Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wharton's poem "Elves' Library" and hauntings at The Mount


The walnut-panelled library contains more than 200 works of original literature, requested by librarian Princess Marie Louise. “To the writers and musicians she sent tiny blank volumes for them to fill,” says Lucinda. In return she received a hand-written, leather-bound story from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, How Watson Learned The Trick, Rudyard Kipling submitted a 4x3cm book of handwritten poems, some unpublished, complete with his own illustrations, MR James wrote The Haunted Dolls’ House, Thomas Hardy sent seven poems and Robert Graves five.

Edith Wharton considered her contribution to be “doggerel… unworthy of so charming a destination”. Amusingly, Lucinda agrees: “She was right. Her poem Elves’ Library is appalling,” says Lucinda.

From Halloween brings haunted tours at Edith Wharton’s The Mount:
Now, in honor of the looming presence of Halloween, The Mount is offering some special spooky programming in addition to the 90-minute Friday Night Fright tours that begin at 6 and 7 p.m. On Saturday, Oct. 30, at 11 p.m. Schuyler and her colleague, librarian Molly McFall, will lead a late-night tour complete with re-enactments and the usual spectral guests. A ghost tour and reading will be held earlier, at 6:30 p.m.

"The people who come here are all over the place," McFall said. "We’ve got young teenagers who want to be scared, professional ghost hunters and women on a girls night out. They’re as old as we allow them, basically from 8 years old to 80."

No matter the age of the visitor, the tour, according to both women, is not for the faint of heart. Many visitors who come in search of a ghostly encounter are not disappointed.

"We go upstairs in the stables, and it’s dark and creepy, and the space is huge," McFall said. "That’s when the kids get scared. There are some possibly true gruesome stories which took place in the stables."

One such story is that of a servant girl who was reported to have hanged herself on the property.

"That story is attached to The Mount from way back," McFall said. "Rumor had it that the girl hanged herself in the attic. We assumed that it was the attic in the main house. But then we had a psychic figure here in 2008 from Ghost Hunters International and he said he saw a figure hanging from a beam in the stable."

In addition to seeing the figure, the young psychic also was able to "read" the emotions of certain rooms in the house, particularly rooms in which the domestic turmoil of Wharton’s life played out for years.

"Once the psychic entered Teddy Wharton’s room, he felt very sorry and depressed," McFall said. "He said he felt something awful, something oppressive."

Schuyler is not quick to blame the odd happenings on the ghosts and bad energy that encompassed the Wharton legacy at The Mount. In fact, she said, of all of the inhabitants of the mansion, the Whartons were there the least amount of time.

"The Shattucks (who purchased the property in 1911) both died in the house. Mr. Shattuck had a heart attack and died peacefully," she said. "This is not something you talk about normally on a standard tour. In the room where he died, certain people have had experiences where they can’t breathe."

While she hasn’t had this experience, Pixley said there have been many incidents at the estate that make her catch her breath at the creepiness of it all.

"I’ve heard someone call my name when I was the only one in the house. I’ve heard a man sneeze," she said. "I was on the second floor in the dining room when I heard an angry man’s voice tell me to get out. It put my heart in my throat and sent chills down my spine."

Even Pixley’s co-worker Sherry has been harassed by unseen beings.

"The other night we were on the third floor and I was walking down the main stairs when I heard Sherry scream," she said. "She said that someone had flicked her really hard on the head, so hard that her barrette had been knocked out of her hair."

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