The Last Days of the Ipsy-Wipsy Institute


110 Portland Road, Highlands, N.J., one-time site of the Ipsy-Wipsy Institute. View larger map. (Thanks to Bill Higgins for geographical research.)


Back in Highlands, New Jersey, William Lindsay Gresham was soon forgotten. At least he was not spoken of. Around then, the Mannings became less likely to drop by on a Saturday night. A coolness seemed to have developed between the neighbors. I don’t think that is necessarily a coincidence, but I don’ know any details. Fletcher didn’t want to talk about it, and I didn’t press him.

The weekends were still pleasurable and the company generally good. If there was any significant difference in tone it was only that Fletcher himself seemed to be a little less bouncy in spirit. The billiard-room sessions with the portable typewriter in his lap were going a bit more slowly.

I haven’t, in these pages, said anything about Fletcher’s religion. I haven’t said anything much about anyone else’s, either. Personal religion was not high on the interest list among the people of the Ipsy-Wipsy. But I did know that Fletcher had been brought up Christian Science, back in those Buffalo days of his youth, and that he still had some sort of ties to Mary Baker Eddy’s church. Yet when Fletcher began to concede, under Inga’s questioning, that, yes, it was possible that he’d picked up a mild case of the flu, I was confident that if any symptoms became really worrisome, religion would not prevent Fletcher from taking the matter to a real M.D.

Indeed, it didn’t. But unfortunately Fletcher let it go a bit too late. When the surgeons opened his abdomen up on the operating table there was no longer anything they could do. They simply sewed him back together and let him die, which he did on the 11th of June, in the year 1956. He had been 59 years old.

That was the end of the Ipsy, for Inga didn’t have heart to try to carry it on without him. She put the big old house up for sale, and the buyer who appeared was, I think, a dentist from, I believe, Jersey City. The dentist didn’t have it long, though. Before long in a midweek a fire started there, with hardly anybody around, and the Ipsy-Wipsy Institute suffered a Viking’s funeral,

The dentist tore down the wreckage and put up a more normal-sized house on that great piece of land. But the new house had none of the Ipsy-Wipsy’s magnificence, and especially none of its well-loved people.

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  1. Ace Lightning says:

    See up near the top of the map where it says “Highlands”? I live one block above the top of the letter I.

    I’ve been a science fiction fan (although not part of “fandom”) all my life – literally since I began to read, which apparently was around age two. I remember hearing and reading about Ipsy Wipsy, and wishing vaguely that I could become involved in such a community. When I moved to New Jersey (Middletown, a much larger town adjoining Highlands, Red Bank, and some of the other places you mention) about twenty years ago, I had no idea I was getting close to the original location. I moved to Highlands about six years ago.. but your blog entries were news to me when I read them!

  2. Bill Goodwin says:

    Ask ev’ry person if he’s heard the story,
    And tell it strong and clear if he has not,
    That once there was a fleeting wisp of glory
    Called Camelot….

  3. Graham B says:

    Obviously Fletcher had a bigger problem than a mild case of the flu, as you describe it so diplomatically, but it’s worthwhile speaking in defense of Christian Science. Numerous people can testify to its effectiveness. The individual does what they have found to be most effective in their experience, and that is usually what is behind choosing to rely on Christian Science. From your narrative, we don’t know much of Fletcher’s circumstance. However, Christian Science does not require the individual to avoid seeking medical help, and indeed there are plenty instances where timely medical assistance has been sought. Certainly doing nothing about a severe problem is irresponsible. Many find Christian Science to be a reliable approach when healing is needed, and there are ample reports of its success, such as on the web site

  4. TechSlave says:

    I can’t walk past, so I’ll say my piece before I move on:

    Graham B, someone’s sell-you-their-beliefs website isn’t evidence. Nor is anecdotal data, nor anything which shows no significant variance from placebo effect. In short, I consider that calling it Science, even prefaced as Christian, is an misuse of the word. You’re welcome to your beliefs, and I hope they do well by you.

  5. Cathy Goode says:

    I “can’t walk past”; either. The buyer who appeared was not a dentist from Jersey City, he was a doctor form Newark; and he was my father. It was his intention to move the family down, but I don’t think my mother liked the house…all that talk of a ghost named Conrad, and the man named George who lived there and drank all day. It was just too creepy for her. The house was indeed magnificent, but I don’t remember too much of it as I was very young and it was indeed destroyed by fire a short time later.

    As I recall, the property remained vacant for a while after the fire, however a small A-frame house was put up on the beach part of the property as a temporary measure. It was never intended to be the final structure on the property and had been purchased for only $1 providing it was disassembled and removed from its original spot within 24 hours. For some reason, I think it was a display in Penn Station, or something like that.

    A few years ago my brother found some old photos from the house. One has some people in it. I assume they are some of the people to whom you refer in the pages of your blog. Upon first discovering them we joked about how they look like they were relatives of the Addams Family.

    I’m not sure how long my parents owned the land before it was sold, but it has been subdivided in recent years and I believe two houses sit on it now. Interestingly, I believe my father had thoughts of doing the same after the old house burned down, but there was some kind of clause in the deed prohibiting the subdivision. How they got around that later I don’t know, but my father was approached once, as a past owner, to waive his right to object to a subdivision, and he refused to sign.

    One final thing…the cages to which you refer in which the marmosets were kept? I have one of those in my living room. Growing up we always referred to it as “the monkey cage”.

  6. Cathy Goode says:

    By the way, I’m not a science fiction fan, but am a fan of hearing stories of “La Dolce Vita” and really enjoyed reading all 6 pages of this blog. Thanks for posting.

  7. James Van Hise says:

    I once saw an interesting debate between a doctor and a Christan Scientist. The CS claimed an 80% success rate with curing illness. The doctor pointed out that 80% of the patients he sees have illnesses which would have in fact gone away on their own in time without his intervention. It was the other 20% which mattered.