A Ghost Story

August 23, 2011

My to be and I recently traveled to Lenox, Massachusetts.  It was a stormy weekend like the kind typical of late summer.  The day would be clear, a few fluffy clouds off in the distance.  The air would be moist, like a sauna, but you wouldn’t feel it unless you said out loud, “Is it sticky?”  And then all you would think about is the dampness to the air.

Lenox is a small town in Western Massachusetts, snuggled into the Berkshires like a flea into a dog’s hide.  There are a cluster of towns in that area, all sprung up around coincidental historical places.  Norman Rockwell once made his studio along Main Street in Stockbridge.  The Boston Symphony Orchestra decided Tanglewood was a good place to have summer band camp.  The producers of the movie Cider House Rules thought Ventfort Hall in Lenox would be a good backdrop for the orphanage.  My to be and I made the necessary pilgrimage to a few of these spots, but there is one place in Lenox that we will not return.

The Mount on Plunkett Street.

The Mount is an enormous stone edifice erected on a slope surrounded by thick pine forests and meticulously designed and maintained walled gardens.  In 1902, the writer, Edith Wharton, decided she wanted a retreat in the Berkshires where she could go to write.  So she built the Mount out in the forests of the hills.   The design was simply, and the rooms of the house carry the feeling that Mrs. Wharton wanted things to be open and airy.  The classic galleries that allow access to all rooms on a floor were meant to provide a relief from the heat during the summer as air moved throughout the floor.  Large tapestries and murals were set into the walls, and beady painted eyes reminded one of their origins.

When visiting a historic place, I always expect things to be like a museum.  Everything in its place and do not touch, thank you.  But that is not what the Mount is like.

I will note a pretense that existed before my to be or I entered the Mount.  I am a publicly proclaimed, out of the closet fan of the show Ghost Hunters on the Syfy channel.  On one episode of the show, the team did an investigation at the Mount in Lenox.  They captured some interesting evidence during the night, and the Mount added another note to the ghost history section of their website.  But while I was expecting grand and cold, I got creepy and scary.

The Mount is not fully restored.  Large portions of it stand as if it is a decomposing corpse.   Walls are scarred and nicked.  Floors are unpolished and worn.  Wallpaper dissolves from the walls of bathrooms as if the many baths that have occurred in its presence has caused it to simply disappear.  And all of these scars make one think, “Who did that?”  Nothing went bump in the night while my to be and I were there.  There were no disembodied voices, nothing touched us, and nothing moved without a blatant physical reason for the motion.  But the removed toilets, the peeling paint, and the empty rooms spoke louder than Casper calling, “Boo!”

It was a physical reminder of the passage of time.  It was the bookmark left by the maids that scrubbed the wooden floors, the writer who made her bed her primary writing spot, by the marriage that saw ruin and dissolution.  It was haunting in its very existence.

And so I ask, which is worse?  The ghost that says boo in the night or the one that says nothing at all?

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