Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Travel Channel's 'Dead Files' and a Blast from my Past.

Before last week, I'd never heard of the Travel Channel's series called 'The Dead Files' but I think it must have been via Facebook that I was informed they were airing an episode based in a tiny little town in Pennsylvania about The Riverside Inn. Why this would surprise me so much is because before Hans and I headed south, I had worked at that inn as a waitress for over 10 years. So I taped the show and then forgot about it.

Tonight Hans and I finally watched it.  The Dead Files is a show that deals with the paranormal and if there was ever a place that has a 'ghostly' reputation, then the Riverside Inn is it. However, when I started working there (I think it was 1999) I knew nothing about the inn's many ghosts and as a single mother of three, I was much more concerned with getting ahead of my bills as I was due to lose my full time job within a few months time. I figured waitressing during evenings and weekends would allow me to do that until I could find another full time job. But even after I found a new job I continued to work at the inn for many years.

Like I mentioned before, ghosts were not high on my agenda at that time and anyway I had much bigger things to worry about as I was perhaps the worst waitress in the world, and I knew no one wanted to work with me. Actually, I'd have much rather dealt with ghosts than the inn's owner as I was terrified of her. She ran a tight ship and I managed to irritate her beyond belief.  Why she didn't fire me I'll never know, possibly she just felt sorry for me. By the end of the season I was not working the main dining room at all and I'd been relegated to finish the year in Dinner Theater.  The ironic thing about Dinner Theater is; the money can be quite good, but your waiting skills not so much, and it's really the most desirable shift to be had (during my last year at the inn I only managed to snag one Dinner Theater shift and that was by complete accident). 

It was during the next to the last night of my first chaotic year at the inn that I experienced my one and only ghostly encounter.  I'd struggled through a busy Christmas lunch shift (I still have to wonder how many orders I managed to screw up) and had headed downstairs to the Victorian Room where Dinner Theater is held. I had plenty of time before my shift so I was able to use the ladies room.  I'd piled my belongings on a bench right inside the doorway and after washing my hands and walking back to the bench for my makeup bag, I felt a strange resistance push  me back a step. I figured I was just tired which made me wonder how I was going to get through the next six hours. Needless to say all these years later I would never have remembered feeling that resistance if not for what happened next.
I was bent over the sink and fixing my makeup when one of the stall doors behind me opened. I was surprised because other than one of the waiters out in the Victorian Room who'd also arrived early, I thought I was alone. The door continued to open wide but from my position at the sink I could see in the mirror that it was empty. No one was there. 
The stall doors are held closed by a heavy spring similar to those on old fashioned porch doors so they have to be pushed open from the inside. After the door fully opened, it slammed shut so hard it bounced on its spring.
I turned around and glanced down to see if maybe a little kid had walked out and I just couldn't see it from the mirror, and feeling a little silly, because no one was there, I said, "Hello?" No answer. So I bent over and looked for feet under the stall doors. Nothing. I carefully opened each door and they were all empty.
That's when I left all my belongings behind and went into the Victorian Room to get Mike, the young college kid who was setting up.  I made him come back to the ladies room, demonstrated for him what had happened proving to him that in no way could that door have opened on its own, begged him to tell me I wasn't crazy, and demanded he come up with some sort of logical explanation.  He just shrugged his shoulders and said it must have been the ghost. He himself had never seen anything unusual but he knew many others who had. 
In the following years I too heard many ghost stories from my fellow co-workers, some more believable than others. Every year after that I would go into that bathroom and try to discover what exactly could have happened but I never did figure it out.

This is the main lobby at the inn all decorated for Christmas

A view from the lobby down the hall to the back lobby

A crappy picture of the infamous Victorian Room where Dinner Theater is held.

So, the Dead Files portrayal of the inn came across in a much darker way than I remember it but I'm sure that the macabre sells much better than bathroom doors that open by themselves!

The Riverside went up for sale shortly before I moved and I was so afraid no one would buy it and it would fade away as so many of those beautiful historic places do; the upkeep in itself is tremendous. Needless to say I was thrilled when Larry and Brenda Evans bought it; I'd known them for years and they too were afraid the inn would disappear and they've now put their whole lives into maintaining it as it should be.  

The Riverside is a Victorian Inn complete with a huge wrap around porch, 75 rooms and banquet facilities, is beautifully landscaped and even has the good grace to have a creek that flows right past it.  Whether you're there during a busy summer weekend with wedding season in full swing, an autumn where the trees are brilliant with scarlet and orange leaves, or at Christmas when its decorated from top to bottom and the twinkling lights in the shrubbery glow under a blanket of snow,  it's a magical place to be.  I doubt there are many places like it remaining and if you ever happen to be near Erie, Pennsylvania it's well worth checking into.  

But if you spend the night you might want to sleep with a light on.

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