To create a fictional place that won’t be mistaken for an existing one, I like to combine various aspects of two or more places into one with some imagination magic dust thrown in for luck. So after visiting Greer House (see last week’s blog if you missed that discussion), I organized a ladies’ day out trip to visit the Rattle and Snap Plantation near Columbia, Tennessee. This adventure happened in August 2013 while working on my first published romance, a paranormal, Traces.
We were all very excited about visiting the historic site and wondered what we’d find. We were not disappointed. The owners gave us a personal tour of the grounds, the first floor, and even (surprisingly!) some of the upstairs rooms which were not open (and now are complete and ready for visitors). Since I was there for research, they made an exception for which I’m so very grateful!
They’ve worked hard to restore the plantation to look its best after many years of neglect. Walking through the historic home, hearing the sound of footsteps on the floorboards, noting the details in the woodwork and the fireplace mantels, and even the old door knobs and keyholes were fascinating. But I had one burning question I still needed to answer.
Where could I hide a body, so that the plantation would indeed be haunted? Think Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-tale Heart or The Cask of Amontillado.
Now, if you don’t know me personally you may not realize this. I am not a person who seeks out conflict or likes to inflict pain. So writing enough conflict into my stories has been one of my challenges. But I needed a ghost. Which meant somebody had to die – and not pleasantly.
When we heard the story of the hidden silver tea set, my friend Jan looked at me and we both raised our brows and smiled. According to the story, during the Civil War the family who owned the house tied a rope around their youngest, thinnest child and handed him the silver. They then climbed to the top of one of the columns, which was open at the top and which are very wide, and slowly lowered him and the precious tea set to the bottom where he left the silver and they pulled him back out. Only after the war ended did they cut a rectangular hole in the side of the column to retrieve – and sell – the silver so they had some money to live on after losing everything during the fighting.
What if… a person was lowered down presumably to safeguard the silver, but then wasn’t brought back out? Gives me chills to contemplate that scenario, let me tell ya! Stuck in a dark place 26 feet tall with no way out and nobody around to help? But…
The column was the site I needed! In the photo at the left, you can see just how wide those columns actually are. Now to explain how a woman’s body would end up there, which you can discover in the story, and more of a technical question: what would the family be allowed to do with her remains when found. But that’s for another day’s post. I love figuring these details to make the story as authentic and plausible as possible.
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