My Family’s Historical House on PBS!

My family’s historical house in Wisconsin is going to be part of a PBS special this week!  The house was built by my great-great grandfather Havilah Babcock, who was one of the four founders of the Kimberly-Clark Corporation.  He started out as a dry goods merchant and had an eye for fabrics, which translates out into what’s in the house.  No one in the family changed a thing.

This is a commercial from the special, which has other houses as well.  Only one clip of the interior of the house appears: It’s at the :19 mark.

The link to where the videos will be posted is here:

The cover for the DVD they are selling features the house.

Edited to add this interview about the documentary.  The photo at the top is in the house.  My uncle is to the left.  They’re in the dining room, and the blue curtains in the background are the sitting room.

The Otherworldly Family is Watching

When we hear about ghosts, the first image we get is a story told in front of the orange flames of a campfire against the dark, a barrier against the unknown that surrounds us.   I remember one of those stories being about the ghostly hitchhiker who vanishes after being picked up.   That story is an urban legend, but the ghost story I’m about to tell you really did happen.  To me.  And it wasn’t scary.

This post is part of the Absolute Write October Blog Chain, with “Otherworldly” as the theme.  At the end of the post is a list of the other contributors, so check in on their posts.

My own ghost starts with a house.  This one:

Front view of the Havilah Babcock House, a Queen Anne style house with a tower and carriage porch on the left side and a wrap around porch on the right.

It’s the house that was built by my great-great grandfather Havilah Babcock, one of the co-founders of the Kimberly-Clark company (the Kleenix guys).  He decorated the entire house to his personal taste.  It was so much his personal taste that after the house was inherited by two of his daughters, they were afraid to touch anything!

So it was left as it was, and eventually my grandparents inherited it.  Essentially, the family is living in a museum.   For pictures of the interior, check out the book Wisconsin’s Own.  But you if want a quick view, the cover of this catalog shows the library.

The house is the only one in the United States that is still occupied by the descendents of the original builder.

My grandfather died 18 years ago, and my grandmother Arva earlier this year.  After Arva died, my uncle reported ghostly activity.  Nothing scary — but clearly something “otherworldly.”  He thought it was Havilah’s wife, Frances Kimberly.  So, as part of the memorial service for Arva, we had a psychic come out to the house.  Not contact Arva, but just to see what was going on in the house.

The psychic was not told anything in advance.  In fact, she was completely shocked when she saw the outside of the house.  While we waited in the kitchen, she and my uncle wandered through the first floor.  In minutes, my uncle was back, telling us to hurry.  The psychic had contacted Havilah!

We rushed to the library.  The psychic described Havilah as being brilliant, almost brilliant to the point of autistic.  My father, who followed along the same route, was amazed at where it had come from.  The psychic reported that Havilah was pleased by the caretakers of the house — he dropped in periodically to make sure it was well cared for.   Then he was abruptly gone, which was, according to the psychic, the nature of spirits.

So we retreated back to the kitchen to wait, and then a few minutes later, they’re back.  This time, Arva had stopped in to visit.  If there were any doubts about the psychic, they were gone with this.  She knew one thing about Arva that no one would have said, would not have been posted anywhere, and yet was common knowledge:  Arva liked to talk.  The psychic was having some problems because it was “talk, talk, talk, talk.”  The psychic mentioned that Arva was not always well-treated because she was a little progressive for her time.   Arva also knew about two babies that had been born after she had died.

After that, I had to dash off to catch my plane at the airport.  They were four hours wandering around the house, and other spirits dropped in for a spell.  But Arva stayed present during that time and kept saying that we were not to sell the house.

Have you had any ghostly encounters?


Linda Adams – Soldier, Storyteller


Wisconsin Historical Markers, a blog featuring a photo of the house a month before the memorial service showing the roof being repaired.

Conrad Schmitt Studios shows off their restoration work of the stained glass windows inside the house.


Starting November 5, I will doing a month-long session on Forward Motion on “Basic Training of Military Culture.”  The lesson plan for the course is posted here.

Check out my article Balancing Writing and Blogging on Vision: A Resource for Writers.  It deals with the pesky issue of time management so that blogging doesn’t interfere with writing.

And for a little Halloween fun, a very short story about the House of Green Cats on IO9.


Absolute Write October Blog Chain:

Participants and posts:
Ralph Pines: (post link here)
randi.lee: (post link here)
Aranenvo: (post link here)
pyrosama: (post link here)
hilaryjacques: (post link here)
meowzbark: (post link here)
slcboston: (post link here)
areteus: (post link here)
dolores haze: (post link here)
SuzanneSeese: (post link here)
bmadsen: (post link here)
Linda Adams: Me
Alynza: (post link here)
Orion mk3: (post link here)
BBBurke: (post link here)
SRHowen: (post link here)
Damina Rucci: (post link here)
CJMichaels: (post link here)
wonderactivist: (post link here)
Lady Cat: (post link here)
xcomplex: (post link here)
debranneelliot: (post link here)

Ghostly Encounters of the Adams Kind

My uncle asked if we wanted a psychic at my grandmother’s memorial.  Apparently, there’s been an increase in paranormal activity in the house from one of the original occupants since my grandmother died.   My response?  “That’s a cool idea!”

Trust me — only an Adams would think of inviting a psychic at a memorial service.

A massive Queen Anne house with a single tower on the left and a stone porch that wraps around the front like a apron.
Seriously, does this look like a haunted house?

My only experience with a psychic was the con artist variety.  A friend who was in complete denial about a relationship she was in — married man who told her he was NOT going to leave his wife but still happy to have the affair — visited one and dragged me along.  The psychic so did not like me — I must have been radiating distrust vibes on her.  I knew my friend was being conned with the promises of getting “the house and white picket fence” by buying expensive candles and putting an egg in a sock.  She spent the money, still didn’t get the guy.

But the one coming to the service will be able to sense ghosties (yes, she is being vetted so we don’t get someone like the one above).  Most of my experience with ghosts is Scooby-Doo, but also I used to steal my mother’s Fate Magazine and read about spiritual encounters.  Those were always nice stories, the kind that are heartwarming or sad — no zombies wanting to snack rising from the graves.

But it’s different when you realize that the ghost is a relative.  The ghost is possibly my great-great grandmother, who lived in the house.  My grandmother also reported that she felt the presence of my great-great grandfather.  Nothing scary.  She described it as getting a sense that he was pleased the family still owned the house.

What the house is getting is an “intelligent  haunting.”  I didn’t know there were different types, so I had to look up what it meant.  It’s a ghost that wants to be noticed.  Angels & Ghosts says:

The disembodied person has elected for some reason to stay or maybe just visit the physical world, due to a connection with a person, place or thing.

The place is probably the house, since the family built it and is still living in it 125 years later.  When I was growing up and saw pictures of the house, I always thought it looked like it should be haunted, complete with the required thunderstorm above.

Have you ever had a ghostly encounter?  If someone said they were getting a psychic would you come see it or stay away?

Also drop by Connections Across Time for a history of the family house.