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30 Oct 2011


Paranormal art critic? Mansion art gets moved by unseen hands

Posted: Saturday, October 29, 2011 7:45 am | Updated: 10:47 pm, Sat Oct 29, 2011.

During this weekend’s craft and gift bazaar at the Conrad Mansion, Cathi Spence is trying to get another response from what could be a paranormal art critic in Kalispell.

Last year’s response was not the most positive, at least for two of the paintings Spence had on display in the Antique Room.

She said she planned to bring the two offending paintings back this year to see if they are any more popular.

Last year, Spence kept finding the two paintings — one of a snowman and one of a lotus flower — mysteriously taken off the wall and laying on the floor in the middle of the room where she has displayed her artwork for 12 years during the Christmas at the Mansion Craft and Gift Bazaar.

“They were surrounded by my other paintings, but only those two would be off each day,” said Spence, the founder of Think Local.

After setting up on Thursday, Spence arrived Friday morning to find one of the paintings on the floor. She checked to see that the tack was fine and hung it back up on the wall.

“I didn’t think anything of it other than ‘Gosh, if I knocked something over in someone else’s room I would put it back up,’” she said of the unexpected sight.

Both of the paintings were on the floor Saturday morning. “They were [hung on the wall] in two different spots in the room, so it’s not like one fell and knocked the other down,” Spence said.

The same thing happened again Sunday, even after Spence had hung the two offending paintings in different spots.

“It couldn’t even be said that it was in a bad spot where someone brushed against it. It was up there. No one could have brushed against it unless they were standing on the radiator,” Spence said of one of the paintings and where it was hung.

“It was kind of exciting and interesting,” she said, adding that she’s not opposed to the idea that it could have been a ghost taking down her paintings.

“There’s always been rumors that there are ghosts there. I remember as a little girl touring the mansion and kind of feeling prickly there ... I don’t know.”

AS the executive director of Conrad Mansion, Mike Kofford said he doesn’t know either. He just knows that it wasn’t him or mansion staff taking the paintings down.

“I’m the last one out every night,” Kofford said, adding that he walks through the whole mansion before leaving and that there is an alarm system to keep people out.

It’s hardly the first paranormal experience to be reported at the large and luxurious mansion, which dates back to 1895.

Local lore has led to regular ghost tours at the mansion every October — something Kofford said he may expand in the future — and even prompted an investigation by Montana’s paranormal society.

Kofford has written a booklet about the mansion’s alleged ghosts, having talked to a number of eyewitnesses over the years. He never has seen an apparition himself.

People have reported seeing a tall man in a long black coat — believed to be the ghost of Charles Conrad — out strolling the mansion grounds.

“They just caught glimpses of him between the shrubs, and when they got to where they should have met, no one was there,” Kofford said.

Mansion staffers have reported smelling a rich cigar or pipe smoke in the mansion study, and later found out through research that Conrad enjoyed smoking Owl Cigars, a nickel cigar that was popular around 1900.

Caretaker Tisch Haas said she has talked to a neighbor who has seen a man resembling Conrad out smoking on the balcony.

“Not once, but often,” she said.

And others have reported seeing a little girl on the third floor. The girl is believed to be young Alicia Conrad, who had a playroom up there. Sometimes she is seen in the playroom, sometimes she is seen looking through the windows from outside the mansion.

Kofford said he suspects it may have been Alicia “Lettie” Conrad (wife of Charles Conrad), who has been seen on the second floor, taking Spence’s pictures down last year.

“If I had to guess, I would guess it’s Lettie Conrad that’s coming in and not very happy that something modern is being put in her well-organized room ... Outside of that, I don’t have an explanation,” he said.

All of the paranormal experiences reported over the years have been playful, Kofford said, adding that he’s glad to hear Spence is bringing the same paintings back for this year’s craft and gift bazaar. He hopes she gets another response.

“For me, it’s a fun ghost story,” Kofford said of Spence’s experience.

“My feeling is, if you believe in it, and again, I’m not pushing it, I think it’s just a family and this represented the best time of their life and they’re just not ready to go. They just want to hang out a little longer.”

Reporter Tom Lotshaw may be reached at 758-4483 or by email at tlotshaw@dailyinterlake.com. 

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