The Spirits are Restless

In an attempt to learn “the tricks of the trade” for a new book, novelist Charles Condomine takes part in a séance conducted by the eccentric Madame Arcati who inadvertently summons the spirit of Charles’ late wife, Elvira.  The trouble is that Charles has remarried and now he’s literally caught between two worlds as each wife wants him for herself.  This is Blithe Spirit by Noel Coward and currently playing at the Bellevue Little Theatre.

I was a little surprised to learn that this play was actually written in the early 1940s because it has the feel of a 1920s play with its drawing room style of writing.  While Coward’s idea is a gem, this play was definitely a play for its time or earlier due to its incredibly talky nature.  Plays of this type require colossal amounts of energy to keep the interest of today’s audiences and credit is due to the cast of BLT’s production for mustering all of the positives possible out of the show.

Todd Uhrmacher provides a solid bit of direction for this show.  He has a good instinct for movement and has his performers continually animate the scenes which helps liven up the massive amount of dialogue supplied by the characters.  He’s also coached his actors well.  Each and all give well defined, focused performances.

Strong supporting performances are provided by Sherry Fletcher as Edith, a maid who has to physically keep herself from rushing throughout the house and who is more than she seems and by Ruth Rath as the daffy Madame Arcati.  Ms Rath has definitely picked up on Madame Arcati’s weirdness and I think she has a bit of room to make her peculiarities even more pronounced.

Gene Hinkle is very, very British as Charles Condomine.  Epitomizing the British ideal of having a stiff, upper lip, Hinkle’s Charles could teach a masterclass in patience and control as he always has a tight grip on his emotions even when his world gets turned upside down by Elvira’s return.  Hinkle cuts a very elegant figure with a strong well modulated voice that makes for an ideal Charles.  But I thought his performance could have been even funnier if he would have lost some of that incredible control when his world began falling to pieces.

Therese Rennels makes for a beautifully understated shrew as Elvira.  Ms Rennels strikes the perfect tone of snide with Elvira’s interactions with Charles and blithely snaps off verbal ripostes in her “conversations” (only Charles can actually see or hear her) with other characters.  Her Elvira is an incredibly selfish individual.  It’s always about her and her wants even when what she wants isn’t really what she wants.  Ms Rennels also has a good sense of pantomime as she rattles off a series of amusing gestures to the characters that can’t see or hear her.

I found Marti Carrington to be the most amusing character of the night with her rendition of Ruth, Charles’ current wife.  Like her husband, Ms Carrington’s Ruth is the very, very proper and stoic British woman, but Ms Carrington brings a vital and needed energy when Ruth begins to collapse in the second act due to Elvira’s machinations and disruptions.  Ms Carrington melts into a hysterical, weeping mess while never letting Ruth’s disintegration go overboard.

Energy is truly what the show needed last night as the sheer bulk of dialogue can be wearying to both cast and audience alike.  A brisker pace and tighter cue pickups would greatly aid in maximizing the show’s comedy.

The technical elements were quite strong.  A Joey Lorincz set is always one of the highlights of a BLT production and this is no exception with the gorgeous sitting room of the Condomine estate with its massive crackling fireplace, wood bookcase, and understated elegance of the furniture.  Todd Uhrmacher’s costumes evoke wealth and class.  I also thought the special effects of spectral paintings and flying knick knacks were exceptional.

This show’s style is going to require a bit of patience on the part of the audience.  The idea is genuinely humorous, the script does have some good zingers and a few twists and surprises, but it takes its time getting there.  But a strong group of performers (with a splash of more energy) will help audiences reach the payoff.

Blithe Spirit continues at Bellevue Little Theatre until Feb 4.  Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and 2pm on Sundays.  Tickets prices are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors, and $10 for students with valid ID.  For tickets, contact 402-291-1554 between 10am-4pm, Mon-Fri.  Bellevue Little Theatre is located at 203 W Mission Ave in Bellevue, NE.

Meandering in Missouri, Day 2: The Haunted Castle Switcheroo

Walnut Street Inn

Walnut Street Inn

About 2:30 the next day, I found myself in Springfield, MO, the third largest city in Missouri.  During the run of this project, I’ve visited OK inns, decent inns, great inns, and several superior inns.  Walnut Street Inn has been added to the category of superior inns.

This inn is everything that a bed and breakfast should be.  The house has character and history.  The rooms are unique and comfortable.  And it just has that indescribable x quality that pushes it over the line from great to superior.

I began my stay in the Wilder room (named for author, Laura Ingalls Wilder).  Now this was a writer’s room.  It was nice and secluded and had a private balcony suitable for people watching.  Connected to my balcony was a spiral staircase.  I’ve always liked this type of staircase since I was a child, so of course I had to climb up and down.

The Wilder Room.  Originally this was to be my room until I was upgraded due to several soldiers desiring to get blotto.

The Wilder Room. Originally this was to be my room until I was upgraded.


Private balcony of Wilder Room

Private balcony of Wilder Room

2nd floor commons area

2nd floor commons area

Front desk check in and main staircase

Front desk check in and main staircase

Living room

Living room

Dining room

Dining room

I didn’t have much time to settle in as I planned to attend worship services at St Joseph Catholic Church.  So after chucking my suitcase into a corner and taking some photos of the house, I was off to the house of the Lord.

St Joseph Catholic Church

St Joseph Catholic Church

This was one of the best services I had attended in quite a while.  The sermon was given by a guest speaker, Father Poisson.  He had a warm, welcoming style of speaking and he works for Cross Catholic Outreach.  Father Poisson has worked in many poverty stricken countries and Cross Catholic Outreach is dedicated to feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and rebuilding the homes of the needy in these countries.  He told several stories, but the one that resonated with me was the story he told about meeting a young boy named Jose.

Jose and the other village children were about to receive a rare treat.  They were going to eat fast food for the very first time.  Each child received what was essentially a happy meal.  Jose’s meal consisted of two pieces of chicken (very thin since the chickens of the region were also malnourished) and a small envelope of French fries.  Father Poisson noticed that Jose ate two bites of chicken and just two or three fries before closing up his box.

Concerned, Father Poisson asked the translator to ask Jose if he was ill or had already eaten that day.  The translator said no.  He said Jose was going to take the rest of the meal to this brothers and sisters who had not had anything to eat that day.

That got me.  95 cents out of every dollar donated to Cross Catholic Outreach goes to help the poor which is an incredibly high rate of return for fundraising.  I’m going to donate a little and you can click on this link if you’d like to make a contribution as well.

After that moving service, I returned to the inn where the clerk told me she had not done me any favors.  That caught me up a bit short and I looked at her with a puzzled expression.  She told me she had just booked 3 young soldiers in the room across the hall from me and they were very honest and said they planned to get soused that night.  Normally they would not stay in a B & B, but the hotel they tried to get into was sold out and they referred the soldiers to Walnut Street Inn.

To make certain I would not be disturbed in case the boys got rowdy, the clerk upgraded me to the Carver Room located on the inn’s first floor at no additional charge.

The Carver Room.  This is the room to which I was upgraded.

The Carver Room. This is the room to which I was upgraded.


This was a good writing room, too.  I especially liked the faux bookcase, fireplace, and Jacuzzi bathtub.  After moving my belongings, I decided it was time to eat.

I walked down the street to Rama Thai Café for my supper.  The restaurant (plus many others in the area) was housed in an old house.  I had chicken with garlic and peppers.  While tasty, it needed to be much spicier for my tastes.  But it filled the cavity.

Rama Thai Cafe.  Many restaurants in area are actually in houses.

Rama Thai Cafe. Many restaurants in area are actually in houses.

After dinner, I traveled to Pythian Castle for its ghost tour.  Pythian Castle was built by the Knights of Pythias which is an organization like the Shriners or Freemasons.  The castle was built to house elderly knights and the children of deceased Knights.  During World War II it served as a military command center, P.O.W. camp, and a place for the soldiers to enjoy some R and R.

Pythian Castle

Pythian Castle

The tour was disappointing.  I suspect there was not much difference between it and the normal history tour except for the heftier price tag.  There were no interesting stories about the castle’s haunted history.  The ghost stories were just tales of odd experiences that were had by staff members of the castle.  I do not recommend it at all.

After the tour, I returned to Walnut Street Inn where I had a long hot soak and shave before passing out in my bed for the night.

Eureka, Ho!!!, Days 4 & 5: Sailing, Solitude, and the Supernatural

After another full night of sleep, I was ready to attack a new day. . .right after breakfast.

Fruit Smoothie

Fruit Smoothie

Oat walnut pancakes and turkey bacon

Oat walnut pancakes and turkey bacon

Orange butter sauce for the pancakes.

Orange butter sauce for the pancakes.

Today’s meal began with a delicious fruit smoothie followed by a main entrée of oat walnut pancakes with orange butter sauce and turkey bacon.  I rank this meal as one of the three best that I’ve eaten since I began this project.  There wasn’t much time to relax after breakfast because I had to get out to Beaver Lake so I could take a cruise on the Belle of the Ozarks.

Belle of the Ozarks

Belle of the Ozarks

Beaver Lake is a 35,000 acre lake and popular for swimming, scuba diving, boating, and fishing.  It also has a reputation as a world class striped bass fishing spot so I’ll be certain to alert my angler of an older brother as that would get him and his brood down here, lickety split.

It was a perfect day for a cruise, but I would recommend a microphone or bullhorn for the skipper because it was very difficult to hear him over the roar of the boat.  He did have a couple of tales which made for interesting listening.

The first was when we passed a marker.  Allegedly, it is a magical spot and if one plunks a penny by the marker, his or her wish will come true.  I drilled the marker with my penny, so let’s see if my wish comes true. . .

25 feet below that marker is a submerged mountain.  Allegedly this spot is magical and has the power to grant wishes.

25 feet below that marker is a submerged mountain. Allegedly this spot is magical and has the power to grant wishes.

Soooo, moving right along, the marker actually held a purpose.  Twenty-five feet below the marker was a submerged mountain and on that submerged mountain was a submerged house.  It was a pity that both were unable to be seen.

The other story was about the value of land around the lake.  He pointed out an island that had some ritzy homes on it.  He said the owner had bought two half-acres which cost $177,000 each.  He said that news put a smile on his face because 25 years ago he had bought 70 acres of lakeside property for a song.  I’ve crunched the numbers for you.  The skipper’s property valuation is $24,780,000!!!  That’s one heck of a nest egg.  That’s right.  Chris’ Corner is not only fun, but is educational, too.


Another interesting bit of fun is that the skipper dipped a glass into the water and pulled up a glassful of lake water.  It was crystal clear.  He explained that the first 25 feet or so of the lake (it’s 250 feet at its deepest) is exposed to so much ultraviolet radiation from the sun that it actually kills all pathogens and bakes, for lack of a better term, it clean.  To prove his point, he said this water can actually be drunk and told us to take a sip if we wished.  I did take a nip and it tasted just fine.

After 90 minutes, our boat docked and I decided to take a visit to the Blue Spring Heritage Center.  The water is literally blue and is reported to have healing properties.  Thirty-eight million gallons of water run through the spring each year.  The site also has some historical significance as it is also part of the Trail of Tears.  According to the informational film, the 9 day stopover at Blue Spring provided the lone beacon of hope to the Cherokee during their tragic journey.  Aside from the spring, the area is also known for its wildflower and rock gardens.

The Blue Spring

The Blue Spring


This mound is where the Cherokee camped for 9 days as they walked the Trail of Tears.

This mound is where the Cherokee camped for 9 days as they walked the Trail of Tears.

It was the first truly hot day I had experienced in Eureka Springs so I decided to retreat to the comfort of the Inn at Rose Hall to organize my notes and relax until dinner.

FUN FACT:  Despite the heat, you will not be plagued by mosquitoes in Eureka Springs.  There is a massive bat population in the city and they keep the pesky bloodsuckers in check by feeding upon them at night.

For dinner, I decided to try a little fine dining and went to Gaskins Cabin Steakhouse just outside of Eureka Springs.  It’s a tiny little establishment and you just might miss it as it actually looks like a tiny house.  It was actually much smaller at one point as the restaurant built around the original log cabin (which is 150 years old).

I enjoyed a fresh dinner salad with homemade ranch dressing and a sirloin steak with a loaded baked potato.  This was one of the best, if not the best, steak I have ever tasted.  It was cooked just right and was seasoned to perfection.  I savored every delicious bite and took over half of it with me to enjoy for my supper on my return home the next day.

After a few hours of puttering around, it was time for my final event of the trip.  Incredibly, for the third straight time, I would be returning to my explorations of the supernatural as I would be taking the Ghost Tour at the Crescent Hotel and Spa.

The Crescent Hotel & Spa built in 1886.

The Crescent Hotel & Spa built in 1886.

The hotel was built in 1886 and has quite the interesting past.  My tour was led by Marshall Jon Law who was a very animated, entertaining, and gregarious guide.  He began by giving us an abbreviated history of the hotel and then went into how the hotel is considered the most haunted in America and one of the most haunted buildings in the country.  So strong is the hotel’s haunted reputation that it has been featured on Ghost Hunters and an event called ESP Weekend is held every January in which the hotel contains nothing but paranormal investigators.

Each floor had unique stories behind them and there was even photographic evidence of strange goings-on that Marshall showed to the visitors.  As Marshall told us, 95% of supernatural activity can be explained or debunked by science, leaving 5% that science cannot currently explain.  These photos fell into the 5% category.

Our guide, Marshall Jon Law.

Our guide, Marshall Jon Law.

Out of the numerous tales we heard, there were three that stood out.  Two were rather lighthearted and the third was a dark chapter in the hotel’s history.

The first tale is that of the anti-poltergeist, Theodora.  Theodora was a very neat, clean, and tidy person in life and that attribute has followed her into the afterlife because this ghost picks up after you.  There were reports of make-up kits being put away, compacts closed, and lipsticks capped.  Apparently if you’re sloppy enough, Theodora will actually pack your bags and leave them by the door for you in a not so subtle way of saying, “Get out!”

The second tale was that of the traditional poltergeist, Michael.  Michael was a young Irishman who did construction work on the hotel.  Michael also had a fondness for women which ultimately caused his death.  While working up high an attractive woman passed by under Michael and, while attempting to get a better look at her, Michael fell, struck a beam over room 218, and perished.

Since then Room 218 has been Michael’s room and he still has a liking for the ladies.  Reports have been made of the shower faucets being fiddled with while women are bathing, the curtains being tied in knots, and women being gently caressed by unseen hands.  Michael does not believe in sharing women as it is reported that he, quite literally, kicks the men out of the bed.

Astoundingly, women seem to have an attraction to Michael!  As Marshall told us, the ratio of women renting that room to men is 5 to 1.  Some of these women even have “dates” with Michael such as pouring a drink for him or having an extra meal brought in.

The third tale was a black mark in the hotel’s history.  At one point a man named Norman Baker bought the hotel and turned it into a cancer clinic.  Baker was a highly intelligent liar and con artist who had never stepped foot into a medical school, yet called himself a doctor and claimed he could cure cancer.  According to Marshall, Baker was a big believer in the power of the mind.  Having been misdiagnosed with a terminal illness as a child, Baker was determined to overcome the illness with positive thinking.  As years went by and he did not die, Baker convinced himself that he had thought the illness into oblivion and this was the core idea of his cancer cure.

The fourth floor was split into two sections:  a convalescing area and an asylum.  In the convalescing area, cancer patients were taught how to “hug out the cancer” as Marshall said.  They would think good thoughts and share the stories of the good times they had before getting sick and the good times they would have after the cancer vanished.  If patients did not get better, then they were obviously crazy and would get transferred to the asylum section where they were given shots of Baker’s Special Serum No. 5 8-10 times a day!

The needle used to deliver these shots was massive and the shots were extremely painful.  The doors in the asylum were 3 inches thick to drown out the screams and groans of the patients.  When the patients died, nurses would sneak into their rooms in the wee hours of the morning and cart the bodies down to the morgue, which still exists and we did visit it.

Adding insult to injury, Baker would continue to charge families for treatment after the patient’s death.  Baker constantly feared for his life, with good reason as the Mafia made 3 attempts on it, and was protected by heavily armed bodyguards and kept a pair of Tommy guns in his bulletproof office for added precaution.

For all the misery this quack caused, he was finally nailed for mail fraud since he sent out flyers saying he could cure cancer.  He was sentenced to 4 years in prison, bribed his way out, and died of cancer himself after moving to a houseboat where he promoted a cure for tuberculosis.

There have been reports of gurneys squeaking down the hall in the wee hours of the morning and some have reported seeing apparitions of nurses moving the ghostly bodies down the hall to the elevator.  While we were in the morgue we watched a clip from the Ghost Hunters episode in which the hunters investigated the hotel and they had thermal footage of what appeared to be a man in a top hat staring at the investigators.

Inside the morgue.  Where Marshall is standing is where thermal footage was caught of a ghost in Ghost Hunters.

Inside the morgue. Where Marshall is standing is where thermal footage was caught of a ghost in Ghost Hunters.

Whether you believe in the supernatural or are a hardened skeptic, I do highly recommend the tour because you will get interesting tales and an intriguing look at history.

I was supposed to take part in the hotel’s Flickering Tales event which shares ghost stories about the Eureka Springs area, but the event got canceled due to low sales.  It would have been nice if that had been posted someplace as the 3 of us who did buy tickets were not staying at the hotel.  As it is, I’ll be contacting the hotel in the morning to get a refund for the event.  But as my night had come to an early end, I decided to head back to Rose Hall for some shuteye.

For my final breakfast at the Inn at Rose Hall, I started with a carafe of orange juice and a dish of strawberries, cream, and granola.  The main course was green eggs and ham (and I liked them, Sam I Am) with a side dish of fried potatoes.

Straweberries, cream, and granola.

Straweberries, cream, and granola.

Green eggs, ham, and fried potatoes.

Green eggs, ham, and fried potatoes.

My stay in Eureka Springs had all the hallmarks of a great adventure.  I was ready to get home, but kind of reluctant to leave as I had such a great time.  Zoie’s hospitality and entertaining (or cooking, if you will) were of the very best quality.  But don’t take my word for it.  Reserve a room at the Inn at Rose Hall and experience it for yourself.  There’s a lot to do in this town and you will have an enjoyable stay.

Till the next adventure. . .

A B & B Sojourn

Marsh House

Marsh House

Twas the day before spring

And I had an itch

To travel the road once more

And hoped for no hitch.

Cheesy verse aside, I did once more yield to the call of the road.  This time I was heading to Galena, IL which bills itself as the most beautiful city in America.

Night 1

As I knew this would, more likely than not, be my last B & B outing until the summertime, I wanted to do something special.  So I decided to turn my visit into a B & B sojourn.  In order to have more exploration time in Galena and to kill two birds with one stone, I drove half of the trip on the first day.  I ended up stopping at the town of Grinnell in Iowa so I could visit Marsh House.

Grinnell was actually a surprising little city.  I was expecting a traditional small town, but this place was quite vibrant.  It had a bustling main street, a nice movie theater, a community theatre, and a wide variety of restaurants.  I soaked up the sights of the pleasant little burg and soon found myself at the doorway of Marsh House.

I was greeted by Linda who gave me a brief tour of the place.  I was struck by the elegance of Marsh House.  From the decanter of sherry by the front door to the period furniture throughout the home, I felt transported to a bygone time.  Linda led me to the Prairie Bedroom before leaving me to my own devices.

The Prairie Bedroom.

The Prairie Bedroom.


That sherry sure hit the spot after dinner.

That sherry sure hit the spot after dinner.

I spent a few hours relaxing before heading out to dinner at the Frontier Café.  It was a quaint establishment and I took a seat at the corner where I ordered a Cowboy Burger that came with a cup of chili and French fries.  The burger was quite delicious, flavored with tortilla chips, bacon bits, and fresh jalapenos.  The chili was tasty enough, but was rather thin and watery.

I returned to Marsh House where I prepared and slowly sipped a sherry.  After an afternoon of driving, I was ready for a long, hot bath and a movie.  Unfortunately, Linda had forgotten to include any soap and shampoo in the bathroom, so my hopes for a bath went poof.  Right before turning my phone off for the evening, I received a call from Dave who was one of the owners of the B & B I would be staying at in Galena.  Apparently there had been an emergency and he would not be available for my 1pm check-in the next day, but would be in at 4pm.

With that news, I settled into bed for the night and enjoyed the solitude.  You see, I was literally the only person in the inn as even the owners did not live on property.

Day 1 & Night 2

The next morning I went downstairs for breakfast where Linda had prepared a vegetarian meal for my Lenten sensibilities.  I enjoyed a delicious fruit parfait, followed by a feta cheese omelet with a side of fried potatoes seasoned with garlic, and a blueberry muffin.  Linda apologized for too much garlic on the potatoes, but I assured her there was no such thing.

I read the newspaper as I ate watching my NCAA bracket go down in flames due to the upsets on the first day.  I polished off everything except the muffin which I decided to feed to the birds.  After breakfast, I asked Linda for some soap and shampoo so I could get cleaned up.  I returned Dave’s phone call where he told me that someone would be able to meet me at 1pm so I could have a base of operations while I explored the town.

I performed my ablutions, settled my bill, and got into the Chrismobile to complete my journey to Galena.  However, do get a room at Marsh House if you happen to be in Grinnell as it was a jewel in an oasis.

Bernadine's Stillman Inn

Bernadine’s Stillman Inn

I arrived at Bernadine’s Stillman Inn, owned by Dave and Bernadette at 1pm.  I called Dave who said Christian would meet me at the front door.  Christian gave me the nickel tour and led me to my room, the Royalty II.  After exploring the inn and snapping photos, I began to explore the town.

The Royalty II

The Royalty II


Galena is an extremely hilly city, so get ready for a workout as you navigate the terrain.  My first stop was the visit the Grant home which happened to be right across the street.  Ulysses S Grant had lived in Galena where he worked for his family’s leather goods store.  Prior to the Civil War, Grant rented a modest two story home for $100 a year.  Due to his service during the Civil War, a group of wealthy citizens got together and gifted him with a permanent home.

Ironically, Grant did not get to spend a lot of time in his home as he had to be away a lot to wind down operations in the aftermath of the Civil War, then spent 8 years in Washington D.C. as President, and toured over 30 countries after his term of office expired.  Grant’s children decided to gift the home back to the city.  Oddly enough, while it is a nice house, it is fairly modest in its own right.

Grant's home.

Grant’s home.

Grant's dining room.  This is the only room in the house that is exactly the same as it was when Grant and his family lived in the home.

Grant’s dining room. This is the only room in the house that is exactly the same as it was when Grant and his family lived in the home.

After visiting the home, I began touring the city.  Galena calls itself the most beautiful city in America and there may be some argument for that.  This city is littered with historic homes and bed and breakfasts.  Some of these buildings were shipped into the city just to beautify the place.

Ulysses S Grant

Ulysses S Grant

Belvedere Mansion

Belvedere Mansion


I wandered down to Main Street and discovered they have a rather bustling economy.  Numerous restaurants and shops made up the main drag.  My eye caught a sign called Root Beer Revelry and I decided to visit the establishment.  The sign was quite truthful as the store sold nothing but root beer in all varieties and all shapes and sizes.  I indulged in a root beer float.

I returned to the inn for a little bit, but went back downtown to have dinner at the DeSoto House in the Green Street Tavern.  I enjoyed a grilled salmon sandwich and then went to the lobby where I continued my forays into the supernatural by taking the All About a Ghost Tour, guided by Steven Rupp.

Steven works at the Galena library and has accumulated quite a bit of knowledge about the city.  It ended up being a personally guided tour as I was the only who showed up.  Another couple seemed interested, but left to get some cash and never returned.  Could they have been. . .spirits????  Nah!

It was a pleasant evening for a walk and Steven shared all sorts of tales about the city.  It was more history and less mystery, though there were a few tales about the supernatural peppered throughout the night.  The most interesting tale was when a businesswoman contacted Steven and asked him if he had ever heard about a haunting in a new house.  He had to confess that he had not.

The businesswoman had rented a newly built house in Galena for a weekend so she could do some shopping in town after a seminar.  After the seminar, she was putting her feet up in the rental home when she happened to look towards the bathroom.  She saw a little girl staring into the bathroom, her back to the businesswoman.  Suddenly the girl’s head turned to face the businesswoman and just the head.  The body stayed still.  Then she went into the bathroom where she disappeared.  Steven was unable to discover any stories about the area, but theorized that old homes may have been demolished to make room for these rental homes which is why a ghost could be in a new home.

After the tour, I walked back to the inn where I had the best night’s sleep I’ve experienced in quite a while.  I didn’t wake up during the night and didn’t budge a muscle.

Day 2 & Night 3

In the morning, I was finally able to meet Dave and Bernadette.  Dave and I had been exchanging phone calls over most of Friday, but never had the chance to meet until breakfast that morning.  The repast began with a cream and peach yogurt sprinkled with pumpkin flaxseed granola.  Superb!!  After that, I elected to have a ham and cheese omelet with a side of turkey bacon and some cinnamon swirl toast.  The omelet and bacon were perfect, but they forgot my toast.  But that was okay because I was full from the other items.

Galena Trolley Tour

Galena Trolley Tour

I spent most of the morning writing before heading downtown for a trolley tour.  I was a little taken aback by the $19.50 price tag, but the tour would last for an hour.  I had a good time seeing some more of Galena’s beautiful architecture and learning something of Galena’s unique history.  In its heyday, Galena was the richest city in the country due to a lead rush.  In fact, 90% of the lead used in America is from Galena or the nearby area.

The conductor/tour guide also had a terrific story about how Ulysses S Grant came into the Presidency.  There was a powerful political family known as the Washburnes and Elihu Washburne badly wanted to be President, but would not be elected because his family already held powerful political positions which would make people be unwilling to vote for him.  Instead he and some friends decided to find a quiet, shy man they could propel into the office as a proxy.  They decided to support Grant as he was riding a tidal wave of popularity.  Grant was elected into office and he gave Washburne the position of Secretary of State.  However, Washburne had underestimated Grant’s backbone and integrity as he refused to govern the way Washburne wanted him and bounced him from the post after 11 days, through he did appoint him as a minister to France.

When the tour ended, the group was given a coupon for a free small popcorn at the American Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor.  I decided to get a little snack and was hoping I could get an old fashioned ice cream soda, too, but the dispenser was broken.  I ended up returning to Root Beer Revelry and enjoyed another root beer float.

I returned to the inn to relax for a bit and then headed to St Michael’s for worship services.  It was a particularly good sermon from Father Reese who talked removing the “I” or emptying ourselves for Jesus and why the cross offends.

After a nice service, I headed over to Gobbie’s for a bit of dinner.  The food at Gobbie’s must be amazing because the wait was unbelievable.  If I wanted a table, I would have had to wait for 45 minutes as there were 21 people waiting.  I ended up taking a seat at the bar and ordered the gyro platter with a Greek salad.  This was probably the tastiest gyro I have ever eaten so I definitely recommend a visit to this eatery.

Once I had finished eating, I went to the P.T. Murphy magic show where I met two new acquaintances, Ken & Cindy of Davenport, IA.  This was an intimate performance.  The theater can only hold about 24 people, so all of the illusions and tricks are performed up close and personal.  P.T. Murphy is an excellent magician and performer with a sharp sense of humor and a well developed sense of improvisation.

Yours truly even got involved in the act.  At one point, P.T. Murphy asked the audience if anybody had a $50 bill as he was dedicating the trick to Ulysses S Grant.  Nobody had one, though one audience member was reluctant to part with a $100 bill.  I offered up $20 which P.T. Murphy had me sign on Jackson’s forehead.  Then I folded up the bill a number of times and placed it into an envelope.  P.T. Murphy then brought out two other envelopes with similarly folded pieces of paper.  Then he mixed up the envelopes and labeled them 1, 2, and 3.

P.T. Murphy asked me to select an audience member to pick an envelope so I picked my new friend, Cindy, who selected 2.  P.T. Murphy then proceeded to burn the other 2 envelopes.  He opened number 2 and iniside was a white piece of paper.  He carefully unfolded it to reveal the message, “Oops”.

Then P.T. Murphy asked me to bring over a box that was sitting in the corner.  He gave me the key and I unlocked the box and inside. . .was another box.  P.T. Murphy gave me the key to that box which I unlocked and inside. . .was a paper bag.  Inside the paper bag was on orange.  P.T. Murphy cut the orange in half and in the center was my signed $20 bill.

This was truly one of the most enjoyable events of my project.  If you find yourself in the Galena area, get a ticket to this show.  Afterwards, I returned to my room for a well deserved rest.

Last Morning

I had awoken at what I believed to be 6:30am according to the clock in my bedroom.  Since breakfast wasn’t served until 8:30, I just decided to putter around, relax, watch the news, repack,  and take a long shower.  After 90 minutes, I decided to go online to check the news and discovered that it was actually nearly 9am!!  My clock was an hour slow.

I threw on some clothes, quickly cleaned up, and made a speedy appearance in the dining room.  Today’s menus featured lovecakes (heart shaped pancakes) infused with cinnamon, banana, and/or blueberries, cinnamon swirl toast, a spinach quiche (with or without sausage), and linkers (sausages) or turkey bacon.  I opted for cinnamon lovecakes with the sausage and spinach quiche, turkey bacon, and cinnamon swirl toast (which I did get this time).  Once more it was a tasty meal with some delightful conversation.

With the end of breakfast came the end of my little sojourn.  Galena is a fun little town and my only regret was similar to my time in Abilene, KS as I came a little off-season.  There is so much to do here, but you need to come during the May-October season.  But there was more than enough to keep me occupied, interested, and entertained for the weekend.

And if you’re in the Galena area, get a room at Bernadine’s Stillman Inn.  You’ll enjoy some great food and a most entertaining host and you just may have a bit of fun, educational or otherwise.

Rivercene Plantation: A Most Mysterious Mansion

Rivercene Plantation

Rivercene Plantation

I started this project to share the incredible tales of inns and their towns, but I think I am going to be hard pressed to find a tale to match that woven by Rivercene Plantation, owned by Donn Upp and Dr. Joe Ely.

It was an atypically warm day in February as I answered the call of the road which would be bringing me to the dual cities of New Franklin and Boonville.  New Franklin is the home of Rivercene Plantation while Boonville (a mere 500 feet away) is a historical town of forgotten significance.

I actually made it into the region much earlier than planned due to basing my drive time on Mapquest’s estimates.  I’ve concluded that Mapquest estimates are clearly made by someone who drives about 30 miles under the limit.  In any event, I puzzled over how to spend my extra time and passed a sign suggesting I visit historic Blackwater.  Why not?

So I made my unexpected side trip and passed through the microscopic town (the population is only 199) and noted that it did have the feel of a bygone era.  The main drag actually seems more like an old west town.  I quickly said hello and good-bye to historic Blackwater and made my way to the historic site of Arrow Rock.

Now I was expecting Arrow Rock to be, well, a rock.  In actuality, it is a pioneer village covering about a mile and a half.  Tours are actually available, but are very limited during the winter months.  But I was able to amuse myself with a little jaunt around the village, snapping a photo here and there until it was nearly time to check in to Rivercene.

As I said earlier, Rivercene Plantation is a hop, skip, and jump from the town of Boonville and is located just beyond the Boonslick Bridge which crosses the mighty Missouri River.  The mansion, itself, is on a very secluded acreage.  I bounded up the stairs and turned the old fashioned doorbell key and was soon greeted by Donn Upp.

Donn is not only one of the owners of the mansion, but he is also an author of horror novels.  He is also, without question, one of the most energetic people I have ever met and a raconteur par excellence.  Donn led me up to Cora’s Room which would serve as my base of operations for the next couple of days.  I was floored by the sheer massiveness of the room.  Easily, the largest room I have ever stayed in.  For an avid reader like myself, I especially appreciated the sitting area by the gas fireplace.

Cora's Room.

Cora’s Room.


After being left to my own devices, I quickly settled in and discovered a history of the mansion in my room.  And, trust me, this mansion is chock full of history.  The house was paid for by Matilda Clarke Kinney, the second wife of Captain Joseph Kinney (founder of Kinney’s Shoes and a steamboat magnate) after her husband gave her a wedding gift of $50,000 to build her dream home.  Construction of the house began in 1864 and would be completed in 1869.  Rivercene Plantation served as the Kinney’s summer home until Captain Kinney’s retirement, at which point they relocated to the mansion permanently.

Aside from the history of the mansion, the folder also contained Donn’s story of how he became the owner of Rivercene and the many ideas he has for the place over the coming years.  One of his most intriguing plans is what he calls Ridgecliffe Manor.

Ridgecliffe Manor (set to begin in 2016) is going to be a mystery event unlike any other.  Essentially, the guests are going to get to live one of Donn’s novels and the groundwork is actually going to begin next month with YouTube videos, a Facebook page, and a website.  Characters will be introduced and people can get to know the story before getting dropped into the middle of it with Ridgecliffe Manor.  From listening to Donn, Ridgecliffe Manor sounds like it will be a combination of interactive theatre and a top flight Hollywood production and I will certainly do my best to attend one of those events.

Speaking of mysteries, Rivercene Plantation has an unsolved mystery of its own.  In 1895, Nobel Kinney, the son of Joseph and Matilda, died under mysterious circumstances when he fell over the second floor balcony and landed on the 8th and 9th steps of the main staircase.  The truth of what happened never left the house.  Nobel was the favored child of Matilda who mourned herself to death over the next year.


The mystery of that night hangs over the inn to this day.  When Donn and Joe were preparing Nobel’s room to be rented out, strange things happened from the start.  The shower would spontaneously turn off and on.  Temperatures would go from one extreme to the other.  Donn said there was a sensation that nobody was allowed to use that room.  The room is not available for rent.

The home has been visited by paranormal investigators who say that the place is a hotbed for EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena).  So if you are into ghost chasing, chances are you’ll want to visit this place and Donn will have some stories for you.

After Donn’s tour, I made the walk into Boonville to do a little exploring and then decided to get some dinner.  I had read of a restaurant called the 87 Diner which claimed to have “The Best Darn Cooking in the County”.  Well, I certainly had to put that to the test.

I arrived at the diner and it was packed!!  That certainly seemed to be a testament to the cooking.  I managed to find a table in the corner and was soon presented with a menu.  Nothing flashy.  Just good old fashioned comfort food.  I went for a turkey club and got it in an amazingly short amount of time considering how busy things were.

I can officially say there is some credence to the 87 Diner’s claims.  This was the best club sandwich I had ever eaten.  The bread was toasted just right, the bacon was firm, but chewy, and the turkey was the freshest I think I have ever tasted.  Definitely get a meal here.

I returned to the inn where I spent the rest of the evening organizing photos and enjoying the adventures of Maurice LeBlanc’s gentleman burglar, Arsene Lupin, on my Kindle.

After a good night’s sleep I made my way downstairs to breakfast and met the other owner and chef, Dr. Joe Ely.  It was a fabulous meal due to both food and the company.  The inn was fully booked, so there was a large group to converse with and the food couldn’t have been better.  Mixed fruit, pecan cinnamon rolls, and a breakfast casserole fleshed out this excellent repast.  After 2 hours and buoyed by a good meal, I headed outside to begin a historical walking tour of Boonville.

The Grand Dining Room

The Grand Dining Room

As I’ve said, Boonville is a city of forgotten historical significance.  The Civil War plays a big role in Boonville’s history.  Heck, one battle was fought in the front yard of Rivercene Plantation.  The city is loaded with historical buildings such as the famed Kemper Military School which became defunct back in 2002.  Part of the campus has now been transformed into State Fair Community College.

Do you enjoy being outdoors?  If so, then take a walk on the Katy Trail.  This is a 225 mile hiking and biking trail.  Given that it was a blustery day and I had no food and water with me, I skipped the trail and settled for the 10 mile historical tour.

About halfway through the tour, my camera batteries died, so I finished the tour and then headed back to the inn, hoping to get back out later to finish my photography.  Unfortunately, I was not able to make it back out as the sharp wind and massive temperature changed caused a whanging headache so I rested in my room until it was time for worship.

I attended Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church which was very elegant, for lack of a better word.  It just seemed to possess a unique quality.  What made it better was that you could feel Jesus’ presence all throughout the service.  The deacon, who was an excellent speaker, gave an awesome sermon about the power of touch (both God’s and actual contact) based off the story in the Gospel of Mark where Jesus heals the leper.  It was the type of service that makes you feel like you’re floating 5 feet off the ground when the service is done.

Once services ended, I headed over to The Palace for some dinner.  Once again I had found a restaurant that was crammed to the rafters which is a good sign.  The place was so full that they actually had to makeshift a table for me behind the salad bar.  I enjoyed a gyro sandwich which filled the cavity nicely.

From there, I headed back to Rivercene where I joined other guests and Donn in the parlor where we talked into the night about a variety of subjects.  About 10:30pm, I dragged myself up to my room where I crawled wearily into bed.

Breakfast the next morning featured a fully loaded table of guests as well as a repeat of yesterday’s morning meal though the sausage in yesterday’s soufflé had been replaced with spiral cut ham, plus Joe had prepared some orange rolls.  I chatted amiably with my new acquaintances, Tim and Christina, over the meal and about my future projects.  Donn appeared and announced that snow was set to begin falling, so I polished up my meal so I could finish the article and hit the road.

Due to its history and mystery, I would rate Rivercene Plantation as the most intriguing inn I have visited for this project.  If your journeys should bring you to this region, spend a night here.  You will hear some amazing stories, get some history, enjoy the company of a master storyteller, and taste some excellent cuisine.