*© 2010 RC deWinter ~ All Rights Reserved
The Legend of The Outside Inn
Deep in the heart of the northwest hills of the venerable state of Connecticut, there exists a settlement of the earliest colonial origin. This town is called Barkhamsted, so named for Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire in the mother country. The spelling reflected the pronunciation of the original, which would have sounded like Barkhamsted, Hartfordshire.
Thus from the place names of England did Connecticut acquire many of its town and village names; those familiar with the state will recognize the name Hartford as the capitol city of the current state; and indeed there is a town in those same northwest hills – not far from the present city of Torrington – called New Hartford. Many more names of past and existing towns and cities were taken directly from the places of origin of the early settlers who traversed the stormy Atlantic to the New World and a new life.
Now, within the town boundaries of Barkhamsted was a village known as Barkhamsted Hollow. Set within a declivity in the town’s boundaries, it was back then the center of the town, the place where the inhabitants gathered to meet, worship and conduct the business of the day. Alas, today the foundations of Hollow lie deep beneath the Barkhamsted Reservoir purchased over a hundred years ago by state Metropolitan District to provide water for Hartford and its surrounds. The Hollow was thus excavated, and the Saville Dam was built to harness the East Branch of the Farmington River to fill the hole, which took eight long years to fill.
But back in the long-ago days when Barkhamsted Hollow held pride of place throughout the town, there was, tucked away at the end of a small lane, a most unusual traveller’s rest. It was known as The Outside Inn, and although the townspeople and their relatives knew better than to seek lodging there, those pedlars and passers-through seeking a night’s shelter had no way of knowing that the place was unnatural. Being the silent Yankees they were, and also from fear of retribution, the townspeople did nothing to enlighten the unwary of the true nature of the inn.
From the exterior, there was nothing remarkable about the inn. It appeared a well-kept, respectable lodging bordered by a small lawn. The windows and doors were in good repair, and the design of the place was of a pleasing classical aspect. Most of the year the inn was safe enough, and many a weary journeyman or circuit-riding preacher passed a comfortable night or two within its walls.
However, on those four occasions when the the stars in the heavens gave way to newly-visible configurations and the seasons changed, the inn was magicked by the witch who owned it. In vain had various dignitaries of the Boston church visited Barkhamsted in attempts to cleanse the town of this unholy inhabitant, but their ecclesiastical blandishments were no match for the cunning and power of this being. Mistress Abigail Popham could not be unmagicked; no prayer, no thunderous exorcism could alter her being. The righteous men from Boston thus eventually but sadly told the townspeople that there was nothing within their powers to remove the devil from her soul; the Outside Inn continued as always as a seeming legitimate business within Barkhamsted Hollow.
It was at each solstice, then, each equinox, that the interior of the inn became a magickal forest, and those unlucky enough to be lodging there were lost to the world of men. Unsuspecting as they slept, they would awake to find themselves wandering in a thick, unknown forest; eventually they wandered so far that return to reality became an impossibility, and Satan took hold of their souls forever, using their spirits to perform his wiles on those dark nights of no moon. Thither and yon he sent them to carry out vile misdeeds throughout the communities in those northwest hills.
Josiah Bullock’s barn in Riverton burnt to the ground one clear night; the youngest child of Timothy and Harmony Flint, late of Goshen, was beset with a mysterious fever that carried it off from this life; the cattle of old Goody Hamm over to Colebrook suffered an epidemic of brucellosis which destroyed her small herd, upon whose milk she depended for her very existence, and William, son and heir of the Reverend Lyall of the mighty Congregational Church in Litchfield (still the most photographed church in all New England), suddenly turned his back on the upright life to which he had been trained and ran off to parts unknown, whereupon the residents of the area knew his soul was lost forever.
Thus did those acquainted with The Outside Inn learn to keep their mouths shut, making accommodation with their consciences by reasoning that a few damned souls and unfortunate occurrences were better than the wholesale destruction of their way of life should they cross Mistress Abigail Popham, servant of Satan.
As all evil must finally give way to destruction, the excavation and flooding of Barkhamsted Hollow finally did bury forever the unholy inn, and since that time the picturesque and silent hills of northwest Connecticut have been untroubled by the powers of darkness. Mistress Popham refused to desert her cursed abode and was eventually presumed drowned as the waters of the river filled the once-thriving town center of Barkhamsted. But yet today, who can know if her Infernal Master rescued his minion, and whether or no she works her magick in another place?
© 2010 RC deWinter
Digital oil painting from a combination of one of my original photographs shot December 4, 2010 and one from friend and artist Constance Widen.*
Tech specs: Photoshop, Filter Forge, Filters Unlimited, Arkvis
Forest Photo: Thank you, Constance!