Only The Darkness Remains

A single light bulb flickered dismally as it swung slowly above Mary’s head, causing the shadows to slither across the walls of the cold, windowless room. She stared silently behind paralyzed eyes, her hospital gown crumpled after her first night’s stay in her cell and her matted hair clinging to the dirty skin of her face. But she made no move to wipe it from her view. There was no point in moving, in struggling. She had been restrained since she arrived, first to her bed throughout the night and now here, to the hard wooden arms of the chair as she sat forcibly facing the frigid doctor across from her. Sitting straight in his crisp white medical jacket, he said nothing as he wrote intently in his notes. Mary watched the pen fly furiously across the paper until, finally, he set it down and pushed the thin wire glasses up on his face and raised his eyes to hers.

The session had begun an hour ago and he cast an irritated look across the table. The only sound between them was that of the recorder as the ribbon twisted through its gears in an attempt to capture the accounts of the night before. As it reached the end of the reel, he snapped the Stop button and hit Rewind. The ribbon squeeled in protest as it was forced back to its starting point before he pushed Record again. “I need you to tell me what happened in that basement.” But his intimidating glare did nothing to move Mary. What had taken place in the darkness was far worse than anything he could unleash. She said nothing. They wouldn’t believe her anyway. No one did. That’s why she had been brought to this miserable place, because she was crazy. But she wasn’t. She hadn’t made anything up. She had not self mutiliated herself as they were all claiming.

They never should have moved into that house. Something had been waiting for them. It began with the voice, coming in the middle of the night, waking her with its soft calming whisper. Alone in the darkness she was first afraid at what was with her in her room but the soothing tone enticed her out from under the warmth of her blankets to “Come and see.” Stopping at the threshold of her room, she peered toward the dimly lit staircase at the end of the hall. Using her hand along the wall to guide her, she followed the whisper as it led her down the stairs, through the living room and into the kitchen. It was here that she had stopped, her bare feet tingling as she stood on the cold linoleum in front of the basement door. The sweet voice beckoned from the other side, “Come and see.” But when she couldn’t move,  her resistance provoked the presence and the door resounded against an ear shattering blow as it shook within its frame. She staggered back in horror as the voice now hissed. Stumbling in the dark, she backed out of the kitchen and ran for her room.

Each night the whispers came, and each night she hid under her covers in hopes that they would go away. She had gone to her parents but was scolded for making up such horrible stories. She had pleaded for them to listen, but they refused, telling her she was never to talk about such nonsense again. She did as she was told, and to her surprise, the whispers stopped. Weeks passed without incident when her parents chose to let her stay home while they went out. Standing in the front hall, her father gave a last look back over his shoulder, reminding her with a stern look. There was to be no problems. She locked the door and watched them pull from the drive. In the sudden realization that she was alone, her eyes couldn’t help but wander to the kitchen and the basement door which stood just inside.

Wanting a distraction, she settled in on the couch to watch TV. Then within the background noise she heard it. That soft familiar whisper. Barely audible, she lowered the volume for a better listen. But there was nothing. Convinced she was just scaring herself, she turned it up just a bit louder than before and pushed the thought from her mind. Again, more whispering. Soft at first, but as she ignored it, it grew in competion with the chatter on TV until, finally, she clicked the console off in frustration. As the characters disappeared, so did the whispers and she sat in silence, afraid to move. Her eyes wandered back to the kitchen and within the shadows, she heard the lock on the basement door disengage and the slow creaking sound of the hinges filled the kitchen. She couldn’t take her eyes off the darkness. Surely she had to be hearing things. The basement door was closed. Wasn’t it?

Forcing herself up from the couch she took slow and steady steps to the doorway of the kitchen. Standing still for just a moment, she brought up a shaky hand and eased it into the blackened room, feeling frantically along the wall for the light. Relieved to find it, she flipped the switch and trepidation consumed her as the kitchen exploded with light. The basement door stood open. She held her breath in anticipation of what would be coming up the stairs, but nothing happened. The whispering had stopped. She waited endlessly for another sign but she did not get one. She knew what she had to do. She had to close it. Inching across the kitchen, her muscles tightened in resistance to the task. Each step closer made it harder to breathe. Now standing within reach of the doorknob, her hand trembled as she reached out to grab it, quickly slamming the door back into its frame.

She only felt slightly better with it closed, but she couldn’t walk away. As she stood frozen, the door exploded with the sound of splintering wood and, though she tried to turn and run, she could not escape. She was thrown to the ground and immediately began crawling away, but it was too late. In one swift movement, the entity had her hair entangled in its invisible grip and she could feel herself being dragged backwards. Toward the voice. Toward the darkenss. She tried desperately to grab on to anything, digging her nails frantically in to the floor until they fractured under the pressure of her grasp. As she reached the stairs, in the split second before darkness took over, she fought for a glimpse at what she was about to face. But she saw nothing. Screaming vehemently, she was wrenched into the abyss and the door swung fiercly closed behind her. She was gone.

“Mary.” The doctor’s voice jarred her back to the present. To the restraints. Still, she said nothing. Instead, a formidable smile slowly crossed her face and an unsettling laugh escaped her lips as she peered at him through cold spiritless eyes. Why must he insist on calling her that? The darkness had come up from the depths of the basement. It had conquered. It was in control. Mary wasn’t here anymore.

© Olivia Wolfe ~ 2012

Voices From the Past

Cobblestone roads greet you at the entrance of this beautiful cemetery. Established in 1852, these rolling hills stretch over 22 acres of perfectly manicured grounds which have become the final resting place to over 25,000 people including the young and the old, the poor and the wealthy, the common people and the distiguished. But beyond the usual markers one expects to cross paths with, this town’s cemetery holds tales of bravery, heartbreak and hope throughout both infamous and pivotal moments in our nation’s history. The first tales begin before the cemetery was established with stones existing on the land when it was selected. No longer ledgible and weathered against time, records indicate that these historical markers belong to soldiers who had fought in the Revolutionary War. Historians do their best to name these brave men but many still go unacknowledged as they rest peacefully beneath the beautiful Oak trees situated in the oldest parts of the cemetery. As you walk the grounds, vibrantly colored leaves shed from their branches, taken by a gentle breeze to swirl beneath your step until they come to rest among more of the brave.

Here, soldiers can be found covering a broad spectrum as they succumbed to the battles of The Civil War. Unique memorials such as this proud soldier stand on eternal watch as you gaze upon those who have fought so bravely. Regiments from the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee and Loiusianna can be found among the fallen as both sides, fighting in opposition, now rest in silent rememberance. As you leave the time of war behind, you cross the cobblestone and enter a maze of mausoleums and intricate stones which belong to the town’s founding fathers. Stories surface of their hard work in their quest to bring growth and prosperity to the community. One such tale brings us the name of George Dennick Wick who stood as one of the founders of Youngstown Sheet and Tube, a company that went on to became the largest locally-owned steel company in America. In 1912, his death came as a shock to the townspeople as he was returning from Europe with his wife and daughter aboard the RMS Titanic when she went down. With women and children saved first, they shared a last goodbye as he waved to them from the deck as their lifeboat was lowered into the sea. His body was never recovered but a memorial was erected so that his memory could live on.

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In life he strived to make the days better for those who called this town home and though his body may have been lost to the sea, his memory stays within the walls of the cemetery, overlooking those he helped most. Walking down from these hills, the grand mosuleums and towering stones diminish into a more traditional feel as the headstones begin to take on simple designs. Though these lives aren’t marked with fancy pieces, their stories can be just as intriuging. One such story is that of entertainment brought in the way of America’s favorite pastime: The game of Baseball. The game got its start in 1846 and brought many players onto the scene throughout the years. Jimmy McAleer was one such player, making his debut on a team coming out of Cleveland in 1889. Through his years dedicated to the game he played for such teams as The Spiders, The Infants, The Browns and The Blues. In 1901 he was managing The Blues in Cleveland when a riot erupted onto the field as the crowd, numbering close to 3,000, rushed the umpire for a bad call. Along with other members of the team, McAleer was credited for saving the Umpire from bodily harm as the enraged crowd threw glass bottles and seat cushions as they retreated to the clubhouse, managing to escape with minor cuts and bruises.

McAleer continued in his career as both player and manager for another six years until his final game in 1907. Coming back to the roots of his hometown, he went on to live out his days until he passed away in 1931 at the age of 66. As you stand over this historical player and look out among those who surround him, you will find that you can spend a lifetime listening to the voices from the past as they far outnumber those which have been touched upon here. In a sea of faces that have gone on before you, it is a peaceful place, silenced in death but alive with accounts spanning over two centuries, speaking to those who will take a moment to listen.

© Olivia Wolfe ~ 2012

Entertain Me~ Part One

It was a crisp Fall morning as we stood at the base of the overgrown Ski hill. It would be a challenging hike up the steep incline but it was the only way of accessing the resort without being seen. A cool breeze came in through the trees, causing the lift chairs to sway back and forth over our heads in their eternal positions on the sagging wire. They had been suspended there for over a decade now and as I started up the hill, I wondered just how long they would hold out before the cables snapped and they plumetted to the ground. With such a thought in mind I moved from under them and followed the center until it crested on the outskirts of the resort in an overgrown clearing. We made our way through the thigh-high grass of what used to be the golf course, stepping over rusting golf caddies, ski equipment and a sea of shattered china from the dining room. Making it out the other side we found ourselves in the middle of a massive complex and knew we were beginning this explore with two counts against us. The resort rested on 96 acres which worked poorly with the fact that winter was closing in, taking away the advantage of a full day of sunlight. There wasn’t a moment to waste so we assessed our options and took advantage of the nearest entrance which had lost its door, offering silent and easy access. Once inside, three sets of double doors stood open to our left,marking the entrance to the formal dining room. As we approached, shock set in at the sight which lay before us.

The tables were capsized, the chairs thrown haphazardly into piles and tiny explosions of neon paint covered everything. These walls, which once captured the lively buzz of guests’ laughter and conversation, the clinking of champaign glasses and dinnerware as they enjoyed an exquisite meal, had become the battle field for Paint Ball wars between groups who had grown tired of playing in the woods. Moving down the hallway, the walls opened up into the once elegant upstairs lobby. The faded chandeliers offered no illumination on the couches doing their best to look dignified as they huddled together among broken glass, trying to avoid the moss coming to consume them. Irradicated in the face of war, we passed peeling wallpaper, splintered doors and make shift barricades until we came upon the bar. The faint sun cast little light on the shattered wall of glass behind the bartender’s counter and I ventured into the darkness with my light. Perched on the end of the bar sat an old rotary phone undisturbed under years of dust with a stack of order forms silently waiting for the next ring. As I stood envisioning the last people taking orders and delivering drinks, a burst of light exploded into the room and I spun around to see my partner had pulled a heavy set of curtains back, revealing a row of windows offering an amazing view of the auditorium.

The stage looked incredible and I had to see it up close so we made our way inside the heart of the resort. Wanting a better view, I looked to my right and crawled up the rickety ladder inside the lighting box. When I came out the top I had a bird’s eye view to a very special stage. Such entertainers as Mel Brooks, Red Buttons and  Billy Crystal got their starts on that stage and suddenly, watching my partner wander around up there, seeing it from afar wasn’t good enough. I climbed down to groumd level and made my way down to the front, taking his hand and holding tight as he hoisted me up onto the shifting wooden planks and I turned around and looked out into what would have been a sea of faces there to be entertained. To each side of me the velvety gold curtains still hung, dirty and worn with time but vibrant with memories as they were lifted on the entertainers of days gone by. To think that I was standing where Jerry Lewis had graced the stage put a smile on my face and I turned to look around backstage. The sound room was very small and not very sophisticated compared to today’s standards and I laughed at the sight of scattered cassette tapes along the counter. I heard my name being called from the distance and looked up to see that my partner had disappeared backstage. I left my position and took the backstage hallway to the exit where my partner was waiting. Why, I asked, was I rushed back out into the daylight. But the dark moving shadows overhead brought my gaze to the skies and I saw a band of blackend clouds making their way toward us.

We were ahead of the storm for now but rather far from the car we had left in the fields and getting caught in the rain could mean trouble if they turned muddy, so I reluctantly agreed to head back….until we rounded the corner and came upon the outside pool. Surely it wouldn’t hurt to stay a few more minutes. Blue skies still reflected in the murky water of the kidney-shaped pool as I stepped to the edge and looked beyond the grass that had begun to emerge. There was something beneath the surface but I couldn’t make out more than shapes. A bridge had been erected across the center of the pool so I moved to stand at the foot of it. The paint was peeling, revealing slight fractures in the cement but that wasn’t enough to stop me. Inching my way up the incline, particles of cement dropped into the water below as I kept a slow and steady pace. I reached the arch and peered into the water, watching the shapes come into focus as deck chairs and couch cushions. No longer entertaining guests, the pool had succumbed to the games of vandals and as I stared with disappointment, the surface began to dancing as the sky released tiny droplets of rain. The clouds had drifted in and a look to my partner said it was time to go. As he jogged around the pool, I came down the other side of the bridge to meet him and we broke into a run. There was so much we hadn’t seen but we weren’t leaving disappointed because that fact was the perfect excuse to escape to these mountains again and get lost among these most fascinating ruins.

© Olivia Wolfe ~ 2012

Summer has come to a close

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Now that Summer has slipped away, we as explorers take a look back at where the past few months have brought us. Through the hot, muggy and miserable weather we stuck it out and did our best sneaking. Concealed within the vegetation, through the thick brush we marched, making our way over fallen trees, dodging swarms of bugs and secretly spouting off some colorful language at the fact that we should have caught that branch our fellow partner in crime let go of before it smacked us in the face. It’s always an interesting story where woods are concerned, but just as we think we can’t take one more second of nature’s cruel torture, our ivy constricted world opens up into the land of the lost. As the rest of the world spent their down time tanning it up at the beach or laying poolside with a nice fruity drink we stood gazing upon adventure. The darkend theaters brought an imaginary world of mystery and intrigue to those who occupied their seats, but ours was real. Towering over us as it beckoned from the other side of a fence which held a sign warning us that we were not invited.  We didn’t come all this way just to peek through the metal rungs and head back so, with a look back over our shoulders, We ignore society’s demands and climb the fence into unauthorized territory.

Although the excitement began well before this point, it seems to explode when our feet hit forbidden ground as we know that once we disappear through that open door or broken window, we are at the mercy of the funhouse our chosen locations hold. We’ve grown so used to the dangers of hugging the walls in order to avoid sinking floors, balancing on exposed beams and scaling questionable staircases that we rise to the challenge of crossing something so crazy as a rusty old bed frame positioned awkwardly over a rotting hole. The darkness beyond is just too tempting and apprehension is replaced with the drive to discover the unknown. As we crossed, we were only too aware that we were suspended high above an empty void as the two stories below have collapsed into a pile of splintered wood in what used to be the basement. But there was no fear, only the excitement in thinking that we had to recross our obstacle course on the way back out.

Hours faded into the day as every turn we made and every door pushed open fueled our curiosity as we came upon records and artifacts, tools and furnishings from a moment in time when people occupied these spaces. Life had once coursed throughout these halls, giving them a sense of purpose and fullfillment that is barely visible under decades of neglect. And when we finally did emerge from our dark cavernous quarters, stomping mud from our shoes and shaking dust from our clothes, it was with a sense of accomplishment that while consumed within the realm of forgotten time, in the midst of beautiful decay, we witnessed a piece of history not taught in any text book or lectured in any class. We had experienced something that can’t be passed on and shared in its truest form without a first-hand account and it’s this that is treasured far above what any beach or poolside can offer.

This summer brought many adventures for me, spanning over mulitple states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maine, Rhode Island, Oklahoma and Massachusetts. I was blessed to be in such great company as I ventured into the unknown with both old friends and new, exploring a broad spectrum of locations including Asylums, Industrial sites, Train yards and Military bases. Sure, I was hot and I was sweaty. At times I was absolutely miserable, wanting nothing more than to take a rest in a bathtub full of ice and forget the fact that I had been crazy enough to venture out when it was 115 degrees. But my complaints are only short lived because I know that I will always be up for the next round of challenges as summer fades away into the cold, wet months of winter with so much more to explore. To all those who have shared in my ventures, Thank you for the tour guides and history lessons, photography practice and life experiences. But most of all, thank you for the memories and the laughter; it is something I shall carry with me forever. Until we meet again….Carry on and be safe.

© Olivia Wolfe ~ 2012