Current Name of the House
Madame Marigold’s House of Respite
Year of Completion
More to the story…
The Hughes house originally belonged to town founder Martin Hughes back in the 1800’s. Martin was warned not to build it on that property because strange things had a tenancy to occur in that area, making it thoroughly uninhabitable. All previous builders eventually gave up on civilizing the area, leaving only a foundation in tact. However Martin was determined, and the property spanned over two hundred acres of pristine forest. So he payed an ungodly sum to get contractors and architects and get the place built. Rumor has it that Martin had made his money through clever investments in shipping industry. Having grown up on board a vessel, Martin had a knack for knowing when the best times to sail were, and had amassed a small fleet of sea worthy vessels. These ships carried lighter cargo, but could return quicker than a large ship, allowing for a speedy turn around on profit.
For a time, everything seemed to be going well. The contractors worked cautiously, as if they could feel eyes on their back. In 1822, the house was completed on scheduled and Martin moved in with his wife Abigail and their three children; Clark, Abigail Marigold (who went by Marigold), and Robin. The family was reportedly delighted with the house, a big change from their urbane apartments in London. Abagail quickly set about finding staff for the expansive grounds, but her progress was harried by rumors of the estate and it’s past. Eventually she had to hire from out of town, and the house was expanded to include servants quarters.
Years passed, and it seemed as if the house had settled. Martin and Abigail quickly became pillars of the community, helping to build the town meeting hall as well as the church on main street, funding it’s large glass window entirely from their own pockets. Martin was often seen at the docks, where he had begun plans to build a shipping port. As building begun, the area went through a boom in business, and the town expanded. Photographs from the time show that Martin was an active participant in the carpentry, and his children were usually in tow. Most notably, his middle child Marigold. She became a favorite of the workers, who dubbed her Merry Mary for her pleasant and convivial personality.
It was in 1825 that the troubles began.
Their youngest child, Robin, took sick with tuberculosis and passed away that winter. The doctor said he had never seen a sickness take hold with such ferocity on an up till then healthy child. Their eldest. Clark, began seeing things stalking them in the shadows, threatening the family with ill intentions. A maid’s diary, which was found in the side table and donated by Abigail Marigold to the Town Historical Society some years later, tells the poor boy’s tragic hallucinations:
~Diary of Lisset Jones, 1825~
Young Clark has always been likely to take after his father in personality and scope. He is a studious young man and most courteous even to us serving folk. So it comes as some shock to see the young sir taken to such flights of fancy that they wake him screaming in the middle of the night.
Last night I had risen to make use of the water closet when I heard a terrible sobbing carried through the wind. I took my candle and traced the source to Clark’s room. I opened the door and saw the boy clutching his blankets, staring up into the corner of the room, shaking as if freezing cold. I entered, and at the creak of my footsteps I heard a foul, hoarse voice scratch through the room and vanish. I shone my candle about to dispel the child’s worries, but he sobbed and clutched my skirts, begging me not to go. And this from a boy of sixteen!
I stayed the night in the rocking chair and kept the candle lit, which seemed to help him sleep. I saw nothing more that night, but I have begun to wonder if perhaps Clark’s imagination is not in fact the cause of his distress.
Their luck was to continue to fail. On midsummer in the year 1826, Martin’s wife, Abigail, went missing. She was last seen by the gardener by the old willow tree on the property, even though it was quite late at night and she was in her night dress. The police investigated, arresting several vagrants and homeless folk in the area as suspicious persons, though there was no evidence to indicate she had been taken in a struggle. Rumors abounded that she’d run off with some of her husbands money and one of the servants, though a quick check at bookkeeping shows that none of the staff had left their job during that time. Then, on All Hallows Eve the same year, Abigail turned up, bedraggled, raving mad, ranting about the little folk and women with bug eyes and men with ears like bats who fed her from flowers cups.
Martin tried to keep things private, but when Abigail’s behavior got out, he had her committed to Bellehews Asylum, where she would spend the rest of her days in a quiet but well maintained suite he donated for her comfort. It was at this time that Marigold was sent off to boarding school in the Scottish countryside. Martin felt sure that separating her from the grief of her family would protect her precious Merry Mary from any more suffering attached to the family. It would be the last time he would ever see his daughter.
In 1828, Martin Hughes was found hung from the willow tree where his wife had once vanished. Ravens had begun to pluck the flesh from his body, and the local coroners had a difficult time getting him down from the branch. It was noted that there was no sigh of a ladder, or evidence that Martin had managed the hanging himself. Several odd objects were found beneath his body, including an iron candlestick holder, a rosary of rowan berries, and a bouquet of rosemary, dill and St. John’s Wort. Martin Hughes was buried on the property. The next summer his wife followed him to the grave. Young Clark, who by now seemed to have inherited his mother’s madness, was committed to the same room in Bellehews where she had been given hospitality. He would remain there for three decades.
For thirty-four years, the house remained abandoned and untended, turning into an eyesore in the now prosperous community. Until one bright spring day in 1862, a large, fancy automobile showed up carrying a fine young woman with papers claiming that the house belonged to her late father. Upon inspection by a notary and lawyer, everything was found to be in order. Shortly afterwards, Abigail Marigold began to move into the Hughes Estate, fixing up the property. The town did not view this with pleasure, as they were sure her return portended tragedy. They waited to hear that Merry Mary had suffered the same fate as her poor, bedeviled family.
As the months passed, everything seemed to go well. The house was being repaired, the grounds were being maintained. Marigold even went so far as to buy more property, expanding her estate out into the mountains surrounding the westernmost part of the estate. Of course her activities drew the attention of the locals, who began snooping around. Most of them didn’t see anything and were quickly chased off by either her servants or on one occasion an albino peacock!
But as all things must, eventually someone did find something most curious. A group of boys, including Alfred Hospiel, and his friends Thomas Greckle and Peter Lorde; snuck into the property to cause mischief. The night might well have ended with a few overturned trash receptacles and shattered windows. But on that night, all three boys went missing.
Marigold was noted by the police as being quite generous in allowing them to search the property. But by now the three hundred acres of land was by no means easy to pick through! Though every building on the property was searched and hunters and trackers were called in to investigate the woods, no trace of the boys was found nor even evidence that they had ever been there in the first place. Marigold Hughes was investigated, but it was at the time they were set to arrest her for suspicious charges that all three boys turned up in the woods.
Alfred and Peter babbled incoherently, wide eyed and frightful as they tried to explain to the police what they had seen and experienced. But it was only Thomas who seemed to have the words to fully describe the events, though he rocked back and forth like a frightened child as he did so.
~Statement taken from Thomas Greckle, 1863~
We wents in through a gap in the gate. We weren’t out to do much harm. Jus curious. Our parents talked ya know? Bout all that stuff that happened in the house when they were kids. We went round the back of the house and Alfie, he saw a light over by the willow tree. We went to go see what was on, and it…what we saw didn’t make no sense! There was Miss Marigold, right? Dressed prim and proper as if she was going out to a party. And there was this fellow beside her, looked half mad. Kept talking to himself and pointing at things. But that wasn’t the strangest sight. There were…things there. Things that weren’t people. Miss Marigold was talking to one of them. She was sitting under the willow tree, reclining on two gravestones like they were her throne. She had skin red as ocher, and I could swear there were gold flakes coming off of her like salt off a seaman. We got scared, I got scared, and I went to run, but Alfie and Pete wouldn’t move. They couldn’t move! I tried to make them run with me, I swear I did! But somebody must have heard us. I saw eyes like a dragonfly, bejeweled and multi-fasceted, and…and after that…I don’t remember anything more.
It was later discovered that earlier that same year, Clark Hughes, Marigold’s elder brother, had been discharged from Bellehews Asylum under the care of his younger sister.
In 1864, Marigold Hughes held a grand fete and invited the towns populations to come and see the beautifully refurbished home and gardens. Much to the surprise of the wealthy and well placed of society, Marigold had turned her families estate into a house of oddities and curios. Apparently, in the thirty years of her absence, Marigold had set herself to world travel and education. She sported collections of strange and unusual items. It made for quite the story, and she allowed the guests to roam freely about, enchanting them with her delightful laughter, unusually masculine dress, and free way of speaking on subjects most well bred ladies of the time avoided. She was an avid supporter of the Union, and given her way of treating the servants she hired for above average wages and the frequency with which they changed, it was thought that perhaps she was a participant of the Underground Railroad.
These parties continued on a yearly basis, Marigold inviting people into her home to show off her newest additions and rare items which she’d not allowed to the public before. Like her parents, she became a community supporter and contributor. But these times were not without incidents.
There were no fatalities, however guests would occasionally come back from her fete’s not quite the same as before they left. One young woman returned home after one of Marigold’s parties, capable of speaking only in iambic pentameter. Another went blind in both eyes, but could tell when someone was lying and to what extent. One poor young man was found with claw marks up and down his back, and a feral look in his eyes. Marigold paid for his hospitalization, but within a month afterwards he went missing. That fall, a group of hunters claimed they saw him wandering the woods on Marigold’s property with a wild looking group of unruly fellows. But before they could approach him, the group vanished into the underbrush, and the howling of wolves was heard all through the night.
One particularly tragic event involved the young Edith DeMoines who kept coming back, month after month, carrying love letters and begging the lady of the house to give them to someone she called “Horatio”. She eventually tried to overdose on sleeping pills when Marigold refused to accept her letters anymore. She recovered and was sent away to her Aunt Justine in France in hopes it would cure her melancholy.
After that incident, people became too terrified to go to the house, or to even be seen anywhere near it! Tales of Martin Hughes and his wife began to circulate once more, and suspicion cost Marigold some amount of good clout in the community. How did she make her money? Where did she go when she took her holidays? Why did these terrible events only happen to others and never to her or her staff? Most importantly to the ladies of society, why did Marigold, who by now was in her late forties, still look no older than her early thirties? Marigold’s house became shunned, and her good standing within the community died regardless as to how much she helped in renovating the shipping industry and infrastructure.
In 1871, the House of Curiosities changed it’s business practices and became, for better or worse, a house of ill repute. It seemed if Marigold was going to be shunned by the very town her family had helped build, she was going to accept that label and design it to her liking. Brought perhaps by curiosity or the allure of sex, Marigold’s business booms. True to form, the people who visit her home leave in strange condition, but in far less dire circumstances. Whatever she offered, it was by far more captivating than the whore houses in the near by cities, and far more conveniently located.
Every year at midsummer, she continued to host her Grand Fete, inviting every member of society and their wives! Most wouldn’t dare risk their reputation by being seen at a common brothel, but the few who do, come back with secret smiles and brash daring not unlike Marigold herself. Their husbands seem no worse off for knowing what their wives have encountered, and indeed it seems some relationships may have been much improved by the transaction.
~Diary of Jocasta Shaw, 1875~
I have never thought that my life was lacking in any manner. Indeed I had thought myself content in my husband and our lives together, for we are a well placed family and he keeps me well. I have had little to complain about in my life, though his frequent visitations to the ill mannered Marigold’s house have plagued my mind. What she provides to him is surely not the province of a good wife and I had resolved to put this from my mind entirely.
My resolve was put to the test when my husband approached me and asked for me to attend him during that arrogant woman’s summer party! I could not conceive of being seen at such an event, and I pleaded with him not to have me go. He was most adamant however, and pressed me to put on my finery and join him. I have never denied my husband a request, and he seemed so excited for me to join him that I realized it would be quite impossible to refused. I am an honorable woman and I told myself I would not permit myself any enjoyment from this indulgence of his.
Never before have I found less cause to regret my acquiescence to his demands! I do not dare write of what occurred later in the evening, for fear that some spying eyes might see and disgrace me! But after the feast and dancing, my husband took me into the gardens and made a confession to me. My dear Bernard told me that while he had tried to be a good husband to me and to keep me as befitted a woman of my station, he had betrayed me in his heart and body. He now wished for me to meet the companion who had kept so much of his time. I was of course aghast, as any proper lady should be! But he stole me to the Greenhouse on the property, warning me to not be fearful nor to look directly into his eyes until we had been properly introduced. He swore to me there was no danger, and opened the door.
I find myself blushing now to think of what happened, of what I allowed to occur! I consider myself to be a lady. I have always conducted myself in a demur and fitting manner. But upon having met my husbands lover, I confess, I could not help but fall perhaps a little bit in love myself! After my fear abated, I found him to be a charming and capable host. It is in it’s own way very endearing to know my husband trusts me enough to confess himself to me in this manner. I became resolved to return from time to time to enjoy his company and his excellent tea.
Our relationship has much improved since then, and my dear Bernard and I seem to have come to an accord with one another. When he visits Marigold’s house, so do I. As he finds himself drawn to the Greenhouse and his silky tongued lover, I allow myself a bit of indulgence in the company of Marigold’s capable staff. It seems I am quite the flighty creature given the opportunity! My current favorite is the dapper fellow who calls himself Ignatius, and I hope to let him keep me company for some time yet.
As the business continued, much of it was ignored by the population. So long as life continued as it should, it was better to simply let things stand without causing trouble. Marigold withdrew from the public eye, but still ventured out on her holidays from time to time. Always returning for the Grand fete and ensuring her household was run according to her specifications.
In 1929, the stock market crashed.
Many of the towns most prominent members lost everything, and by 1930 the town had become a haven for migrant workers trying to scratch out a living. Though Marigold, (by now in her early hundreds by any reckoning) had long ago sold her stock in the shipping industry, she seemed untouched by the destitution effecting the rest of the town. Her household remained solidly in tact, and she lost not one half acre of land on her property. Despite having been shunned by most of the population, Marigold continued to show her generosity by having a soup kitchen built and funded entirely through her own account. Many of the town buildings had fallen into disrepair, and it was through Marigold’s Hughes foundation that they were kept in tact and given the badly needed upkeep through out most of the depression. Through out this decade of scarcity, Marigold continued to keep her business open, and the town maintained largely due to her.
In such dire circumstances, generosity can provoke jealousy.
In 1937, the Hughes mansion became the victim of an arson attack.
Marigold survived, as well as most of her staff. But the woman ran from the house in a flagrant red robe with a feathered trim, shrieking in rage at the gathering neighbors. “What have you done? You fools! What have you done?” When the flames had died and the magnificent house was nothing but ash, Marigold demanded an investigation, but just like that, the town had turned on her. The police wrote a report and filed it away, claiming no evidence that it had been arson and that Marigold might well have done it herself for the insurance claim. After all, how could she possibly afford to keep up such a lavish lifestyle in the face of economic downturn? In light of this, the bank refused to loan her the money to rebuild, bringing Marigold Hughes to a near destitute level.
It was then that the bad luck of Martin Hughes hubris spread to the rest of the town like a plague in London.
The local parish pastor awoke one morning, speaking in verses from Shakespeare A Midsummer Night’s Dream in perfect 15th century English. He was entirely unable to stop, even repeating the Puck’s line from Act 3, Scene 2: “Lord what fools these mortals be.” Over and over again until he passed out and had to be remanded to a doctors care.
A vagabond, who called himself Hamelin, came to town at midnight and played music on the street corner. The local school children flocked to listen to him every day. They stood there, hypnotized by the music. He never harmed them or even seemed to acknowledge them openly. But they refused to eat or sleep as he played unceasingly. Their parents came to drag them home, but they would creep back out in the dead of night to crawl back to the haunting melody.
The hunting club would not dare the woods any longer, no matter day or night. They had become unwelcoming in every way. Three men were lost going after a prize buck, wandering off and never returning despite having tracked in the area since they were children. Wolf sightings began to increase and they became uncommonly brazen in their attacks. Teams were mounted to hunt them down and eradicate the problem, but no matter how they searched the mongrels seemed to have vanished.
There are vultures in the sky. Massive, ungodly sized vultures that never seem to land. Area pets begin to go missing in droves, and their bloody remains are found scattered about the rooftops days later. Small children are no longer safe playing outside after a young boy goes missing and the parents have to be called to identify the remains found on a church spire.
Finally, after three years of this insanity, the then town mayor Gavin Trayews came to call upon Marigold Hughes. He spent a week in her company and in the small flat she had rented in a neighboring city. Whatever was discussed between them remains a closely guarded secret, and neither Mayor Trayews nor Marigold have ever discussed the matter publicly. But in 1940, on Midsummers Eve, Marigold Hughes hosted a party on her families property, which she had refused to sell despite multiple offers. Everyone in town was invited to attend, and Marigold strongly advised that everyone capable of coming did so.
Within weeks, the state of things began to improve. Though dazed and confused, the people of the town had come to an understanding. Money was allocated and the bank ensured that the Hughes house was returned to it’s original state down to the very last tile in the garden.
In 1978, the Heritage Society, in recognition of Marigold’s contributions to the town and it’s stability, and partially in apology, awarded the house and it’s estate a plaque which proclaims it a Historical Site.
Since then, the Marigold House of Respite has maintained the same hours:
Open for Business:
Tuesdays and Wednesday by Special Appointment ONLY.
Every Midsummer, Marigold Hughes hosts her Grand Fete, inviting two or three dozen of the towns people into her estate to enjoy it’s architectural glory, strange oddities, and friendly company. No one in the town is required to attend, but it is something of a rite of passage to come to the party at least once in their lives. It is also considered to be a rule of thumb not to discuss what goes on in the house. After all, privacy still means something to the residence. Since this tradition has begun, there have been no casualties and no overwhelming incidents resulting from the houses unusual business practices.