At some point in its past, this old, fieldstone structure may have been a fortress. But now, it is the site of a haunting, and we three have been called to investigate. We approach carefully, picking our way through night-drawn shadows over the grass-edged dirt road. The building’s open arch gapes just ahead. Wide, flagged slates sweep steadily down into the fortress, which is filled with dark, stagnant water. Just within the entry, a stone ledge dodges off to the left — water laps and splashes against it, but the ledge itself remains dry. One of our party follows this narrow path; I and our third member proceed down the slope of slates toward the murky interior.
The drip of water pierces muted dark; peculiar lights and reflections add a random pulse. Suddenly, a fist-sized bright light pops into existence and zips toward our solo party member, where it pauses, hovering before his face. Then, it zips over to hover similarly before my own — its light is so bright, I must squint against it, drawing my arm up to shield myself from its intensity. Finally, upon visiting the last of our party, it soars away, deep into the castle, down a watery corridor.
For a moment, all is dripping, lapping silence as we stand breathless, waiting for our vision to readjust. Another noise emerges now, off to the right. I see, beyond the window-pierced stone wall, a figure passing by outside, its movements furtive, suspicious. Dashing back up the sloped flags, I move to intercept. An arch-topped garden gate is affixed to the fortress’ side here, and I wait beside it, patiently. The click of the gate latch, the sawing hiss of wooden boards against untrimmed grass as the gate opens…
To my astonishment, a tiny man steps through. He’s no more than three feet tall and about sixty years old, with a wispy fringe of white hair. Though he is unusually small, he is perfectly proportioned, a perfect miniature; he carries in his arms a similarly scaled violin and bow. Upon seeing me, he starts in surprise, equal to my own. But I realize…I know this man! It is Mischa Elman, the violinist famous for his passionate style and tone and musicality! All thoughts of ghost hunting vanish in my excitement to meet this man. Graciously, he shakes my hand, pulls from the vest pocket of his dark suit an old creased and faded blue program. It lists all the songs her performed live in concert in 1957.
“Fortress” — C.Birde, 12/15
Note: Mischa Elman truly was a gifted violinist. Born in the Ukraine in 1891, his family moved to New York and he became a U.S. citizen in 1923. He died in his home in Manhattan in 1967 and is buried in the Westchester Hills Cemetery, NY. So much was his playing admired, he sometimes performed as many as 107 concerts in a 29-week season. He was not peculiarly small.