In its heyday, the house stood in substantial grounds, and its nearest neighbour was at least half a mile away. The family that owned the house could trace their history back generations and were extremely proud of their heritage. The house hosted many a lavish party and saw hundreds of guests enter through its magnificent oak doors. Horses and carriages turned on its driveway, depositing merry people, in all their finery, upon the front steps, to be announced to those within. The ballroom shone first in candlelight, and later with gas lamps, illuminating countless dances.
It was not all glamour and brightness, however, as the house had a dark side, as well, which those unwary enough to go exploring might discover. At certain times, dark forces converged and caused fascinating encounters to occur in the dead of night in the house’s environs. Great Uncle Albert ran a secret cult in the basement, where despicable things took place on a monthly basis – strictly invitation only. Cousin Gerald was once said to have organised an outrageous bacchanalia where a prostitute lost her life in mysterious circumstances and was never seen again. There were rumours that her ghost could be heard roaming the grounds on summer evenings, when the sun just tipped past the horizon and the landscaped rock garden slipped into shadow.
But that was all long ago. Time and civilisation slowly encroached, cutting pieces from the land around the house and giving them over to more modern dwellings. The family fell into financial difficulties and were unable to maintain the house’s upkeep, forced to sell to an organisation that opened it up to the public. Its glorious history and sensational tales were reduced to bland text on signs placed throughout its rooms. The beautiful furniture and sinister passageways alike were roped off and visitors were restricted to a single, proscribed path through the building. All the grandeur and majesty provided by the house’s sweeping tree-lined driveway was destroyed by the spreading housing estate around it. Eventually, it stood, forlorn and almost forgotten, with semi-detached family homes practically touching its walls. The sounds of children playing in gardens and washing machines rumbling in kitchens were all that could be heard where once a string quartet serenaded royal guests. Inside, the medieval tapestries slowly faded, and the basement of evil deeds was taken over by a shop selling shortbread and tea towels.
The house mourned its past glory, wilting under the footfalls of more and more sporadic tourists. It tried to entice them away from the official route, to sample the dark corners and provide some small shivers of fear and apprehension. But those charged with corralling the visitors were sharp of eye and rigid of mind, and would not allow anyone to break the rules. And so the house became trapped, hemmed in by the passage of time and progress of humanity. No longer could it enjoy scandals and intrigue; it must instead endure the commercialism and banality of the modern age.
Photo: I, Raminagrobis