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 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.


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…