Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Voices of Moore Hall

This story is part of Angela Nickerson's Blogapalooza event over at her blog, Just Go!

After reading this little tale, click on over there and read some of the stories there and sign in to win prizes, including my own A Journey into the Transcendentalists' New England and A Journey into Ireland's Literary Revival. In fact, this little story comes from my research for that book.

The Voices of Moore Hall

It was still a bit chilly the morning I pulled into the small parking area along the northern shore of Lough Carra, a large lake near the center of County Mayo in Ireland. I was there early that morning to catch the morning light on what had been the novelist George Moore's home until it burned down in 1923. George Moore was a colleague and friend of the poet William Butler Yeats and occasionally hosted the poet at this house. I had driven in to the area the night before from Galway and would continue on to Sligo in the afternoon.

Day was just dawning steel grey as I headed up the path toward the house. About halfway up the path, I looked back and could see my footprints in the wet grass leading up from the dark grey water of Lough Carra on the other side of my car. I continued on.

When I got to the house, I set up my tripod and began taking the photos I needed for my book. It was very quiet in the early morning and, as the sun rose, it did little against the thick wool blanket of clouds overhead. I continued to shoot the house and marveled at how a house this massive and historically important could just be left in the middle of the woods. There was a sign to the right of what had been the front entrance stating that the inside was off limits, and iron bars on the first floor doorways and windows, but other than that, there was nothing...and nobody around. Standing on the porch, under that granite portico, I also noticed that if I climbed over to the first story window from the porch, I could actually climb up through the window above the iron bars and drop into the interior of the house to explore.
Of course my curiosity got the better of me, and I climbed inside the house. It was tremendous to stand on the inside of the crumbling building and try to imagine what it was like, imagine the parties and grand gatherings of literary talent. Because the interior of the house was completely gutted, there was no way I could get up to the upper stories, but there was a stone staircase down to the basement, the dark basement.
Well, okay. I'm not going to say I wasn't scared at all, but I knew that was just plain silly. So, gripping my tripod like a baseball bat, I went down the stairs. And, I was right, there was nothing down there but what one visitor described as a "sinister labyrinth of arched corridors and dark rooms, their floors carpeted by a mulch of decaying leaves and squelching mud."
But, while I was down there, flashing my camera flash into corners not to take pictures, but to see what was there, I heard voices upstairs. Shit! I had left my camera bag and car keys just inside the front door in easy view. I immediately had visions of the local police hauling me off to jail for trespassing and having to call my publisher to spring me out. Or, perhaps worse, someone stealing my stuff and rental car. The voices were actually inside the house, so whoever it was either had the keys to the lock on the iron gate or had climbed through the window like I had.
I crept back up the stairs, again with my tripod in hand and peaked around the corner. Hmm. Nobody. The voices had gone. My stuff was there, untouched. Maybe the voices just sounded like they were in the house. I slipped back out the window and dropped back down to the grass below. I looked around the sides of the house -- still nobody. The group must have just come up to the front door, looked in the gate and then headed back down the path, disappearing before I got back upstairs. Whew, nothing to worry about.
I chuckled to myself and shouldered my camera bag to head back to my car. I guess I startle easily. Then, I noticed that my footprints in the wet grass were still the only ones leading up to Moore Hall. Nobody else had come this way.
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