When I was little, my family spent a lot of time in Rockport, Indiana. My great-aunt Myrtle, an artist and former teacher, lived alone in an old, two-story house on a sandstone bluff overlooking the Ohio River. That house is the inspiration for my current work in progress, a gothic middle-grade called The Ghost of Morrath Hall.
This summer, my husband, daughter, and I made a pilgrimage to Rockport to check out my childhood haunts. A few highlights:
The cannon on the courthouse lawn. With difficulty, I refrained from climbing up to sit on it, as my brother and I used to do.
Main Street, where you could get an old-fashioned ice cream soda well into the '70s. Alas, Sargent's Soda Fountain is no longer there. Instead, we ate at a delightful Mexican restaurant, Los Panchos. It's not on Main Street, but it has great food and an actual railroad caboose!
The Rockport Library, an original Carnegie library. It was closed, so I couldn't go in, but it brought back wonderful memories. Circa 1968, after my great-aunt moved to a nursing home in Owensboro, my brother and I wandered into this library and spent a happy summer afternoon reading. At closing time, we reluctantly put down our books and got ready to go. But we were in luck--when the librarian found out who we were, she was happy to let us check books out. "Oh--you're Myrtle Posey's kin? Why, we've still got her library card on file. You can use it!" Can you imagine such generosity and trust in this day and age?
The historical marker indicating the spot where, in 1828, 19-year-old Abraham Lincoln set off on his first flatboat trip to New Orleans. There, he had the disturbing experience of seeing a slave auction. It is said that the Emancipation Proclamation owes its origin to this flatboat trip, which helped form Lincoln's views on slavery.
The caves in the bluff. When I was a kiddo, I scampered up there without a thought. On this trip, I kept my feet on terra firma and took pictures. That's my husband and daughter waving down at me.
In the years since I've been there, the property has been added to the Historic Register, and this lovely sign has been erected in the yard. The house is known to be haunted, and is included in the book Haunted Hoosier Trails by Wanda Lou Willis. My brother and I saw our share of spooky lights through the transoms. Naturally, our parents downplayed the hauntedness of the house, hoping to decrease the likelihood of nightmares and sleepless nights. My WIP is a ghost story, but the ghost story is fictitious--that is, it's not based on the actual history of the house.