It’s Halloween season at The Mount!

It’s almost Halloween here at The Mount and that means it’s time to decorate The Mount’s blog, so to speak, with ghostly information and haunted tidbits, now until All Hallows’ Eve.

The Mount has seen seven different occupants come and go in its 112-year history. With countless numbers of personalities, triumphs, disappointments, and perhaps a few secrets, it’s no surprise that owners, staff members, and visitors have reported strange sights, freaky feelings, and everything from footsteps to full bodied apparitions.

Body in Stable window, by Tarryn Gaherty.

Body in Stable window, by Tarryn Gaherty.

Often, it’s assumed that death results in hauntings. There is only one death that is known to certainly have occurred at The Mount, that of Albert R. Shattuck, who purchased The Mount with his wife in 1912. He died of a heart attack on November 4, 1925, in what is now known as The Henry James Suite.

There are two other deaths that are rumored to have occurred at The Mount, but which cannot be confirmed. Supposedly, a little boy drowned in the well and a female servant hung herself on the property.

Life can also result in hauntings. Perhaps spirits linger at The Mount because they have unfinished business or because they adored their time there. As Edith Wharton said in her 1934 memoir, “The Mount was my first real home…its blessed influence still lives in me.”

Take a look at the ghostly photos above and to the right, taken by visitors on ghost tours in 2013, and be sure to join us on a ghost tour this fall – you never know what you may find!

Orbs in the Stable, by Jennifer Curtis.

Orbs in the Stable, by Jennifer Curtis.

Mysterious lights, by Janae Cook.

Mysterious lights, by Janae Cook.

Face in Stable window, by Paul and Sandy Hamilakis.

Face in Stable window, by Paul and Sandy Hamilakis.

Why Ethan Frome is Actually Great Beach Reading

The following blog post was contributed by Miranda Cooper, a student at Williams College and seasonal tour guide at The Mount. Picture1

Sometimes our visitors put hard-hitting questions to the staff here, questions like, “Is Wharton readable?” or “Is she any fun?” Many of us happen to think so, but the question is a good one worth a careful answer. While hardly bodice-rippers, Wharton’s titles aren’t squarely academic either and most are surprisingly readable. If you’re not afraid of an SAT word here or there, most find the themes she wrote about 100 years ago hold up pretty well.

But this leads us to a more complex question: must a book be fun to be considered pleasure reading? Rebecca Mead (who spoke at The Mount on July 21!), who wrote an excellent piece in The New Yorker, addresses just this.

Mead shares the experience of perusing an old journal in which she recorded her reading list between ages 17 and 21, and her list skews decidedly… heavy. Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Joyce, James, Rushdie, and Calvino. Mead readily admits that her literature survey as a young woman led her primarily to the classics rather than guilty pleasures, but then points to something delicious: it is very possible to derive pleasure not just from reading something fun but from reading “to become well read.”

So, maybe you can bring Ethan Frome to the beach? Toss it in next to the sunscreen because as Mead maintains, “…there are pleasures to be had from books beyond being lightly entertained. There is the pleasure of being challenged; the pleasure of feeling one’s range and capacities expanding; the pleasure of knowing what others have already thought it worth knowing, and entering a larger conversation.”

Picture2Ethan Frome certainly fits these criteria. So perhaps we can conclude that Edith Wharton’s oeuvre sits comfortably in both the popular and literary camps, if we accept Mead’s insightful definition of pleasure reading. And if you do need something a little more lighthearted than Ethan Frome, there are plenty of great works of literature and Wharton titles that fit the bill.

Friends Find a Seat at the Table

The following blog post was contributed by Miranda Cooper, a student at Williams College and seasonal tour guide at The Mount. 

People from all walks of life come to The Mount during the summer to immerse themselves in a bit of Edith Wharton’s legacy. We see people of all ages and Picture1from all kinds of places. There are a few trends, though, and one of them is that we often see groups of friends who have come together to visit our beautiful treasure in our lovely corner of Lenox. Often, these are groups of women who have been taking trips together for years.

My first memorable encounter like this occurred on an ordinary June day when I met four ladies who engaged me in conversation. I learned that they had all attended Wellesley College together and graduated in 1951, and that for decades they have been getting together during the summers to visit different places.

A few weeks later, I found myself having lunch with a lovely group of women (who told me to remember them as the “ie’s,” because their names all ended in “-ie”) who treated me to lunch, so that we could continue the conversation that had begun on my tour. These ladies had attended Mount Saint Scholastica, a small women’s college in Kansas where they were all roommates, and they too take an annual trip. I was deeply touched by their undeniably strong friendship with one another, a friendship that had endured for decades and which still clearly brings them so much joy.

Picture2So what is it about The Mount that attracts lifelong friends? And why is it that many of these groups of friends are all female, and even attended women’s colleges together? It could be pure coincidence… but I doubt it. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense: of course the beautiful home of the first woman ever to win a Pulitzer for fiction would be a logical choice of destination for groups of women who have obvious appreciation for the power of women’s education and the literary and cultural legacies of groundbreaking female intellectuals. But more than that, The Mount is a place deeply rooted in friendship. All of our guests leave The Mount knowing that Edith Wharton treasured her close friends; one of the first comments guests usually make in the dining room concerns the surprisingly small round table, which Wharton liked because it allowed her to have intimate gatherings.

Miranda Cooper

Miranda Cooper

The Mount is not only a place of literary greatness and stunning beauty; it is a place of friendship. It was built in 1902 as a place where Edith Wharton’s dearest friends could gather and enjoy lounging in the drawing room or sipping tea on the terrace. And in 2014, groups of lifelong friends can enjoy those same experiences. The Mount is still a place where people who care about one another can enjoy one another’s company, a place where groups of friends like the Wellesley ladies and the “ie’s” can come together to reminisce about their college years and pick up where they left off one, two, or twenty years ago. And I think that’s exactly how Edith Wharton would have liked it.