a black magic woman
Got a black magic woman
I’ve got a black magic woman
Got me so blind I can't see
That she's a black magic woman
She’s trying to make a devil out of me
Don't turn your back on me baby
Don't turn your back on me baby
Yes, don't turn your back on me baby
Stop messing round with your tricks
Don't turn your back on me baby
You just might pick up my magic sticks
Mary Margaret, who’d been listening to (and singing along with) an old Santana record, came out of her little office quite ready to take the group around. They all gathered. Archie, Clarissa and Emma had clipboards.
“Let’s start in the basement and work our way to the top,” Mary Margaret suggested. She led the group downstairs and they listened while she covered some of the original history of the house, how it was built by the town’s richest citizen for his new wife back in the late 1700’s. The Revolutionary War was over and the town had gone back to fishing, whaling and importing/exporting as the primary sources of income.
Rumach Goldark, it was said, had come to Storybrooke from Scotland, likely an orphan and, according to the best sources, he’d started as a lowly cabin boy but had risen rapidly in the shipping business after apprenticing himself to the particularly ruthless, but very successful, Captain Zosa. Soon enough, Rumach had his own ship, then ships. He was not well liked because his bargaining skills put everyone else at a disadvantage. Then, his very rapid rise to reputedly great wealth created some bad feelings. There were plenty of rumors that he’d made a deal with the devil. And for a while, everything the man touched turned to gold. He went and married the village beauty.
But then things seemed to begin to unravel. Perhaps his village beauty was not meant to be a sailor’s wife; such women are content to have their husbands gone for long months. Whatever, his wife seemed to have been very unhappy in the marriage, despite having a son with her husband. She indulged in a number of flagrant indiscretions before disappearing when the boy was four. Rumach’s story was always that she had absconded with some pirate, but many people felt that he had gotten tired of her philandering and he had strangled her or pushed her out one of the high windows.
The group had arrived en masse in the dark basement with the stone walls and floor. Mary Margaret pointed out the side room. “This is where many people hear crying.”
The group looked from one to another. This was in sync with their perceptions of feelings of sadness.
“Do you ever feel frightened or feel like any one is watching you down here?” asked Jefferson.
Mary Margaret shook her head. “Not really,” she paused. And right before leading the group upstairs she added, “I do feel sad here. Others have reported feeling despondent, down, sad, lonely, all those types of feelings.”
Emma heard Colin mutter to Clarissa, “Creepy.”
The group then went back upstairs into the library. After the group had settled into the comfortable wooden chairs placed all around the large room, Mary Margaret continued. “This is where Rumach did most of his work, at this very desk. After the disappearance of his first wife, he was alone in the house for a couple of years raising his son. When his son went off to a European boarding school, Rumach made a couple more voyages and, on the last one, he brought home a beautiful new wife, Cora Hart. He’d picked her up in Barbados.” Mary Margaret paused, “She had a very unsavory reputation.”
“Voodoo?” Jefferson asked.
“Probably. Some type of dark magic that likely involved blood sacrifice, so go the stories,” Mary Margaret explained. “She was a great beauty, but there were certainly rumors that she was some kind of a witch, a quite suitable wife for a man reputed to be the minion of the devil.”
“So what happened?” asked Clarissa.
“Not exactly sure. Some speculation centers around a beautiful, young servant girl, Belle French, that Mr. Goldark brought into the home and perhaps she came between them. Perhaps he wanted to replace his wife with a younger model. Perhaps Mrs. G. was upset and jealous of her husband’s attention to the young woman. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. It’s also possible that the girl wasn’t an issue between the two – they were both very volatile people. And after all, Cora was suspected of having poisoned her first husband, why not her second? Rumach was suspected of killing the first wife, why not his second? We really don’t know,” shared Mary Margaret.
“So what happens in this room?” Emma brought the history lesson to a close for the moment.
Mary Margaret continued, “We think the spirit of Miss French haunts this room. This was a literate, well-educated young woman and she spent much of her time here. We’re not sure exactly what her capacity in the household was, but this was also Rumach’s office, so we don’t think she was an ordinary servant. Whatever she did for the household, those two probably spent a lot of time together. People report a lot of things moving around in this room. If you put a book out on the table, the next morning it will be put back in its place. If you rearrange the furniture, back in its place. Close the curtains, they’ll be opened. Several researchers have gotten some very interesting EVP’s in this room. Miss French is apparently quite chatty.”
“No one feels threatened here?” Jefferson asked again.
Mary Margaret smiled, “Not at all. The spirit that hangs around this room is friendly and helpful.”
“Does anyone see anything in this room?” asked Emma.
“No, but a few people have reported encountering a woman who fits her description on the grounds. The encounters have always been in the daylight or just after sunset and all the ones I know have happened just as the person was about to get in trouble – like they’d gotten off the path in the woods and the woman directed them back.”
“Or they went into the poison garden without knowing what it was?” Emma supplied.
Mary Margaret nodded smiling at Emma, “Exactly.”
When there were no more questions, the group began to go up the stairs.
“So what finally happened between the Goldarks?” Archie asked.
“Cora Goldark suddenly dropped off the face of the earth. Rumach claimed that she had been trying to poison him with something in his wine and, as she was about to give him a lethal dose, he had switched wine glasses. Belle French disappeared at the same time. We don’t know if Belle drank some poison wine, or if she witnessed the crime and he offed her or if she just took the opportunity to high-tail it out of here. Because of his money and position in the community, Rumach was never charged with a crime. We don’t know what happened to either woman for sure, but Rumach spent his remaining years in this house, pretty much alone. He stopped leaving the house and eventually died in the house.”
“Where?” asked Clarissa suddenly.
Mary Margaret shook her head, “We don’t know. There was a groomsman that more or less became his personal manservant, one William Augustus Glass. He had come with Cora from Barbados, but he seemed to have been loyal to Mr. Goldark. He was the one to report and register the death. Goldark apparently left young Mr. Glass a lot of money and a strip of land, very unusual for the time as Mr. Glass was a black man from Africa.”
“Did they suspect foul play?” asked Colin.
“If they did, no one cared to investigate it. Mr. Glass got his money and property and the family has done well for themselves. They now own a string of hotels along the coast and the local newspaper, among other things.”
“And what finally happened to Mr. Goldark?” asked Archie.
“He’s buried on the estate,” Mary Margaret shared.
“Why not in a churchyard?” Emma asked.
“Well, again it’s all rumor. But supposedly the local church refused his remains.”
“So sad,” Rory said. “He died all alone.”
“He was a nasty person by all accounts and I would guess that most people around felt like the devil had come back to get his own when the man died,” Mary Margaret explained. “He was not missed.”
“And the house now belongs to. . .?” Emma asked.
“A descendent of his one and only offspring, his son by his first wife. None of his descendants have ever lived in the house. Now,” Mary Margaret had reached the door of the Red Room, “this is the room which has a lot of . . . negative energy and people have been hurt in this room. I’m serious. This room is dangerous. People get sick, they get pushed, they get scratched, bitten, kicked, hit, thrown, pinched, anything you can think of. The furniture is reported to move, even the heavy armoire which takes multiple people to shift has gone skirting across the room. The big, heavy bed will go up and down like a wild, bucking horse. People feel suffocated, threatened.”
“Any EVP’s come out of here?” asked Jefferson.
Mary Margaret nodded. “Some frightening ones. It sounds like a woman’s voice telling people that they’re going to die, that they’re cursed, that they’re gonna go to hell, to get out. They’ll hear mocking laughter.”
“And no one has been able to last a night in this room?” Emma confirmed.
“Most groups don’t last an hour. No one has been able to go the entire night.”
“Did Cora die in this room?” asked Rory.
“We don’t really know,” Mary Margaret told them and opened the door. The group silently filed in.
“Ok class,” Emma addressed the group. “Several of you felt very uncomfortable in this room. Tell me why.”
“Certainly there are a number of environmental cues.”
“Agreed, the color is overwhelming, like you’re inside of some animal.”
“And it’s stifling in here, no air movement.”
“And I can hear the wind whistling which could be interpreted as a voice.”
Emma nodded. “Explain the attacks.”
“Medication gone awry?”
Emma nodded. They had paid such good attention in class. She turned and spoke to Mary Margaret, “One in this group had an experience in the attic. She felt a presence and thought she had been touched.”
“Really?” Mary Margaret was interested. “Of course people don’t regularly get up to the attic. It’s used for storage for seasonal decorations and linens and such. And there are a couple of pieces of unused furniture up there.”
“Never had any sense of being watched while you're up there?” Emma asked.
“Dr. Swan, really, in this house? I always feel like I’m being watched. I’ve gotten used to it and I usually don’t feel threatened or let it bother me,” Mary Margaret responded. “But I’ve never had any odd experiences in the attic.”
Emma nodded, “Thank you so much.” She turned to her group, “Now let’s thank Ms. Nolen and all go back outside. We need to decide on our game plan for tonight, including what equipment we need to put where.”
While they ate a delicious buffet lunch that Mary Margaret had put out for them, the group worked on their game plan for the evening. They decided that tonight they would put the strobe lights with the Infra-red recording camera in the library in the hopes that it would attract the spirit and they might be able to catch a glimpse of her. They also easily agreed to use the EMF recorders to see if there were any disturbances in the electromagnetic field. At everyone’s urging, Emma agreed to use the spirit box in the library.
The basement, well they weren’t expecting to find much activity there, but they did want to see if they could record the sobbing sound. An EVP recorder and a data logger (to see if there were any real temperature fluctuations) were selected.
For the Red Room, they opted to set up another infra-red camera and use an EVP recorder along with a static meter that would supposedly light up if a spirit walked by. Emma insisted on putting a second data logger in this room.
Emma and Jefferson took on the job of setting up in the Red Room.
“Batteries went out,” Jefferson told her as he checked the static meter. “And on the EVP recorder too.”
“We’ve got replacements,” Emma told him.
Jefferson replaced the batteries and went back to setting up the camera. When he went back to double-check the other equipment, Emma heard him swear.
“Batteries went out again.”
“Oh my, are we in spook-central or do we just have cheap-ass batteries? We’ll stop at the hardware store in town and pick up some Duracell’s,” Emma told him. Under her breath he heard her mutter, “Wish we could find some Magicell batteries that would last nearly forever. We wouldn’t have this problem.”
It was nearly three o’clock when they had finished setting everything up. Everyone else’s batteries were doing fine. They fetched Leroy who had been listening to tapes all afternoon and, although Mary Margaret had offered to feed them supper, they had declined, not wanting to take further advantage of her hospitality. They drove back to town to rest up and agreed to meet for supper at the diner at seven.
Emma stopped at the hardware store to load up on high-end batteries and picked up some ice to put in the cooler where she had stashed a couple dozen Monster drinks and Red Bulls.
Emma returned to her room and feeling the diary calling her, she decided to get in a few more pages.
It was barely dawn when Belle heard the door being unlocked. She felt like she was frozen and part of her wondered if she would ever be warm again.
“Rise and shine, dearie. Time to get to work.” It was Master Goldark, dressed impeccably in a black suit with a soft white shirt. He wore shining black boots and sported a vest embroidered with red dragons. Belle slipped on her shoes and, still, uncomfortably cold, managed to smooth back her hair and walk out of the room, still wrapped in the burlap blanket.
Walking behind the man, she felt she had to speak up or he would be left with the impression that the frozen dungeon cell was an acceptable accommodation.
“You know I would probably work better if I got better sleep. It’s very hard to rest when you’re cold and damp,” she was talking to the back of Master Goldark as he had already begun walking up the stairs. He stopped and slowly turned to face her, looking down at her from the steps above her.
“Madame?” he questioned.
“The room was uncomfortable to the point that I feel I may become ill if I’m forced to stay in these wretched conditions. Is there no other room in this entire large house that has heat and light and. . . if you believe I’m going to steal your family treasures while you sleep and slit your throats on the way out. . . a lock on the door?” She stood her ground hoping she wouldn’t find out if he were one of those very cruel employers who would beat impertinence out of their servants. It would be consistent with his reputation.
“So,” he began, “you’re not impressed with the accommodations?”
Belle was very nervous, but she had started this conversation, so she would continue it. “If you want me to be able to do my best work, I can’t be spending all of my time trying to stay warm. Is there not another room in this house with some heat and light, not so damp?”
He regarded her for some time and Belle felt as if an icy claw had wrapped itself around her heart. Would he be outraged, amused, accommodating? His face did not reveal any of his feelings.
Finally he shrugged, “I will have someone look into it for you,” he finally told her.
Belle realized she’d been holding her breath like she had just faced down a fire-breathing dragon.
The room they came to at the top of the stairs was a small area with a single window, one door to the outside and another door going into a hallway in the house. The walls had been whitewashed and along the ceiling and single window was simple wood trim. In one corner was a small black wood burning stove, set with a single tea kettle. The room was not particularly clean. The floor could have used a good sweeping and there were cobwebs up in the high corners. The curtains on the windows needed washing.
Along the inside wall was a plain sideboard which had been set with a meager breakfast. In the center of the room was a sturdy table with four chairs around it. The table was set on a braided rug. On the sideboard, Belle found some hard, stale bread and some bitter butter. There was also some very good tea. She saw that Master Goldark was pulling off the same buffet so it wasn’t like she was getting scraps.
The very rich were not eating better than the very poor, she thought.
At her father’s shop, at this time of year, she would have prepared a hot cereal with some of the wild and cultivated grains, maybe tossed in a few berries, toasted some day-old bread with quality butter, put out some preserves, perhaps even have a little leftover fish – this was a fishing town after all-- and, if their chickens had been so inclined, perhaps a couple of eggs. Being a good patriotic household they had coffee to drink rather than tea.
What she was seeing here bespoke of poor household management.
“And shall I be meeting Madame Goldark this morning?” Belle asked as she sat at the table across from him and ate the unappetizing food she was after all quite hungry.
She was surprised to hear Master Goldark give a short laugh. “I think not. Madame Goldark rarely rises before noon.” He pushed away from the table. “This morning I will be introducing you to your duties.”
Belle was struggling with the hard, stale bread, finally dipping it into her tea to soften it. “Yes sir. When do we start?”
Puzzled, Goldark watched her with the bread and tea. Her liveliness and spirit were a curiosity to him. He would have expected her to be tear-faced and sniveling. And terrified of him. Most everyone was terrified of him. If she was, she didn’t show it, having already confronted him over his abysmal treatment of her the night before. She was chatting on as if he were one of her little girl friends. She was absorbed with trying to make her breakfast palatable and didn’t notice anything until it occurred to her that he had not answered. She looked up, meeting his eyes.
“Sir?” she asked.
“The food is not to your liking?” he asked. He personally thought the food was less adequate than something he might have had on board ship after they’d been at sea for three months, but he was interested in how she would describe it.
“It’s a little hard and the butter is bitter. . . “ she realized that it might not be in her best interests to continue to criticize his household, “but it’s fine, all fine.” She stuffed another bite into her mouth and began chewing. . . and chewing.
So some honesty but then she had cowed and lied. So she was a little scared of him after all.
Good. A little spirit was tolerable, but he was master in his house and he preferred his servants to be tractable.
“Bring your tea and come into the library when you are finished,” he directed her and left her to her cold, hard breakfast.
“Where’s the library? Where’s the library?” Belle asked herself wandering down the hall carrying her tea on its saucer. She certainly hadn’t been given a tour of the house last night. She went down the hall, passing a large formal dining area and several small seating areas. She turned the corner and on one side was the front door and on the other was a staircase. On the other side of the staircase she saw it.
Belle entered and her mouth gapped open. There were more books in this place than she had ever seen anywhere else all put together.
Master Goldark was standing by a desk at the far wall as she walked in.
“So many!” she said in awe. “Have you read them all?”
He glanced around, “What? Oh, the books? Most of them.”
“How wonderful!” She set her tea down and began to examine different volumes. Some were not in English and she considered those as carefully as the English volumes. She then noted a chess set already set up on one of the smaller side tables.
Rumach Goldark was prepared to launch into the list of duties he had prepared for the little wench, but she was talking . . . again. Not that her voice was unpleasant to listen to. But he was unaccustomed to prattling. What was she jabbering on about? Playing chess. She played chess? She wanted to play a game of chess with him sometime? He very nearly snorted. He really didn’t have time to waste playing chess with a mere female.
She was looking at him. Waiting for an answer. Her eyes were bright and sparkling and her smile just as brilliant.
“Perhaps, sometime, if your work is all done . . . I might be able to spend some time . . . in a game.” He had relented in the face of her enthusiasm. What was wrong with him?
“Splendid! Oh, please sir, I see you have a copy of Doctor Thomas Arnold’s books, and I see the Essay of Health and Long Life, and Gerard’s An Essay on Taste, and Joseph Glanville’s work on the scientific method, and, oh my, you have so many of the books by Mister John Locke . . . “ she was slowly going through his library, focusing on his books on medicine and philosophy, her fingers caressing the spines of the selected volumes.
“You can read on your own time, Miss French. I need you to sit down and listen to your duties.”
She promptly complied after one last wistful look at his library. She sat down and turned her attention to him, her large eyes still sparkling. The lightness of her eyes allowed him to catch the expansion of her pupils. She had been excited by his books! Damn! She had picked up her cup and begun to sip the tea.
“You will help me with my financial records, entering in payments and loans and sundry expenses and all my receipts. You will help me with any correspondence I have. Now, I never allow other people to come in here, not cleaning staff, not even my wife, so I think it will be a good plan for you to start to keep this room clean – to dust and sweep and whatever else needs to be done. I will also want you to bring me my tea regularly – you shall learn my schedule soon enough.” He paused then added, “I’m very particular about my tea.”
Belle was nodding and answering, “Yes sir, yes sir,” throughout his litany.
He continued, “Of course from time to time, I do arrange for the occasional murder and I will be wanting you to deliver the payment for this service.”
Startled, Belle stood, the teacup falling out of her hand to the floor. She heard it hit the floor. Her expressive face reflected her dismay.
“That was a joke,” he told her.
She let out a deep breath, “Of course. Of course.” She knelt down and retrieved the cup. There was a large chip in the rim. “Oh no. I’ve broken your cup.” She closed her eyes. She knew well enough that servants had been whipped for such carelessness. And this man had a reputation for cruelty. And he carried a cane. She braced herself, expecting a blow.
There was a long period of silence and finally she peeked up at him.
He was looking down at her and seemed almost puzzled, “It’s just a cup.”
Belle managed a weak smile. The man jokes about murder.
At least . . . he said it was a joke.