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Shadows of Rosewood

By: Patricia Yurisa

As the doctor drove up into the entrance of the old plantation, he had a premonition that the old lady would be dead. He felt a deep sadness, although he had been here many times before, today it was different. He had an eerie feeling about the old place. As he entered the porch of the grand old estate, he found her where she had taken her last breath, sitting in her favorite rocking chair facing toward the beautiful dogwood trees that she loved so much.

The story begins with the death of my Aunt Ella. Through her I inherited the Chandler Estate, as I was the last remaining relative. It was one of those old plantations left in the south. It was the history of the old house that captivated me. I was honored to be able to share in an existence that was gone forever. Aunt Ellaís husband, John Chandler, had grown up on the plantation with his family. Each generation inherited from the generation before. I knew very little about Aunt Ella for she and her husband kept very much to themselves. My, now deceased, father had told me that she loved books and that in her childhood she was not much on socializing that instead she preferred to read.

I being alone did not really want to take on the responsibility of such a large estate. I was content in my own life. I owned a home in the suburbs of Baltimore Maryland. The area was quiet and far away from the hustle of the big city. My neighbors had lived there for quite a long time. We were a small group of people who, over the years, had grown fond of each other. I was very comfortable in my surroundings. I decided to use the old plantation as a summer retreat. For once in a while I did longed for the countryside.

The Plantation was located about eight miles from a small historical town, called Rosewood. It was located in the state of Alabama. The main streets were made of cobblestone, antique shops, and landmark buildings. I was pleased that it gave a feeling of the Old South.

As I arrived at the Chandler Estate, I had no idea what to expect. As I drove up the driveway I was overwhelmed and amazed at what I saw. There stood a mansion on a hill. The estate gave a presentation of something grand. The house stood tall with its huge white pillar columns standing out against the lush landscape. I was struck with awe. The home had been very well kept and neat in its appearance. I was now the owner of a plantation on many acres of lush green fields with a beautiful landscaping of flowering trees.

I was relieved that I had arrived before the sun had gone down. I wanted to settle in before the nightfall. As I viewed the outside from the bedroom window I saw a stormy night approaching. The harsh winds blew with a loud thundering noise. I watched the tree limbs blow across the old wooden porch when suddenly a lightening bolt jolted across the night sky, and everything went black. I was surrounded by total darkness. The aged old plantation that had earlier captivated me, now had given me an overwhelming feeling of fear.

I looked down the long flight of stairs that stood before me, and saw the moon had broken through the night sky and had bathed the house with shadows of light. I could see enough around me to safely get to the first floor. I entered the kitchen and felt under my feet a large pool of water. I looked up to see that a tree branch had crashed through the window. The room was dark and cold with shattered glass everywhere but I could do nothing other then cover the window and wait for the morning to arrive.

The following day I awoke realizing I had fallen asleep in the downstairs den. I walked into the kitchen and saw a cardboard box on the table and inside the box were broken pieces of glass large and small. I look down to see that the glass had been removed from the floor and had been stacked neatly on the table. In a dazed, bewilder, now frightened, state I was petrified by the thought of someone lurking around the plantation. I did not want to panic. I was alone and being a stranger in town I had to be careful of the things that I said. In this part of the country, people might be quick to judge anything out of the ordinary. For now, I would keep this to myself.

The owner of the market introduced himself as he spoke; he talked of the damage the storm had caused through the town. The conversation was left open to me. I told Tom of my relation to Aunt Ella, and my inheritance of the Chandler Estate. Tom welcomed me to Rosewood stating that he knew my Aunt, as she would stop in the market now and then. I watched for the expression on his face to change as I mentioned the broken window. He said he was sorry to hear that, and asked if he could help in anyway. He seemed genuinely interested but I could not bring myself to tell him of the mysterious glass cleanup. I question Tom about my Aunt for I was curious to know if she had someone to help her with the maintenance on the estate. Also I wanted to know if Aunt Ella had anyone ever visit her. Tom proceeded to tell me about a gentleman, that was a friend of Aunt Ella, and that his name was Earl who was a distance cousin of her husband John. The family had been close to him for many years and after John died Earl remained in Ella life helping her with the odd jobs around the plantation. Tom stated that Earl was born and raised in Rosewood Alabama and that he was a kind man.

Immediately, I felt relieved. It never occurred to me to find out if anyone else had a key. The mystery I thought had been solved. I now needed to find a locksmith to have the locks changed but also I needed to speak to Earl to find out why he would come into my home without having my permission. I wanted to get to know him for I was sure he could tell me many stories of my aunt and the family. I was deep in thought when Tom interrupted, how strange it was, he said, that Aunt Ella had died only a month after Earl had been laid to rest.

My shock at Tomís words must have shown for he asked if I was feeling alright. I did not want to share with him yet my ordeal so I thanked him for his consideration and left. Later that day I made an appointment with the locksmith and also with a company in town for the replacement of the shattered window. That evening I put what had happen the night before out of my mind. I just wanted to sleep peacefully through the night.

I was awaken by a loud knocking on the front door. The man with the window glass had arrived. He was very pleasant and spoke to me while he worked. His name was Robert. He had lived in Rosewood for ten years and had worked for the glass company as long as he has lived here. I felt good after Robert left, I met two people from Rosewood who were very nice and thought myself to have made new friends.

The next morning, I headed out to the shops. It was the most perfect day. I bought long stem white gladiolas and a glass vase of ruby red, and throw pillows with designs in bright vivid colors. I thought these things would go very well with the antique furnishings of the Chandler Estate. I had explored all day and had shopped through the evening. I was looking forward to returning home. As I drove up the driveway of the Chandler Estate I felt something strange about the plantation. It had a powerful presence that freighted me.

I pulled myself together and put the key into the door. As I entered into the foyer, I saw what appeared to be a white light in the kitchen and in the air there was a scent of lavender. I stood motionless. I do not know what lies before me but I felt I had no choice but to enter, after all I heard not a sound. I passed through the foyer and headed toward the kitchen turning and glancing in every direction. Suddenly, a ghostly figured of an old lady appeared in front of me. I felt my body go limp. I have not the energy to move much less the strength to leave. I used the wall to support myself. I couldnít have seen her; my mind was playing tricks on me. I reached for the light switch and turned it off. I must have left it on before I left the house. Yes, that must be it.

The next morning I woke to the smell of sweetness in the air. The white blossoms on the dogwood trees, and the beauty of the landscape had for a moment brought me back to a reality that was so peaceful, until I glanced toward the flowering trees and noticed for the first time, tall shrubs filled with blooms of lavender. There among the lavender, a lovely antique birdbath stood in a garden of many bright vivid colors; and inside the many blossoms of purple hidden in the midst of it all, a cemetery.

The headstones were very old dating back to the year 1800 and among them, the largest belonged to a William Chandler, the original owner of the Chandler Estate, and beside him other ancestors. I had been told by the lawyer that he had instructions from Aunt Ella that she was to be cremated just as she had done with her husband John. He had been directed to spread her ashes on this burial ground on the Chandler Estate. It felt overwhelming to be standing among the dead. Aunt Ella and her dear John were now united on these grounds. Would I rest here too one day?

I had never met John Chandler but I knew of him through my fatherís many conversations with mother and I over the years. I remember my father saying that Uncle John was a fine man. Was I guided to the graves by the scent of lavender? Had I been brought to the lilac shrubs to find the burial site? I wanted to believe nothing out of the ordinary had happen and that the ghostly figure I saw in the kitchen was nothing other than a light from the silvery moon, and that the room filled with lavender scent came from the breeze below.

Later that day I began the unpleasant task of packing my Auntís clothing into boxes to be taken away. I could tell by Aunt Ellaís things that she was very refined. Her clothing was simple but elegant. My father used to say that I looked like her and now as I viewed her picture in the frame upon the mantle I could see I did had some of her characteristics. I also notice that I did things in the same manner as Aunt Ella. She too had been very neat and everything in its proper place. By the time I packed her last few remaining things I became overwhelmed with sadness. This moment holding her belongings in my hand, I felt very close to her, just as I was starting to love it here even with all that had taken place, after all it might just be a figment of my imagination. Aunt Ellaís home would be my home. It was the sort of place that could make an imagination go wild. Ghosts honestly, what had I been thinking?

I slept peacefully during the night but the very next morning I was awaken by a voice at the edge of the bed. It was Aunt Ella. There was an aura about her presence that felt like death. Her eyes, wide open, without movement, her skin pale in color. She spoke with a whispering gentle voice; ďI will tell you they will say you are crazy but I want you to know that you are surely not.Ē I watched her as she slowly faded away. I told myself I was asleep and thought this to be a dream. Either way, I was frightened out of my wits by the whole encounter.

I was mentally exhausted and knew in order to think rational I had to remove myself from the Chandler Estate so that I could get a clear outlook on all that had taken place.

I remembered when I first arrived in town I had seen a bed and breakfast that caught my attention. I thought this to be the perfect place to stay for I did not want to be alone. I got a room and also made reservations for the following night. I felt restless about what had happened that morning as the event remained in my thoughts. That evening I met the owner of the Inn. She introduced herself as Louise she asked if I was related to Ella Clarke of the old Chandler Plantation. I felt a glimmer of hope. I replied that I was Ella's niece and introduced myself as Clarke and informed her that through Aunt Ella, I had inherited the Chandler Estate. I was really delighted to meet her, as I was anxious to know all she knew of Aunt Ella. Louise had stated to me that she was born and raised in Rosewood. I really enjoyed sitting at the dinner table among the other people whom were all having a conversation of one thing or another. I thought it to be quite humorous when one of Louiseís guests asked her about the history of the old place then someone else in a jokingly manner asked if the Inn had any ghosts. Louise said that she had not ever witnessed anything strange and laughed the subject away. However, later she pulled me to the side to ask me about the plantation for she had heard stories that it was truly haunted. It had been rumored about town that Aunt Ella had the ability to see the dead. Many locals just thought Aunt Ella to be a bit daft, a trait quite common in small southern towns. Louise spoke of Aunt Ella as being a mannerly and polite lady always well groomed. Louise thought my Aunt to be a very nice person. The question I had now was a simple one, was the plantation truly haunted or was I daft as well. I knew no more than the local people did.

Later that night I began making plans to go back to the plantation the following day. I would search through Aunt Ellaís medical records. At this point, her doctor was the only connection I had to find out which of the rumors about Aunt Ella and the Chandler Estate were true.

I left the Inn the following morning and thanked Louise for her hospitality. I was in a hurry to get back to the plantation for I was now consumed with curiosity.

My heart was in my throat as I pulled out the desk drawer. There written on a folder was the word medical. There was an envelope filled with years of unordered prescriptions for Aunt Ella with her physicianís name and number but it had no information about her illness. I wondered why Aunt Ella would not take the medication prescribed for her. I picked up the phone and ask to speak to Dr Patrick Samuels. I introduced myself as Ella Clarke Graham. He pulsed for a moment or two then excuse himself and said that he was somewhat caught off guard by the name. He had a patience that recently passed away with that very same first and second name. I explain to him that I was the niece of his Ella Clarke and that it was important for me to talk with him about a certain matter. He would be happy to see me the following morning. I am sure the relief could be heard in my voice as I thanked him. 10:00 tomorrow and I was sure I would have some logical answers for all that has taken place.

I thought about my home in Baltimore and remember how safe I felt there. I could simply put this estate on the market and go back to my safe surroundings. That would have been the sensible thing to do. Aunt Ella and I shared the stubborn Graham blood. She stayed on and so would I. She had bequeathed me a huge responsibility. She must have thought I could handle it.

Dr Samuels asked how well I had known my aunt. This was my chance to open up. I explained to him why I was here and that I wanted to know of my Aunt Ella and her illness. I went on to speak of all that had occurred since I arrived in Rosewood. I spoke of every detail and of every event. I could see that Dr Samuels listened patiently as I continued to speak. He had become my outlet for everything that had happen to me. Suddenly, the room went quiet. I had said it all and now it was his turn to speak. He said that he had been treating my Aunt for a condition called schizophrenia. Dr Samuels stated that he could not say if the haunting at the estate were true or not, but he did know that in her mind she thought them to be true and as a man of science, he treated her for her symptoms. The visions she saw and the voices she heard were all signs to him, as a physician, that Aunt Ella had a mental illness. I asked Dr Samuels had he ever investigated Aunt Ellaís claim that the house was haunted. He said that on several occasions he had visited Aunt Ella and spent the afternoon. He remember a day having lunch outside with Aunt Ella when she spoke in a strange but soft voice she said to him there is John and then chuckled in a disturbing tone as she was irritated with him that he did not see John as she did. It had been his experience that the elderly frequently see their departed loved ones as real. He had always wondered if that was some sort of gift God gave them to prepare for their own transformation.

I asked the Doctor if the visions Aunt Ella claim to have frighten her. In the beginning they did but after awhile it just had become part of her life, he said. I asked Dr. Samuels about Aunt Ellaís husband John Chandler. The Doctor said that Mr. Chandler had died several years ago. After his death Aunt Ellaís illness had become much worse. At this point in our conversation, Dr. Samuels began to take control. He shifted to me, now I was his focus. He began to ask questions. I felt a little threatened. He knew that Aunt Ella illness was hereditary and so did I. Dr. Samuels ask me directly did I believe the things I saw to be true. I stared into his eyes and replied simply, yes.

Immediately I got up from my chair and walked to the door. Dr. Samuels welcome me to Rosewood. I thank him for his kindness and left. I felt overwhelmed. Never once did I think that I could possibly be looked at in the same way that the doctor looked at Aunt Ella. Insanity is something I did not plan. I was afraid of what the good people of Rosewood would see me as, for I knew this could be more trouble than the events itself and surely I did not want to become a spectacle.

I stopped at the market before I returned home. Tom greeted me. He was so pleasant. His kindness towards me was emotionally overwhelming all that I had endured in the past days had made me vulnerable. Tom comforted me and offered his help. I smiled when he said it could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. It felt so good to laugh again. I did not burdened Tom with my problems. I did, however, invite him to the plantation for dinner for the following night. Tomís wife had died several years ago. He lived alone but said he was very content in his life that he loved working in his market and enjoying the people who came through. Tom had many friends in town and considered himself to be very fortunate. As I drove back to the Chandler plantation I felt very good that I had seen Tom again. I liked him. I chuckled; possibly it could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship as Tom had stated.

I sat to rest on the cherry wood bench that stood on the aged marble floors. I was beyond fear. I was too exhausted to be concerned. I remained in the chair resting my body in silent stillness. I was consumed in thoughts when I began to question if I had seen anything at all or was it just possible that Aunt Ella could see the dead. Were we both sensitive to see things of the spiritual realm or were we both insane. I just wanted to sleep, making my way up the spiral staircase I notice how old the steps were and I thought about all the people who lived here a hundred years ago. It was a strange feeling just as I felt when I discovered the burial grounds in the garden. I felt as though I was experiencing the past, not my own past but someone else.

Today would be too full to worry about such silliness as ghostly visitors; Tom was coming for dinner, and I only had a few hours to get prepared. I had my usual morning tea and toast and began to do a little dusting when my eyes glanced at a picture on the mantle of the fireplace. I took the picture from the frame hoping to find a name written on the back and sure enough it was the Chandler family. I recognized each name as I identified them with the names on the headstones, William Chandler - husband, Marion Chandler - wife, Arthur Chandler and William, Jr. I thought it to be sad that I knew only of them from their tombstones. Pillars of Rosewood society, now just faded pictures and tombstones. I stopped these sad thoughts; I still had to pick fresh flowers from the garden for the table setting. The long stems of lavender were in full bloom, they would do nicely.

I placed the flowers in a crystal vase that went well with the silver candlesticks that sat upon the lovely white antique linen cloth that have belonged to Aunt Ella. I thought of her, wondering if she would appreciate the loveliness of the table as the candlelight shone softly against the vivid shades of purple. She had given me much more than an old house. The things she left behind were now mine to enjoy. I think she would have like that. A knock at the door told me my guest had arrived.

Tom was such a delight. He was very good company and always full of laughter. I started to relax for the first in a very long time. After dinner Tom and I sat on the porch and we enjoyed the warm summerís eve. Tom spoke of the lawn furniture, very old he said. I replied, so is the house. We both chuckled. Tom jokingly asked if the house was haunted saying he had heard rumors. It was my chance to tell him everything that happened here at the plantation but I remained quiet for I did not want to ruin the evening. When Tom got ready to leave he thank me for a lovely evening.

As Tom walked to his car he turned back and mentioned that there was a river nearby and wondered if I would like to go fishing in the morning. I was delighted and accepted his invitation. The thoughts of the evening ran through my mind as I prepared for bed. I wondered what Tom meant when he said early morning. It had been a long day. I knew I would not be able to sleep. I thought of the pie that Tom and I had for dessert. Another slice and a cup of tea would help me to unwind.

The parlor was my favorite room it was small and cozy filled with many antique furnishings and a lot of old books. I loved old things, especially those from the era of a hundred years ago. I sat comfortably in an overstuffed chair with a book in my hand and a half eaten piece of pie on the table beside me. I felt relaxed enough to retire for the evening. As I got up to leave I was surprised by a vision of an old man. I thought about the man in the picture; it is William Chandler and standing over him was his wife Marion. I lost my balance and felt for the sofa behind me, twisting my body as I landed. I heard voices, they are loud but I do not understand what they are saying. The noises fill the room with sounds of rumbling hanging over my head. I pushed my body off the sofa onto the floor. I attempted to crawl into the next room. I struggled to get up but I could not move for the fear and the pain in my back had left me paralyzed.

My next memory is that of being awakened by a loud knocking. I realized I was in bed fully dressed with a blanket lying across me. I wondered how I got here. As I moved I felt a sharp pain. The banging on the door had continued but it was a struggle to move. I managed to get to the front door. It was Tom. I saw that his smiling face went grim as he noticed that I was injured. Tom insisted on taking me to the hospital.

The doctor examining me spoke of a large bruise and asked if I had noticed it. He was concerned, he continue to say that I might be here a while that he wanted to take other tests. How did this injury occur, he asked in a very professional manner. I responded, I saw a ghost...

The room went silent. The doctor looked at me with a blank stare and wanted me to go into greater detail. Regretting what I had said I acted as though I was confused.

Before I could get comfortable in my hospital bed I received a phone call from Dr. Patrick Samuels. He asked if I would like to make an appointment stating that the hospital physician, Michael Grant, had contacted him concerning my well being and that I might need his help. He stated that the doctor told him I was hallucinating. I was very upset. I know now that the townís people would look at me as they had Aunt Ella. I thanked Dr. Samuels and declined the appointment. After all, if Rosewood was to be my home, I didnít want to be the crazy old lady out on the estate.

The days and nights were quiet on the plantation. Tom was very loving; together we had that fishing trip. Tom and I laughed a lot together. I had been married once before to a very kind generous man and now was grateful to know another, but like Aunt Ella my husband died long ago. It is really almost unbelievable the paradox of our two lives, as they are so much a like. The doctor spoke of Aunt Ella as being ill. I wondered if I inherited from her the same mental Illness.

There have not been any disturbances since Tom arrived. If anything he started to love the old place, and as our love for each other grew I started to once again feel love for the Chandler Estate that still today stands upright and strong. Tom proposed one evening as we were walking among the gardens. There in Tomís arms, I said yes and all my sadness was forgotten, but short lived for as I took a moment to breathe into my lungs the sweetness of the night air, I glanced over to the old burial site and there among the grounds stood Aunt Ella and her husband John Chandler. The ghost of the Chandler Estate has taken a toll on me, and as I stood there starring out into the fields I thought of nothing and let my mind go into a relaxed state of being even if it was just for a moment. I was sure Tom would see them standing there as I saw them but he spoke of nothing relating to the ghosts at the Chandler Estate. I began to laugh at the irony of it all.

I did not know if I was losing my mind; I did not know if Aunt Ella had lost hers, or if we just had the insight to see the spirits of those that have passed on. I guess Ill never know if the old estate with all its loveliness is being haunted.

I do not know if Tom and I will reside here forever. I do know that the Chandler Plantation brought me to Tom, and being a part of Tomís life is all that matters. I work with Tom in his store. The work is hard but it had its advantages. Tom with his outgoing personality always has a joke or two, sometimes people just hang around to be with him. Tom and I enjoy our time together and have lots of fishing days, but now Tom and I have to make a decision, the summer season is about to end. Are we going to reside here on the plantation? I have been thinking about Baltimore where I lived before I came to Rosewood. I sometimes feel sentimental as I think about the friends I left behind and realized how fortunate I am to have all this. Aunt Ellaís gifts are many, some may be a curse, but Rosewood is a joy.

I now sit here in Aunt Ella's favorite rocking chair just as she sat here and as I look out over the beautiful landscape that Aunt Ella loved so much I wondered why this "illness" only manifested itself after I arrived at the Chandler Estate? I had seen the ghosts and I believed them to be real. I question why I am still here. I think I am still searching for the truth.

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