Saturday, August 31, 2013

Childhood Haunts

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.



10 comments:

Leandra Wallace said...

Those caves looked like they'd be neat to visit. And what was going through that woman's mind who poisoned both her husbands- crazy! It was cool to see a place in IN featured(since I'm an IN girl!).

Ruth Donnelly said...

Thanks for commenting, Leandra! We had so much fun in IN. Besides the walk down memory lane in Rockport, we visited the Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville, and my daughter got to feed the giraffes!

Ann Herrick said...

Rockport looks like a charming town and a great setting for a story!
Would have made a great picture if you had climbed up on the cannon. :)

Ruth Donnelly said...

LOL, Ann! Maybe not so much... I'm not quite as spry as I used to be!

Diane Carlisle said...

I love historical sites! Thanks for sharing these photos. I've heard of Rockport, but I'd never really envisioned the place.

Liz Straw said...

I think Rockport is one of the places I haven't been. Living in Vincennes. I love the old Carnegie Libraries, I have great memories of the one I went to in Elkhart (they moved out of it by the time I was 11, it was to small. Here in Vincennes it is now the police station. :) Great photos.

Ruth Donnelly said...

Thanks for commenting, Diane and Liz! I want to go back some time when the library is open. It looked like they had done some remodeling & converted the basement to a children's area. I don't remember that floor being open to the public when I was little.

Marcia said...

We have a Carnegie library in our town, too. And the house seems like a great setting for a story!

Ruth Donnelly said...

It is, Marcia--far better than anything my imagination could have come up with!

DugganPubs said...

For all you interested commenters, "The Ghost of Morrath Hall" is now finished and in revision. I read it, and Ruth does a great job of weaving these memories and locations into an exciting story with engaging characters. I hope you will all get the chance to read it in published form someday!