“Who has not either seen or heard of some house, shut up and inhabitable, fallen into decay, and looking dusty and dreary, whence, at midnight, strange sounds have been heard to issue – the rattling of chains, and the groaning of perturbed spirits? – a house that people thought it unsafe to pass after dark, and which no tenant would occupy even were he paid to do so? The abodes of ghosts and evil spirits…”
– Dr. Mackay in Haunted Homes and Family Legends of Great Britain
It’s been a few weeks since I bought this book.
It was shelved, horizontal, in the back corner of a used book shop in Monterey – already a promising start to a ghostly collection of stories. Anything that reads – “Based on true events”, is basically science in my mind.
I bought it immediately.
I brought it back to the Bed & Breakfast I was staying in, poured some Port from the empty and over decorated common room and went out to the side garden of the main house to explore the books content. After a few sips of dark-purple Port, my stomach felt warm and my mind was fuzzy and opening to the book’s haunting first few paragraphs. A rustling of the leaves on the ivy vine added appropriate ambiance – and when a few leaves fell to the ground, causing a crunch on the gravel pathway, I jumped a little in my chair.
It felt good to be scared in a completely idyllic place. I continued to sip my Port, swirling it in the tiny etched crystal glass.
Ambiance is everything when it comes to a haunting, and there is no better ambiance then the garden. A lonely ivy creeps for decades on the face of a brick chimney, clinging to nothing but itself and the weathered remains of masonry. A shrub, turned tree, turned woody dead-thing cascades towards the front door, offering no welcome. Thorny briars sprout up and take root in odd places, their dark green and reddish foliage are never – ever – cheery.
But the creepiest of gardening, in my opinion, are the plots – with old rose gardens, dead veggie beds and cemetery plantings. Roses that have been under-watered and not cared for in years develop a thick, rusty stem that bends to the weight of fat rose-hips that have never been clipped. There will be no Winter pruning for the roses, since the owner will not be seeing another Winter. Roses are traditionally planted around gates, to signify, “You’re here – come in!” – so when no one is home (or will ever be home, you know, cause they are dead), it slowly turns to a lovely, lonely wild plant. A place marker for when things were soft and beautiful and alive.
Be it murder, famine, a flee or other lovely inhumane tragedy – the garden keeps on growing.
Thickets, well… thicken. Sleepy towns pull the covers up even closer. And that old road the forgotten house is still inhabiting remains… along with the garden. The garden trellis may be fallen over and the old white picket fence may be covered in lichen and sag in the middle, but it’s still home.
Home and Garden have never been more dreadfully well suited then in a haunted tale.
Know of some haunted home and gardens? Do tell…