Why Evan Peters Is. Everything.

Nope, not a typo. I have to emphasize the importance of this statement by ending the sentence, immediately followed by a new sentence which consists of one word.

So now that we have grammar validated, allow me to expound on this hyperbolic statement.  Exhibit number one:

And here’s the second piece of evidence:

And why not go for three?

And my favorite incarnation:

This guy…he is the real deal.

Born on the cusp of Capricorn/Aquarius in one of the greatest cities for baseball, food and culture in the nation, his stock continues to rise.

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The bad news…he is only twenty nine…which is way beyond my “axis of creepy”. So he is safe from my charms.

However, as a consumer of fine television with incredible writing teams (see “Turn: Washington’s Spies), I can definitely appreciate his talent and versatility.  Evan manages to bring vulnerability, charm, and compassion to every role in which he portrays, which for some is quite the challenge. He managed to make Tate, “the beautiful monster”, likable and relative.  No small task.  His heinous and anti-social behavior in many of his roles should make for a creature that viewers love to hate.

Except you can’t. Not completely.

Maybe it’s those dead shark eyes of his that draw you in, looking for the glimmer of humanity. Or that easy grin that cauterizes his trustworthy, Midwestern/German face. Or that you just don’t want to completely turn your back to him because, well, you may not trust him as much as you thought.  In any of those scenarios one thing is evident.

Evan Peters has complete command of your attention.

And you’re not turning away.

Full  disclosure: AHS is the only body (clever pun) of work I’ve seen of his so I can’t elucidate properly on his entire collection of genius.  I probably would expect his characters to be a cross between “Jimmy” from “Freak Show” and “Kit” from “Asylum”. One dimensional at first glance, but later pulling back the many layers of the motivations for their behaviors.

Or maybe I’m getting confused with who he really is.  Maybe he shows us more about himself personally in every character he’s played than we are aware.  Isn’t that really what most performers do anyway?

To validate, I’ll allow Evan to speak for himself:

I guess creepy comes natural to me – I hate to say that.”

“But I love Halloween, and I love that feeling: the cold air, the spooky dangers lurking around the corner.”

“There’s something that’s sexy about a guy who has the strength to kill somebody, but is also vulnerable enough to be in love. It’s just those two sides – like, I don’t know why, but women for some reason aren’t attracted to normal guys, like, guys who are in between.”

(Much respect to IMDB for those quotes.)

Honestly, there’s always room on my Victorian fainting couch in my cottage on the shores of the Irish Sea for one of the many incarnations of Evan Peters.  I guess he’s not safe from me after all. Or I, unfortunately, from him. For he is one I seek out by which to be entertained. Because…he.is.everything.

Until the tea kettle rattles and the storms roll in…




Creepy, Purely. But Will It Last?

So I had simmering high hopes for this season of AHS.  I was not a fan of “Hotel” because it visually ran high on gore and intellectually was a snore. I admired their attempt to introduce Valentino to Millenials, but the story line was, in my opinion, uninspired.  Denis O’Hare’s Liz Taylor was on fleek (hope I used that right, 20 somethings), as was Kathy Bates and Angela Basset. Because. Always. And Matt Bomer is just so…I don’t know…luminous.  He is also totally believable playing straight. And if you’re into intense, creepy guys who hang out in corners and look at you from underneath troubled eyebrows, Wes Bentley brings it. Just for you. .  But that’s where my admiration ends.

So I was trepidatious when entering this season. All the fake teasers and refusal to announce the theme. Very clock and dagger.  But my hopes were pinned on a season as creepily satisfying as the first, so I dove in..again.


I was not disappointed. Except I’m not on solid land either.

Allow me to elaborate. Because this is my blog… (SPOILERS BELOW!)

I was hooked in a second with the Paranormal Survivor/Reality Show intro.  Because in my darkest of shame closets I will watch these types of shows.  And then we saw Lily Rabe. And Sarah Paulson. And Cuba Gooding Jr. Who were playing parallel characters reenacting real events. SOLD $$$$

Matt and Shelby are a young, interracial couple who, after two tragic events, escape L.A. and retreat to the wilds of North Carolina. They find a picturesque farm house, which, you know, they just walk into, and win it in a bidding war with some extras from Deliverance.  Soon after, they begin experiencing slamming doors, voices, and a tacky welcome wagon gift on their porch, not to mention a threat on Shelby’s life. But they’ve invested so much that they can’t just leave…

Enter Angela Bassett, Matt’s tough, ex-cop sister clinging to her sobriety. She agreed to stay with Shelby while Matt travels for work, which clearly sets up for bad juju and negativity in the air. Shelby drinks alot of wine after completing her yoga practice and Lee believes she is full of…yeah. that.

Events escalate when the women are alone in the house and creep down the stairs to the basement, guided by disembodied voices.  What they find is unexplained and decidedly creepy and may lend more explanation later on.

The end of the episode comes quickly, with Shelby’s reenactment of hitting a woman whilst fleeing from her home and then getting lost on the woods, but not before she encounters strange wooden and yarn contraptions hanging from trees. Oh, and the guy with no skull… And did I mention the tie into Roanoke? (Look it up…)

All in all it was creepy and very atmospheric. Exactly what I LIKE! No typical blood and guts, low on the shock value.

Which is exactly why I am not trusting that this is how the season will roll.

I’m fully expecting things to get really, really off topic and weird. And because I like this format so much, I feel it will change quickly.

However, I found some tie-ins to previous seasons which I’m paying attention to: Interracial couple, miscarriage, haunted house, and the PIGMAN!

So, keep it coming Falchuck and Murphy! I’m. All. IN.

And of course we have to see what Gaga will do.

Till the tea kettle rattles and the storms blow in…


The Verdict on “Salem”…”More Weight”.

Oh, you guys.

After binging for three weeks on the greatly underappreciated AMC drama, “Turn: Washington’s Spies” and participating in a successful campaign to get it renewed for a fourth (albeit final) season, I was ready for a new endeavor to round out summer.  Via Twitter, I learned that Samuel Roukin, who brilliantly portrays the sadistic and sassy Captain John Graves Simcoe, is slated to debut a character on the third season of WGN America’s “Salem”. In preparation, I eagerly “turned” (see how I did that?) to Hulu to bring me up to speed.

It’s no secret that I’m a AHS fan (see previous blog post “Why Freak Show Was Better Than We Thought”) and following that vein (clever) I figured that “Salem” would be worth  my time.  I’d seen previews and noticed the phenomenal Lucy Lawless joined the cast for Season 2, so I had high hopes.

Oh, you guys.

First of all, in the most respectful way possible, I think this show is written by George R.R.Martin’s illegitimate children.  One of the first scenes involves a very sensual interaction between two women, followed soon after by a complete disrobing of one of the women.  Which would have been appropriate if it served a point other than to have her naked.  Which I bought until the next episode, in which the body part necessary to be uncovered was done so without her taking off all her clothes.


I feel fairly comfortable in saying that after watching the first episode I needed a cold shower or cigarette.  I’m also fine with using “soft core” to describe a romantic encounter between Rev. Cotton Mather (yes, THAT Cotton Mather) and Gloriana, his  ginger temptress.  Even for basic cable, I was pretty surprised at the amount of flesh that was possibly harmed in the filming of this scene.  If I sound prudish, I assure you…I may be descended from the dreaded Puritans depicted in “Salem”, but I’ve been known to show my elbows in public, so…

Point being: less can be more.  Shadows, innuendos, raised eyebrows…they all work pretty nicely to set the mood. (See “Turn, Washington’s Spies”). Just sayin’.

And then there’s the history.  Sure, the names are familiar: Mercy Warren, Mary Sibley,  John Alden, Tituba, Giles Corey.  But that’s where the similarity ends.  If you know the story, you know Corey was the only man to die as a result of the witch trials.  In this retelling, as portrayed by the stalwart and divine Kevin Tighe, Corey bites it in the pilot.  Which is unfortunate for all of us,  I think.  As for Captain John Alden, the embittered love interest of Mary Sibley, well…the real Alden died in 1687. Which is the year the show begins.  So that right there is a bit of a let down. Well, that and the assumption of actual witchcraft being practiced in Salem.  I’m willing to suspend my disbelief, but it needs to be within parameters of reality.

If that makes sense.  Probably not.

Historically, what happened in Salem was more frightening than a re-imagining of the story.  I think we’d like to think we are now above finger-pointing and name calling and more tolerant. I think we’d be wrong.

In summation: this period in time was more serious and resonant with the creation of this country than to just be reduced to horror clichés.  I feel it could be so much scarier to point out the parallels of the world in which we live to those over three hundred years ago, when blood-letting was thought to cure almost any disease.

Or when people didn’t bathe.  How did they get over the smell?  How did they live in close quarters like that? How did the human race not die out?

Will I stop watching? I’m half way through the first season, and like a fungus, it has begun to grow on me. But for my opinion to change, I’m going to need more substance.  Or as Giles Corey remarked, “Give me more weight.” (His exact words. Except paraphrased.)

I’m really holding out for Samuel’s character. I’m hoping he rolls his eyes. A lot.


‘Til the teapot rattles and the storm clouds roll in…









Who’s That Girl? A Visit To Whitehaven

Nestled among the orange, red, and yellow carpet of fallen autumn leaves, there stands a green clapboard house. Though nearly two hundred years old, it could still be considered ‘nouveau’ as it resides in a city that claims Spanish and French heritage and bloodlines. But this is no ordinary abode, especially when viewed within the entire panorama. There is the lawn, which is lush and verdant in the spring, the white fence that runs an impressive length around the property, and of course, the famous ‘neigh’bors: the stately and majestic Clydesdales, known for their visceral half-time and Christmas commercials.

But the most telling sign that this is not just any home would be the National Park sign in front of the gate. Whose feet must have trod over the threshold? Who slept upon the crisp, cool linen sheets? Who dined in the simple, smiling graces of sunbeams that poured through the thick paned windows? What was so special about this diminutive and petted brunette, besides being the first daughter born after a huddle of brothers? A girl who was shy and self-conscious about her looks, but captured the heart of a young officer because of them. All this fuss for maybe just an ordinary girl?

But Julia Boggs Dent Grant was not just an ordinary girl.

Welcome to White Haven, the familial home of one of America’s first ladies.

Sharing the same nomenclature as the Memphis, Tennessee suburb where Elvis Presley reigned over Graceland, White Haven was a country home located in present day St. Louis, Missouri and was purchased in late 1825 by Frederick Dent. Dent, his wife Ellen, and four rollicking sons had lived in St. Louis for ten years, after moving from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Dent, a Maryland native, had met his wife Ellen, a daughter of England in Pittsburgh, where he was a land surveyor. They married and joined the rest of their generation in moving westward. Dent acquired a good fortune over the years and was soon able to purchase White Haven, which he ran as a plantation. Dent was a southerner and owned a reported thirty slaves. He was, by all accounts a prosperous farmer. On January 26 , 1826 as the chill wind rocked the tree limbs and froze the Gravois Creek that wound around the house, Ellen was safely delivered of a daughter.

Three more daughters joined the family, with one dying in infancy. As she grew, Julia enjoyed perhaps a better education than most girls of her time, beginning with studies in a one-room school house. She later matriculated into the Mauro Academy for Young Ladies, formerly located at Fifth and Market Streets, which is currently a hub of activity in downtown St. Louis. Julia was enrolled there for eight years and boarded with a family in town due to the distance between White Haven and the school. By Julia’s account, she enjoyed history, philosophy, and mythology and showed a great fondness for reading literature and poetry. She especially liked Shakespeare and Byron, which was introduced to her by her brother, Louis. Ironically, she did not like grammar, nor did she care for mathematics. Like many girls of her time, she played piano, and was also reported to be a good artist in the medium of pencil sketches.

Julia was also quite the eligible young lady and had the opportunity to be courted by many young enlisted men at Jefferson Barracks. But Julia had insecurities about her appearance, and may have had what is referred to as “lazy eye”. What she considered an impediment was what attracted a young officer who was visiting her brother one cold February in 1844. Ulysses Grant had been her brother Fred’s roommate at West Point and was stationed at Jefferson Barracks. Fred invited him for a home cooked dinner and conversation. On that day, Julia arrived home from school and met Ulysses. He proposed three months later. It was said that her father opposed the union and suggested Grant marry her younger sister Ellen instead. Four years later, in the stifling heat of August, Julia and Ulysses were wed. Grant’s family, who were from Ohio, did not attend the ceremony, as they were anti-slavery.

This was just the beginning of social and personal challenges for Julia, who would see her husband lead an entire nation on the battlefield and later in the White House. She was witness to whispers and roars about her husband’s drunken behavior. In the midst she raised four children, all who lived to adulthood, and celebrated the country’s centennial. She attempted to have her eye corrected twice and was stopped both times by her husband who told her he loved her the way she was and may not feel the same if she changed. Julia also examined the way she felt about slavery, pointing out that the children of slaves had been her playmates and that she considered them all her family.

According to Pamela Sanfillipo, a park historian at the Ulysses S. Grant National Site,  “Julia Grant would have said that her legacy was that she was a devoted and loving wife, mother to their children; but, more than that, she tried to represent what her husband was trying to achieve: peace and reconciliation in the nation, and in her role as first lady, she was able to accomplish that.” (First Ladies by Susan Swain, pg. 149).

The Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site is open all year round, with the exceptions of Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. It is free and offers a tour of White Haven and the grounds, along with a video about the life and times of President Grant. It is also located next to Grant’s Farm, which is owned by the Busch family and is a great way to spend an afternoon in St, Louis. For more information on the National Historic Site, go to http://www.nps.gov. To learn more about Grant’s Farm, go to http://www.grantsfarm.com. Finally, a special thank you to http://www.firstladies.org for providing a wealth of knowledge about Julia; a site definitely worth checking out.

*Travel Tip: Since the National Historic Site is a National Park, there is a fun Junior Rangers program for children. They receive a free coloring book with lots of great information and a badge. Also, St. Louis is a fun place to visit, but it is best seen in the fall, when the leaves are turning and the humidity is lower.

The Beauty, The Banker, and The Beau: A True Tale Of Victorian Romance

For most history enthusiasts, an afternoon at a museum is a prime way to while away the hours. The endless supply of artifacts, coupled with pieces of period dress and the dim lighting conspire to make one’s imagination soar through time. And who doesn’t love the smell of must and mildew that is reminiscent of the library? (ahh, libraries…well, that’s another story…)

When I was in college, I worked in a museum that was housed in what was once a beautiful old church. I loved going in and walking through the galleries and displays, alone with just my thoughts, conjuring images of those who had touched the wooden handle on the butter churn, or who had ridden tall in the weathered saddles. I had the ideal job, not only because I am enamored of times before electricity and social media, but my writer’s vision is greatly piqued when I am surrounded by what has been or what could be. Also, I am just a nerd. *pushes up glasses*

So, imagine my delight when it came to my knowledge that there was a way I could connect with my own family lineage in an honest to goodness, historically registered home.  And with close family members as docents, I could not imagine a more perfect way to spend an afternoon than to sort through the treasures.

In doing so, I had a brief, and unexplained occurrence.  But before I divulge further, take a moment to learn the history…

The Marshall house was built in 1885, commissioned by Abram Marshall for his new bride, Belle Crowe Marshall.  Married June 4, 1884, the young couple was the epitome of success on the Kansas plains. Abe was a highly successful business owner, five total, which included a bank.He  also claimed over 1,700 acres of farmland in Lincoln County.  All told however, he was reported to own over 25,000 acres in surrounding counties as well.  His wife Belle was one of the five bevy of beauties who hailed from Iowa.  She was the daughter of English immigrants who came to America from the Isle of Lazare in the English Channel and with her fair skin and dark hair, she attracted much attention.  Belle and her family originally settled in Iowa, but came to Kansas to visit her cousins, the Ryans.  And when they would come to town, they would garner the attention of many of the young men, full of swagger and promise.  And this is how she met Abe. Marriage was soon proposed, and Belle and her family soon made Lincoln County their home. Two of her sisters, Lydia and Minnie, also married bankers, her sister Emma married the first sheriff of the county, and her sister Julia married a land owner and county treasurer. The family was well-respected and enjoyed prosperity.

And then Frank Chase moved to town.

Charming, athletic,and adventurous, Frank moved to rural Kansas from New York.  He set foot in the county, assessed the powerful holdings of Abe Marshall, and proceeded to open his own bank, right across the street from Abe’s bank.


Then, it was reported that folks around town would see Mrs. Marshall rising her white horse through town and tethering it in front of Frank’s bank. Then, it was reported that they would be seen riding their horses together or, even riding a tandem bicycle.


It was further noted that Abe was silent on the topic.

Presumably, this went on until the bank panic of 1893. Unable to shake the fear of failure, Frank closed shop and headed out to California in 1895 to raise oranges and dabble in real estate.

And the tongues of Lincoln County stopped wagging. Abe held steady through the crisis and had great success with his bank. He and Belle had three children and employed household staff, including Gentleman Jim, the son of a slave who had made his way north. He was devoted to Belle and the children and would correct anyone who said he worked for Mr. Marshall.

“I am in the employ of Mrs. Marshall”, he would reply.

Curiously, as the years went on, Belle would take extended trips. She would be gone for entire summers and she would always travel alone. Word had it she was out West…

In the meantime, Abe was elected mayor, and later to the state legislature. He had a golden reputation, was fair and honest as the day was long. his son Ben was successful in the family business but not afraid to help out on the farm.  One daughter married and moved to Denver, and the other continued to live at home.  He was a good man.

Abe died on December 11, 1930. Not too long after Belle moved west. She sold the home to Mr. Ben Yohe, who continued to keep it a gem of the community. He married twice, and upon the death of his second wife, Lucretia, the home was willed to the county’s historical society in the late 1980s. It is now open to the public for private tours and has hosted the Abraham Lincoln Look-a-Like Contestants at their annual breakfast.

But back to Belle…

On May 31, 1931, an elderly man tottered into the county courthouse to see the about getting a marriage license. The dapper man, dressed in a suit and hat, stated his name and intentions to the surprised clerk.

“I want a (marriage license) for myself and Mrs. Belle Marshall. “My name is Frank F. Chase and I am 69 years old and I believe her age to be 66.” The clerk filed out the paperwork and once in hand, Frank left the office and was seen getting into a shiny new car. The car, it was later reported, went to the home of Mrs. D. B. Day, the former Julia Crowe. Inside the parlor was the Rev. H.C. Bradbury, the town’s elderly Presbyterian minister whose blessing of the marriage of Frank and Belle had finally come to fruition.

Incidentally, the Kansas City Star, a major Midwestern newspaper, ran this story June 21, 1931. That’s how we know what Frank said to the clerk. It’s notable that he said he “believed” Belle’s age to be sixty-six.  That’s the mark of a good man.

Now, back to the present.  A year ago I was in town, wanting to take some pictures of the house.  Two family members and I entered the parlor on a warm and windy September Sunday afternoon and as we stood conversing we heard several loud concussive thumps coming from upstairs.  The hair raised on our arms as a chill circulated through our words.  Loudly I proclaimed, “We are family and we don’t mean to bother you. We will only be here  few minutes.”  With that the noises ceased.

My story is not the first to be told regarding strange occurrences in the house.  But I guess I may chalk mine up to squirrels. Maybe.


The “Mad” Tale Of An American General

Knife sharp wind, a goodbye kiss from Canada, caught the sails of the creaking ship as it shoved off the dock, Detroit disappearing from sight. Mercifully, with winter’s breath rattling the russet leaves, the sweat and stench of the crew was tempered, somewhat lessening the nausea on board. Fear flickered on faces however, as their charge, a man seemingly infallible on the battlefield, grew weaker by the day.

Prayers were said and the men worked constantly to ensure a safe arrival. When they docked on Nov. 19 at the port of Presque Island Pennsylvania, the relief was palpable. The crew gingerly unloaded the man who, in his prime commanded his militia with calculated methods and an unshakable air of control. Now, he was frail, racked with pain, face white as his laundered but wrinkled shirt. Shuffling in the direction of an army blockhouse, where the promise of medical attention lay, the men had no idea the course history would take or the macabre way in which their general would be remembered.

Their dynamic and dramatic leader, Anthony Wayne, was born in the wilds of Pennsylvania on New Year’s Day, 1745. The son of an Irish immigrant, he was a curious and quick learner, having matriculated at the College of Pennsylvania but never earning a degree. Instead, he learned the trade of surveying and at age 21 he married Mary Penrose. To their union, two children were born; Margretta in 1770 and Isaac two years later.
Displaying the stereotypical Protestant work ethic, the devoted patriot organized a military unit at the dawn of the Revolutionary War and was made colonel of the 4th Pennsylvania in 1776. From there he had some successes as a commander of rear guard action, but suffered a sneak attack by General Charles “No Flint” Grey in the Battle of Paoli.

A turning point in his career occurred on July 16, 1779 at the Battle of Stony Point. Under the ink black sky of night, he orchestrated an attack on the Redcoats using only bayonets. In the span of a half-hour, ninety-four Loyalists lost their lives and four hundred seventy two were captured. The Patriots suffered fifteen casualties along with eighty-three wounded. Wayne counted himself among this number, as he was nearly scalped by a musket ball.

As a result, he was awarded a medal from the Continental Congress and his nickname, “Mad”, for his seemingly reactive and fool-hearty maneuver.

In fact, he was a diligent tactician who researched military history and planned the attack thoroughly.

He was, however, one for creative venues of expression which ranged from his choice of expletives to his sharp, clean, and stylish uniforms. A true Capricorn, he was bossy, demanding, and doled out sympathy sparingly. He twice pardoned mutinous soldiers but later had four of the leaders executed.

Promoted to Major General by the end of the war, he became a U.S. Representative and also served in the legislature before being called back to service by President Washington in 1792. He commanded the Legion of the United States and fought against the Native Americans who resided in present day Ohio in an effort to claim more land.

Years of travel, battle, and encounters with less than healthy foods finally caught up to him and in 1796 he was living with severe gout while stationed in Detroit. He then decided to return to Pennsylvania.

He and his crew arrived in Presque Isle (Erie) on November 19 and he immediately sought treatment from Dr. Russell Bissell.
Despite the physician’s best efforts, General Wayne died a mere three weeks before his 53rd birthday. Prior to his demise he had requested to be buried at the foot of the flagstaff and donned in his uniform.
And there he lay, in peace. A very undramatic ending for the “Mad” general.

Until 1808…

His daughter decided that she wanted her father nearer to the family and requested that her brother make the arduous, three hundred mile journey to claim their father’s body. Isaac traveled in a small “sulky” carriage, with only enough room for the driver, believing this to be big enough to transport his father’s bones.
Upon arrival, General Wayne was disinterred and much to he surprise of everyone he was found nearly completely intact despite the lack of embalming. This posed an issue for Isaac.

As the men stood about, scratching their heads, the attending physician, Dr. Wallace shared his idea. Whether he received consent from Isaac has been lost to history, but what he did rings loud and clear. He dismembered Anthony’s body, the boiled the skin from the bones. He then gave the bones to Isaac and re-buried the flesh, boiling water, and instruments used in the ghoulish procedure. Isaac then returned to Radnor Township and buried his father’s bones, with honors, on October 24, 1809.

And there’s the dramatic finish to the man who’s legacy after death would certainly qualify as “mad.”

“Issue the orders, Sir, and I will storm Hell”. -General Anthony Wayne

“Look At The Mountains: The Creepy Legacy of Miramont Castle

Clad in black, tingling hands pulling his coat tighter around his thin frame, the man stared hard at the mist covered mountains just outside the window. He squinted his failing eyes, making out shadows below on the lawn; members of the parish and town who were not sorry to see him off. Nor he them. “Allez!”, he shouted suddenly, turning to face the scuttling novices of the Sisters of Mercy, who now raced with boxes of belongings and pieces of artwork down the grand staircase. Anxious to return to polite, aristocratic society, the man became impatient. Soon, he and La Mere would return to France to settle back into the fine world his aristocratic father had laid out for them. And what had happened here would be forgotten, for who would speak of it?  The mountains were silent sentries, quiet in their secret keeping.

Lodged firmly into the rock under which healing natural spring water flows, Miramont Castle is now home to the Manitou Springs Historical Society in Manitou Springs, Colorado. At an impressive 14,000 square feet and with thirty rooms, this is truly not an average abode or humble living quarters. Built in 1895, the castle was home to only two family members, a mother and son who had arrived from New Mexico by way of France.

Father Jean Baptiste Francolon had been dispatched to New Mexico to be the personal secretary to Bishop Lamy in the Archdiocese in 1878. Even at the age of twenty four, Father Francolon proved to be unpopular with the parishioners. There is even some speculation that he may have been poisoned, according to the Castle’s website (www.miramontcastle.org). In 1892, he was placed at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Manitou Springs, which was known for the healthy spring water. Hoping this would improve his health, the ailing priest moved north, staying within the confines of the Rocky Mountains.

The child of an aristocratic diplomat, Father Francolon was not used to the sparse living arrangements that the church encouraged for priests.  Built in 1895. his home, which translates into “Look at the Mountain”, offered picturesque views, two inch thick walls between rooms, running water, various antiques, a luxurious parlor, and an immaculate garden. Certainly, a home to rival Versailles. It is also supposed that the nuns of the Sisters of Mercy cooked and cleaned for him and his mother.

But even within the confines of his magnificent fortress, Father Francolon could not escape his past. Debts and a lawsuit for non-payment of construction materials followed him, along with his reputation. Again, he was disliked by the townspeople and he kept mostly to himself. However, he did host two charity balls in 1897, with proceeds going to the poor of Manitou Springs and to the library.

A mere five years later, in 1900, Father Francolon and his mother left Miramont Castle, leaving many pieces of household furnishings, but taking expensive artwork. They returned to France, where she died shortly after their return. Father Francolon returned to the United States and lived in New York until his death in 1922.

The castle was abandoned until 1904, upon which the Sisters of Mercy purchased it and used it as the summer location of their sanatorium, Montecalme. Miramont became the permanent location in 1907 after the main campus was engulfed in flames and destroyed.

The Solarium, noted for it’s high ceilings, 180 degree view, and natural lighting, was used as an operating room for simple procedures.

In 1927, the sanitorium closed and the castle became a private retreat for the members of the nunnery.

The economic boom following World War II echoed through Miramont, as it was released from the Sisters’ hands and into private investors who converted it into nine apartments. These were mainly geared towards returning veterans and planned to accommodate them as they reentered into civilian life.

The Castle enjoyed another renaissance in 1976 after it had been neglected and damaged for years. Nearing condemnation, it was saved by the Manitou Springs Historical Society and today is open to the public The museum offers a view into the genteel world of Victorian living at the turn of the century, with some amazing architecture and amenities. It is handicap accessible and offers a Queen’s Tea for those looking for a special way to remember the Castle (check website for details).

The basement hosts a firefighter’s exhibit, and houses relics from some of the earliest firefighting equipment, badges, uniforms, and curios. Other exhibits throughout the Castle include Trial at Nuremberg, artifacts from John C. Young, Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court who presided over the 12th Nurnburg Trial, and a gallery of artwork by local artists.

But the Castle continues to be home to Father Francolon. His bedroom suite, decidedly smaller than the other rooms, appears to be awaiting his return; his hat hanging from a rack, his rosary near his bible.

A small chapel is located within the center of the Castle, near the sweeping staircase. A sign on the wall said that the chapel has been opened to the public for small ceremonies, including weddings.

The architecture spans nine types, including Gothic, Moorish, and Domestic Elizabethan, and offers, as a centerpiece, a twenty-ton fireplace in red sandstone, complete with an arched hearth.

The tour is self-guided, and comes with an informational sheet that details the history of the Castle and it’s rooms.

The reason as to why Father Francolon left Manitou Springs is never clearly discussed, which brings up many possibilities that could be entertained in a fertile imagination. With his reputation, it would be easy to create scenarios that introduce lurid details, but these questions are not answered within the Castle.

Miramont indeed lives up to it’s romantic name and is an impressive and lovely museum. Though located near a bustling downtown, there is a sense of isolation and loneliness that permeates through the two inch thick walls. Indeed, there is little happiness that accompanies the history of the Castle, the bricks and mortar held together by sadness and disappointment.

Manitou Springs is located five miles from Colorado Springs, Colorado and also offers many unique boutiques and eateries. There are also seven spigots in the main square which run spring water; tourists are encouraged to stop by the Visitors Bureau to receive a free cup so they may sample the healing waters.

For more information about Miramont, visit http://www.miramontcastle.org.

Season’s Readings…The Haunting of Hill House


“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.  Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more.  Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

So begins The Haunting of Hill House, one of Shirley Jackson’s more renown works.  And a piece of literature, if you are not familiar, let me kindly introduce you.

Throw some fresh pinewood on the fire, refill your mug with tea, and have a protein snack nearby…you won’t be leaving your chair for awhile once you begin this tale.

Eleanor Vance is a quiet, unassuming “good daughter” who has cared for her invalid mother for eleven years.  Endless bowls of soup, piles of soiled laundry, and fragments of guilt have permeated every facet of Eleanor’s world.  Losing her identity after her mother dies, she goes to live with her sister, and her family, which consists of a bratty niece and a condescending brother-in-law. But Eleanor has a secret.  And a driver’s license.

After being contacted by Dr. Montague, a psychologist who is researching the authenticity of a truly haunted house, she stealthy steals  borrows her sister’s car (a car she insists she paid half to purchase) and drives to a remote location outside of Boston.  Despite her mousey appearance and servant lifestyle, Eleanor has some strong psychic abilities and the last lines of a poem logged in her soul ( “Journeys end in lovers meeting).  Ultimately, she is sustained by these two characteristics and soon arrives at the gates of Hill House.

Looking at this arrival as a vacation, which she has never experienced, Eleanor throws herself whole heartedly into the experiment at hand.  She also meets her fellow paranormal partner, Theodora, an eccentric artist who shows both sweet and sadistic sides to her personality.  Luke Sewell, a family member of the home owner’s is there to provide insurance that the house is not being trashed, appears as a slightly entitled but hapless you man who alternately flirts with and disregards Eleanor.  And Dr. Montague’s introduction is much like the benevolent wizard who controls the players; nothing to dangerous…at first, lest they lose their powers too soon.

Over drinks in the parlor, Dr. Montague  conjures images of a house with well-intentions but a detestable fate. From the carriage crash that kills the lady of the house before she ever sets eyes upon its Gothic turrets to the two bickering sisters who fought over the gilded dishes.  And of course, the unpleasantness with the caretaker…

The house also appears to change shape as hallways extend to nothingness and doors lead to rooms previously unnoticed.  As Eleanor’s distortion grows, so does her sharpened skills and perceptions.  Who is Dr. Montague, really?  Can she trust Theodora, whom she had called “cousin?”  Could Luke be her one true love who has been waiting for her at the end of the journey?  What truly is lurking just outside in the garden? And who (or what) keeps writing chalk dust messages about her returning home?

Psychologically, the story races around dark corners and into hidden passageways, providing one of the most enjoyable rides in literary fiction.  Jackson was a master of deep, inner dialogue with a passion for the black side of humanity and plays it beautifully, even beyond the final sentence.

As preserved as coffin flowers, this story rings as true at it did over fifty years ago when first published. For a devilishly delightful and atmospheric read, look no further than this tale.

Bonus: The 1962 move version is also fantastic!

Until the next storm rolls in…

Monday Morning (or When my Psyche Became Completely Wrecked).

October 12, 2015, 9:15 a.m. I’m at work. My schedule has given me a bit of free time to read the morning news.  I log on and acknowledge the barrage of political quotes and hyperbole, scan football scores and upcoming baseball games (Go Royals!) and take note of what recycled dress Duchess Kate has worn.  And then I see it…

It’s a blurb, urging me to click on the link to get more information.  There seems to be a haunted house attraction in Tustin, California which is reportedly so scary, so disturbing, so intense that visitors must sign a waiver to get in.  No stranger to the strange, the creepy, and the disquieting I went straight to the story, eager to see what it could offer.  I’ve heard of haunted houses having not only waivers but defibrillators and EMTS at the ready, due to the number of cardiac arrests and labor inducing terror these attractions to thrill seekers. I’m also familiar with the backstories that many of these haunted houses which seem to range from abandoned asylums to mansions to Satanic places of worship.  You know, places you may go on vacation 😉

But I was instantly intrigued when I read the story of “The 17th Door”.  Visitors are invited to join the main character, a young woman named Paula, as she  journeys from high school graduation into her first year of college.  Paula has dealt with many traumatic issues in her life but has decided to start fresh and chase after her dream of being a doctor.  Sounds good, right? Maybe even, I don’t know…relatable?

But very quickly, Paula’s world dissolves into nightmarish scenes of bullying, eating disorders, hallucinations, and psychosis.  These, compounded with her anatomy and physiology classes, (re: dissection, re:blood, re: organs, re: vomit) conspire to create an overwhelming amount of stress and pressure on all five senses.  Indeed, the website states that all sights, sounds, and smells are real.  REAL, people!

There is even safety word for those visitors who can not handle the terrifying psychological assault. But guess what? That word only moves them along to the NEXT ROOM! Not out of the house, but just to the next hall of horrors.  And this attractions lasts for 30 minutes.  No one is getting out any time soon.

Then I watched the trailer.  And my psyche completely dissolved. I wanted to crawl into the corner and rock away under a blanket.  My friends would say I’m into some weird, creepy stuff and know I can handle alot.  But this..

I work with the college population on a daily basis. I see them come in to pursue their dreams and watch as the next four years shape who they are going to be as adults. Some soar and are ready to tackle the working world, never changing their strides. Some go along for awhile and are challenged by what they thought they had wanted to be, but make a hug decision in the middle of their junior year. And some are haunted by their demons they thought they had locked up before they left home.  The cold tentacles of self-hate, and self-harm, reach across the years and find their victims, tightening their grips so they can’t study.  So they can’t trust others, So they become isolated.  So they can invite the demons back in  to their new lives.  And they come to me to talk about their hallucinations, their paranoia, and their suicide attempts.

The 17th Door has the real potential to raise awareness about what some people endure as a result of trauma. This perhaps innovative approach could change they way in which the haunted house attraction does business as well, by continuing to tap into fears of such mundane tasks as going to class, going to work, or aging.  The major drawback of course is how traumatized those who enter the houses will continue to become, especially if they have lived through some of these traumas.

But, that of course, is what the waivers are for.

Check it out for yourself, if you dare…http://the17thdoor.com/

May the teapot be ever whistling and the storm clouds gathering where ever you are…