An Independent Man in Independence, MO: The Silver Heart Inn

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It was a scorching summer’s day to start another of my little road trips.  But a little AC and some tunes made for a very quick and pleasant drive.

I was off to Independence, MO where I would be staying at the Silver Heart Inn, owned and operated by Perry and Melanie Johnson, as well as reviewing The Crucible for the Barn Players.

I only made one miscalculation for the trip.  With only an overnight stay planned, I had to be selective in the activities I chose to do.  I decided to visit the Truman Presidential Museum and Library and figured an hour would be enough time to get through it.

It was not enough time.

I did manage to get through Truman’s presidential years, but did not make it through the section detailing his personal life.  Rest assured, I will rectify this error if and when my travels bring me through this area again.

Truman was a very interesting President.  He was a common man who came from a period where you didn’t have to be wealthy to run for the Presidency.  He was a simple farmer who had deep ties to labor.  He wasn’t a good speaker.  He was put into power by a political machine, yet he was a incredibly honest man who vowed to get things done the right way.  Despite holding the prejudices of his time and place, Truman helped launch the Civil Rights movement after observing the horrible treatment of black people after World War II.  He made the decision to drop the atomic bomb.  Truman also had the biggest upset in political history when he was reelected to the Presidency in his own right when it was believed he would be crushed by his opponent, Thomas Dewey.  This was due to his Whistlestop Campaign where he rode a train through numerous communities to share his message, sometimes speaking at a dozen stops a day.

What I found most interesting about Truman was that he seemed to have no aspirations to be President.  It was his everyman quality (especially his ties to farming and labor) that secured his nomination for the Vice Presidency.  In reality, the Democrats were really looking for the next President as it was obvious FDR would not be long for the world.  In fact, he died shortly after he was reelected to his fourth term.

I also had great respect for Truman’s decency.  When his term of office expired, he was not a wealthy man and could have earned fat fees doing public speaking tours, but he refused to trade on the office of President.  Instead, he founded the Presidential Library which was the first in our country and I look forward to completing my tour of the museum some future day.

About 3pm, I headed to Silver Heart Inn to check in.  I pulled into the parking area, sidestepped a few chickens wandering about the property, and headed to the back door entrance where I was quickly greeted and led to my room.

I had been expecting to stay in the Roy Gamble Room, but was upgraded to the Napolian Stone Room instead.  It was one of the smaller rooms I had stayed in, but I enjoyed the rich brown of the walls, the soft and comfortable queen bed, and the gas fireplace.  I made my normal explorations and then killed a couple of hours reading Face to Face by Ellery Queen and brushing up on Silver Heart Inn’s history.

The Silver Heart Inn was built 1856 by local businessman, Napolian Stone.  The house used to be twice its original size and originally built in a T formation.  That changed when Judge George Jennings, the house’s owner in 1923 had the house split in half and moved to the same side of the street.  This was done as Jennings recognized that Noland Street (where the home is located) was becoming Independence’s main thoroughfare.  The inn, itself, was the back wing of the house.  The front wing fell into disrepair and was destroyed in the 1960s.

At 5pm, I headed off for an early dinner.  I once again dined at Corner Café, which you may remember from my trip to Liberty, MO about a year ago.

The restaurant was packed so I took advantage of my solo status to dine at the counter.  I ordered the Turkey Melt, one of the house specials, with a side of loaded French Fries.  Within five minutes of my hour, a plate of piping hot food appeared which I relished as I continued to read my novel.

Once fed, I drove to Mission, KS to enjoy another stellar production by the Barn Players.  It was one of the finest dramas I had ever watched and I could not wait to get back to the inn to start writing.  You can read the review here.

After I finished writing, I curled up in my bed for a restful night’s slumber.

When I awoke the next morning, I drew a hot bath and enjoyed a long soak before wandering downstairs in search of breakfast.

Breakfast was a rather pleasant, if quiet, affair.  I continued reading my mystery as I enjoyed a dish of yogurt, blueberries, granola, and cream for an appetizer followed by the main entrée of turkey sausage (I think) and an Eggs Benedict omelet served with goblets of water and orange juice.  After this tasty affair, I settled up my bill and headed off to worship services at St Mark’s before heading for home.

I definitely would recommend a stay at Silver Heart Inn if you find yourself in the Independence area.  It’s quiet and comfortable and you’ll get yourself a tasty meal (and some other perks offered by the inn if you’re so inclined).  You’ll just be minutes away from the Truman Museum and can’t pick up a little history if you wish.

Until the next time, happy travels.

Cotton Patch Really Redux, Days 1-2: Experiencing Lincoln & Cotton Patchful

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Sometimes fate gives you a chance at redemption.

As my regular readers may remember, about a year ago I was in Arlington, TX in order to review Cotton Patch Gospel for the Repertory Company Theatre when a series of unfortunate circumstances exploded that attempt.  If you need a refresher or just need to read the story for the first time, click here.  A few months ago I found that the show would be playing in the much, much closer venue of Springfield, IL at the Hoogland Center for the Arts.  I got in touch with their executive and artistic director, Gus Gordon, and arranged a media ticket to review the show and looked forward to a trip to Illinois’ capital city in early March.

My journey did not start with the normal sense of joy that I usually have with these road trips.  Part of it was just general antsyness about wanting to get to Illinois.  The other part was my irritation at being unceremoniously turned away from an event I was asked to be part of on the previous night.

A rest stop in Hannibal, MO served to restore much of my good humor.  After lunching at Wendy’s, I found myself in a decidedly better frame of mind and the rest of the drive felt like my normal road experiences.

A few hours later, I found myself in Petersburg (about 20 miles outside of Springfield) and my home away from home:  Branson House Bed & Breakfast, owned and operated by Norma and John Stiltz.  John also happens to be the mayor of Petersburg.

Branson House is an Eastlake Victorian home built in 1876 by Nathaniel Branson for his wife, Frances.  The house boasts 7 marble fireplaces and, believe it or not, an elevator.  When I rang the doorbell, I was greeted by Norma who gave me the nickel tour of the home before leading me to Uncle Billy’s Retreat, my room for the next few nights.  And, yes, of course I used the elevator.  It would have been impolite not to have used it.

Uncle Billy’s Retreat was a most comfortable room, indeed.  It boasted a large iron framed king bed with an electric fireplace, sitting chair & footstool, and a day bed in the corner.  After doing my usual reconnaissance, I relaxed for a bit before heading over to Springfield to get some dinner and locate the Hoogland.

Downtown Springfield does require a little getting used to as the roads are a criss cross of one way streets, but after I went back and forth a couple of times, I found myself expertly navigating the streets.  Within a short time, I arrived at D & J’s Café for a little old fashioned comfort food.

Any lingering frustrations to the start of my day vanished with that meal.  I enjoyed a patty melt with bacon which was apparently just what the doctor ordered.  A side of crinkle fries and a Mountain Dew helped to complete the cure as I chewed merrily away and completed a rereading of Ellery Queen’s The Siamese Twin Mystery.

Upon returning to the inn, I organized some photos and then hit the sack.

The next morning, I woke up feeling refreshed.  I headed to my bathroom and took a long hot shower before heading downstairs to breakfast.  Norma had prepared some wonderfully thick pancakes with a dish of kiwi, blueberries, and strawberries, plus an egg pizza with cheese and chives.  I’m not usually a fan of strawberries, but these were quite delectable and I savored every mouthful of my meal while reading Sherlock Holmes and the Eisendorf Enigma, the latest novel from my favorite Holmesian pastiche writer, Larry Millet.  I also formally met John who graciously brought me the local paper.

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Pancakes, fruit, and egg pizza

With the inner man restored, I headed to Springfield to indulge in a bit of history.  Springfield was the home of our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln and his tomb, museum, and library are all located in downtown Springfield.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum is well worth a visit for a very interactive study of the life of Mr. Lincoln.  I’ve always had a great deal of admiration and respect for Honest Abe, but I was stunned to find out how much I didn’t know about him.

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Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum

His formal schooling lasted less than a year and he was a self-taught reader and lawyer.  I was even more shocked to find out that he began his presidency as our most hated leader.  Let that one sink in.  It was a particularly contentious election with 4 candidates.  Lincoln managed to win a decisive Electoral College victory thanks to the northern states (he actually didn’t make the ballot in many southern states), but only had 40% of the popular vote.  Not exactly a ringing endorsement.  It also seemed like he could do no right as anything and everything he did brought hatred and vitriol upon him.  I was genuinely shocked to see the numerous hateful articles and political cartoons written and drawn about Lincoln.  History, of course, has vindicated him.

The museum is split into several sections.  One is dedicated to his life before the White House, another to his presidency and the Civil War, another to the Library next door, another to rare family treasures, but the best section is an interactive movie theatre that briefly describes Lincoln’s life.  The film showed me that Lincoln had an interesting duality in personality.  Despite being a popular wit and storyteller, Lincoln was also plagued by doubt and melancholy.  I also learned that Lincoln may very well have been near death even without the aid of John Wilkes Booth’s bullet.

Two busts of Lincoln done after he won the presidency each time show the ravage that leading during the Civil War wrought on him.  Underweight to begin with, Lincoln was almost skeletal going into his second term.  One noted sculptor thought the second bust was a death mask.  Studies of pictures of Lincoln after his first term seem to support the theory that he may not have been long for the world.

After my moving and enlightening education, I took a walk down to the Hoogland to get a picture of it.  On my walk, I passed the old and current state capitols and also met a homeless guy who needed a sympathetic ear.  He was quite philosophical and well versed on our current state of politics.  I ended up giving him $5 so he could get a sandwich.

I got my picture of the Hoogland, then returned to my car where I drove back to Branson House to relax a bit before dinner.

At 4:30, I got cleaned up and into my suit for the evening’s activities.  I drove back to Springfield, hoping to eat at the Chesapeake Seafood House, but it was jammed to the rafters.  It would have taken 45 minutes just to seat me.  Luckily, I remembered passing a restaurant called Alexander’s Steakhouse as I entered town, so I rushed back then, where I was able to be seated immediately.

I think I ended up getting the better deal as Alexander’s had one of the best salad bars I have enjoyed.  They also brought me a perfectly chargrilled Atlantic salmon with some hand cut Idaho steak fries.  After a tasty dinner, I hopped over to the Hoogland.

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Hoogland Center for the Arts

It was a magical night of theatre.  The Hoogland is actually home to several theatres and I met Gus Gordon who was a warm and friendly guy.  I also met Ken Bradbury, the director of Cotton Patch Gospel whose expression of “I’ll be damned” still brings a smile to my face when he found out I had traveled from Omaha to review his show.  And the show was excellent.  You can read my review here.

With bluegrass music playing in my head, I returned to the inn to write my review and get a good night’s rest.

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Rest: Liberty, MO & Terrace Avenue Inn

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Terrace Avenue Inn

Give me the open roadway and a set of songs and I’m a happy man.

An author named Mick Foley said something similar in one of his memoirs and it suits my feelings when it comes to travel.  This weekend I traveled to Liberty, MO to stay at the Terrace Avenue Inn AKA Anna Marie’s Teas and Inn, owned and operated by Brenda Hedrick.  I had been invited to return to the K.C. area by the Barn Players of Mission, KS who wanted me to review their amazing production of Kiss of the Spider Woman.

To make the drive a little lighter, I spent the first night at my older brother’s house in Maryville, MO before driving the last 90 minutes to Liberty.  It was a great day for travel as I listened to the Iowa Hawkeyes battle North Dakota State on the radio before I lost the signal and moved over to my tunes.

I arrived in Liberty at nearly 1pm.  This suburb of Kansas City is actually quite a bit bigger than one would expect.  I was met by a myriad of businesses and restaurants upon my arrival.  A restaurant called the Corner Café caught my eye and I decided to pull over for a bit of lunch.

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Corner Cafe

I wish I had a bit more time to linger over lunch, but I had arranged a 2pm check-in time and was slightly pressed.  Still, if you like good, old-fashioned home cooking, then Corner Café is definitely worth a visit.  I dined on a Corner Melt (patty melt with bacon) with a side of fries while reading Ellery Queen’s The Egyptian Cross Mystery.  I will say that while the food is quite tasty, it is all a la carte, so the bill may come to a bit more than you’d expect for food of this type.

From there, I headed to the Terrace Avenue Inn located in one of Liberty’s historic districts.  I was met on the porch by Brenda’s husband, Al.  He led me to the Terrace Suite which was truly a cozy room with a soft king bed, private balcony, and a Jacuzzi.  Al left me to my own devices after a brief orientation of the inn and I brought in my gear and began exploring the house.

The Dutch colonial bungalow was built in 1923 and is remarkably well maintained.  The home boasts 3 rooms (Cottage Nook, Liberty Suite, and Terrace Suite).  The bottom floor consists of the inn’s tea shop along with a small dining room and well apportioned kitchen which guests can use for light cooking.  Being quite a small home, my explorations went quickly.

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The Tea Shop

After giving the house a onceover, I began to walk around the historic district and downtown area of Liberty.  Liberty actually boasts quite a few things to do from wineries to walking tours.  I didn’t do a very thorough exploration, but I did visit the Fairview Cemetery and meandered through the business district before I returned to the inn where I promptly dozed off on my plushy king bed (a result of a burst of insomnia at 4:30am).

I awoke at 5:30pm and had just enough time to make myself presentable for the play.  I had a wonderful shower than drove to Mission, KS to watch the Barn Players work their magic.

From there it was back to the inn to write the review while Quantum Leap played in the background and a sound night of sleep.

I felt truly well rested when I awoke on Sunday morning.  And I was ready for breakfast since I hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before.  Al had a nice repast waiting for me.

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Market spice tea, Devonshire cream, fruit, scones, and a ham and egg dish.

Oh!  You want to know what it was.  Well, he had a pot of Market Spice Tea ready for me.  Now I’m not the biggest tea drinker in the world, but this was truly excellent tea.  A spoonful of granulated honey added just the needed sweetening to it.  There was also a ham and egg dish, fresh fruit, and 2 scones with chunks of chocolate.  A little Devonshire cream on top made for a tasty breakfast dessert.

And from there it was time to write the last few words of this review before returning to Omaha.  But Liberty is a nice little town and the Terrace Avenue Inn will certainly provide a comfortable room, a filling meal, and a lot of tea.

I’ve Gotta Get Back Inn Time

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After a busy month, I was more than ready to answer the call of the road again.  So it was that I found myself traveling the highways and byways of our great country to the little town of Greenfield, IA and the Back Inn Time.

Before I entered Greenfield, I made a stop about 15 miles outside of town so I could take a look at the famed Freedom Rock.  The Freedom Rock is a massive boulder that is painted with new patriotic messages every year by its owner, a local farmer.  It really is a very patriotic and inspiring piece of Americana.

The Freedom Rock

The Freedom Rock

Looking at this rock reminded me of how great this country of ours is and deepened my appreciation of the grand gift of freedom that we share.  With my good mood further bolstered by looking at the Freedom Rock, I got back into my car and drove into the town of Greenfield.

I don’t know why, but I liked Greenfield from the moment my car rolled into town.  It just had a peaceful quality that’s hard to describe.  I almost felt as if I had gone back in time to a simpler point in the past.  I drove around town and made my way to the town square so I could do a little exploring.

Greenfield is known for having a few historical buildings.  As I walked around the square I got to enjoy the architecture of the Adair County Courthouse, the Warren Cultural Center (formerly an opera house!!), and the Hotel Greenfield, an actual 5 star hotel that is back in business after having been completely restored several years ago.  If architecture isn’t your thing, there is also an antique car museum in the square.

Adair County Courthouse

Adair County Courthouse

Hotel Greenfield

Hotel Greenfield

After wandering around, I decided to grab a sandwich and head on over to some walking trails so I could commune with nature, read, and relax away the afternoon.  My directions told me to turn on this road called S Town Line, so I did and the road was your typical country road until I got about a quarter of the way down the hill.  At that point, the hill became a squishy mass of mud.  By the time my car reached it, I had no room to turn around, couldn’t go in reverse, and couldn’t go forward.  I was, in a word, stuck.

I carefully exited my car and hiked back into town.  I went to the first home I came across and rang the doorbell.  I was greeted by a friendly elderly woman and I explained my situation, so she gave me the phone number of a guy who could tow me out, warning me that he’d charge me an arm and a leg (this will be important later).  She then said her husband might be able to help me, but he was out feeding the horses and wouldn’t be back for 45 minutes.  I left her my cell number, hiked back to my car, ate my sandwich, read, and told myself that it could have been a lot worse.  It was a nice day at the very least.

Forty five minutes later, I got the call and I told the elderly woman where I was on the hill.  When they learned my location, the husband said he didn’t think his pickup would be much use in extricating me from the glop.  I thanked them for their time and called the tow guy, Alvin.

Alvin said he would get a chain and a tractor and that it would cost $85 plus tax to yank me out.  I began to hike into town to find an ATM so I could get enough cash to pay him, but ended up running into Alvin as I was walking into town.  I suddenly remembered that I did have my checkbook on me and asked if he took checks.  He said he did and I breathed a sigh of relief.  I climbed onto the tractor and he gave me a lift back to me car.

Alvin hooked the chains to my car and I started it up and put it into neutral.  Slowly, agonizingly, the tractor slowly pulled my car back to the main road.  I started rummaging around for an ink pen, but I didn’t have one and, unfortunately, neither did Alvin.  I was just about to offer Alvin my laptop as collateral so I could hike back to the person who originally helped me so I could borrow a pen to write a check when a miracle took place.

Alvin took a look at me and said, “You know something, buddy.  This is your day.  I’m not going to charge you.”  I was stunned!  I pulled out my wallet and insisted that he take something for his time.  He shook his head, shook my hand, and went on his way.  So I just want to take a moment and thank Alvin for the good turn he did me.  And if you need a tow in Greenfield, give Alvin’s Towing a call.  He will treat you right.

Well, my car looked like it had been through a mud wrestling match, but seemed none the worse for wear.  I returned to the town square where I spent an hour reading the adventures of Ellery Queen, then I made my way to the Back Inn Time.

I was greeted by the delightful owners, Ruth and Wayne Henderson, who utterly encapsulate the words “hospitable” and “friendly”.  Ruth showed me around the home and led me to the Fern Room, my temporary home away from home.  The soft green paint of the walls combined with the sleep number mattress (meaning I could make it firmer or softer at the click of a button) guaranteed a good night’s sleep.

I liked this inn at first sight.  It had quite a bit of character, surrounded by two lush gardens, and had a beautiful back deck with a koi pond.  Now this was a good, old fashioned bed and breakfast.  The house was sprawling, had unique rooms, and a shared bathroom. It also had that distinct feeling of pure Americana, like Grandma’s house.

The Fern Room

The Fern Room

The Antiques Room

The Antiques Room

The Lincoln Room

The Lincoln Room

After relaxing for a bit, I made my to a worship service at St John’s Catholic Church and followed it up with dinner at the Olive Branch in the town square.  The hospitality of the citizenry of Greenfield continued to amaze me as an elderly lady whom I had noticed at church came over to my table and welcomed me to the town, telling me that it was good to have me at church.  I replied that it had been good to be there.

For my supper I enjoyed a gyro dinner which included the gyro meat, bread, and sauce along with fresh vegetables and salad.  After savoring every tasty bite for over an hour, I returned to Back Inn Time where I had a lovely conversation with Ruth and Wayne about our travels.  They enjoyed my talking about the House on the Rock so much that they’ve now decided to go to the Wisconsin Dells next week to visit it themselves.

After two hours of talk, I retired to my room where I sunk myself into the old fashioned clawfoot tub for a long hot bath.  Afterwards, I collapsed onto the electronically softened mattress in my room where I had a peaceful night’s rest.

Breakfast today was an absolute delight as I continued my conversations with Wayne and Ruth over pineapple juice, water, sausage, and waffles topped with cream, cinnamon, and fruit.  Another two hours later, I reluctantly said my good-byes, promising I would stay there again if I happened to be in the neighborhood.

In fact you should stay there too, if you find yourself around Greenfield.  It’s a friendly town with friendly people like Ruth and Wayne.  They’ll make you feel like one of the family and you’ll feel at home.

Step Back to the Unsurpassed Past at the Victorian Villa

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Well, it’s frigidly cold in Omaha today, so I thought it might be a good time to share just how I got so interested in bed and breakfasts.  So gather around while I put another coal on the fire and prepare yourselves to hear the tale of the Victorian Villa.

It was the spring of 2004 and I am an incredibly avid reader who especially loves to read mysteries.  On this particular spring day, it suddenly struck me that it might be fun if I could find a mystery weekend and actually experience a case for myself.  Off to the internet I went and began searching to see what I might be able to find.  When I included the name of Sherlock Holmes into my search, one of my results was for the Victorian Villa in Union City, MI.

I clicked on the link and was quite impressed with what I saw.  What really caught my eye was that one of the rooms in the Carriage House of the Villa was called the Sherlock Holmes Bedchamber and the second floor of the Carriage House also contained a little museum dedicated to Sherlock Holmes.  Reading that sorely tempted me to make a visit to the Villa, but then I noticed that a mystery weekend was going to be held in April of that year.

I couldn’t say no to that, so I went ahead and booked the Sherlock Holmes Bedchamber and was told I’d be contacted “by that nice Mr. Denham” of Shadowstalkers, the organization behind the mystery event.  Both Ron Gibson, the owner of the Villa, and that nice Mr. Denham sounded a little surprised when they found out I was coming from Omaha.  Most of the visitors to the Villa come from within a 2.5 to 3 hour radius and I was going to drive 10 hours to attend this event.

I’ll repeat that.

I drove 10 hours from Omaha to Union City to attend this event.  Little did I know that I would be so bowled over by the Villa that I would make that journey 3 more times over the next decade.

I still remember my arrival on that spring Friday in April 2004.  I was warmly welcomed to the inn by its innkeeper, Cynthia Shattuck, who brought me to the bar area where I met Ron Gibson and his son, Josh.  Ron gave me a hearty greeting and told me I was free to explore the house and could enter any bedroom with an open door (signifying no occupation by guests) and that I could take all the pictures I wanted.

I was absolutely mesmerized by the intricate beauty of the place.  I felt as if I had truly passed through a time warp as everything was authentically Victorian from when the place had first been built in 1876.  Even more amazing was the history of how the mansion was first built all the way through to its rebirth as the Victorian Villa.  This had truly been a labor of love for Ron whom I was told put in 18 hour days for several years to restore the Villa back to its original condition.

The Villa is known as the #1 inn in the Midwest and a well deserved reputation it is.  Aside from the beauty of the place, the inn was famed for its Sherlock Holmes weekends, Victorian Christmas weekends, and food.  The Villa has been featured in numerous articles and, I believe, on the Michigan PBS station.

One could spend hours just soaking in the scenery of the Villa and the meals have been some of the most enjoyable that I have ever eaten.  Over the years, I have had such delicacies as cream cheese stuffed French Toast, ox and barley stew, English Cheshire Cheddar Cheese Soup, and roast goose.  And the rooms are a unique treasure in and of themselves.  During my visits I have enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes Bedchamber, the Victorian Country Bedchamber, and Tower Suite South.

I’ve also been blessed to meet and become friends with many wonderful people such as Ron and his two sons, Josh and Zach, Cynthia, John Sherwood (a talented actor who sometimes plays Charles Dickens for the Christmas weekends), Ted and Rhonda Cowell and their Sherlock Holmes scion society, the Stormy Petrels of Maumee Bay.

As for my first visit, the mystery event was a great deal of fun, but more like a game.  A murder had been committed and some jewels stolen, so we had to figure out who done it and locate the missing jewels.  Each of us played a character (I was Ellery Queen), and had certain abilities we could use to obtain clues from other guests.  But. . .the killer was one of us and would be attempting to kill us before we could discover his or her identity.  As a solo player, I was a marked man as the killer could only kill you when you were alone unless he or she got the “mark of death” on you.

Luckily, I was occasionally accompanied by “that nice Mr. Denham’s” wife to offer me some protection.  During the course of the night I won a target shooting contest which netted me a bottle of wine sold exclusively at the Villa.  I also did solve the case, but I had my epiphany when I was alone with the 2 killers.  Though I bolted from the room when I realized the truth, I had already been marked for death by them as they feared I was getting a little too close according to the snarky note they left under my door the next morning.  However, for having traveled so far, I was given a nice parting gift of the Ellery Queen novel, The Dragon’s Teeth.

I was fortunate enough to be able to return to the Villa in September 2005 when I finally had the chance to meet Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson.

Oh, didn’t you know they were real people?

It’s true.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was really Watson’s literary agent and he got credit for writing the tales to perpetuate the idea that Holmes was a fictional character, thus preserving his anonymity.  Ron’s great-grandfather was Senator Neil Gibson, whom you may know from the case entitled “The Problem of Thor Bridge”.  Through him, Ron became friends with Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson, whose lifespans have been augmented through a royal jelly elixir Holmes had cultivated when he had retired to the Sussex Downs.

In Mr. Holmes’ own words, he enjoys visiting Union City because “it is a hellhole of crime of great depth and brilliance”.  Unbelievably, I have had the honor of assisting Mr. Holmes in two cases.  While I have copious notes of these accounts, a pledge of silence has barred me from sharing these stories until, and unless, Mr. Holmes gives me leave.  However, I don’t think I would be amiss by admitting that I was crucial to helping him bring the affair of “the nameless corpse” to a successful conclusion for which I received a lovely Holmes nutcracker which graces my mantle today.

The last time I visited the Villa was 2010 when I attended one of their Christmas weekends where I was treated to a marvelous performance from John Sherwood as Charles Dickens where he read A Christmas Carol and enjoyed a sumptuous 9 course Roast Goose Christmas dinner as described in Dickens’ tale.

Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson have not visited the Villa for a few years, but I look forward to a time when they do return so I may renew old acquaintances and perhaps aid Holmes and Watson in another investigation.

But if you find yourself near Union City, take a moment and spend a night at the Victorian Villa and find out why, as they say, it is the past. . .unsurpassed.