New England Gothic
It was a Dark and
Stormy Night. I hate to begin my story like this...mainly because I had
read so many jokes about this sort of beginning (mainly from Snoopy comics).
Unfortunately, it was true .
The road to the Gothic
Revival Mansion that had belonged to my family for over two hundred years
wound, curving and snake-like, up. The drive would have been pleasurable
if I had not encountered the proverbial
"Dark and Stormy
Night" conditions as I got closer to the northern part of Massachusetts.
Not that the drive
wasn't pleasurable. Not by any means. The rocky beaches and gorgeous ocean
waves that glinted like diamonds as sunlight hit them were incredible.
I would have enjoyed it more if the clouds that had come crowding and looming
over the ocean had not filled me with a sense of increasing forboding.
My first sight of
the mansion almost made me turn back. Sitting high upon a hill with lightening
behind it...it projected an image of belonging to Count Dracula. I had
to laugh as visions of the castle of Frankenstein from the movie "Young
Frankenstein" came to mind. My laughing didn't dispell the fear that sprang
into my heart nor did it prepare me for the events to come.
I arrived at the front
gate of the mansion shaking, literally.
The intensity of
the storm seemed to be right overhead. My car was vibrating from the force
of the thunder and the rain was almost inpenetrable. I couldn't see but
a few feet ahead of the front bumper.
I followed the one
lane road that was, thankfully paved, until I felt sure I would never reach
the old house.
Perhaps I would keep
driving and driving in some sort of penance for something I did in my 'former
life' as a school teacher in South Carolina.
I had not been particularly
happy in that profession. Oh, I had started out happy. Full of sunny visions
of bringing a sense of wonder and delight to high school students had lasted
maybe a week. Faced with yawns and rolling eyes at my almost puppyish glee
of teaching, my students had ripped those notions out from under my feet.
Then both of us, students and I, had settled down to just getting it done.
Forget all illusions of grandeur and changing the world with my gifted
teaching methods. I had gotten used to it and plodded along in my
day to day fashion until I got the letter from my grandfather's lawyer.
To be honest, I knew I 'had' a grandfather. My mother had spoken of him
frequently. Mostly in remembrances of past things in her life. She
had spoken of him as loving, yet stern. When she had left the family home
to go and live her own life, he had, admittedly in anger, told her to never
come back. She took him to heart and never did.
But, love him she
did until the day she died. That had happened seven years ago.
According to my grandfather's
lawyer, Mr. Alfred B. Brimsell, I had inherited the family mansion, the
land it sat upon plus a hundred acres around it and all the things that
went along with an inheritance of this sort. For I was the only child of
my mother, who was my grandfather's only child as well.
Mr. Brinsell had tried
to get me to wait until the morning before coming all the way from New
York to see it, but I was too eager to see the house my mother had spoken
of often and had left his office, key and papers in hand, to come up to
this desolated spot.
This, more than anything,
explained why I was at the moment...driving and driving and driving.
Suddenly, the road
curved and there it was.
The mansion loomed
as I stopped my car and stared at the immense structure in front of me.
No warnings from Mr. Brimsell had prepared me for the sheer size of the
house. Three stories, not counting the cellars, the huge attic and a wide
portico on the side, it was bigger than anything my imagination could have
With its sharp angles,
high pitched roofs and an immense tower with battlements, it was
a fanciful and haunting sight. I wondered, in my shock, how the ghosts
could possibly stand to live in such a structure! Shaking myself mentally,
I mumbled under my breath, with a sense of silly humor, the famous lines
uttered by the Cowardly Lion on the "Wizard of Oz" to keep himself free
of harm from spirits occuping the Haunted Woods, " I do believe in
spooks, I do believe in spooks, I do! I do! I do!"
The house was fashioned
of a deep dark gray stone of some sort. Horrendous gargoyles with wide
stretched open mouths formed the downspouts and other forms of the same
sort decorated the roof. Sheer fantasy revelled in this house. Creatures
of all types and descriptions frolicked on the roof and on the sides of
the mansion. It was shocking, it was almost funny. I had to laugh at the
fairy tale image. This house was NOT what I had been expecting!
Still, it was different
from anything I had ever seen. More importantly, it was a place to get
out of the storm. The arched windows shone with a welcoming light. Perhaps,
if I had known what waited for me behind those warm lighted windows, I
would have braved the weather and the long winding road and driven right
back to South Carolina. But, alas, I did not. I put my car into motion
and pulled up under the wide portico and the tall dark figure that waited
for me there.