Spring Green, Wisconsin

Frank Lloyd Wright is remembered today as one of America's greatest architects from his creation of the "Prairie" design to his brilliant homes that were decades ahead of their time. Wright was lauded by social and critical speakers as one of the visionaries of architecture. His designs spanned states and regions but by around 1909, he claimed to be tired and said that he lacked interest in his work. Wright had achieved many successes in his life and the events of 1909, and the next five years, would be instrumental to his regaining his vision and continuing his spite of, or perhaps because of, the tragedies that took place.

Wright was undergoing great mental strain in 1909 when he and his wife separated amidst much scandal. Wright abruptly left his wife and family, and his business, and sailed for Europe with the wife of one of his clients, Mrs. Edwin Cheney. The scandal eventually reached the public and when Wright returned from Europe, he found himself socially and professionally shunned in Chicago. He re-established his practice in Spring Green, Wisconsin in his summer home and retreat, a place he called "Taliesin".
Mrs. Cheney moved into the house in 1911 (while it was still under construction) and while her children visited her often, her ex-husband, Edwin Cheney, retained primary custody of them. The children were visiting their mother at Taliesin in August 1914 when disaster struck.The resulting tragedy would claim the lives of Wright's loved ones and also destroy many of his important documents and the records of his early work.

Mamah Borthwick Cheney was said to be a very headstrong woman and often fired servants and staff members for slight offenses that often seemed minor later on. This is what occurred one day in 1914. Mrs. Cheney fired one of the servants, a man from Barbados, and he returned to the house with a vengeance. He came into the house and poured gasoline around two dining rooms where Mrs. Cheney, her children and some guests were having lunch. He set the rooms on fire and then ran in with a hatchet and killed seven of the nine people present, including Mrs. Cheney.

Firefighters took the dying and badly burned victims to a cottage on the property called Tan-Y-Deri. It is in and around this cottage where the ghost of Mrs. Cheney has been reported over the years. She is usually dressed in an long, white gown and while she is a peaceful presence, she is obviously restless and lost. It is also said that doors and windows open and close by themselves within the cottage and light sometimes turn on and off. Witnesses say that they sometimes close the place for the night, only to return the following day to find everything wide open. The events of the past have truly marked the house as a haunted place that will be forever linked to a tragedy of long ago.

Taliesin is one of the most visited Frank Lloyd Wright homes in the country and joins the Dana House in Springfield as one of the few which are linked to ghostly activity. The house is located in Spring Green, Wisconsin, which is about thirty miles west of Madison. Taliesin rests about two miles south of town.

Copyright 2001 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.
Special Thanks to Mary Keiran Murphy for additional information.

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