The Cottage In The Woods

FML Moment

As the jaggers pierced my clothes and scratched my face, I winced from the pain but pushed on, keeping my eyes on the clearing that was just out of my reach. The beautiful patch void of things that attack me. I struggled the last few steps and as I brought my foot out of the jungle, it seemed as if the vegetation came alive in one last effort to pull me into its depths as I twisted and pulled and yanked myself free, spinning out of its clutches with a victorious smile. But as I straightened my clothes and picked some leaves from my hair, something caught my eye and I looked to my left. I wasn’t standing in a clearing at all, but rather a stretch of a beautifully manicured path that wound through the woods and disappeared off in the distance. Seriously?? That’s just awesome. But my irritation was only short lived as my attention turned to the battered building on the opposite side of the path.

Nature Wins

Nestled among the lush green trees stood the withering remains of a cottage and although the sun was shining brightly, dark shadows danced across the brick, causing me to hesitate as I peered up at it. Built in 1886, these cottages were once part of a reform school for boys and served as the living quarters for its students. But this one, standing seperate from the others, had been reserved for the school’s worst offenders and research had revealed a most disturbing fact. I was about to enter the very place in which Albert DeSalvo, Known better as The Boston Strangler, had spent his youth. The thought brought a slight chill despite the horridly hot weather as I looked to the blackened windows but I shrugged it off, gave the path one last irritated look, and set out in search of a way in. The windows and doors on the ground level were boarded up but as I walked the perimeter I came upon a busted window which revealed a slight drop into the basement. I took hold of the rotted window frame, stepped onto the sill, spun around and sank into the lowermost part of the building. Taking one last look at the outside world, I turned around to take in my new surroundings.

Solo

Before me stood a makeshift cubby and in it were what was left of the boys’ shoes, laying dusty and filled with cobwebs scattered among the shelves. As I looked at them the musty smell of the basement crept up on me and I wrinkled my nose in disgust. Deciding it was time to head upstairs I looked for an exit but only found a doorway which disappeared into an endless darkness. I dismissed an eerie feeling as I reached for my flashlight and walked to the doorway, stopping just before my shoes disappeared into the abyss. Peering inside, I spotted a faint light on the opposite end of the room and knew if I wanted to continue on I had to pass through the blackened pit. Stepping into the void, I kept my mind on the light as my flashlight washed over broken dressers with their drawers littering the floor and discarded metal bed frames huddling in the corner. Hearing the scurrying of animals that I’m sure weren’t thrilled with my intrusion, I picked up my pace and quickly made my way to the stairs, climbing my way back into the light.

On File

On the first floor, the rooms looked as though they had exploded with paperwork, quickly suggesting this floor had belonged to those who were in charge of the boys. Among the mess stood a disheveld pile of file boxes extending at least five feet high. Some were opened, most were closed and although my curiosity wanted to read the contents, they were covered in a thick layer of white, dusty mold from years of neglect. As my flashlight’s beam washed over them I couldn’t help but wonder which files belonged to Mr. DeSalvo. Though he was brought to the reform school when he was only 12, his offenses already spanned robbery, assault and battery. As he went on to fullfill a lifetime of crime sprees, I wondered what kind of behavior made it into the repremand sheets within these offices and just how miserable he made his classmates who stayed here with him. My eyes lifted to beyond the files where a once-brilliant and beautiful wooden staircase led to the living quarters and I carefully climbed the discintergrating stairs to the second floor.

Wash Up

The first room I guessed to be where the boys had slept. At either end of the massive room stood two small bathrooms looking tattered but somehow still graceful with their claw foot tubs and artful radiators shining in the light of the day as it streamed through the broken windows. Although the main room had been stricken of all the beds, I could envision them lined up and positioned perfectly for optimal capacity. As I scanned the room my eyes fell on the walls and a closer look revealed the faded paintings of children’s murals just high enough to have been above the boys’ heads. As I stood before them, waiting for the shapes to take on a recognizable form, a shiver went down my spine. I wondered what it must have been like when nightfall crept its way inside the windows, swallowing the light and taking with it the comfort that it held. To spend hours under the darkness of night with the likes of a troubled soul such as DeSalvo. My guess was that the nights spent here weren’t as fun and care free as the fading murals depicted.

Game Time

The next room offered the same vast emptiness, only here there was a door on the opposite end with discolored writing on its wood. The floorboards let out faint snapping sounds and echoed throughout the room as I made my way over to investigate. As I got closer the words became clear and I stopped in front of what had been The Game Room. Standing slightly ajar I could see in, my shadow disappearing into the dakness as I looked around. There were no games here. The only thing left was peeling paint. Suddenly the walls took on a saddened feel to them as my thoughts returned to the boys once again. No parents. No one to care about them. Abandoned for such menial crimes as being truant or strong willed, left to stare longingly out the dirty windows at the lives they once knew. I couldn’t help but wonder if these boys, deemed the worst offenders, were just that or had they been meerely acting out due to the way they were treated. It was a sad thought, one I wanted to escape from so I gladly backed out of the room and slipped through a doorway leading to the top floor.

Today's Lesson

I climbed the tight stairwell, following its sharp turns until it stopped in front of a closed door. As I pulled it open the hydraulics hissed above my head and as the room opened up I found myself in front of a set of perfectly positioned desks, forgotten and frozen in time, as if the boys had just left class. The sun shone down upon them through failing parts of the roof, and after a moment of contemplation I stepped into the first row. I walked slowly, taking in the names of both students and past explorers which were carved into the wood and when I got to the back I couldn’t help but take a seat. I envisioned the boys gathered for their daily lessons, passing notes, whispering when the teacher had her back turned, ultimately wishing they were any place but here. As I reflected on the students I gazed out the window entertaining the thought that, unlike them, I was free to go, to leave this place and return to life.  A priviledge not granted to most and one which ended horribly with DeSalvo as he went on to begin his streak of terror on his unsuspecting victims. Suddenly my seat took on an ominous feel as the idea of him sitting in my chosen desk brought terror to my mind and I quickly stood up to escape the evil. It was time to leave this place and as I made my way back to the warmth of the summer sun, I did so with a quickened pace, anxious to leave his memory behind.

© Olivia Wolfe ~ 2013

The Versatile Blogger Award

I was thrilled to discover that I have been nominated for The Versatile Blogger Award by one of my favorite bloggers: Dressed to Quill. To know that others enjoy my writing and the time and effort I put in to this blog means more to mean than any of you will ever know.

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There a few things one must do when accepting this award:

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* Display the Award Certificate on your website

* Announce your win with a post and link to whoever presented your award

* Present 15  awards to deserving bloggers

* Drop them a comment to tip them off after you’ve linked them in the post

* Post 7  interesting things about yourself

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I have come across so many great blogs that this was a tough task to narrow it down to just 15. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. John Henry Beck

2. Dressed To Quill

3. Screwiness-o-rama

4. Harry Alston

5. Lucewriter

6. Gabriel Lucatero

7. GeoTopoi

8. Edith Levy Photography

9. Life With The Top Down

10. Indigo on Papyrus

11. weaklyshortstories

12. The Spirited Quill

13. Chaos and Words

14. Jenna Scribbles

15. I’m not quite here, nor there

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7 Interesting things about me:

1. I have a severe phobia of clowns

2. I always have a sucker with me

3. My second love next to writing is Photography

4. My exercise consists of Interval Training and Pilates

5. I have six tattoos

6. Smiling is my favorite

7. I love off roading and mudding

Thank you so much, Dressed To Quill, for including me among your chosen 15. And to everyone who tunes in to read my latest story of adventure into the places I love to get lost in. It’s the support and encouragement of everyone that makes all my hard work worth it. Much love to you all.

~ O

The Great Debate

This article appeared in Issue 1 of UEmagazine
© ~ Olivia Wolfe 2012

Ask any fellow Explorer about their preference for the best season to explore and you’ll recieve a wide spectrum of answers, each coming with their own lists of Pros and Cons to venturing out in the Summer vs. Winter.

~The Summer Season~

Farm Land

Pros:

The warm Summer months are, undoubtedly, the most preferrable time to explore and with so many advantages it’s easy to see why. Who can complain about the beauty the outdoors offer when needing to trek through the wooded area standing between you and your location? And it’s this lush green vegetation that works to our advantage, both in the event we need to stay undercover and its ability to add life to exterior shots left desolate and alone. Once inside our beloved subject the possibilities abound as there is no feeling of being rushed to get our shots. The days are longer, allowing the casual strolls down hallways and the stops along the way to investigate, letting us pause to acknowledge the little things. The day is complimented by the the sun’s bright rays that play off of the camera’s lens, completing the trip with exceptional photography.

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Cons:

But perfection is lost on the sudden knowledge that you are not the only one the warm weather has enticed. Summer increases the chance for run-ins with other people and security, and who among us has enjoyed the need to crouch and hide from unexpected visitors? The heat of the day slowly sets in, making you tired and the necessity of water in your backpack makes it feel as though you’re carrying a ton of bricks on your back. Wiping at the hair that has permanently affixed itself to your face with sweat, you curse your sticky bug spray-laden skin for attracting not only mosquitoes who have returned for their next meal but every bit of dust and cobwebs the place has to offer, and you’re thankful for the decision to end the journey. Hot, tired and sweaty you sneak back down to your chosen entrance. The opening which once beckoned you to come in offers a view of the wooded obstacle course you must drudge through. Tangled branches along the dirt floor trip you as you run along, jaggers and thorns tearing at your clothes, determined to pull you back as you make your way to the safety of your car. The explore may be over but time to breathe easy only comes after the need to search yourself for any ticks that may have found their way onto your skin. It’s time to go home.

It’s this side of Summer which makes us anxiously await the changing of the seasons as the temperatures cool off, the days grow shorter and the leaves fall away. Soon we are met with Winter as we venture out again.

~Winter’s Wonderland~

Dam!

Pros:

Winter is an interesting season because the cold climate offers more challenges for the adventurer. With the exception of the brave explorer, the dead of winter keeps most people indoors. This works to our advantage as it lessons the possibilities of run-ins with other people as everyone’s main focus has become to stay warm. We can take advantage of the stories that lie within the fallen snow. With a little attention one can conclude whether your location has been recently visited by any footprints that may exist or the fact that the plows have neglected the area means it is not one of high priority. The exterior shots come into perfect view as the location has broken free of the confines of vegetation, adding to the essence of desolation and abandonment. The chill in the air tends to keep you alert and you’re satisfied at the end of the pursuit by the brilliant way the sun has cast off of the snow, illuminating your photography.

Anyone for a Swim

Cons:

The lush plant life has fallen away taking with it nature’s hiding spots, causing the need to move quickly. Your second challenge lies within the forecast as snowfall means contending with the fact that you can’t escape your footprints, which can not only alert others to the presence of someone in the building, but the tracks can lead them straight to you. Your freedom to move easily around has become restricted by the need for all your layers and the bitter cold causes you to play the game of trying to keep your fingers from freezing beneath warm gloves and shedding them so you can operate your camera. By the time you’ve captured your last shot your ears are burning, your nose feels as though it might actually fall off, your feet almost refuse to move and you’d like nothing more than to hide under a mountain of blankets until you regain sensation in your extremities or face the world for the next week with a notable cold.

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So whether it’s Summer or Winter when you grab your gear and car keys, it seems our love for the chosen season only lasts as long as it does. By the time we are met with the opposing season we have had enough of what the current one has to offer, but we misss it dearly when we’re in the midst of the other. We carry a Love/Hate relationship for both Summer and Winter but we will forever dawn our cameras and face them eagerly as adventure always awaits.