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The mystery of the Foote brothers' mirrored mansion that became a haunted house
The mystery of the Foote brothers' mirrored mansion that became a haunted house

Not far from the small rural farming town of Wisconsin lie the ruins of a grandiose mansion. This once luxurious home always looked out of place among fields and squalid barns. For many years, the abandoned mansion was surrounded by an atmosphere of mystery and a certain mysticism. Its history is overgrown with legends telling about secret staircases and underground tunnels. Locals say that during Prohibition, Al Capone himself used it as a hiding place. What tragedy befell the owners, turning the dream house into ruins, where only ghosts live?

Mirror house

Dilapidated Feet mansion, circa 1992

This mansion, built in 1852, practically in the middle of nowhere, was a curiosity in itself. So everyone would have thought even before he saw his owners. The fact is that such an unusual Victorian mirror house was built by the identical twin brothers Argal and August Foote. They were so inseparable in life that they even married women with the same initials and had a double wedding. August and Anna, Argalus and Adelia.

The only known portrait of Argal and August Foote

After their marriage, the Foote twins set about building a dream home in which each family would live their own lives in a parallel half of the mansion. The idea was so remarkable that the mansion was nicknamed "Foote's Madness." The house was built in two separate parts, each of which was the perfect mirror of the other, inside and out. Entering through the front door, one could find two kitchens, four living rooms, two dining rooms and nearly a dozen bedrooms that mimicked each other. But soon tragedy struck the house, leaving it in ruins.

A drawing of what Feet's mansion looked like before it began to collapse

The history of the mysterious Feet mansion

Today, Eureka, Wisconsin is home to just over two hundred people. There are three bars and a church. When August Ira Foote and Argal Isaac Foote left Massachusetts in the early 1850s to build a new home, the city was not much smaller. Wisconsin itself was a state for only a few years and was mostly a desert. But Eureka looked like a promising sawmill city, from where steamers could deliver lumber along the Fox River to the nearby thriving city of Oshkosh.

The few houses already built in Eureka were modest, with many settlers living in simple log cabins. But Futs decided to build something much grander - a huge Italian-style mansion painted cream green. It had four-meter ceilings and three-meter windows. The house was crowned with a glass dome, from where the twin brothers could survey their fields.

Photo of Feet's mansion, circa 1900

“The people here love to talk about the unusual arrangement with the Foote brothers, their marriages, their mansion and why it all happened in the tiny village of Eureka,” explains local historian and writer Randy Domer. “In life, the twins were inseparable. They shared their income, their home and their businesses equally."

At first, the Foote brothers thrived in Eureka. They bought all the plots around their grandiose mansion until they had the largest farm in the area. “They didn't even think that Eureka would never turn into a prosperous city over time,” explains Domer. By 1855, Argal and Adelia Foote had three sons. August and Anna were expecting their first son for Christmas. But on December 19 something terrible happened.Anna died in childbirth, and a few months later their newborn daughter died. August was inconsolable. He was unbearably tormented by grief, which aggravated everything around him. Everything around me reminded of unfulfilled dreams of a happy life broken by tragedy.

He could no longer live in the mansion and only talked about leaving. The Foote brothers lived in their unusual house for several more years, until they moved to Oshkosh. There they opened the Foote Brothers Milling Company. However, the business failed and Feet lost most of their money. The old mansion began to pass from hand to hand through a series of owners, but gradually fell into desolation and decline. It got to the point that he was thrown, boarded up the windows and left to fall apart. Foote's Madness began to look the same.

The dilapidated interior of Feet's mansion. Shown here is what was once the central hall of the house

Revival of the mansion

The photographs from the 1940s already show the missing windows and the incipient destruction. The Foote mansion could have been forgotten altogether if not for the work of one man who worked tirelessly to save the house. He gave lectures, collected archival photographs, drew up detailed architectural plans for its unusual layout, and wrote many articles.

Remains of the western living room of Ft's mansion

“I grew up a few kilometers from Feet's house in Eureka. I often walked here and looked at the unusual mansion,”explains local historian and writer Dan Butkevich. “When I went to kindergarten, I became friends with a boy whose grandparents still lived nearby. It was 1975. " Over the years, Butkevich often visited the mysterious house, took pictures, went inside and worked on detailed drawings. “One night I was told stories about gangsters, secret staircases and tunnels. To be honest, it seemed incredible. Nevertheless, this led me to the local library, where they brought me a collection of articles on this subject, full of clippings from old newspapers. I read the story of the brothers and their destroyed dream house with corresponding photos, and for a while I calmed down."

Staircase in the main hall

Over the years, the condition of the house only worsened. “Flying wallpaper, half-broken stucco moldings, huge empty rooms, where footsteps echoed with a booming ominous echo … The house looked like old antiques. Everything that was in it crumbled and fell apart. Remnants of chandeliers hung from medallions on the plaster ceiling … Still, the mansion could have been saved. When the roof leaked, water began to seep inside, and I, a young man with little money, wanted to see if I could change his fate."

The mansion is in decline

At the time, Feet's mansion and farmland belonged to the descendants of Mr. Bon, who bought the property in 1934 for $ 6,000 in tax evasion. “Like many others,” Butkevich explains, “I went to talk to the owners just to hear what they were saying to everyone:“This is a working farm and we don't want to be disturbed here. You can take pictures before the house collapses."

Butkevich hatched plans to save the house, from putting it on the National Register of Places to rebuilding it as a hotel. The current owners have rejected them all. He had heard sad stories of workers who removed luxurious furniture and decorative wooden railings to use to light a fire. The bedrooms were used as chicken coops and rabbitries.

Expensive furniture was used as firewood

House with the ghosts

The unusual story of the twin brothers Foote inspired Butkevich to write a novel, which takes place in an unusual mansion. He called his brainchild "Echoes of the Past". The young man described the place in the book like this: “Outside the sleepy village of Eureka, Wisconsin, there is a place of intrigue or mystery. A place forgotten by time, because the days of its splendor are long gone. Although the huge old house is nothing more than a ghostly shell, it is riddled with rumors of a bright past."

It's hard to believe that he was once like this

Eventually, Feet's mansion was hidden more and more behind the trees and underbrush.The strange Victorian house stood off the road, forgotten by everyone, shrouded in an eerie and abandoned atmosphere, reflecting the sad story unfolding within it. In the mid-1930s, the "haunted mansion" hosted Halloween tours.

“Once I was chatting with someone who used to live in a working trailer on the farm,” Butkevich says. “He told me that he really liked going in there at night, pulling up a chair and listening to the mysterious noises in the house. For example, steps on the second floor. The man said he always greeted ghosts. My wife and I were there in 2010, and we heard steps upstairs."

Now only ghosts live there

Previously, the remains of moonshine were found on the territory of the mansion, which fueled local rumors about Al Capone's midnight visits during Prohibition. “It is true that mafia members like Capone and Dillinger have indeed been spotted in the area,” explains Randy Domer. Although there is a secret tunnel under the unusual house. “Of course, there is a tunnel, and I know where it is,” Butkevich says. "An elderly local woman even told me that she used to ride a bike on it as a child."

Portrait of the gangster Al Capone, circa 1920s

The end of the dream house

In the end, years of neglect finally got their way. “The owners weren't interested in the house at all,” Butkevich explains. "After the roof began to collapse about thirty years ago, the inside of the mansion was flooded with water for a long time during the rains and melting snow." The roof finally collapsed during last year's harsh winter in Wisconsin. When she fell, she destroyed the glass dome, which crashed into the basement. The once beautiful house was completely destroyed.

The current owners did not care about the fate of the mansion at all

The Futa brothers themselves died one year apart in 1901 and 1902. The New London Paper wrote about this: "It is said that prior to Augustus' death, these two brothers were the oldest living twins in the United States." They are buried in the tiny Eureka cemetery, next to their wives. As in life, the twin brothers now lie together forever, a few kilometers from the ruins of their dream home.

Inside the dream house. What was once a western dining room

Some even less grand Victorian mansions are being rescued and restored. Only here such unusual as this one cannot be found among them. To sum up the lives of the twin Foote brothers, read August's obituary. Most likely his brother Argal helped write this.

Together forever. Twin Brothers Foote

If you are interested in history and architecture, read our other article. the secret of the most shocking building in England: Fonthill Abbey and its eccentric creators.

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