Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Roland Conklin Estate

A theater for no one

Fall time amongst the ruins of a forgotten world is a wonderful place to be.  While I was out in the brisk autumn air, I made my way deep into the forest in search of the The Roland Conklin Estate. 

The manor house burned down in 1992 but the glorious amphitheater still remains. What a wonderful spot.  While I was getting some supplies down at the general store, I struck up a conversation with an old Dutch farmer.  I was showing him the map of where I was heading.  He was well aware of the location and gave me the whole background.

Way back when, before Europeans settled the area, this land was the site of numerous, extremely brutal, wars between conflicting Native American tribes.  They would fight over access to the bay – an important source of food.  Many men lost their lives on this land, their blood spilled and was soaked into the earth. 

Eventually Europeans would make their way here and the Dutch would establish a farm on the property.  As the decades went on the colonies grew, the movement was made for independence and a great war for freedom was fought, many men died. Somewhere in the 1790’s a plot of the farmland was sectioned off and made into a cemetery for revolutionary war soldiers. 

The cemetery would be forgotten about for the next 70 years, over grown in the forest. That was until the end of the Civil War in 1865.  The cemetery was re-discovered by the town and the dead from the new war were laid to rest.  The cemetery would be forgotten about, again, for another 40 years.

In 1900, all of the farmland, including the cemetery, was sold to a wealthy family.  They would build themselves a lavish home with many amenities. One such amenity was an amphitheatre.  

Unknown to the new landowner at the time, his chosen site for the amphitheatre was right where the lost cemetery was located. When the builders were digging up the land they discovered tombstones and full skeletons in the dirt but kept it a secret and continued working to complete the owners plans, on schedule.  The final resting places of dozens of people were being disturbed.

From then on, there were always reports of weird noises and unexplained lights coming from the amphitheatre.  The property did have some good years, that first decade was happy. The family adored the home, the property and their friends, amazing parties and events staged at the amphitheatre.

But like anything, time took its toll. The family started to suffer several deaths and illness. One by one they started to pass away leaving no proper heirs. All of the land would fall into disrepair. By 1930 the entire family was dead.  For the rest of the 20th century everything would lay in ruins. The main house was struck with lightening and burned down in 1992. The amphitheatre is all that remains.

Legend has it that during the ominous hours past midnight, in the cold months of autumn and winter, when the trees are bare and the moon shines bright, a theatre for lost spirits takes form.  A traveler who had lost his path one night stumbled upon such an event, he reported:

“…I could see the ghostly spirits of Native Americans, Revolutionary War soldiers and Civil War soldiers sitting in the stands of the theatre, watching a performance.  They all sat rather peacefully. The people on stage, spirits also, seemed to be dressed in medieval clothing.  Perhaps it was Shakespeare they were performing.  As I tried to reposition to get a batter view, I stepped on a branch.  The entire theatre turned around and looked in my direction.  My heart froze and I stood as still as I could. I was able to hide away in the shadows. After a moment they lost their interest in me and continued on with their performance…”

Thankfully I didn’t have any such experience when I was there, of course, I wasn’t brave enough to visit during the late night hours, I opted for a much safer time, the middle of the afternoon. However, maybe next time ill try to catch a midnight performance.

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