We found this place by chance like everything that happens to us since we started traveling by bicycle. After stopping to evaluate the surroundings, we entered the property through a large tree-lined avenue covered by an extensive carpet of green pastures dotted with yellow, brown, red leaves. The nearby woods evoke horseback riding along the estate’s boundaries on those boring Sunday afternoons. The pond, in the backyard, has a small dock where there’s a deck chair that holds a fishing rod, a sign that there is some inhabitant in the castle. We have traveled about 70 meters from the entrance portico to the esplanade of the somewhat dilapidated building. We parked the bikes and walked on the grass. Then we just stood there, in silence.
“Can I help you with something?”, The guttural voice behind us made us turn in simultaneously when we were just realizing that someone was watching us from one of the huge windows on the second floor. I don’t know about Marlene, but I felt an icy current down my spine, a sensation of a few tenths of a second like when one is caught completely off guard.
Our nervous smiles illuminated our faces when we had this man -who I would name The Earl- in front of us who appeared practically out of nowhere. He looks like a kind lumberjack with abundant eyebrows and a sublime gazing. Immediately, by intuition, we knew that we were going to spend the night in that place as, indeed, it had happened. We put the bicycles inside a barn, leaving all our belongings there, except for clean clothes, a computer, the camera and, in my case, the inevitable rubber earplugs. Later, at the end of the dinner, our host shows us a large hard-page book with photographs and historical references of the Castle. An important part of the building is currently in ruins. At one point, when The Earl has finished writing a dedication and stamping his signature on our Institutional Cuaderno, Marlene asks him this question: “The lady we saw in the large window when we just arrived, who is her?”
“Ah, it’s my mother, but of course she died a few years ago”.
The surprising composure of my partner by not remaining in that dimension of fear as immediately moved forward to talk about another topic, was very strange for me. Is there something I don’t know about her that may eventually surprise me in the future? Why do I find her so calm and restrained as if nothing really happened that night, or is it her way of filtering her reaction to situations like this?
We have been put in two different guest rooms, side by side. Despite my ear tampons and deep sleep mainly because of my fatigue, I’ve woken up a couple of times with the feeling of squeaking and strange movements in my bed.
The next morning, when we had already complied with appreciation and goodbye to The Earl, on our way to the exit of the compound, I got that strange feeling that everything we experienced in that place was not real, that it did indeed never happen. However, his well wishes wrote it in our Cuaderno’s dedication page with a date and his signature on it plus the pictures I took were all very real. Marlene claims to have felt creepy movements in her bed last night as well as having heard strange noises at the door, as if someone were scratching the door with their nails, but she has not given more importance to the subject, “considering …”
Days later she seemed also imperturbable when from a bustling rural farm someone showed us a house hidden behind some trees and tall shrubberies.
“That house over there is once again uninhabited now. Nobody can live there since the spirits do not let them. Everyone who rents it ends up leaving soon after”.
There are people who perceive the so-called paranormal manifestations as something inevitable and not dangerous. Therefore, they do not succumb to terror and chaos. These people demonstrate an innate capacity for contact with Nature and a prudent detachment from suggestions of religious belonging. They are spiritual beings by nature and not religious by definition. Is that the Marlene that I didn’t know about?
On this bicycle trip carried out in the summer of 2001, touching places in Germany, Holland, Belgium and France, I now remember, I saw her on some occasions in a shadow corner of some religious temple, steady and undisturbed for several minutes. I watched her from a distance without wanting to interrupt her. She transmitted a feeling of great peace. Those unique moments when I would have liked to behave like her.