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Your Life: Living in the Lookout House

  • Alex and Jeanette Klan are hoping to find someone who is willing to take on what they call a “once in a lifetime” living experience as in the Lookout House in Contoocook. Alex even found a German beer stein in the house. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Alex and Jeanette Klan are hoping to find someone who is willing to take on what they call a “once in a lifetime” living experience as in the Lookout House in Contoocook. “It really is quite an adventure,” Jeanette Klan will tell you, sitting at her kitchen table. “We really gave it a go.” GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The Mount Lookout House in Contoocook has seen many expansions and additions over the years, though most of the out buildings – like the barn and cottage – have been lost to fire and time. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Alex Klan stands inside the roof of the Mount Lookout House in Contoocook. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Alex and Jeanette Klan are hoping to find someone who is willing to take on what they call a “€œonce-in-a-lifetime” living experience, as in the Mount Lookout House in Contoocook. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Saturday, October 07, 2017

For a ghost enthusiast, the Mount Lookout House has everything: Lights that flicker with dinner-time laughter. Footsteps with no owners. A dark, uneasy feeling that lingers in the first-floor hallway.

Now, for a price, you too can live in one of the oldest structures in Contoocook. Built around the late 1700s, the house has lived many lives, first as a stagecoach stop, later as an inn as wings and stories were added on. At one point, a barn, tennis courts, vineyards and a guest cottage were added; all have since been claimed by fire or time.

Alex and Jeanette Klan are hoping to find someone who is willing to take on what they call a “once-in-a-
lifetime” living experience.

“It really is quite an adventure,” Jeanette Klan will tell you, sitting at her kitchen table. “We really gave it a go.”

“But,” she added, “we’re exhausted.”

“Giving it a go” is the Klans’s delicate way of saying they sank time, energy and money into the house, which they bought two years ago for the low price of $130,000 for a 10 bedroom, two bath, 11,989-square-foot building. They and their two sons were looking for a place to call home in the states after a stint in Germany, and the Lookout House was just their style; the ad from Country House Real Estate boasted of porticos and towers, Indian shutters and “2.8 acres of history and charm.”

But they were also warned: “... this antique house has tons of potential and needs lots of work,” the ad reads. “Being sold as is without warranty or representation.”

When they toured the house, the Klans found a dowager on a downward spiral. The house was choked with trash and old furniture; in the second wing, where previous owners tacked on a restaurant, wraparound porch and full-service kitchen, walking space was minimal. The chimney, which stretches all the way to the fourth floor, was caked in soot. The house seemed sad, Jeanette Klan said, almost defeated.

Bit by bit, the Klans have resurrected the house. Now, one can walk through the main floors mostly unobstructed. At the top, if you are bold enough to climb precarious stairs to the roof, you can see the unobstructed view that gives the Lookout House its name: the Contoocook Valley stretches below you, blue mountains in the distance.

The Klans are asking $450,000 for the home, anticipating that buyers will balk at the amount of work that remains and try to haggle it down. Alex Klan takes a breath and blows it out if asked how much money he and Jeanette have spent on the house since then. “A lot,” he stated, simply.

Jeanette Klan said it was worth it. “It almost feels like the house has woken up,” she said. “There’s a different energy now.”

With that energy, however, comes all the house’s ghosts. Jeanette said the friendliest is a female ghost, who they suspect is Miss Ellen K. Brown, a descendant of the house’s builder, Abraham Brown. Miss Ellen lived her whole life in the house, and communicates through the lights.

“At dinner time, we’ll all be sitting around the dinner table, and we’ll laugh and the lights will be twittering along with us,” Jeanette Klan said. “It feels distinctly female.” Jeanette said they’ve had electricians over to check out the lights to make sure everything was in order. They were told, she said, that the lighting is fine.

Then there’s the male ghost, whose name is unknown but the cause of death is not: he’s believed to have died in the fire that burned the backyard barn down to its foundation, which is still visible in the backyard today. His footsteps prowl the upper floors, Jeanette Klan said – to calm him, she has left a horseshoe in water near the barn’s bones, which seems to have done the trick.

But there are times when even a charm doesn’t soothe the overstayed guest; Jeanette said one room, in particular, can feel foreboding. “There’s a heaviness,” she said, standing in the doorway, conspicuously lit by sunlight. “You can feel it, that he doesn’t want me in here.”

The Klans aren’t the only owners to feel the house’s spectral residents. A 2001 edition of School Days, published by the New Hampshire Antiquarian Society, tells tales of latched doors opening on their own, overhead lights swaying and touches on the neck.

Any prospective owners might also be interested in a secondary form of upkeep on the home; the Klans created a Facebook page for the house, where they’ve been detailing their renovation efforts. The page has brought former owners – and stories – out of the woodwork.

“I lived on the 3rd floor in 1977-1978. The place is haunted,” wrote Richard Merriam of Concord.

Joe Strahlendorff, who wrote that his grandparents used to own the Lookout House in the ’50s and ’60s, recalled more cheerful memories.

“Off of the front entryway there is a door,” he wrote. “This door led to a veranda that ran the length of the front of the building. There were several seats and rocking chairs to enjoy the views. At the end of the veranda was a screened in porch. This area held a ping-pong table and chairs and tables to relax. The screened porch looked into the dining room where guests were served meals.”

The Klans know, with the right owners, the house can someday be restored to its former glory.

“For the right person, there’s so much here,” Jeanette Klan said.