Friday, May 06, 2011

House-proud in Garden Grove


This photo of the Stearns mansion in Garden Grove was taken some years ago, when it had hit a rough spot and was endangered.

There's news out there about two of southern Iowa's finest National Register of Historic Places-listed homes, the Stearns mansion and the J.J. McClung house, both located in tiny Garden Grove. One has been beautifully restored and the other is for sale. For $92,500 the McClung house (below) can be yours.


This is a Realtor's photo of the McClung house, also located in Garden Grove and now on the market.

I surely do wish you could have seen Garden Grove the way it used to be, before economic decline grabbed one of southern Iowa's most house-proud little towns and slapped it around good and proper. It was quite a sight.

Brigham Young and that first party of Saints fleeing Nauvoo arrived here --- just across the Wayne County line into Decatur southwest of Humeston --- this time of year in 1846, on April 24. The Mormons named the place Garden Grove, built up a way station and before moving on to found Mount Pisgah, broke the prairie and planted hundreds of acres to feed those who came later.

Between 1846 and 1852, thousands of Mormon pioneers passed through and Garden Grove became a place of refuge for poor Saints, who could afford to go no farther without assistance. The old Mormon cemetery, where an unknown number are buried, is just west of town. You can read more about Mormon sites at Garden Grove by following this link to an earlier post, "A May evening at Garden Grove."

Permanent settlers began arriving in 1848, purchased the pre-emption claims of the Mormons and built the little town that survives in somewhat diminished form today with perhaps 200 residents. It is the home of Mormon Trail junior and senior high schools, but doesn't have a church --- or a store.

I don't know why Garden Grove's residents demonstrated such an interest in architecture --- too bad someone didn't try to figure that out about 50 years ago. But when I was a kid, driving down its long main street was a little like touring an illustrated architectureal guidebook --- Queen Anne and Romanesque, Second Empire and Colonial Revival, Prairie plain and Gothic Revival. Everything was there in one form or another from onion domes to two-story white pillars.

Much of that's gone now, but the Stearns and McClung houses, the grandest, remain --- Stearns just east of the school and McClung, at the east edge of the business block.


This was the Stearns house from the northwest during its endangered phase. It was built about 1895 by C.S. Stearns, Garden Grove banker, and his wife, Kate.

Restoration of the Stearns house, purchased during 2003 by a Florida couple, Jennifer and Richard Vecchio, has been a long and I would guess astonishingly expensive project. I do not have current photos, always thinking I would wait until the project was done, so the old ones will have to do for now. I"ll do better the next time I drive through.

The house was featured recently in a Corydon Times-Republican article, so that is the source of some of the information here.

Plain old observation, however, makes some of the work obvious. Because the kitchen was very small, a sympathetically designed addition to the south that mirrors the roof lines of the original house extended it and added a sun room. In addition, the porte cochere attached to the main entrance on the east but removed at some point has been restored. You can see its truncated version in the photo at the top.

The original slate roof was badly damaged and leaking seriously, so it was replaced --- but not with slate, now prohibitively expensive. Decorative ironwork that once crowned the house still is in the restoration process.


Here is the Stearns house from the southwest some years ago. As was the case in many old houses, the kitchen was among the smallest rooms and has been supplemented by an addition.

The only loss during restoration was the large carriage house to the south, which was barely standing by the time the Vecchios came along. It was taken down and replaced by a contemporary, but sympathetically designed, garage that does not block views from the new sun room, as the old carriage house would have done.


The Stearns carriage house, now demolished, was larger than many houses in Garden Grove when it was built.

The McClung house, built in 1908 by the James J. McClung family, remained in that family until it was purchased by what sales advertising describes as a group of "history buffs" who operated it as a sort of community center, hosting meetings, special gatherings and meals, even providing overnight accommodations. Garden Grove is just a little outside my territory, so I don't know who was involved or exactly how it worked, but now the building is for sale.


Included in the purchase price is the vintage service station next door, used most recently as a gift shop.and one-vehicle garage.

Here's a Realtor's description of the property: "If you want a unique home, this is for you! Home has a large open front porch with pillars to the second story. Very large 6 bedroom, 1 1/2 bath home with history and charm in every room. Many rooms have stenciling detail on wall and ceilings with several inoperable original gas lights that have electric light kits. The main front parlor has original grand mantel on its fireplace. Magnificent original woodwork and hardwood floors are throughout the home including a wide oak stairway that leads from the main floor reception area to the second floor large central hall. There is a stairway to the floored attic if you need more room. Next door is the Green Gables filling station, built in 1918 as cars were becoming part of our lives. This filling station has served as a gift shop and has garage space for 1 vehicle. Currently owned by a group of history buffs, the home provides the community with a place for meetings, special occasions, parties, meals and overnight accommodations."

The following series of Realtor photos gives some idea of the state of the interior, which appears to differ little from the way it would have looked when built.





Just in case you're interested, here's a link to the Prudential First Realty listing for the house. The slide show there includes several other photographs of it.

59 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello..
from early morning in Cornwall, England. I am from Iowa originally and my husband is British.
I have just been reading the great info on a couple houses in Garden Grove. My what it must have been in its day. Thanks for sharing the info .
We own a house in Des Moines, a lovely old one in the woods by Salisbury House. I am always looking for 'that house' or a good idea....I am an artist, college lectured and garden designer. The house that is for sale caught my eye in the property listings.
I'm from a Carroll County farm....and was just thinking what a beautiful fence and well -designed garden would do for that beautiful house.
I serve on the Historic Gardens Committee for Des Moines and love old houses and their gardens.

Hmmm....we are back in July. I think I will make a trip. Thanks again,
Marilyn

jjrice said...

These photos had to have been taken before we bought it in 2001. I do have better photos if youd like from when we started restoration in May 2001. Norman and I were the first to have the walking tour through our home later that year. The restoration actually started with us but due to my husbands transfer to Texas we had to stop long before we ever got into it. The roof was a huge issue even when we got into the home. To replace a slate roof was 60,000.00 per side and because the house was on the National Registry we were being told it had to stay original. It was a wonderful experience and I loved every minute of the time we had at Stearns Mansion. -Jennifer Rice
Owners from March 2001- November 2004

Jennifer Berkeley said...

Thank you for posting these pictures! My grandmother , Minnie Florence Evans Keller lived in a trailor in Garden Grove after her husband died - she had many other options , but chose to be independent as long as possible. I remember seeing these houses, which in the 60's were surely mansions at least in the eyes of a young child. I also remember old stores boarded up. I had always remembered the facades and interiors as highly carved wood. This memory Is a funny one, though sad, because at the end of my father's life, he was almost unable to speak due to Parkinson's. I was chattering about my family research , and mentioned my memory of the old stores. He didn't comment on anything for about 20 minutes, then six words- "cast
iron - Garden Grove, cast iron. I would love to see pictures of those stores! Jennifer Keller Berkeley

karen reed said...

ederI just seen this yellow house last week in GardenGrove it is so hard to say when see it . it has been restored and it is beautiful it was hard not to walk up and knock on the door and hope they would ask you in for tea . it is worth the trip to see it .

Anonymous said...

We just watched A Haunting tv shows that relates a story about this house and the terrifying situation of the rice family during their ownership. Was this all made up or real. The comment from Jennifer indicates that all was well.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to include the date Of the show. August 10 2014

Anonymous said...

WHY WOULD JENNIFER POST THAT SHE LOVED IT SO MUCH WHEN THE HAUNTING SHOW I WATCHED TONIGHT HAD THEM RUNNING IN TERROR? CONTRADICTING WHAT SHE SAID IN THE POST ON THIS PAGE. MAYBE SHE DIDNT WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT? KINDA SUSPECT BUT GREAT EPISODE!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the last person that posted a comment regarding the Rice family. I just watched the show "The Haunting" and the home owners appeared to be terrified of ghosts and an evil presence in the house. The only thing that Mrs. Rice seemed to be concerned about in her post was the cost of the new roof! I wonder what the truth really is. If this really happened to the Rice family, then I'm glad they got the heck out of there!

Destination America viewer

Josh Orris said...

My guess is that the show "A Haunting" is in large part made up. I can't seem to find anything anywhere that backs up their Haunting story along with Mrs. Rice's comment above stating all was well with the house.

berrytamie said...

JJRICE I'd like to know if the Stearns mansion was haunted because I just saw a haunting on Destination America...

Teri said...

I too watched The Haunting , and according to JJRice , she was terrorized by the house --Mrs Rice ? Care to clear the air for those of us that just watched and then read two different stories ?

Anonymous said...

I am also confused as I just watched The Haunting. Why, if the house was haunted by a demon, would they sell it to some unsuspecting family?

Dawn Tebbe said...

I'm watching "The Haunting" about this mansion ...as we speak. I can't help but think some of these shows are made up as well.

Anonymous said...

I saw the show "A Haunting" as well...there was not much on t.v. last night. Although I am not that narrow or closed minded to say that spirits or demons do not exist, I found it odd that J.J. Rice who previously owned the home posted what a great experience she had as the owner of the Stearns house after I saw the show purporting that she and her family were terrorized by the spirits in the home. On that note, she is now President of a paranormal group in Texas, charging guests for ghost hunts.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm oddly suspicious. Looks like Jjrice posted that long before she knew she'd have the opportunity to gain 5 minutes of fame. I can't find any evidence to support this episode. I live in Iowa and there is a house a town over from me that my grandma used to own and is truly haunted. There are numerous articles about it and several paranormal investigations have taken place there. Hard to believe that this is real without even one listing on any if Iowa's haunted lists. Even if you look up Garden Grove's haunted history it's all about local cemeteries.

Chris DiMattei said...

I just watched the TV show, and shut it off after just a few minutes. The house they showed in the TV show was not even the Stearns house that is still extant in Garden Grove. Any credibility they may have had based upon eyewitness accounts, went right out the window as soon as I saw a different house on the TV. Probably was just rumors gone viral, and then made into a TV episode, by those with a vivid imagination.
This house is far too important a historic home to be depicted in this way. Tiny Garden Grove is lucky to have her.

Deanne said...

I grew up in a haunted house in IL and it bothers me that someone would create a haunting experience just to line their pockets as it appears Ms. Rice has done. If the house were truly haunted, no one, in good conscience would sell it without disclosing that fact. I now believe the Rice family are con artists. Obviously, a "wonderful experience" doesn't send you packing in the middle of the night. Shame on you, Ms. Rice.

Anonymous said...

I just watched the show on the Stearn's / Rice home, maybe if they would have told this story while still in the house, they could have come up with the money to fix the roof!!! Be honest, was it really haunted? Enquiring mind's want to know....

Shari Thompson said...

Oh crikey, the Rice family's episode of A Haunting is on right now! As other commenters have noted, web and newspaper articles are able to be found to support most episodes of A Haunting. Yet there's not a single word anywhere about Stearns mansion being haunted.

Jennifer Rice comments that she "loved every minute" in that house. Yet in her episode, she's scared witless in the very same house. Talk about selling yourself and your own family to make a buck!

Destination America should scratch this episode from ever being shown again--it cheapens the whole series, and makes other episodes that are based on credible events seem suspect.

Anonymous said...

Yes it appears Mrs. Rice has turned her Haunting into quite an endeavor. Her bio states on her web page that Mrs.Rice has had a "lifelong fascination with the paranormal". How does the saying go?.....you see an opportunity you will take it.

Anonymous said...

I just saw the episode. She is shown running for her life with her son at the end of the show yet jj rice states here that the reason they never finished restoration was because her husband got transferred to Texas. What a bunch of crap. Destination America owes us all an apology! This reminds me of another famous haunted house in Amityville,NY. Made into a movie called The Amityville Horror. That was a bunch of BS too.

Steve Kasian said...

People, why are you all so shocked and dismayed at the revelation that the A Haunting episode was a load of crap? You are undoubtedly the same people who watch Ghost Hunters and other "reality" television shows and think that they are real.

Shari Thompson writes, "Destination America should scratch this episode from ever being shown again--it cheapens the whole series, and makes other episodes that are based on credible events seem suspect."

Aah DUUHHH!! Seriously?? Other episodes that are based on credible events? You truly are brain dead, aren't you? You are the same fool who voted for Obama 2 times in a row and are now upset that he didn't do anything he promised he would do. lol You are hopeless.

Anonymous said...

Steve is a funny guy....he obviously saw the show and was compelled to search out the claim which brought him to this blog. Too funny!

Anonymous said...

I just watched A Haunting ...about this house n the rice family....IAlthough the house was suppose to be scary I find it to be beautiful and intriguing
....

Anonymous said...

I grew up next door to this house in Garden Grove. When we were young we would go in to look around quite a bit. It was fun and we never saw a ghost or anything scary. We were always searching for a secret tunnel, sure that it was there somewhere. It wasn't. A beautiful home that brings back wonderful memories of growing up in Garden Grove. I can remember when I was very young there being 2 restaurants and 2 grocery stores. The library was my favorite place. It is sad to go back now when there are so many houses gone and no businesses.

Anonymous said...

I just watched A Haunting, and now I am sickened to see this comment. So apparantly, this lady and her family decided to say this house was haunted, and make up a whole story on it, years after they moved out? All because she started some paranormal group and got interested in the paranormal? I think someone needs to call her on this, and make her explain! She posted on this page that she enjoyed every minute in the house, but of course, that was before she was on The Haunting. Ms. Rice, if you see this page, explain yourself! You and your family were not very believable anyway! Most people don't see full on apparitions. I hope no one is stupid enough to hire your paranormal group to do any investigations! You are probably one of those who make fake EVPs and such! You are the type of con artist that give REAL paranormal researchers a bad name! You make me sick!

Anonymous said...

Awwww come on! it was totally beleivable when her and hubby lifted 2 feet off the bed and hovered! i didnt laugh my ass off at all!!!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the Rice's simply didn't want to tell anyone that the house was haunted until they sold it. Saying such a thing could easily make the value of the property plummet. Whether dishonest or not, they weren't told about the house when they bought it, either. And of course, did not know whether it was the house, or them that was haunted. That said, please remember that all these ghost tv shows are created for entertainment purposes, and it's not much of a stretch to say that virtually all of the tales they spin, while perhaps having at least one episode of paranormal activity in reality, are all augmented with lots of fiction to make it a good, scary show to watch. Which is why all of this stuff shows up so much on tv at Halloween time every year. Unfortunately, despite all the cameras available, we still don't have certifiable documentation of any ghosts. Virtually all the ghost hunter groups fail to follow scientific procedures necessary to get well documented evidence, I suppose, because for them it's more fun to pretend that any odd occurance they experiencs is a real ghost. It's really about time these groups started seeking a scientist to work with them to assist in obtaining irrefutable proof of what they always say that they see.

Anonymous said...

It looks like "jjrice" seems to be a fake account, probably made by someone who watched the show or something.

Anonymous said...

The blog post was written in May of 2011. The jjrice profile was created in October of 2011. Why would someone create a fake account 3 yrs before A Haunting ran this episode? That makes no sense logically to me. Why would someone anticipate the flood of comments sure to come after the airing of the program, prompting viewers to do a quick google search on this place- thus landing themselves here with a planted fake comment by the woman who claims it was haunted? Why go to all that trouble...on top of which there are 2 other comments after hers that have nothing to do w/the A Haunting episode.
Seems to me that this comment left by jjrice was made in October 2011, probably the same day the account was created and the account was created solely to comment on a home she once owned. Period. Not as some elaborate set up conspiracy to discredit her 3 yrs prior to the show being taped and aired. Spare me. People are so creative. Face it, great ghost story or not, Mrs. Rice lied her backside off about this "haunting" to capitalize on her name FOR her paranormal group- to boost interest in hiring her group PERIOD. That and of course breaking into the paranormal world- one must have experience. What better way to have that than to make up some fantastic story about a dilapidated old house one used to own....the set up is convenient for them. They lived in a run down mansion that needed work, it LOOKS creepy enough in the before restoration photos. then conveniently her husband is moved to Texas, making her clam of being in the home short lived legitimate. She worked her ghost story to fit the actual facts so that it seemed more creditable if someone did some digging into their time in the home etc. What she didn't do, what she screwed up on was forgetting ta she'd left this comment on this blog about THAT house.
BUSTED 101 lady.

Stop trying to makeup reasons why she wouldn't be screaming about the haunted house after having SOLD it when she made that comment. She made that comment because it's the truth, and the TV crap is a gag to get more people interested in paying her MONEY to do ghost hunts. period. Great marketing, just this slight hiccup. lol. wow. She almost got away with it.

Anonymous said...

If you really watch "A Haunting" about 25% of the episode is actual eye witness accounts, while the rest is narration , actors and special effects. Also most tv shows you think are genuine and realistic are scripted, written and edited. The Rices' may not have realised what "Hollywood" was doing to thier little hometown ghost story.

Anonymous said...

I really wish she would answer to this. .....

Anonymous said...

http://www.texpartparanormal.com/ This is an extract from Ms. Rice's paranormal group.

"TEXPART was founded in Texas 2005. Founder JJ Rice has been an paranormal researcher since late 1997 and active in the paranormal field since the 1980s. JJ and many other Texpart team members have had experiences that could not be debunked or simply explained. After spending 4 years in a home in Iowa that provided many unexplainable paranormal and sometimes very frightening experiences, JJ joined a paranormal research group in Iowa, Des Moines Iowa Paranormal Advanced Research Team (DIEPART). After moving to Texas and only after DIEPART's approval, the DIEPART (Iowa Ghost Hunters) sister group- Texas Paranormal Advanced Research Team or "TEXPART" -was created."

Anonymous said...

StLouis ... has anyone ever visited the Sterns mansion and did some research...love to hear from you.

Anonymous said...

You dunder heads, more than likely some of the stories A Haunting show are fiction and just for entertainment. Don't ask for an apology =\ you seem not so smart to get mad and ask for such a thing.

Karen Storm said...

I can clear up a lot of things about this house as my husband Stephen and I sold the house to the Rices. We purchased the "mansion" in 1997 and sold the house in 2001. Ms Rice was not the first person to start the renovation nor was she the first to have "tours". People went thru this house constantly as we were repairing it. the house was owned by the Buchanans. It was then owned by Mike Gwinn and we purchased it from him. We invested tens of thousands of dollars in this home, repairing the foundation (done by Bryan Boyce). Replacing the front surround porch (completed by a Mennonite), securing the roof. There were raccoons residing in the house when we took possession. We never lived in the house. At the time we lived in Des Moines. We filled up two 40 foot containers full of garbage just to get to the point to see where we were. The place was a huge mess. In all the time we owned it I never once had a haunting experience. Only that occasionally the grand piano keys would rattle whenever a semi would drive down main street. The reason we sold was because we just couldn't see ourselves living in Garden Grove and the expense of bringing this house back to liveable condition was more than we were willing to invest. But we prevented it from going into further deterioration and stabilized the structure. My husband is an architect. We moved to North Carolina. Many people asked us if it was haunted. It is a nice story, I suppose, but I never found it to be true. You could psych yourself out to believe it is true if you went upstairs in the master and the round room. My understanding is that the house is now in possession of a couple from California who did a FABULOUS job of restoring it with a new roof, modern kitchen, modern bathrooms ( we visited in 2006)They darn near gutted the entire inside, but leaving the great architectural details and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars. I will post some photos when I get a chance on the facebook page "Stearns Mansion" It is not my page, but maybe the new occupants would enjoy seeing this house in its prior condition with a collapsed porch, crumbling foundation and a roof you could see thru, etc. BTW the roof cost was $80k if it was redone with the original SLATE, which was required if you wanted to secure a grant from the National Historic Society.. The new owners put regular architectural shingles. If anyone has any questions, I will check back here.

Karen Storm said...

I want to make a correction to my earlier post. It is actually a Florida couple, the Vecchio's, that now own the house and did the full restoration. Our realtor, Betty Hanson from Iowa realty, told us that they were still living at the house when we spoke with her in about 2013. I I can't imagine them living there for approximately 10 years if the place was haunted.lol. Maybe they will find their way to this webpage and give us all an update.

Anonymous said...

I would direct everyone who can do actual historical research to the iagen website. It contains the history of the house and C.S Stearns.

Tommyboy said...

I have seen the Haunting episode a couple times now because I am from Iowa and it caught my eye, I haven't done any research on the claims of this episode but I saw another episode that was about a Iowa town I can't remember the name of right now but they said there was a giant fertilizer plant explosion that killed a lot of people, I remember looking and looking for a newspaper article about it and found nothing !I believe it was suppose to have happened in the 50's so it wasn't like it was ancient history, I will have to look up the episode for the town name but it wasn't far from Des Moines. So it's not above these people to make things up.

Anonymous said...

I watched the show last night, and I thought it was very entertaining...well done, and well directed whether it was true or not. It was the next best thing to telling ghost stories around a campfire at night. NOW, if there is a chamber or commerce in Garden Grove, they should capitalize on the event and encourage tourists to stop by and tour the house. They could give a prize to whomever could snap a photo of a ghost there. I hope the city will take advantage of the opportunity. Keep these show coming, okay?

Anonymous said...

Now that next year's presidential primary elections are heating up and certain candidates are visiting Iowa, it could be that the ugly creature observed in the "A Haunting" episode last night might have been Hillary Clinton's alter ego!!!

Tommyboy said...

I do enjoy the shows, very entertaining I don't care if you make up stories about ghost but when you make up false history about a house or town that's not right.

Tommyboy said...

I like things like this to not see politics but it never fails that someone will drag them in. Not a Hillary fan but there are 1000's of political discussions you get in on , elsewhere. I hope I don't sound like a jerk saying that :)

Anonymous said...

I think the real shame is that the Rice's slandered Mr. Sterns reputation with the murdering his maid story. Poor guy can't even defend himself. Shame on you Jennifer Rice.

Anonymous said...

I trick-or-treated the individuals who lived in the Stearns Mansion during the early 1970's. My great aunt and uncle lived just 2 houses down from it and my grandmother and grandfather lived 4 houses down from it. There was never any mention of it being haunted. It is probably just a made up story to entice interest or visitors. What a lovely place to grow up though. So sad that the town has gone downhill. :(

Andrew said...

While I do find A Haunting to be a very good and credible show, it's clear that little fact-checking was done in preparation for this episode. In the program, Ms. Rice claims that she's not a believer in the paranormal, that you have to show her to make her believe. Meanwhile, she says on her website that she has a lifelong interest in the paranormal. It would also appear that Mrs. Rice posted three years after her program aired, never thinking that either they would run her story or believe in it. Either way, her story is a fake.

Andrew said...

Also, Mrs. Rice claims a nameless, anonymous woman came by during a house opening claiming that her great uncle built that house, that he was the ghost that the boy was seeing, etc etc etc. Such an important event, and she doesn't think to identify her or get her name??? Is Mrs. Rice kidding or what??

Human said...

I'm so confused. I thought the Vecchios (Jennifer and Richard) bought the mansion and their story was told on the show. How 8s Jennifer Rice and how do you guys know it's not a fake account.

Human said...

*who is Jennifer Rice (sorry typo error)

Human said...

I honestly can't believe most of you believe someone on the internet claiming she lived in the house and is the real (or calls herself) "jjrice". This saddens me.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in GG and someone in another comment wrote that GG Chamber of Commerce should take advantage of the Stearns Mansion being haunted and offer tours and charge people....HA !! That's a joke.GG has 200 people in it !! And that's pushing it. Im pretty sure the is no Chamner of Commerce in good old Garden Grove ...lol...ALSO...if he rad the comments at all..he would know that REAL PEOPLE live in the house !! I don't think they would appreciate tours of strangers going through their home.One more thing,when we were kids,we went to school with anoyher kid that lived in the house briefly with his mom and although we thought it was spooky,we never ever heard from him or anyone else that it was haunted.

Anonymous said...

Here is the obituary of the banker featured in the episode of "A Haunting". It's sad that he was portrayed as a cheating murder because the obituary only says wonderful things about him. It's not just a haunted house that was portrayed on that episode, it was someone's name and character.

http://iagenweb.org/boards/decatur/obituaries/index.cgi?read=12986

Anonymous said...

I'm good friends with the current owners of the Stearns Mansion, and while the Vecchio's have certainly heard of the "A Haunted" episode, when I asked them if they'd experienced anything paranormal while in the building they replied, "No!" To their credit, they took a building that was close to having to be demolished because of its poor condition and put a lot of time, money and their own effort into restoring it to its former grand stature. It's now an incredible home, and a wonderful piece of architectural, Iowa and Garden Grove history. While the television program might be titillating, I would encourage readers to not lose sight of the subject of the post: the continued existence of these two wonderful stately homes in this small southern Iowa community.

Anonymous said...

Quick update ... as of Feb 2016 the Vecchio's are still living in the Stearn's Mansion, and are enjoying their time in their beautiful home.

Anonymous said...

I'm totally un-biased about this story about the haunting, I stumbled upon it by chance... But I do have to say that just because there have been people living in the house before, and after, who had no problems, it doesn't mean the house wasn't haunted. My mother and her family lived in a ridiculously haunted house - demonic shadows looming in the hallways, plates literally lifting up off the counter and smashing onto the floor, hangers rattling violently in the closets, and I myself was a very young child in the house and I constantly saw what I described at the time as monsters. Anyhow, my grandmother was finally able to sell the house - she told the new buyers about the activity, but they didn't seem to care. Several years later, my grandmother contacted them to ask if they had experienced anything, and they said nothing happened at all. According to them, it would be ridiculous to suggest the house was haunted as it was totally neutral now. I'm just saying, sometimes specific people and their 'energy' can bring activity forward that lays dormant for other people. In my own family, they had messed with Ouija boards, and read tarot cards and tea leaves (all incredibly stupid things to do). I became really interested in the property when I grew up, and I researched the town and (not to sound like a silly cliche) the house was actually built on an Indian burial ground.

jjrice said...

I am sorry I didnt see the responses to my post sooner. So let me clear a few things up. My family LOVED the Stearns mansion. We were the first people to live there in over 20 years when we moved in. When we bought it there was no heat, no air and no working baths. The home had been stripped of its most of its original content including its stained glass windows: it had many boarded up windows and the parquet floors had dirt, mud and ground in grime embedded in them. Buying a home in that condition is quite the task. We had to take it one project at a time basically. We had Baker electric run new wiring throughout the home before we could move in. We hired a local man to enclose the broken down back porch and make it a full bath to use while we worked in the upper bathroom. The money for the repairs to the home were based on stocks my husband held in his job in Arizona and when that company sold out we lost out on a ton of money. Of course that made a lot of the work we wanted to do very prohibative. Unfortunately the man that was hired to put in the bath, the air and the heat took the money we gave him to buy materials and while he did finish the first floor bath, he took off with the money we advanced him for the air and geothermal heat. We spent the time we were there with no air and heat because of this. So YES the costs to fix the home were definately one of the reasons we sold the home. However, there are a few people in the area that know that the other reason for selling the home was that it had worn us out. In the end, my son and I had to spend time staying with a friend just to get decent sleep. Having a haunted home is not something you like to tell everyone living in a very small town. The only reason I agreed to do the segment on The Haunting was in hope of preventing others from running away from the home they loved. In fact it took me 10 years to actually open up and talk about it. PLEASE NOTE: We made no money from the TV show. None in any way; not then or now! I was just hoping to help others. Unfortunately as TV shows tend to go ( I found out after the fact) it did not work out that way. They told the story that would boost their ratings NOT the facts as given.
Part 1

jjrice said...

Part Two
I specifically told the producers not to mention the name of the mansion so we wouldnt bring any unnecessary attention to the Vecchios. But they did it anyway. I have two daughters, a son, a godson, a mother as well as my husband and myself but the TV show only included my son, husband and I. They totally never mentioned anyone else. TV shows want things that will sell & boost their ratings and attract viewers. Instead of telling people what I told them I thought the reason for the activity was, they promoted a horrible story about the Stearns. That broke my heart!! I had come to know the Stearns. I corresponded with their Great Niece Cora. They were like my family and the producers cut and clipped until they were able to weave a scary story that only attracted viewers and made Mr. Stearns monsters. They even portrayed the niece terribly. She was the sweetest little lady!The base of the story was true. We did have a haunting, we did have something awful that appeared to my son, daughter and myself. But it wasnt anything to do with Mr. Stearns. There was a lot of stress in my family that last year in the home. My husband lost his job in the acquisition, he lost the money that we were going to put into the home because the stocks in the company took such a big hit and he had to come back to a home that was unfinished with no hope of being able to finish it. I told the producers that I felt that home had some residual spirits, and that the worst of the haunting stemmed from the stress and anxiety in the family. My husband changed. He grew angry and dark. He lost several jobs after he moved home because he was so nasty. Nothing good can come of an environment like this.
See Part Three due to character limit

jjrice said...

Part Three
SO yes the mansion was haunted. We actually saw the 1/2 body apparition of Mr. Stearns as he came up the main stairway and then disappeared. We often heard heavy footsteps come up the stairway. Friends staying in the maids room would get woken up by a banging on the door and someone telling them to get up. Many of the workers said that they heard doors slamming upstairs and someone calling their name. And the man on the ladder that kept losing the tools and had the ladder shaken wasnt Claude (the man that put in the bath) but, Mike, an employee of Baker Electric. The demon we saw come out of my bedroom....the things that swooped down on us or stood at the foot of our bed....I have NO explanation for other than stress induced. A figment caused by stress or a negative environment maybe. BUT NOT the Stearns...they were wonderful people! The Stearns educated their servants daughter and offered her college. They contributed the money from their winning race horse- Lady Amber- to make a hotel for the town (the Lady Amber Inn). They held a yearly charity ball and active in the community until they died. The statements about the "affair" were clipped and cut into place. The producers asked us why we thought the home was haunted. We all said we didnt really know. My son said that the kids had told him of the rumor but added that it was just something that he figured they told a kid to scare him. I told them the Stearns were good people and that the only rumor I had heard was of the truck driver that lived there in the 80s whose wife disappeared and that people laughingly said they figured he had buried her in the basement (more likely she got tired of his being gone and just left) but that was clipped to just "and he buried her in the basement. Many things happened while we were there. Some things could be loosely explained while others I can only guess. There is no exact science for this sort of thing. But I can say that everytime I look at the Mansion-despite all that happened- I still miss living there. But I think we were a stepping stone. We bought from a man who did nothing with it. We bought and did at least make it liveable and then we sold to the folks that own it now. The home is glorious now. Instead of the sad mustard yellow and brown, boarded up home it was when we bought it- its now the thing of beauty it was meant to be. It was worth any and all heartache we may have endured for it. You can choose to believe the home was haunted or not but keep in mind that you didnt have to go through it. By the time we sold it in 2004 we were just tired and nearly broke. We didnt talk about it much after that. We still dont talk about it much. But I do hope that our story-even the mess that it is- can help others not feel so crazy and maybe they wont have to sell their home to get some peace.

Anonymous said...

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