Haunted Folklore: Crystal Lake’s Dole Mansion is like ‘a train station’ of spirits

Many people said to have seen a woman standing in the window of the mansion

The Dole Mansion, 401 Country Club Road in Crystal Lake, in the moonlight before the start of one of Loren Purcell’s paranormal tours in the mansion. Purcell takes guests through the original building's three floors and offers historical anecdotes through the lens of spirit visitations while guests use pendulum crystals and dowsing rods as part of the tours for experiencing the visitations.

Editor’s note: Whether or not you believe in ghosts and hauntings, this is one of several spooky tales of local lore that Shaw Local News Network will be sharing with readers in the spirit of Halloween.

The Dole Mansion has seen many lives throughout its more than 150 years of existence, including being a home to ice harvesting companies, a country club and a Catholic school.

Psychic medium Loren Purcell describes the mansion as having multiple layers of spirits and energies.

“It’s kind of like a train station,” she said. “There’s a lot of layers because of all the different lifetimes that the mansion had.”

Last year, Purcell hosted spiritual tours at the mansion, 401 Country Club Road, by guiding guests with swinging pendulums. Every tour was different since the variety of spirits would be connected to attendees based on similar ages, life experiences or culture, she said.

Purcell does paranormal explorations, spirit sessions and seances that she said are not as scary as they sound. She describes her work as “warm and fuzzy” since she helps people connect with deceased loved ones.

One common spirit attendees would see at Dole Mansion presumably is its original owner, Julia Dole. Her bedroom looks out onto the lake, and attendees have looked out the window and said, “Oh, that’s where I saw the lady standing in the window,” Purcell said.

“This happened more than once. They would see this shadow of a woman looking out the window while they were out on the street.”

Attendees’ deceased friends and relatives also join the tours, Purcell said. The pendulums usually start to move in a way only when someone who recently died is around.

“Weird things happen. Dead will try to interact, and it’s really cool,” she said.

Other paranormal sightings include orbs in photographs, visions of a girl in a Victorian-era dress and a shadowy figure of a man in a hat, Purcell said.

Although paranormal tours are not currently available at the Dole Mansion, Purcell will host guided tours this year at the Starline Factory in Harvard and the Oakland Cemetery in Woodstock.

Purcell said she feels she has been guided by the spirit of Eliza “Lou” Ringling, a previous owner, throughout her life.

“Every decision I made, it seemed to be because her energy was somewhere.”

Charles Dole acquired about 1,000 acres along Crystal Lake and completed the construction of the mansion about 1865, Crystal Lake Historical Society President Diana Kenney said.

Ringling made the mansion into a country club and built an addition to the property in 1926, Kenney said.

“The mansion was built to impress and it was a symbol of what his success was,” Kenney said.

The mansion’s design is Italian Baroque inspired and filled with marble fireplaces, black walnut woodwork and bay windows. It was estimated to cost about $100,000 to build during that time, she said.

After decades of being home to two churches, the Lakeside Legacy Foundation bought the property in the early 2000s, Kenney said. Now, the Lakeside Legacy’s goal is to preserve the history of the mansion while providing a home for arts to thrive.

“There was a big community swell to purchase the property and keep the mansion safe,” she said. “Crystal Lake should be very proud of what they did.”