|Inside the lobby of the 1886 Crescent Hotel|
A few days ago my family and I returned home from a vacation in a little Ozark town called Eureka Springs, Arkansas. A more apt name, at least to this historical fiction writer, is Heaven.
Nearly every downtown building there features a plaque from the National Register of Historic Places, making the veil between past and present feel especially thin. For those sensitive souls (like me) who pick up on the energy of places, that veil was all but transparent in the lobby of the 1886 Crescent Hotel. For the benefit of those who have never had a physical reaction from walking into a building or over an old battlefield, this picture is the best visual representation I can offer for how it feels.
The Crescent has been featured on Ghost Hunters and is reportedly the most haunted hotel in the United States. Knowing this, I was neither surprised nor alarmed by the weight of the air in the room. I was taken aback, however, when my older daughter followed me out onto the back veranda and whispered, “Mama, I could barely breathe in there. Is it just me, or does this place feel heavy?”
Heavy was an apt description. Evidently she’s inherited more than my artistic bent.
She wanted to go back inside and see if the feeling came back. It did. She then said she wouldn't mind spending the night there. (After watching some videos on You Tube later, she amended that statement to exclude room 218. She also declined my offer to take her on the ghost tour, which she was certain would scar her for life.)
|My little one rides an old steam train|
The longer I stayed in Eureka Springs the easier it became to look past the modern clothes, smartphones and other gadgets that ground us all in the twenty-first century. When I boarded a 1920s steam train in ninety-degree heat I could almost hear my great-grandparents laughing from their perch beyond the pearly gates.
“Where’s the air-conditioning?” my youngest asked once sweat dampened her hair.
I nodded toward the open window and inwardly grinned, chalking up the adventure to research for my novel. There was no breeze generated by a train inching along at five miles an hour, but this photo proves my child stoically endured her slow-roast in the metal oven that was our car. I took it moments after our tour guide “conductor”, a sweet, elderly gentleman in period clothes, asked her to marry him. (She let him down gently.)
|Borrowing her great-grandmother's style|
While editing our vacation photos, I've lingered over those shots that could have been taken in another era, or those where my daughters adopt a pose, expression, or even a hairstyle once worn by a distant grandmother. A few clicks in an editing program and the Technicolor world I live in fades into sepia, becomes a living past.
It makes me itch to write.
What about you? Have you ever been to a place where you felt history come alive, or that energized your writing? We’d love to hear about it.