CUPID HOLDS FULL SWAY
A ROOM THAT IS HAUNTED BY THE MISCHIEVOUS LITTLE GOD.
All Who Sleep Within Its Walls Succumb to His Power
A Cure for Celibacy.
A love-haunted chamber is something new in spook lore, and it is a departure from conventional stories of the weird and eerie to encounter an experience in which the god of love, wreathed in smiles and soft blandishments, takes the place of sheet-shrouded wraith or horrid specter.
There is a certain mansion near Washington that possesses a haunted apartment, which, however, instead of being shunned by visitors is eagerly sought by the young and sometimes designedly inhabited by persons of uncertain age, but, like Barkis, willin’. For it is whispered through the country around that if an unmarried person but stay overnight in this room matrimonial prospects will soon thereafter be manifest, and if the sleeper be inclined that way, will take definite shape and eventuate at the altar. Indeed, there are stories of the potency of the charm that hovers about the room going further and enthralling unwilling captives or those who unwittingly and with no thought of love have risked themselves within its magic portals.
It is a large and cheery room, beautifully decorated in blue and gold and rose, with rose-tinted curtains and carpet. On one wall is a panel bearing a painting of Cupid leading a maid through a tangle of roses, she half-hesitating yet half eagerly following her guide. On the opposite wall another Cupid beckons an Apollo, who, nothing loath, presses joyously onward. The room was once the bower of a young girl, the pride of the countryside and the light of that household, who, before Cupid could rivet the silk-incased chains he was winding about her, was called away.
For a long time he room was closed and remained just as she had left it. Then, after a period, when the hospitable old house again opened its doors, and one night when there was a press of company, the daughter’s room was given over to occupancy by a guest. It happened that this guest was a maiden relative whom the gods had punished for her early scorning of their offers by withholding opportunities until anxiety had begun to take the place of indifference. All unconscious of what was in store for her, she laid herself between the lavender-scented linen of the mahogany bed, and before blowing out the candle by the bedside admired the decoration of the walls and noted the harmonious scheme that was worked out in the Cupids rioting in the carving of the footboard.
All thorough the night she was half aware of delightful dreams. The Cupids from the walls and the carvings seemed to be busy about her bedside with garlands and ropes of flowers, and throughout their weaving game the Apollo on the wall appeared to be active and to stand out in a strange, soft radiance of light. Next day she laughingly told her story, and when a week later she departed, lo, she carried with her the heart and offer of the hand of a member of the party.
The next coincidence was connected with the visit of a hardened bachelor, whom a prayerful mother had wished for years to see safely in the leading strings of some good woman. This scornful wretch openly flouted the story of the love-haunted room, and defiantly offered to sleep within it, betting a basket of France’s best vintage that he would come off unscathed by Cupid’s arrows. With mock ceremony he was escorted to the haunted chamber, and left by his host with an earnest wish for a safe night and sound sleep.
The visitor noted that the bed was between the two panels, and he moved it beneath the panel of Apollo and Cupid, in a very spirit of bravado, as if to dare them to do their worst. Then he blew out the candle and was soon snoring most unromantically, as the result of the day’s hard hunting. What happened before morning he would never tell. Sure it was, however, that he was disturbed enough to cut his visit short and leave, being ashamed not to sleep in the room again, and the family would never have known the result of the experiment if the hostess had not a month later received a letter from the aforesaid prayerful mother, in which she declared how thankful she was that her beloved John would be married before New Year to a woman noted for her piety and strong qualities of mind.
There were other strange coincidences connected with the room that winter, and when spring came the mansion was fairly beset with visitors. Oddly enough, many of them sought to occupy the room. Some, by shameless strategy, professing incredulity in the charm and a disposition to defy it, when all knew ‘twas but eagerness to reap the beneficent magic. So were other schemes employed to entrap unsuspecting and guileless young men into the fatal circle, they never knowing why fate had so swiftly overtaken them.
Beneath the bay window of the love-haunted room is an old-fashioned garden, with an arbor and seats therein, and it is said that as the summer waxed the charm of the room would extend to the garden, and on moonlight nights, when the dew sparkled and heliotrope and lilac gave off their fragrance, the couples would slip away from the verandas and the dimly lit parlor to wander together along its walks.
It was dangerous for single men, however successfully they had avoided the traps and pitfalls set by designing mammas and crafty papas up to that time, to venture into these mystic shades to smoke a bed-time cigar, and now the confirmed old bachelors and the hardened old maids will never attend house parties in that mansion unless assured beforehand that there are rooms in plenty and that no one of them will be bedded in Cupid’s chamber.
The Evening Star [Washington DC] 21 December 1901: p. 19
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Art has always held the power to inspire love. Yet Mrs Daffodil has some doubts about the strict veracity of this item. Although the location is described as in a private house, it seems to have more visitors than the average home–or is that merely the famed Virginia hospitality? Said mansion is unnamed, but the detailed description of the murals in the fateful chamber hints that some real location is being depicted. There is a suspicion that this could have been a puff-piece for a resort wishing to draw more customers.
Mrs Daffodil is reminded of the claims for “Doctor” Graham’s “Celestial Bed,” at the Temple of Health in London, where the young person who later became Lady Hamilton, made her debut. Just as match-making services advertise their marriage statistics, this establishment should have been held to account. Two confirmed engagements is scarcely an adequate sample.
Yet, who knew that celibacy was a condition that needed curing? Pretty murals and erotic dreams may have tipped the balance, but Mrs Daffodil is not sanguine about a “hardened bachelor” donning the silk-incased chains with a lady of such strong mind and piety.
Mrs Daffodil has chosen the topic of tomorrow’s Valentine holiday for her theme today. For a more relevant story on how the Thirteen Club celebrated Friday the 13th, please see this post.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.