The Ghost of Locksley Hall

The Ghost of Locksley Hall

Status: In Progress

Genre: Romance

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Status: In Progress

Genre: Romance

Houses:

Summary

The rumors about the ghost haunting the theater at Locksley Hall have echoed for ten years as myth and local lore. Now, in the year 1917, a maverick young lady filmmaker has arrived to make a moving picture dedicated to the legend. But this mythical ghost may not be imagined...and with his passion for theater, an anger at this new motion picture industry may lead to the legend continuing...
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Summary

The rumors about the ghost haunting the theater at Locksley Hall have echoed for ten years as myth and local lore. Now, in the year 1917, a maverick young lady filmmaker has arrived to make a moving picture dedicated to the legend. But this mythical ghost may not be imagined...and with his passion for theater, an anger at this new motion picture industry may lead to the legend continuing...

Chapter1 (v.1) - Chapter One: Legends

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 28, 2017

Reads: 51

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 28, 2017

A A A

A A A

CHAPTER 1: Legends

I think it was the headlines that brought Adeline Winthrop to Locksley.

The place certainly had its share of local color. To the residents of the market town, the old theater was a realm of myth – a place where strange and lurid events had taken place, all those years ago, and which nowadays had lost all the potential terror that such things could bring, and possessed only the lingering thrill. The stories had been retold enough to enter the realm of myth, with details often disregarded in favor of excitement, and now nobody even believed they’d really happened, other than those who lived at the time.

But to a woman liked Adeline Winthrop, local color isn’t enough to make a place as interesting as she must have thought Locksley. She came here in the summer of 1918, stayed a year, and at the end released her motion picture production, The Ghost of Locksley Hall. When people do speak of Adeline Winthrop in those pages about the Great Filmmakers of the silent era, they all citeGhost as her magnum opus. And this was among a career that included many contenders for such a title – for Adeline Winthrop was that kind of filmmaker. The sort the cinema scholars call an ‘auteur’. She wasn’t just the type wealthy businessmen hired to produce a commercial product in two weeks’ time. No, she was the sort who sought to create sublime beauty and artistry. She was one of the first to ever look at those crude images in motion, which most of the artistic crowd regarded as the death of true imagination and creativity, and think ‘Here is poetry.’

In herself, Adeline Winthrop was rather extraordinary; I shall never forget the day when first saw her. The local coffee shop by Locksley Hall was popular with the few sorts about town who could be termed “artists”, and I was gathered there with my staff as we prepared ideas for the next season’s shows to be played at Locksley (of which, at the time, I was the owner), when the door banged open. In came a band of strangely dressed people, carrying suitcases so large and so oddly shaped that I was at a complete loss to surmise what they could possibly contain. At the head of the band, resplendent in the oversized hat, garish makeup and ankle-exposing gown that were the fashion of the day, was that startling tall personage with which I was to become so familiar during the next twelvemonth.

She was very tall, indeed; Adeline towered over most men, which perhaps helped her as a director – everyone should ‘look up’ to those who direct. She was also terribly slim, with almost no breasts or hips to speak of. Add to this that oversized nose, those strangely shapen lips, and eyes far too large and dark to be attractive, and you had a woman who no one had ever called a beauty. That choppy brown hair, cut just beneath the ears like all the chic young girls were doing, only made the thin face with those unfortunate features even more stark.

She stode in to the place, appointed a fine table for her entourage, with evident design of making them comfortable, and took from each their preferred sort of coffee; she then attended to fetching every order out of the ten herself, articulating each of them with a precision that spoke her quite anxious that each should be to the exact specifications she required. Mary, the poor coffee girl, seemed quite overwhelmed at this superfluity of orders, and although Winthrop did this all with the evident design of not wishing to burden anybody, we all went off with a rather unfavorable impression of her.

Yet as unpleasant as she seemed, there was very little novelty in our small town, so I watched this new arrival with some interest. She rejoined her people, and asked of them; “So – what have you heard?”

“Not much,” murmured the young, good-looking man who appeared to be second in command, after Winthrop. “But this is asmall place, you know. Whatever there is to learn, we’ll learn.”

“I don’t think the locals will be of much help,” said the oldest of the party, a man with a long nose just perfect for looking down, which he seemed to be always doing. “At least, not when it comes to the facts.”

“We’re not after facts, Harold,” said Winthrop, and although the words carried something of a reprimand, there was no anger in her tone. “We want stories. Color. And locals are perfect for all of those. But the most important thing, to my mind, is to make the acquaintance of the proprietor of Locksley Hall. Hopefully, we shall make a good impression on him – or her, if a her it should be – and attain permission to use the place for the interiors.”

This caught my ear and naturally raised my attention. I fancied I would have a little sport of these strangers, who had annoyed me with their comments on our small town and the local ‘color’. So I did something very bold, and went over to their table.

“Pardon me, ma’am, but I couldn’t help overhearing you.”

“Oh, no pardons needed, sir. How do you do?” She extended a hand to me, and shook mine with so much grace that I almost changed my mind, but struck anew with the long-nosed man’s look of condescension, I went about it by saying “You must be new in town, I suppose. You were speaking of meeting the owners of Locksley Hall. If I were you, I shouldn’t attempt it.”

“But why ever not?” Miss Winthrop took the office of speaking to me, while all the rest simply watched as we proceeded, thus:

“Because Mr. Harold Goswick is a frightful man. Terrifying. Everyone in town is afraid of him.”

To my great surprise, Miss Winthrop responded to this by smiling gaily. “Oh, but that’s just silly, if you’ll pardon me saying so. There’s no reason to be frightened of anyone.”

“Of Mr. Goswick, there is. All the local artists tremble in their cloaks if they have to audition for one of his shows. Even the old, established performances had to beg permission to continue running in his hall, once he took charge.”

Her smile did not falter; those of her entourage did, and they all exchanged very doubtful glances. Miss Winthrop said, “Give me ten minutes with this man, and I’ll have him begging to let us play in his hall.”

My curiosity was peaked by such confidence; I asked “What might you say to such a curmudgeonly fellow?”

“I’d say ‘Mr. Goswick, how do you do?’ And I’d let him answer, and spend a good deal of time in encouraging him to talk about himself, and listening as if hanging on his every word. And I would, indeed, be listening, and while I listened I would pick up precisely what sort of a man this Mr. Goswick is, and how best to approach him. I would discover what he loves, what he hates, and how best to ask his permission. I would discover how he came to be so feared, why he should be such a terror, and I would learn just what to say to make him see that the best thing in the world for his theater would be to open the gates to myself and my company.”

“Oh, you’re an actress?”

“No, I’m a director.”

“Do you have a play in mind?”

“Not a theater director, sir. A film director.”

This announcement, which by now was audible to the entire café, turned heads in her direction, with expressions of disapproval and taut mouths expressing anger and disapprobation. I drew back, as if she’d announced her profession was the world’s oldest, and even her entourage looked a little ashamed, as if they’d wished to keep this fact a secret for much longer. Only Miss Winthrop held her head up high, either innocent of or indifferent to the reaction caused by her words.

“A film director?!” I asked, breaking the silence. “Then what use could you want of our theater? We do not play moving picturesat Locksley Hall, we have a stage, not a projection machine.”

“Of course I don’t want to play my films in your theater,” she said, smiling. “I understand your objections. No, I have my own reasons for making use of Locksley Hall – and once I have explained them to Mr. Goswick, I believe he will be only to happy to oblige me.”

“Oblige you how?” I asked, growing exceedingly puzzled. For the first time, she hesitated before speaking, and then said “Might I respond to that question with another?” And before I could do more than stare, “You have your local legends, sir. One of them particularly interests me, and that legend principally concerns Locksley Hall.”

“Do you mean,” (lowering my voice), “the ghost of Locksley?” Our town was not large enough or old enough to have more than one legend associated with any particular place, so I supposed this must be the one she meant; but I could not for the life of me imagine what a film director wanted with a slue of small town rumors, or how she could even have heard of them, for her dress and accent spoke her to be an urban woman.

“Yes, indeed. You’ve heard of this ghost?”

“Everyone around here has,” I said. “But it’s just a legend.”

“I love legends,” she said, smiling. “Do tell me.”

“No, madam – I do not wish to repeat hearsay as facts.”

“Then by all means repeat hearsay as hearsay. That is all I ask.”

I debated in my mind what to do – but really, I had often wished, although I wouldn’t admit to such a wish, to repeat the story of my theater to an outsider. My curiosity was aroused as to what use a film director could wish to make of Locksley, if not as a venue. And the disdain I rather felt for her, not just for her profession but to her manners and urban ways, made me rather wish to frighten her off by reciting the story in as lurid a manner as possible. So I drew my chair closer and spoke in a low voice, intended to send chills down the young lady’s spine.

“The business was just ten years ago. Locksley had on a grand production. Fine works of theater – Shakespeare, opera, musicals, all the best that could be asked. We were playing La Boheme, Carmen, and Don Giovanni. There was a new soprano girl, Alice Thrush. She was very young, very innocent, and quite talented. That’s where the trouble all began.

“There had been rumors, for some time, of a mysterious man who lived beneath Locksley Manor, in the cellars. The cellars there are a gigantic network of passages and trapdoors. They were designed in wartime, for fugitives who wished to stay hidden from their persecutors. A man could easily hide down there, for months, even years. After the war was over, they were mostly left as a reminder of past times, used by the theater producers for storing props or costumes not in use, and fell by the wayside. But strange things started happening.

“There were missing items, stolen from the corps of the theater, for one thing. Items that one could suppose a man, living by no means but theft, could wish for to survive. There were strange sightings being reported by many – all of them tended to agree on a man who was so frightful to behold that the unfortunate who had seen him could do little more than scream and faint dead away. What this man truly looked like, or if he even truly existed, I have no idea. But reports all spoke of a demon, so horrifically ugly, that it must have been raised from the place that sinners go.

“The owners of Locksley at the time disregarded the rumors. Nothing could be as silly. I believe they thought the corps had all gotten ahold of some sensationalist books, and those books had put wicked fancies in their heads. But then things started to happen. The two leading sopranos, Helen Morris and Joan Lowe, were found murdered. Helen first – she was the prima donna, the queen of the musical productions. She’d been killed when her throat was cut with – but that doesn’t do to speak of in front of a lady,” I stopped myself.

“Go on,” was my prompt; and indeed, Miss Winthrop looked more at ease than her entourage of gentlemen. “Well, Joan Lowe was given Helen’s role – the role that, naturally, should have gone to Alice Thrush. Alice was Helen’s understudy, but the producers had known Joan longer. Her parents were prominent people in town, and forwarded her career, while Alice Thrush was a nobody, an orphan, a child left to shift for herself. Well, just before opening night, Joan was found strangled.

“The police strongly suspected Alice Thrush. The girl was constantly in tears about the whole thing though, and the hands that had strangled Joan were much larger and more powerful than Miss Thrush’s slender, delicate appendages. The police could not find any definite suspect, so the matter was left unsolved. Alice Thrush became the lead soprano, and played for some time, during which the violence ceased. That fact was certainly suspicious – but there was nothing to convict her. Until…it happened.

“She disappeared. One day, Alice Thrush was performing, the next she was simply gone. Vanished, possibly right from Locksley Hall without a trace. The police were baffled; there had been no indication that she was planning on running away. She seemed often very sad, but never so unhappy as to run off in the night with no warning. She had a young man, Theodore Prescott, who was extremely anxious that she be found. He was always after the managers, claiming they were negligent, or that they hadn’t protected or properly, or even that they were responsible for her death because of the earlier incidents.

“And things became frightening for the performers who spent their days at Locksley. More pranks, more incidents of seeing theghost, and some of the dancers could swear they heard Alice Thrush singing in the distance, as if her ghost were haunting the premises. Then one night, during a performance, as if by magic Alice Thrush appeared on stage in place of the star who was playing her role – that star was found bound and gagged, and testified that Alice had not attacked her. Alice performed, and the audience was in raptures, but she disappeared after the performance. And so it went, every evening: the star would be bound and gagged, Alice Thrush would appear as if by magic on stage and disappear as soon as the part was finished. Three nights in a row this happened, and Theodore Prescott and the police decided to hatch a plan: they would set up around the premises, stop Alice from leaving, and catch whoever was behind this madness.

“Well, Alice didn’t appear that night. The hired girl wasn’t bound and gagged at all; she went on stage and played her part, and the police were left with nothing. Theodore Prescott was so enraged, they thought he was going mad. That night, he disappeared; there was talk that he’d been seen in the company of the ghosts. The next night, Theodore and Alice both appeared – disheveled, tired, and a little strange in their behavior, but very much alive.

“The police had many questions, but there was no getting anything out of them. Nothing that made real sense. Alice said there really was a ghost, who had been following her around and doing all these things on her behalf, and of course no one believed her. Prescott said the same thing, that he’d saved her from the ghost, that the ghost had disappeared into the night once he’d defeated him in battle.

“But you know, there was always something a little insincere about their statements – as if anyone could say such things with a straight face! But they did not appear to be having a joke. And they never found the real culprit. Alice and Theodore became Mr. and Mrs. Prescott and moved to his house in Compton, and since then we’ve not seen hide nor hair of this ghost. No more talk of him, just an old story told to children to get them to behave at night.”

Adeline Winthrop listened with close attention throughout the whole of my recital. She was a wonderful listener, for she responded at all the right moments and kept quiet through all the rest. What I said genuinely interested her, and yet I soon learned that even if what I said had not been of interest to her in the slightest, she would have responded in the same way. Once I brought the recital to a conclusion, she smiled on me.

“Thank you, sir. You’ve given me exactly what I wished for – precisely what I needed. I couldn’t have asked for a better. I trust you’ve probably changed the names of the people involved in order to protect them – and I shall use your names in my film, for I would not wish to embarrass them either.”

“In your film?”

“Yes. I intend to make a motion picture about your ghost, and to film the Locksley Hall scenes in the real Locksley. That, good sir, is my purpose in being here.”

I was exceedingly astonished. I must confess such an idea had never entered my head. I had almost never seen a motion picture before – just once or twice when I’d been in town. When I did think of how they were made, I always assumed that strange people gathered indoors, in constructed rooms in that strange little town in California where they’ve all gone off to, and took many pictures all at the same time. I’d never thought of making a motion picture in the place where the event had actually occurred.

“Film at Locksley? Impossible!”

“Why?”

“Why? Well, it simply isn’t done!”

“Many things, at one point, simply weren’t done, sir,” said Miss Winthrop; my outburst simply seemed to amuse her. “They were all changed through someone choosing to do what was not ‘done.’”

She waited for me to answer, but I did not, in good truth, follow what she said. At last I simply murmured that the managers would have something to say about this, and turned away. She paid this no mind, and engaged in talking with her entourage about scripts, research, sets, all sorts of things which I did not understand at the time, but have since learned the meaning of.


© Copyright 2017 Laura Colette. All rights reserved.

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