Spooked

Towards the beginning of the year, Adi and I were house hunting. While it is a most enticing prospect to find a house that you will want to live in and call yours, the search is exhausting. But this post not being about the house hunt, I will take you right away to Lambertville, a small town filled with antique stores by the Delaware river. It was one of those chilly February days when the wind pierced your bones and thoughts. It made you ache for home, to be wrapped up in a cosy throw with a book. But we were out. Following an early morning of property viewings, we took leave of the estate agent and I suggested to Adi that we step into Lambertville for a spot of browsing. We could do with some distraction.

Reaching town we grabbed cups of coffee, and cowering in the face of the cold, scurried into one of our favourite antique places in town. It is a big store with three levels filled with old junk, mostly European antiques sourced by the owner from his travels through Europe. Every time we enter the store, I feel like I am in a curiosity shop. I am filled with wonder at the kind of objects that existed once, and have now in this age been delegated to the status of mere curiosities. We were browsing, me rifling through pages of old books that begged to be taken home, when I overheard a woman comment to her companion as they were on their way out. “Where did the time go? I never realised it was so late,” she said. I smiled. Whoever enters the store falls through a rabbit hole.

Climbing the store’s creaky wooden stairs, we found that the store had curated a small museum-style experience. However, the difference was that one could buy items from the collection. My eyes were immediately drawn to a Victorian hallstand, dark mahogany and heavy of make, as most furniture from the yesteryears are. The hallstand had the patina of age. I spent time examining it, then proceeded to check the paraphernalia around. “Come on over,” I said, whispering and beckoning Adi to join me in checking out a small table that belonged to Arthur Conan Doyle. No ordinary piece this. We beheld a ouija table. Adi took a peek and grew pale. Having been exposed to a barrage of horror films over the years, he has been conditioned to my (bizarre, according to the man) fascination with eerie stories. For the sake of honesty, let’s say almost conditioned.

The table came with a note along (with a price tag of $7,500). It was bound to have a story given that it belonged to Dr. Doyle. He was a founding member of a research society in Hampshire and known for his fascination with spiritualism. Doyle collaborated with a fellow mystic in a research on poltergeists in Devon. When his son died of pneumonia in the mid 1900s, the bereaved author was even keener to believe in another realm of existence. He embarked on a collection of talking boards in an attempt to reconnect with his son. His daughter Jean, a British military officer, sold the talking boards to an English antique dealer, who in turn donated it to the Lambertville store for its museum.

“This is too creepy for words,” said Adi.

“But I am getting the hatstand, just so you know,” I told him seriously. One’s gotta rise to the occasion when one needs to needle the husband. And it almost always elicits a reaction most precious from my beloved.

Around the corner, Gothic memorabilia awaited us. For the most part, it was vampire-themed stuff. A plethora of long wooden trunks, beautifully made and kitted up with hinged lids, which opened to reveal wooden stakes and mallets, pistols and crucifixes, vials of garlic powder. Vampire hunting trunks. I wondered about it. Whoever might invest in them? Maybe ones off their rocker? But the truth is that travellers did purchase these trunks that were made in the 1800s for wealthy people on a voyage to Eastern Europe, specifically Transylvania, enthused by the myth of blood-sucking creatures after Bram Stoker published Dracula. One of the travelling vampire kits from the 1870s that we saw, belonged to the Spanish actor Carlos Villaria who played the role of vampire in Dracula, the 1931 version.

If that was not enough, we found more ouija boards, hand-carved, religious wooden sculptures of angels, stakes, holy water bottles, French vampire-hunting oak cabinets circa 1837, an alcove full of puppets with chains barring the way, even a chair that was used to perform exorcisms in Germany in the 1800s. Now all this was way too much for the husband to handle. At one point, he just gave up. He sat himself on a bench and refused to indulge me by looking at anything else in this small museum of strange objets d’art. For my part though I found it highly engaging, and am thinking I shall convince him to give it another go, another day. Wish me luck!

The Victorian hall stand that Did Not have my husband’s attention.
Vampire hunting cabinets
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ouija table
A French vampire hunting trunk, circa 1880s.
More ouija tables
The vampire hunter’s preferred weaponry
Alcoves stuffed with puppets and dire warnings. Stay away.

Published by

Arundhati Basu

The great affair in my life is to travel. I count myself immensely fortunate that my partner shares this passion. We are a team that likes to spend time planning and plotting out places to go. Destination check, flights check, accommodation check, cheesy grins check. Off we go.

14 thoughts on “Spooked

  1. Great to hear of your adventures again! I loved reading about the table owned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Wasn’t he a friend of Harry Houdini and had a falling out with him when they disagreed on the existence of fairies? What a great place to explore and find such creepy treasures. Good luck on the house hunting! – Neek

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Neek! So wonderful to hear from you again. It has been ages. Have you been blogging and how are you three doing? I have to go over to yours to update myself with your goings on. You got it right. Doyle was a friend of Houdini’s. And he did believe strongly in the presence of fairies. Makes me like Doyle a little more, if that is possible.

      Meanwhile, the museum was a little creepy outpost but I think it requires imagination and creativity to put together such a place.

      We are done house hunting btw. Now have a house to move into this upcoming August. xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I’ve always had a fondness for Tinker Bell. Fairies do make life more bearable. As for our lives, we’ve just been living it the best we can despite the pandemic. We are hopeful for the future and waiting in line for the vaccine. Congratulations on the house! I’m sure that you have wonderfully creative ideas on how to decorate it. Perhaps you can fill some of the walls with your beautiful artwork? Take care – Neek

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you Neek! Cannot wait to move into the house and be done with vagabonding for a while. πŸ™‚ Excited about the interiors. Adi and I have been brainstorming. Alleviates the tediousness of life as it has been. As for fairies, you have me on your wagon. To Titania and Tinker Bell and their tribe. πŸ§šπŸ½πŸ§šπŸΌβ€β™€οΈπŸ§šπŸ»β€β™‚οΈ

        Liked by 1 person

  2. 7,000 bucks for a Conan Doyle table is not even expensive. Provided it really was his. He was indeed an adept.
    Seeing the last comment, your house is set apart for august? Champagne πŸ₯‚ 🍾

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can only hope the antique hunter who put together this museum is not fooling us. As for the other vampire hunting trunks, there are often doubts about hair veracity. Some often being fakes.

      Champers it is! SantΓ©πŸ₯‚

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As ,ong as you don’t buy it with your own money, you can believe everything.
        “Champers”? That sounds like a very Brit expression. Or is it Indian. Never heard it before. In Frog we say “le Champ'”. 🍾

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s