October 19, 2021

Paranormal Activity in a Sears Westly

30120 Hennepin, Garden City, MI. Capture from Google Streetview.

Sears Westly.

Lester Buckner and family built this Sears Westly in Garden City, MI about 1930.

An old photo shows the original Westly wooden porch pillars on the house.

The house was featured on Paranormal Survivor season 1, episode 7.

In 1957, Lester's daughter, Patricia, moved into the Westly with her family. Patricia's daughter, Judy, was about five at the time of the move. Judy grew up in the house.

Around 1994, Judy and her children moved in with Patricia, and this is where the story begins. "It's a fabulous house," said Judy on the show. "But many skeletons live in that house."

Judy, as interviewed in Paranormal Survivor.

Judy and her family began observing unexplainable things happening in the house. The stereo would turn on for no reason. Dishes would rattle in the kitchen cabinets. The cabinet doors would fly open if Judy had just closed them. 

As time went on, the strange events occurred more frequently. 

Judy's son slept in the basement, and one night, Judy was walking down the basement steps so that she could say goodnight. On the way down, she turned around and there was a "dark image" behind her. She screamed and covered her face and it was gone.

Another night, Judy was sleeping in her bed when she heard rustling and felt somebody crawling up the bed. She initially thought it was a pet, but she felt around and nothing was there. Yet she could still feel the weight of the being.

Nobody believed her stories. Too bad this was in the days before security cameras.

Judy hired a paranormal investigator, in hopes of finding out what was going on. The investigator managed to capture a series of EVPs (electronic voice phenomena).

It was a man's voice that said "Call Beth."

Judy knew immediately who Beth was. Beth was her late brother Mike's former wife.

Mike and Beth were married in 1968, just before he left for Vietnam. Beth said that when he returned he was a different person. They divorced, and Mike died in April 1972.

Mike and Beth, as shown on Paranormal Survivor.

Investigators believe that the hauntings may have started when Judy moved into the house because Mike felt that he could better reach Judy and she could convey his message.

Beth, as interviewed on Paranormal Survivor.

Judy found Beth on Facebook, and told her about the message. Soon after, Beth went with Judy and the investigator to the house. Beth always felt guilty for not staying with Mike and felt that she violated her wedding vows by divorcing.

That night, Beth felt cold breezes as she walked through the house and a sense of "energy" in the room. Through her headphones, she heard Mike saying: "Beth, I love you." As Mike made contact, Beth felt a jolt of electricity go through her body.

Beth realized that Mike was not angry, and now she "could let go of the guilt she was carrying around". Today, Beth is finally at peace.

The Buckner descendants sold the house in 2018.

October 5, 2021

The Most Memorable Montgomery Ward Homes

Some kit house models are so generic and boring it makes it difficult to identify them out in the wild.

The Wellington from the 1929 Montgomery Ward homes catalog. No wonder nobody has ever identified one. There are thousands of houses that look like this. Scan courtesy of Daily Bungalow.

However, some of the Montgomery Ward models are unusual looking--unusual enough that if you ever came across one you would likely remember seeing it.

Here are five of the most distinctive Wards models. Have you seen any of these? Email me!

1. No. 136

Wards sold the No. 136 from 1911-1914. You can see the diamond muntin windows in the illustration, but did you notice instead of wood siding, there are logs?

The reason Wards recommends this house for customers who live by a lumber supply is because the logs were not included in the purchase price. The customer had to source those.

The No. 136 had an odd floor plan. Giant living room, six tiny bedrooms, one bath, and a library. You had to walk through the porch to access the kitchen.

2.  The Drexel
The Wardway Drexel was sold in 1930 and 1931. The model was likely named after the most exclusive of the Chicago south side boulevards, and there are several of these homes in the Chicago area. It appears that the front entrance does not match the rest of the house. Additionally, the house is oddly asymmetrical for the time.

524 E. Calhoun, Woodstock. This Drexel is authenticated and was built in 1930. Photo from Realtor site.

3. No. 177

No. 177 was sold only in 1914, and maybe you can see why. There are three dormers: one crammed in the bedroom above the porte-cochère, one with a sleeping porch, and a third thrown in next to the sleeping porch in the front. There is a lot going on here, and a No. 177 has never been located.

4. The Whitmore

The Wardway Whitmore was sold in 1930 and 1931. It has unique architectural details like the large pointed dormer, the deck above the garage, and half-timbering in various places. It appears that there is a decorative railing in front of the inset dormer.

There is only one Whitmore in Illinois at 304 S. McKinley Dr. in Belleville. Photo from Realtor site.

5. No. 165
No. 165 was sold from 1912 to 1914. It is a tall house with timbering! And tons of windows! And pillars! And giant chimneys! Wards called it Elizabethan architecture. This house has never been located.

I don't know why, but I think of this when I see the No. 165. Photo from Disney Parks

September 21, 2021

An Independent Builds a Sears House in Zion City

43346 N. Kenosha Rd., Zion. Photo from Realtor site.

Sears Columbine.

The pergolas are gone, and now the house has only four columns instead of six. Flanking the front door are two triple windows. 

This authenticated Sears Columbine was built in the summer of 1927. It is just steps from the Wisconsin border. Al and Olga Larsen purchased the house (with financing from Sears Roebuck) for $2,700.

In 1927, Zion City (as it was known then), was a religious utopia and planned community. Founded in 1902, the town had (and still has) biblical street names, such as Gilead, Elim, and Hebron. Zion City also had many interesting rules. The "overseer" of the theocracy in 1927, Wilbur Glenn Voliva, was a fan of billboards that broadcast those rules to the townspeople and passers-by.

Voliva instituted many rules in Zion City. I am on board with the "no oysters" mandate.

Overseer Voliva was also a flat-earther, even in an era when planes had travelled around the globe. 

Overseer Voliva and what I think of when I hear the word "overseer".

In 1926, Voliva started selling off land outside the corporate limits of Zion to the west. As the overseer, Voliva pocketed the proceeds himself. The Larsen property on Kenosha Road (then called Route 1) was one of the parcels that were sold to outsiders during that time.

The newcomers who moved onto these properties were part of the Independent faction of Zion, as opposed to the followers, the Zionites, who lived in the city proper. 

Over time, Zion City obtained democratic governance as the Independents gradually outnumbered the Zionites. 

The Larsens lived in the Sears Columbine until November 1942.

The church of the Zionites, now called the Christ Community Church, is still active today.