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Glensheen Mansion: Money, Madness, and Murder in Duluth

Updated on April 7, 2010

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.

Marjorie Congdon

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.

Marjorie Congdon

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.

Glensheen Mansion

Glensheen Mansion
Glensheen Mansion
Glensheen Mansion
Glensheen Mansion
Glensheen Fountain
Glensheen Fountain
Glensheen View of Lake Superior
Glensheen View of Lake Superior
Glensheen Bridge
Glensheen Bridge
Glensheen Bridge
Glensheen Bridge
Glensheen Carriage House
Glensheen Carriage House

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    • profile image

      Mandi 5 years ago

      Your wrong, yes it was majories fault and she was convicted for murder and assault but majorie

      is to blame for the murder she killed the nurse velma with a candlestick but the true stiry is majorie drugged up elizabith with a certain shot and as elizabith was slowly dieing she suffacated elizabith with a satan pillow and each yeah i went i seen the ghost of elizabith congdon looking through the window peeking through looking at lake superior but there has been someone or something rolling a piece of candy back and fourth ona table but some say elizabith died either from old age or a stroke. :D

    • profile image

      Anne 5 years ago

      I grew up in Ashland, Wi about 55 miles east of Duluth on Lake Superior and remember the trial pretty well. Glensheen is a beautiful home and well worth a visit.

    • nybride710 profile image

      Lisa Kroulik 6 years ago from Minnesota

      I have also written a hub on Glensheen (about a year ago) and it has always enjoyed a lot of traffic. What happens there still intrigues people to this day. I looked up to see who else had written about it and found your hub. You have a lot more information on Marjorie than I did - what a nut she was.

    • krosch profile image

      krosch 6 years ago

      A good read and a wonderful museum in my new home town of Duluth Mn. Thanks for putting out this hub with information on the museum and family prior to and after the murder. I had never read anything about the family post murder before.

    • profile image

      emmie 6 years ago

      really weird but lots of info

    • profile image

      Alexandra 7 years ago

      I worked at the Glensheen for 2 summers and firmly believe that it is NOT haunted.

      For those who claim that it is only want to believe so. I have been there at night, in the basement, etc, and absolutely nothing has happened that is out of the ordinary or couldn't be explained by the fact that the Glensheen is a very old home, and that it constantly needs to be repaired.

      However, I will say this: at the top of the staircase where the nurse was murdered, there's a spot on the wall about the size of a silver dollar. It is a blood mark; and it has distracted tourists so much during tours that it has been covered up with a dresser and a small statue, because whenever maintainence has tried covering the spot, it'll show through again.

    • seamist profile image
      Author

      seamist 7 years ago from Northern Minnesota

      Hi Ken

      I believe it. Those were some pretty callous, cold-hearted murders that took place there.

    • profile image

      ken 7 years ago

      I have heard from a former employee,(tour guide) that there was a rocking chair that moved all by itself with no breeze.

    • goldiekc profile image

      goldiekc 7 years ago

      My son just texted me a couple of days ago that he was visiting a haunted mansion, and it was Glensheen. I googled it to find out more about this interesting place and found fascinating stories, but yours was the most detailed and interesting! Thank you for writing about this historic mansion.

    • seamist profile image
      Author

      seamist 8 years ago from Northern Minnesota

      Hi Mary

      Yes, Glensheen does have quite a bit of history considering it's only been around since the early 1900s. In this case, mark it up to a troubled, money hungry heir. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • profile image

      MaryRenee 8 years ago

      great hub, Seamist :) Castles are always filled with tons of history, and crazy stories. so fascinating!

    • seamist profile image
      Author

      seamist 8 years ago from Northern Minnesota

      You're welcome. Thankyou for reading it. I am glad you enjoyed it.

    • awsydney profile image

      awsydney 8 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Great info, castles always had the eerie, mysterious and yet interesting aspects in my mind. Thanks for sharing.

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