"Does it really matter?" I respond. For truth is an interpretation. In my blog, I look at situations and/or relationships from many different angles with altering perspectives to find the right fit for a reality I can embrace - good and bad - that'll give me definition as well as impetus to move on.
In this piece, I'm proud to present an excerpt of Michael Seese's HAUNTING VALLEY where all the stories are true. Again, it's a matter of interpretation whether to believe or not. But he and his co-writer, Bill Devol, attest these are true stories as does The New York Review of Books.
Sit back, dear Reader, grab a cuppa java and enjoy this short tale:
The Haunted Greenhouse
4.5 miles northwest of Chagrin Falls
In the exclusive Daisy Hill section of Hunting Valley, there is a greenhouse that grows only black roses. The owner, Dorothy Hoyt, tells a fascinating story.
This may be nothing more than a fanciful tale, but I’ve got no better explanation. You see, Giselle Heinrich, the old woman who sold me the house was a bit of an eccentric, to put it kindly. To put it honestly, she was loony. So it would be easy to dismiss her strange tale as the ravings of a senile old woman…were it not for the roses.
One day, soon after my husband and I agreed to buy the house, Giselle showed us around the grounds. As we headed back from the lake near the rear of the property, she pointed to one of three greenhouses, and, while staring off into nothing said in that slow, deliberate way of hers that I became accustomed to, “I hope you don’t like color in your flowers. Mummy’s flowers always go black.” With no further prompting on my part, she told me the story of what happened and what she meant.
Her parents Otto and Maria, had once been the royal florists of Austria. They were responsible for planting and maintaining the beautiful rose garden just west of the Habsburg Palace in Vienna. The Habsburgs, unlike many royals, paid their favorite servants well. But when World War I broke out, the Heinrichs fled to America with their infant daughter. They landed on our shores and set up a shop in New York. “Bear in mind,” Giselle told me, “Mummy and Daddy were quite experienced in serving royalty. All those funny kings and queens. So they had no trouble catering to the American royalty—the nouveau rich—of New York. They did quite well for us.”
Evidently, the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple got to Otto and Maria. After all Vienna, despite its size, was a much less frantic city. So they headed west, settling in the Cleveland area, which was known for its German population. They built their grand Daisy Hill estate, complete with its greenhouse, so they could pursue their passion.
Otto and Maria continued to flourish, even during the Depression. Of course, even people struggling to make ends meet will buy flowers for weddings and funerals. Giselle told me the family was very happy until the storm came. She said it was summer in 1940, and Giselle had completed school, and was living with her parents, as all good girls did in those days. One July night, just after sunset, a terrible storm broke. Giselle’s mother insisted on going out to the greenhouse to close the vent windows, lest the wind damage her precious roses. Giselle’s father wanted her mother to stay in the house. The mother insisted. Giselle said that it was that sort of strength her father loved so about her.
Giselle went with her mother. The storm slacked off as the pair raced down the hill towards the greenhouse. Giselle told me that when they got there, the wind grew worse. Inside the greenhouse, it sounded to Giselle as though a fierce monster was pounding on the glass all around her. Giselle said her mother was fearless and just started shutting windows. Giselle helped as best she could. Giselle said that it happened before they were able to close the last window.
As Giselle’s mother cranked the last window shut, a huge lighting strike exploded in the large oak tree that sheltered the south end of the greenhouse. A large limb cracked loose and fell through the glass roof of the greenhouse. Giselle she watched helpless as a large, long shard of glass turned point-down and fell towards her mother. Giselle’s warning scream was drowned out by the wind. Giselle’s mother was bent over her work and never saw the spear of glass that tore through her back and her heart. Giselle screamed even louder as she leaped to try and help her mother.
Giselle’s mother turned over and tried to speak but no words came out. Giselle’s mother face turned a ghostly white, and she bled to death on a bed of glass and roses as Giselle screamed and screamed. The wind dropped to a whisper.
Giselle’s father heard her screams and saw his wife when he ran into the greenhouse to see what was wrong. Giselle said a single tear rolled down her father’s cheek and he just kept saying, “No, no, no.”
Giselle’s father tried to pull the glass from his wife’s still body, but only succeeded in cutting his own hand. Then he sank to his knees and kissed his dead wife on the forehead and closed her eyes with a tender touch.
Giselle’s day got even worse when she saw her father clutch at his chest, turned silently purple, and slumped to the ground next to his wife. Doctors told Giselle that it was a massive heart attack, but she told me she thought it was a broken heart.
Giselle had the oak tree cut down and the stump pulled up. She buried Otto and Maria next to the greenhouse in the natural grave left when the oak was hauled away.
Giselle never married. She told me that she woke one morning to find she had become an old woman. Giselle told me that she could never grow anything but black roses in that particular greenhouse so she quit trying and had it closed up. She said the roses were as sad as she was.
The day we signed the papers and Giselle handed us the key ring, she asked us to take care of her mother and father’s greenhouse but to not expect anything but black roses to grow there. Giselle was right. I know it sounds like a wacky story. But I can’t explain why roses which show red, yellow, or white buds, would turn black as they open. We gave up trying to grow anything in there and use that greenhouse only for storage.
When we asked what happened to Giselle, Mrs. Hoyt told us that she had moved into an assisted care facility in Chagrin Falls where she died a few years ago. Mr. and Mrs. Hoyt paid for the funeral and had Giselle buried next to her mother and father. They had roses carved on her tombstone. ms