In our Sept-Oct of Dollhouse Miniatures, we featured Rhonda Guy's story about creating the creepy and desolate Middleton Manor. The problems she encountered only made her more convinced that the spirits haunting the manor were haunting her too!
Rhonda's brother, Chester, was the designer and architect of this massive, imposing manor. He created each brick individually, added the flooring piece by piece, and added several design elements of his own. Once he was done, he and Rhonda transported this sturdy building across the state of Kentucky to her home, where she finished and accessorized it with the story of Old Man Middleton in mind. (Read Rhonda's story on pp 52-56 of Dollhouse Miniatures issue 23 [Sept-Oct 2011]).
Here, you can read the story Rhonda created as inspiration for the manor. Learn the history of the manor and the residents within: Old Man Middleton; his lovely, young, but doomed wife Gracie; and Old Man Middleton's birds. It's the perfect story to share with your friends or family on a gloomy, foggy night around Halloween! Turn off the lights, grab a candle or flashlight, and drink some hot chocolate to protect yourself from the chills you are going to get from this story.
Middleton Manor: A truly peculiar and most definitely haunted mansion...
By all accounts, Algernon Middleton was an odd and not particularly well-liked individual. If all stories ever told about him are true, he was indeed an “odd duck,” which is perhaps the most fitting title, as he was completely obsessed with all winged, flying creatures. There wasn't a bird in nature that failed to arouse his intense curiosity, and this resulted in the unfortunate capture of many of these poor creatures, who seemed to dislike Algernon as much as most people who met him. There were always rumors about a certain room in the old Middleton mansion where these imprisoned birds were kept, and Old Man Middleton would while away the hours by sitting in his rocking chair, observing them keenly. It was widely reported that shrill cries could be heard coming from that tower room. This has continued, even in the present day, which leaves many feeling shaken, as there have been no residents of any kind living in that house for many, many years.
It came as a huge shock to the people of the small town when Algernon Middleton took a bride. It was whispered amongst the townspeople that “poor Miss Gracie Rose Wolfe” was forced to marry this eccentric old man. It also became widely commented upon that the new Mrs. Middleton was rarely seen out of the hulking mansion. A source of great consternation to many was the fact that this marriage did not result in much-desired invitations to said mansion. Many had great hopes of seeing the aviary they had heard so much about. When invitations were not forthcoming, this fueled even more rumors. Why, it was even said that the staircase in the house was designed to look like a giant birdcage, and that (gasp!) the steps were in the shape of bat wings! Some said that when one of Old Man Middleton's birds died, he stuffed them and kept them in the house with him. Even as alarming and abnormal as that sounded, it seemed all too believable to the random and uncomfortable passerby who couldn't help but notice that the graveyard gate featured a large bat with a decidedly malevolent expression. As if that wasn't enough to accelerate already-rampant speculations, another astute passerby noticed that the very trim on the house featured bats.
Stairs designed to look like a birdcage, with steps in the shape of bat wings.
After years, the fact that the marriage had not resulted in any children became a new topic of discussion. Rumor had it that Gracie Middleton did not particularly like this peculiar husband of hers, and that he seemed to have reciprocal feelings of antipathy in regard to this new wife. There were even rumors that this couple had separate bedrooms, and that Mrs. Middleton rarely even ventured up the fabled batwing staircase to the second floor. In truth, Gracie despised her overbearing, strange husband and she hated being surrounded by all of his taxidermy birds. She refused to ever go into the aviary, as the one time that she had, it had filled her with a sense of sorrow and despair. She would have loved to free all of those poor creatures, but she knew that would bring about results of dire consequence. And she was always careful to keep her eyes away from a certain black and silver box in “the staircase room,” as she called it. She knew it contained the remains of one of Algernon's favorite birds. For some reason, it made her feel uneasy.
On an unseasonably cool day in early autumn, a hurried passerby stopped still in his tracks. He was shocked to see Mrs. Middleton peering out of the window of the upstairs tower room—the very one rumored to be the “bird room.” This struck him as most unusual, because since the marriage, she had only been seen on the front porch once, and was only seen in town on rare but much-anticipated trips when she bought household supplies. Even more peculiar was that as he stood gazing at the house, she did not retreat behind the curtains. He mulled over this for a moment, then continued on his way. When he got into town, he told the proprietor of the store about his unsettling experience and was told that Mrs. Middleton had not been in for any supplies for an unusually long time. After comparing their recollections in regard to Middleton Manor, they began to get concerned that something untoward may have happened to the beleaguered mistress of the house.
Summoning their collective courage, the two men made the trek back to Middleton Manor. As they approached the house, they looked up into the tower room and did, indeed, see Mrs. Middleton. She seemed to be looking toward the ridgeline of the trees. They turned in that direction, and saw Mr. Middleton walking deep into the forest with his hunting dog and cages in tow. Realizing he would most likely be away for some time, they decided to take this opportunity to check in on Mrs. Middleton. They pounded on the door, but received no answer. They tried the door of the mansion, but it was locked and they could not find an open window. Unable to enter the house, they decided to go look around the graveyard to see if the rumors of the “bird cemetery” were true. They saw the many tiny tombstones that were rumored to be the birds, but also something shocking and unexpected: a tombstone with the inscription “Gracie Wolfe Middleton” and a date that indicated her demise had taken place quite some time before. They were completely stunned into silence. How, then, had they both seen her inside Middleton Manor? How had she died? The answer to the latter question was never factually answered. Old Mr. Middleton sure wasn't telling, and most townspeople didn't have the guts to ask him. Even the sheriff made excuses for not asking. It was widely speculated, though, that Gracie, no longer able to bear the pathetic cries of the birds begging for their freedom, had released them only to lose her life at the hands of Old Mr. Middleton in his fit of rage.
As time went on, the shrill cries in the bird room would still be heard from time to time, and shortly thereafter, the vision of Gracie Middleton would be seen in that window, which always seemed to bring the cries to a stop. Many years later, Old Algernon finally died (most unfairly, of natural causes) and was buried in the private cemetery. At the scarcely attended funeral, the few brave attendees commented on the unusual monument between the graves of Gracie and Algernon. Inside, a tiny, pristine white coffin, completely covered with beautiful fresh wildflowers, could be seen. At first, the townspeople wondered if there could have been a child, but since that just seemed much too unlikely, it was widely agreed that this must have been a very special, favorite bird—and of course, that was exactly the case. Oddly enough, even all these years later, that tiny coffin and its flowers remain perfectly fresh and untouched. When the townspeople finally went inside the house, after Algernon's death, they were amazed at not only the truth behind all those old rumors and the completely oppressive feeling of the old house, but by the fact that all the birds in the aviary truly were gone. No one believed that Algernon had released any of them, so it was obvious to everyone that the rumors of Gracie's interference and subsequent death may very well have been true.
Decades have passed and the stories about Middleton Manor have been handed down to subsequent generations. Shrill cries are still heard from the room in the tower, and Gracie still makes her appearance. Various realtors have tried, in vain, to sell this huge house, and it could be a real beauty again, but no one that enters the house ever seems to be willing to go back, much less buy it—even at the astounding bargain price offered. As time goes on, even the realtors hesitate to go inside, and light bulbs are now burned out, ceilings are falling into decay, and the old rocking chair in the bird room still rocks.