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Haunting Catherine Blaque 10 and Finale!
Erin LeFey Copyright 2011
June 21, 1947
It’s the first day of summer and the swamp has lost its spring blooms. It’s humid because the temperatures are already in the low 90’s; warmer than usual for this time of year. the lawn and garden are so green. The rain has been normal, so the surrounding swamp is full. I’ve been developing a new respect for it since my weekly rides with my mare.
I still feel that numbing feeling when I leave the house. Inside, I have my comfortable surroundings, and my company. George and Helena are regular visitors in the house, I should say ‘family’, yet they don’t live here – they only visit. I don’t quite understand why that is. They come and share parts of my day when I am alone.
George will have breakfast with me in the kitchen. Helena stops by to chat while George is off on business. George comes back after my nap to spend the evening with me. It is as if I am in a constant loop – and I must obey the rules of this play. If I deviate from the schedule of this George/Helena loop – they don’t appear and I am left to my own devices.
The presence of ‘others’ in the house completely disturbs the flow of our lives. When the attorney stops by or the gardeners and housekeepers are in and out – everything is disrupted. I’ve grown cold to them because of the impact they have on my environment; I’m not as polite as I should be, and I do admonish myself for that in the privacy of my own quarters. That is where I stay when the others are here. Helena will leave a tray for me outside my door after they have all gone, but neither she nor George will visit me those days.
On the days when George and Helena are absent, I ride in the evenings. It is the only thing that calms me. I see the shadow man, but he no longer approaches me. As I said, I still have that feeling, or rather lack of feeling upon stepping outside. It’s as if an invisible shield envelops me, and I feel nothing; no fear, anticipation, excitement, interest, or joy. The best analogy, I have already used – it’s as if I am encased in a cocoon of muslin and seeing through a fog, nothing can touch me. It’s not a comfortable feeling, but it gets me through the ride. I am now familiar with the immediate surroundings outside of my house and I have no feeling one way or the other towards the shadow man. He simply exists as part of the swamp and for some reason, my muslin shield protects me.
Melinda, I have one question – why haven’t you answered my letter? Why haven’t you come? I thought I made it more than clear in my last letter that I need you. My husband has died. I am left alone in this house and I feel I’m going mad. Just to see you would surely help.
Dear sister, I remember all those times when we were younger, I often looked after you. I will pay for your travel if that is the problem. The attorney that is handling George’s estate and all of my affairs at the moment will contact you about arrangements. I understand it could be an imposition, but I really have no one else to turn to. With mother and father gone, it’s just us now. I know that if you were here, we could run this house and there wouldn’t be a need for all the strangers running in and out.
Please reconsider and at least, write to me, hearing from you would really help. Again, I’ll send this letter out soonest – I don’t leave the grounds at all anymore but Helene takes all my correspondence and notes into town on her usual grocery run.
The attorney has taken over full control of the estate. I feel uncomfortable around other people besides Helene and George. I left a note for the attorney – I have at least three days off a week when there is no one on the grounds at all. I need those days to keep my sanity, what is left of it.
Melinda, please write.
Your loving sister,
Aug 22nd, 1947
I’ve realized by now that you aren’t coming but since you are the only family I have left, I will continue to write about what’s gone on here.
I woke up one morning to the sound of clattering on the lawn. Thinking it to be one of the days that the house help was scheduled to be here, I threw on my robe and went downstairs to the porch to see what all the noise was about.
It was a gray day, lightly raining. I couldn’t tell what time it was. I looked around in the fog but couldn’t see much farther than the end of the stairs to the front lawn. The rain wasn’t going to help the temperatures – the clouds and fog only held the heat and stench from the swamp close to the ground. I was beginning to hate living in this land on the edge of hell.
I couldn’t escape the flies and mosquitoes anymore. The rain hadn’t come for a few weeks, so the swamp was beginning to recede a bit. The house and the yard had taken on a smell something like rotten grass or it could be dead animals for all I knew, other people commented on it when they came – I’d grown used to it. So I’m sure I smell that way too.
I came back into the house frustrated that I couldn’t see what was going on and knowing that something was out there making a lot of noise. I started back up the stairs to my room when I heard it again, louder! Only I distinctly heard it coming from the back of the house, in the garden. The days had started to blend from one into another and for the life of me, I could not remember if this was a day for the gardeners to be here or not. There was something about today... The sound was like heavy metal and stone somehow being dragged or crashing against each other. And as I stood there pondering, I heard it again!
Not thinking about how I was dressed, I went through the dining room, out onto the stone porch and down the steps into the garden. I was at the bottom of the stairs before I realized I could not even see my own hand in front of my face. It was if the fog began at the edge of the house. Looking back, I could see the stairs, the porch and the house quite clearly. But the yard and garden were enclosed in a thick white blanket of fog.
I heard the sounds of my horse somewhere in the fog, and quite close to me, again, the sickening sound of that metal/stone scraping. I ran back up the stairs, through the porch and slammed the door. Whatever it was would have to wait until the sun had burned off some of that fog for me to investigate further.
After getting dressed in my khaki trousers, a white blouse and a brown jacket, I came downstairs again to have some breakfast. I hadn’t heard the sound anymore since I was in the yard but I still needed to investigate. I could tell the sun was trying to burn through the fog because outside now was like a glowing white blanket covering the lawn and back yard and I could just make out the tops of the trees. In about an hour, it would be gone so I decided to take my time with breakfast and sit on the porch for a while.
Within forty-five minutes, only a fine mist remained so I looked down from the stone rail into the garden and scanned the wide yard. I noticed then the source of all the noise. All of the iron garden furniture and the garden statues looked like they had been ripped from their foundations and hurled into the fountain. Benches, Chairs, Tables had been scraped across the ground and thrown against the marble statue in the middle of the pond. Other likenesses of angels, lions, and gods and goddesses had all been broken and hurled into the pond; or hurled and broken, I couldn’t tell. What force could have done all of this damage? I more believed it to be the work of an angry spirit or demon than an isolated tornado. I know that sounds strange, but something foreboding still hung in the air, something dark and sinister. And it was emanating from the swamp.
I called for my mare, but she did not come. I went to the front of the house where she usually waits for me in the evening and called for her there, again, she was nowhere to be found. Since it was only eleven o’clock in the morning, I felt safe enough outside. My curiosity got the better of me and I began walking in the direction of the swamp. I was no more than fifty feet from the house when gray clouds covered the sky and it began to rain again. I could see the white mist start to roll in from the swamp. I turned to run back toward the house but it came too quickly. I was overcome!
Before I knew it, I was engulfed in a sea of brilliant white, too bright even to keep my eyes open and the only direction I was sure of was down. Since I was in the middle of turning, I had no idea which direction I was facing and I was scared to move. Fifty feet in the wrong direction would put me in the swamp or at the edge of my house. It could also put me into nothingness and if I kept going, I could be lost out here for hours, wandering in a dangerous swamp. I suddenly felt so vulnerable, like I could see no one yet everyone could see me. I decided to sit on the ground right where I was and wait for a sound or some kind of clue to my direction. Or maybe the fog would lift as suddenly as it had come. I sat cross legged, leaning back with both hands on the soggy grass.
I waited for what seemed an eternity and then I heard a cracking sound. Just one though, so I couldn’t tell from which direction it had come. My head turned instinctively to the left though, so maybe it was on my left. Something cold and wet slithered across my right hand very quickly. I pulled my hand away quickly and tried to stand when something I could not see pushed me back to the ground. I fell backwards onto the grass and mud.
“Who is there?” I yelled. I heard my voice echo.
“It’s only me.” He said calmly. It was the Shadow Man. My heart raced. He had kept his distance but now I was vulnerable.
“It’s a shame you can’t see the swamp, but I think this is a better way to experience it,” he laughed in that low unsettling voice.
“Can you take me back to the house?” I asked, trying to sound calm, knowing I wasn’t doing a very good job of it.
“Yes, but I won’t. You’ll find your own way when the fog lifts. Now get up and walk!” he commanded.
“I can’t see where I’m going, I can’t walk anywhere.” I said.
“Don’t whine now. You’ve been so brave. Walk! Or the fog will take you with it into nothingness.” His voice was so cold and heartless.
I felt more snakes around my arms and legs and I jumped up from the ground. When I got up, it was like I was standing in the middle of hanging moss and I couldn’t find my way out. I pulled and yanked at it frantically feeling the spiders and frogs and slimy leaves all around my arms until I was free. Finally, through tear-filled eyes, I screamed, “I hate you!!!” more out of fear and frustration…I knew he was no longer there.
I walked straight in front of me and the water was up to my knees. Stinky, putrid swamp water filled my boots as I sloshed through the mess to find dry land again. Tears streamed down my face for a while, getting lost in all the falling rain. Finally I stopped crying and started tripping as the ground before me started to rise. I was climbing a hill! Dry ground! I had found a trail.
The rain eased up and the fog turned back into a fine mist. I could see the trail in front of me but still had no idea where I was. I wandered on that trail for what seemed like hours still soaked in swamp water and feeling the hot afternoon sun. Flies, mosquitoes, and gnats were constantly buzzing around my head and it seemed I was always finding a slug, worm, or small fish somewhere in my pants legs or boots every time I stopped for rest.
It was close to sundown before I saw the house. I was so dehydrated, hot, dirty and sweaty but I ran with all my might, afraid it might just be my imagination. When I reached those stone stairs of the back patio, my body wanted to collapse but I raced up the stairs, into the house and locked the door behind me.
I undressed right there in front of the patio door. I threw off my shirt, pants, boots, underwear and tossed the whole pile down the basement stairs to be burned later by the gardener. Then I ran naked to the front door and locked it. I turned around to see the attorney sitting in a living room chair!
“MMMMadame! I’m sorry for the intrusion! Please forgive me!” he tried to turn away and hide his eyes while grabbing a nearby throw for me at the same time.
Startled just as much as he was, I grabbed it from him and said shaking, “WWWhat are you doing here?”
He gained his composure again, “We had an appointment two hours ago and I was waiting outside in the sun. The front door was open and I thought you were napping upstairs so I thought I would wait for you in here…in the parlor. I’m so sorry, Madame.”
I had completely forgotten of course, about the appointment. I never even know what day it is anymore. I excused myself to get cleaned up and said I would be down shortly. I invited him to make himself something to eat in the mean time.
What else was I to say? I went up to calm down from the day’s events…I filled the tub twice. Once to rinse off all the swamp mess. Then I cleaned the tub and took a proper bath. I had to put this out of my mind and think about it later, obviously I had something else to attend to with the lawyer. Only I couldn’t remember what it was.
Well, I went downstairs and we had a long talk. Evidently my sanity has come into question, and the doctors are going to evaluate me. He has had many of the housekeeping staff quit this year because of my behavior, he says. There is talk of me wandering through the house muttering to myself – evidently no one else can see George or Helena. They said that they have found me passed out on the couch after an evening of imbibing alcohol and have had to put me to bed in the morning. They say I lock myself in my room and the only way I will eat is if they leave food out for me by my door. The attorney thinks it is better left to the courts to decide if it is safe for me to live alone.
Melinda, it is your fault all this has happened. If you hadn’t sent George out that night, he’d still be alive today. You’ve been talking with my attorney haven’t you? You know that if I am declared mentally ill that you stand to inherit all that we have, don’t you? I must do all that I can to stay inside this house for I know that if I step foot outside now, I am vulnerable to that Shadow Man. No where is safe from him. The only place he cannot reach me is in this house. If I am taken from this house, I shall never be safe again. I will always be wandering in that thick white fog looking for my home.
Melinda, I will never forgive you for this if they take me from here.
Catherine was taken from the house in the fall of 1947 and has been in residence at Valley Springs Mental Hospital. She has never uttered a word since that incident and remains catatonic.A small report was taped to the last page of this journal which must have been placed there by her attorney (who passed away in Dec 1947).
Mrs. Blacque was evaluated by several doctors in her home (on her insistence, since she refused to leave the house) and found to be delusional and schizophrenic. She was also deemed to be unable to care for herself and considered a danger to herself. The Sheriff's Dept. of Baltimore County was called in on 1 October 1947 to disarm her and forcibly remove her from her residence.
For the record, She was the only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Calvin O'Hara. Melinda was entirely fictional.