I spent two nights in the Haunted Mansion last month. No, really. It was bizarre. When I travel, I usually just go in for a Marriott, or Comfort Suites — you know the typical, predictable hotels that are so uniform, I can’t remember what city I’m in when I wake up in the morning. But every once in a while, I’ll go for a bed-and-breakfast. Especially when I’m someplace picturesque and rural. I’ve come across some of the coolest B&Bs around the US. The Cobblestone Manor in Rochester Michigan, the Bonnynook inn Waxahachie, Texas. And then there’s the Evergreen in Anderson, South Carolina.
Okay, to be fair, the Evergreen WOULD have been one of the coolest places I’ve ever stayed. It’s a pair of old plantation homes renovated to perfection. Charming, elegant, all that. Except for one thing.
I was the only soul on the entire property.
I arrived at night, and thought it was odd when I pulled into the isolated parking lot, that my dinky little Ford Focus rent-a-car was the only vehicle in the lot. I had received an e-mail from the innkeeper telling me the combination to the back door. But which back door? On which building. It was raining, it was dark, and I had to to circle two buildings that each had half a dozen doors to find the one that had a combination to get in. As I was checking the doors, I started to consider that if I was attacked by oh, say, an escaped lunatic, my body might lay there on the back porch for days until I was discovered.
Once inside, there was a credit card slip and an envelope (I gave my credit card over the phone). And then I found my room.
You know the eight-sided room they put you in when you go into the Haunted Mansion? The one that slowly stretches and ends with a skeleton hanging from the rafters? This was room. Creepy wallpaper, creepier chandelier. The room was labeled “The Library.” As if it wasn’t creepy enough, for some reason the room had a door to the outside that remained locked, but shook every time the wind blew, as if some lost spirit were trying to find a way in. I went upstairs to check out the rest of the place. While the downstairs resembed the Haunted Mansion, the upstairs was more reminiscent of “The Shining.” I dared myself to go into one of the dark bathrooms and pull back the shower curtain, half expecting to see a Stephen King-esque rotting corpse. I read the Shining when I was in 8th Grade. I still remember the number of the room. Room 217. In the movie, for some reason they chaned it to 237, but for me it will always be room 217. Whenever I travel, and end up with a hotel room that’s #217, I always have to take a moment to calm the inner child.
Back down to “The Library,” Where Professor Plum killed Coronel Mustard with the candlestick. The lights in my room had dimmers, but when I dimmed them, the place REEEEALLLY looked like the Haunted Mansion. So I slept with the lights on.
I left early for a school visit to Starr Iva Middle school. Breakfast had been mysteriously left in the Evergreen’s refrigerator for me. Fruit and two muffins.
When I arrived back at the Evergreen in the afternoon, there was a car in the parking lot! At last a real live human! I took a quick shower and went out to introduce myself to the person I assumed was the innkeeper. But when I got out of the shower, the car was gone. And there were two muffins and fruit left in the refrigerator.
I managed to sleep with only the bathroom light on that night, but every time that door to the outside rattled, I woke up. I left in the morning, downing my muffins and fruit. I never did see another soul on the entire property. At least not a living one. I did sign the guest book, though. I wrote, in finest Jack Nicholson fashion, “All work and no play makes jack a dull boy all work and no play makes jack a dull boy all work and no play makes jack a dull boy.” Next time, I think I’ll stay at the Marriott, where the only REDRUM is in the lobby bar.