Haunted Joseph Stoner House
In 1983, Madison Newspapers, Inc. gave the Wisconsin Architects Foundation the Joseph J. Stoner house. The house, an imposing two-story sandstone Italianate structure built in 1855, is located at 321 South Hamilton Street. Named a Madison landmark in 1973 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, it was vacant and in serious disrepair at the time. The Wisconsin Architects Foundation moved the house one hundred feet north of its original site, and in October 1984 completed an architecturally and historically sensitive renovation that cost more than $200,000.
Varley and Ellen Bond lived in the Stoner house from 1922 to the 1950s. Varley (February 11, 1875 – March 22, 1950) managed several department stores in Madison. A native of Ontario, Canada, he came to Madison in 1907 to operate F. W. Woolworth’s. In 1921, when Manchester bought out Keeley-Neckerson, he was one of the original stockholders, serving as secretary-treasurer of the company until 1933, then vice president. “An accomplished harmonica player, his chipper personality and jaunty style were familiar to many.”
After Bond’s death, subsequent tenants in the Stoner house reported being haunted by a white-haired, one-armed apparition dressed in a black shawl and dark clothes. Varley, who reputedly died of grief over his son Walter’s death, had only one arm.
Walter (June 4, 1916 – March 22, 1947) was initially reported in Madison’s newspapers to have been killed in an accident in Paris. Subsequent information painted a very different picture of his death. A graduate of the UW, he married Mary Ann Suster of Des Plaines, Illinois, in November 1942 while serving as a first lieutenant in the ordnance division of the Army. Sent to Paris, he met and fell in love with Mlle. Germane Pesant. He vowed to return and marry her after the war, and even made her the beneficiary of his life insurance policy. After being discharged from the service, Bond abandoned his wife and young child and flew to Paris. Encountering a rival suitor, Victor Jean Armand Fortelle, at the door of Germane’s apartment, Bond got into a fight with him and was killed. Fortelle was later acquitted of involuntary manslaughter.
In 1951 a Madison court awarded Germane $7,000 and Mary Ann $3,000 of Walter’s insurance money.