagen's children claim Marjorie was the last person to feed their ailing mother before she died. However, she was never prosecuted for the death. She eventually married Hagen without divorcing Caldwell, and North Dakota filed bigamy charges against her.
- In 1985, she was given 21 months in the Shakopee's Women Prison for an arson conviction and insurance fraud when she tried to burn down her house in Mound, Minnesota.
- In 1990, after she and her husband moved to Ajo, Arizona, she was believed to set a fire an an Ajo storage yard for insurance fraud.
- In 1991, after she and her husband moved to Ajo, Arizona, she was accused of trying to burn her neighbor's home down. Before reporting to prison, she was allowed to go home and make arrangements for her 84-year old husband. However, the day after her conviction, he supposedly was found dead of a pill overdose, but authorities believe he was exposed to natural gas piped through a garden hose from the kitchen stove. Murder charges were filed but dropped for lack of evidence.
- On March 23, 2007, she was arrested at an assisted-living facility on charges of computer fraud and several other counts. Supposedly, she tried to cash a check for over $11,000 that belonged to a gentleman friend of her who had died and been cremated. She claimed she took the inheritance money from a joint account to pay debts and repay herself and the man's friend for money he had loaned from them. She was sentenced with three years of intensive probation and ordered to pay $10,000 to county for attorney fees.
In 1968, heirs of the Congdon family bequeathed the Glensheen mansion to the University of Minnesota on the condition that Elizabeth and her nurse could live in it until her death. After Elizabeth's murder, it costs the University approximately $40,000 per year to heat the home. To defray expenses in supporting the mansion, two years after the murders, on July 28, 1979, the University opened Glensheen as a museum. Since then, they have been giving public tours, and over 2 million people have visited.
A Haunted Mansion
Since the brutal murders, the mansion is supposedly haunted. There have been reports of black, shadowy figures walking across the basement, lights turning on and off, a piece of candy rolling back and forth on a dresser, and cold spots in the servant's staircase.
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