Robie House: haunted?


“There are no devils here, but there are shadows,” proclaimed a Robie House tour guide, playing the role of Lora Robie (the wife of the house’s first owner, Frederick Robie) during Saturday night’s “Secrets and Shadows of Robie House" tour. Just in time for Halloween, the seasonal event promised to show a different side of the Robie House, giving a glimpse into the mysteries, myths, and legends surrounding the house that Frank Lloyd Wright built between 1908 to 1910.

Orange lights glowing in the upstairs windows added to the eerie ambiance of the nighttime tour. At 7 pm, a motley crew of about 20 students, children, and adults gathered outside, where the first guide, Dwayne, emerged from the shadows to lead the group around the outside of the house. Approaching the front porch (where the doors have no external knobs), he pointed out that one of the mysteries of the Robie House is simply “how to get in.” Once Dwayne led the group to an entryway tucked away on the side of the house, different guides (clad entirely in black) escorted everyone from room to room, each with a unique story. In the children’s playroom, the group watched a slide show of the three families who lived in the house and heard about the death of Frederick Robie’s debt-ridden father George who, on his deathbed, demanded that his son pay back every dollar George owed. The tale told in the guest bedroom explained second owner David Lee Taylor’s death from a gruesome kidney disease in October 1912, only 10 months after moving in. The living room, meanwhile, held the “casket” of Chicago graduate Marsha Wilber, the 25-year-old daughter of Marshall and Isadora Wilber, the third and final family to occupy the house. The Wilbers abandoned the Robie House in 1926.

No ghosts appeared to tour-goers, but, as one guide admitted, “it does feel like there are other presences in the house.” Workers restoring the place have heard footsteps coming down hallways and doors closing unexpectedly when only one person was inside, and there have even been accounts of a woman’s faint image in thresholds and doorways. The same guide later said that, whether or not one believes in ghost stories, the truth of these rumors is “for you to decide.”

Ruthie Kott

Photos: Robie House guide speaking to the tour group (top); the Robie House at night (bottom).

October 23, 2006