It’s a lesson too late for the learnin’
Made of sand, made of sand.
It the wink of eye my soul is turning
In your hand, in your hand.
Are you going away with no word of farewell?
Can there be not a trace left behind?
I would’ve loved you better
I didn’t need to be unkind.
You know that was the last thing
That was on my mind.
Emma could hear the old folksong playing out as she walked up the porch steps and crossed the wide front porch complete with honest to Pete rocking chairs to open the stained glass front door. “Hello!” Emma called out as she went through the doors into the front entry hall.
“Yes. . . one moment,” she heard a woman’s pleasant voice call back to her.
Emma looked around the entry hall. It was just beautiful. A wide hall, or was it a foyer? with several rooms going off to the left and to the right. At the end of the hall was a wide staircase going up. Hardwood floors, high ceilings, chair railing, ceiling molding, hand-carved bannister. Everything spoke of luxury and old money . . . and old blood.
In short order, a lovely brunette, with a heart-shaped face and gracious smile came from the office behind the front desk. The woman was dressed primly, in a plain A-line skirt, button-up starched and ironed cotton blouse and an unadorned wool cardigan.
“Can I help you?” the woman asked.
“I’m Emma Swan,” Emma told her.
The brunette beamed. “I’m so glad you’ve come. You must have a spot of tea, or would you prefer something like hot chocolate or coffee?”
“Chocolate, if it’s no trouble,” Emma told her.
“No problem. Chocolate is my favorite,” the brunette replied. She went back into the room she had come from and shortly returned with two steaming cups set in saucers.
“Please sit down,” the brunette led her into the front, first side room. “Have a seat.”
Emma looked around. This looked like your great-aunt’s parlor that no one was ever allowed into. The furniture was Victorian, hard-woven tapestry upholstered mahogany chairs and settees. There were needlepointed pillows with a velvet crazy quilt flung across the back of one of the chairs. There was a fireplace with the chopped wood laid in, ready to go. Emma, knowing that she wasn’t always the most coordinated woman, was a little nervous, concerned that she might knock over her chocolate onto one of the upholstered chairs.
“You won’t hurt anything in here,” the woman seemed to read her mind. “Please, take a seat.”
Emma settled on the sofa and took a sip of her chocolate. “This is excellent. What’s in it? Cinnamon?”
“Oh, I’m sorry! I’m used to fixing this for myself and my husband and we both like cinnamon.”
“It’s lovely. Thank you.”
The woman took a deep breath. “Well?”
There was an awkward silence.
“You are?” Emma finally asked.
“Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m Mary Margaret Nolen, the one who contacted you. I’m the housekeeper, bookkeeper, breakfast cook, laundress, and most of whatever else needs to be done inside this Inn.”
“You asked me here. . . ?”
Mary Margaret gave her a weak smile. “We have a certain reputation. . . " she hesitated. "You know we’ve had other groups in and they’ve all agreed we’re haunted, seriously haunted.”
“This has brought some business, mostly thrill seekers. But our reputation has grown.” The pretty brunette sighed, “Now the word is out that we are just too scary, too frightening, even dangerous and our business dropped off this past summer. My husband, James David and I had thought that being a certified haunted house would bring in customers, but most of these people just want to stay one night and nowadays, many of them leave early and ask for their money back. We aren’t getting the week or two-week stays anymore.”
“I take it that it wasn’t hard to get the haunted certification?” Emma asked knowingly.
Mary Margaret nodded her head in agreement. “We’ve had several well-known ghost hunting groups come through here and they all agreed that the place has multiple spirits, including one pretty malevolent one.”
“So, I’m a bit confused here,” Emma began. “You know that my group debunks hauntings. We’ve been to some pretty famous places, Myrtles Plantation, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, the Whaley House. . . and have not found any real evidence, nothing hard-core scientific, for hauntings or paranormal phenomenon.”
“Exactly. We want to go back to being a regular B&B. Have families here and . . . well, not so many weirdos,” Mary Margaret explained.
“And you think my group is just the group to do that,” Emma finished.
“Please,” Mary Margaret told her. “I know you are very thorough and will publish your findings. I’m hoping you’ll be able to explain some of the strange things that happen around here. We’ll want to put any findings that suggest the place is not haunted into a new brochure.”
“Well, we’ll do our best, Mary Margaret. You understand, we’re looking for genuine phenomenon, but we’ve never found anything. But people who are determined to believe will continue to believe no matter how much evidence we show them. You know with practicing science, you can’t ever show evidence that something doesn’t exist, only evidence that it does,” Emma tried to be gentle. She wasn’t sure how much help her group would be to this nice lady.
Mary Margaret nodded, “Well, the bottom line here is that I’m hoping one of your group will be able to spend the night in The Red Room. No one, no one has managed that, even though several pretty hardy souls have tried.”
Emma put her cup down. “Oh, I have got to see this room. Can we go now?"
Mary Margaret hesitated, but gave her another weak smile. “Sure. Let’s go.” She got up and led Emma up the central staircase.
“This is a beautiful house,” Emma remarked as she followed her hostess up the stairs. She caught sight of a man’s portrait hanging on the wall as she began up the stairs. “Is that the original owner?” She stopped to look at the picture.
“Yes, that’s Rumach Goldark. A dark, scary man if half the stories are true.”
Emma looked at the man. His eyes were a warm chocolate brown, darker than his brown hair, which was shot with sprays of grey. He had been painted seated and holding a gold-handled cane. Emma thought he was fascinating, handsome . . . compelling.
But he looked sad.
“Not bad. He was supposed to have killed his wife?” Emma asked tentatively.
“Both of them, if you believe the stories. His first wife, Milah, disappeared and he always told people that she ran off with some pirate. Which given the population that came in and out of Storybrooke that day and time, could have happened. The second wife, Cora Hart, was a widow whose first husband had died under mysterious circumstances. She had a pretty nasty reputation herself. The story is that Rumach poisoned her, but I’ve often wondered if she didn’t try to off him as she probably had done with her first husband and somehow he turned the tables on her,” Mary Margaret explained.
“Well, either way, she’d be pretty angry,” said Emma.
They had reached the top of the stairs and Mary Margaret turned right, stopping before a closed door. “It’s in the tower room.”
Mary Margaret opened the door but didn’t step inside. “This is the bedroom that belonged to the second wife.”
Emma peeked in and looked around without hesitation. She stepped in. “Well, I can see why it’s called The Red Room,” she called back over her shoulder. The octagonal room was done over in red, red, red. There was a bed taking up the center of the room with an enormous ornate dark wood headboard. The bedspread was a deep, rich red silk. There were several chairs, upholstered in red velvet, set around a small table which was covered with a heavy damask red table cloth that reached the floor. Crystal glasses were set on the table on a silver tray. There was an enormous armoire in the same dark rich wood of the headboard standing along one wall; the doors of the wardrobe were carved with roses and hearts. There was also a large standing mirror set in one corner, also set in the same dark wood. The curtains were heavy damask, matching the tablecloth. The walls were covered with, what was it? red watered satin taffeta? The floor was dark wood covered with several oriental carpets done in mostly dark red tones.
“Did the second wife like red or something?” Emma asked walking deeply into the room and noticing the portrait set in the over-mantel above the large fireplace with its wood mantel that had been carved with roses and hearts. The portrait was of a very attractive woman with dark red hair and pale skin. Beautiful, dressed in what else? dark red. Her eyes were brown, but not the warm chocolate of the husband. They were cold, severe. The two did not go together as a couple to her mind.
“She loved it, I guess,” Mary Margaret called to her outside of the room. “That and mahogany. This room represents an entire rainforest of endangered trees.”
Emma’s analytical mind came into operation. This room was stifling with poor air circulation. Someone could easily feel they were being suffocated in this room. There were large windows along several sides of the room and Emma could see that lights could come in off the ocean or even the coastal highway that ran along the ocean just visible through the windows. These lights would reflect off the glass and the mirror. And as high up as the room was, she could well imagine that the strong wind that blew off the coast could give a resident the sense that the room was moving, not to mention produce a number of eerie sounds as the wind blew through the ins and outs of the roof convolutions. And lastly, the red, red, red was dizzying.
But what drove out experienced ghost hunters? It would take a lot to upset some of these guys. Emma knew them and though they were often on different pages, these guys were passionate about finding ghosts and weren’t easily frightened.
She nodded in greeting at the portrait, “Ma’am,” she said as she placed a recorder on the table next to the silver tray and then she backed out.
“A little much,” she admitted to Mary Margaret as they went down the stairs. “So this was Cora Hart’s décor?”
“Oh my goodness, yes,” Mary Margaret said. “The room’s been ‘re-freshed’ a couple of times. I know that it got very shabby looking about forty years ago and the then owners re-did the walls and rugs and bedspread with materials as close as they could find to the originals.”
“Who owns the house now?”
“Some descendent of the Rumach-Milah liaison. They had a son who was sent away to school when he was fourteen and who never returned to the house or even the town. Kid was probably trying to distance himself from his crazy, mean family. The current owner doesn’t live in the house either.”
“Oh lord no. James David and I live in one of the out-lying houses. It was originally built as a kitchen separate from the house, but now it’s been completely renovated.”
“All right,” Emma nodded in understanding. “Well, Mary Margaret, let me tell you what I’d like to do.”
The two women went downstairs and settled in the parlor again.
“My people will want to spend several days here, checking things out. I’m hoping they’ll come into town tonight and we can get out here first thing in the morning,” she paused and added, “I’m going to wait for the skinny on this place, so you only have to go over everything once with me and my crew.” Emma finished explained, “I’d like to leave a couple of recorders going in your hot spots.”
“I read several of the reports from other investigators. Much of the so-called evidence from this house is in the form of EVP’s, Electronic Voice Phenomenon. These are random noises picked up on high quality recorders that are reputed to be the spirits talking with us. What I want to do is to get several recordings so that I can compare the number and types of recordings with those we get when we investigate. I need to hear significantly more when we are investigating to make a case that there is an intelligent haunting. “
Mary Margaret asked her, “You wanted to know the ‘hot spots’?”
She had clearly done this before.
Mary Margaret began, “There are four big ones. The Red Room, of course. Also the library and the dungeon and the garden.”
“Dungeon? This house has a dungeon?”
“It’s actually the basement but it looks and feels like a dungeon. Let me show you.”
Again Emma followed Mary Margaret as she walked into the dining room, opened a nondescript door and led her down the stairs. The house apparently had a full basement. It had stone walls with concrete floors and several rooms going off a long corridor.
“The owners used to store food, especially root vegetables and cheese in this first area. These are the driest rooms. As you go deeper there is increased moisture and we can get mold problems. These rooms were apparently part of the original house and were used as servant quarters.”
“Damn,” said Emma. “These rooms are dark, damp and cold. Not exactly a pleasant, healthy place to keep your servants.”
“Well, they had indentured servants during that time and those people were little better than slaves. They couldn’t quit and if they made too much trouble, the person holding the indenture could ask that time be added, keeping the person on indefinitely.” Mary Margaret stopped at one of the first doors, near the staircase, “This is the room that we hear crying. Just sobbing, nothing else.”
Emma nodded and placed a recorder.
“There’s a story,” Mary Margaret offered.
“Later, please. Now, the library?” Emma asked.
“Please, follow me,” Mary Margaret said.
Emma followed her hostess back up the stairs and into another beautiful room, the ground floor of the tower. It was an octagonal room with the high ceilings found in the other rooms and it was lined with books from floor to ceiling. It even had one of those ladders that ran on a rail along the walls, curving around the corners. Emma glanced around. Without checking too much, she caught a glimpse of some potentially valuable volumes. Most of the books were leather bound with embossed tarnished gold lettering. It looked like a library that might have belonged to Benjamin Franklin.
“Nice,” she said.
“Some of the researchers have gotten into ‘conversations’ in this room,” Mary Margaret told her.
“All right,” Emma said and placed another recorder in the library. “I’ll be back tomorrow with some of my crew and we’ll get more details from you about what kinds of things you’ve seen and heard about. We probably won’t be spending much time in the garden – outdoor spots have too many variables that cannot be controlled.”
As Emma headed out of the library, Mary Margaret stopped and opened one of the cabinets. She pulled out a small rectangular object and handed it to Emma. It was a book, an old book.
To Emma’s questioning gaze, Mary Margaret explained, “We found this recently. It was hidden behind some of the other books and we found it when we were cleaning out some of the shelves. I have no idea how long it was there. It seemed to have belonged to a Belle French, a servant girl who worked in the house about the time the second wife died.”
“Good grief, how valuable is this?”
“Pretty valuable. It’s her journal. I’ve glanced through it. She was an interesting young woman, if for nothing else, she was literate, which was unusual for the day. I thought you might find it an interesting read and it might tell more about what was going on in the house at that time.”
Emma took the volume reverently, “Thanks. Of course, I’ll return it to the estate when I’m finished.”
She returned to her car and carefully laid the book on the passenger seat. She looked in the rear view mirror as she was driving away.
There, right there in the small window in the attic. It looked like the curtain moved. Was there somebody in the attic watching her leave?
Emma stopped and got out of her car to look back at the house. Nothing moving. Just a curtain hanging in the small window. She shrugged. This place was already starting to play on her mind. She’d have to be careful.