Has a novel you've read ever reminded you of a real life event, an event you've been intrigued by and studied, without having read the novel in the first place?
I find myself in such a place, having read The Distant Hours by novelist Sarah Morton, and being fascinated with Springfield history, having done some research on our local Sheedy family and Springlawn Farm.
The Distant Hours concerns three spinster sisters, one of whom is certainly crazy, and maybe the other two are just as crazy but on another level of crazy. The sisters live in a castle in England, the estate of their forefathers, a place the sisters share a passion for. None of them ever married or had children, although the youngest sister had the opportunity to marry her true love but that opportunity was later thwarted by her eldest sister who murdered the girl's one and only by accident. Eventually, after much intrigue and drama, the castle was burned to the ground, and all three sisters perished in the blaze. Never more, never more, to sound like Poe.
Well, Springlawn Farm, here in Springfield, belonged at one time to Mike Sheedy, a potato farmer from Ireland, who brought his substantial family over to the US and eventually settled in north Greene County, prospering like a maniac. He had sons, of course, but for whatever reason, it seems the sons died young. He had daughters also, the last three of whom remained on the Sheedy property, known as Springlawn Farm until their deaths. The last Sheedy daughter, Helen, passed away in 1979 and in 1980, a mysterious fire engulfed the beautiful Sheedy home and the place burned to the ground, only stone pillars and a stone fireplace remain.
Supposedly, Mike Sheedy committed suicide on the property and his ghost now haunts it. But, I have to ask, are we referring to Mike Sheedy the original purchaser of the property, or his son, Mike Sheedy? Can't find any details on that, but it's intriguing just the same.
Springlawn is a mysterious place now. If you drive out North National, past Greenlawn North, and take the first left after the cemetery, you will find a new subdivision named aptly "Springlawn." Just a mite farther from the last house in that subdivision, on your left, still heading north, you will notice the stone pillars, and the stone entrance to something on the property that was at one time important. The barn, much prized during Mike Sheedy's time, has been destroyed. Only the silo remains. You may notice a path over something that could have been a creek once.
Sad that such a magnificent footprint has been erased.
Driving out past the new Springlawn subdivision, I am heartened by the glimpse of a street sign, Headley Place. Nice. Mike Sheedy bought the acreage from someone named Headley and so, history remains.
Back to The Distant Hours and a comparison. Whether or not the stories are related, and most likely they are not, it's a fascinating sketch into the past and the passions governing the characters sought.
Have you had such an experience? The melding of the past into the present? If so, do tell.