If you have ever taken a leisurely drive around the countryside, or even in a town or city, you’ve probably noticed the occasional mysterious building. You know; a brooding presence that seems to be out of place, perhaps left over from another age.
It might be an old mansion, looking haughty and dignified while slowly deteriorating in a modern world that has passed it by. It could be a farmhouse with its steps worn and scuffed by the tread of innumerable families that once called it home. Perhaps it’s an old commercial building downtown with a cornerstone from the 1800s and a proud company that no longer exists. Maybe it’s a group of rotting barracks buildings in a desolate place that once served as an army base or a prisoner of war camp long ago.
Such places often look haunted, and in a sense, they are; haunted by the spirits of people who once lived and worked in them. Most of these people are long gone, remembered only by a few descendants and living only in dusty old photographs in forgotten attics.
These buildings once echoed with the voices of these long-gone people and once hosted events of human drama. A dignified Victorian Mansion that once sheltered the town’s leading banker and his family is now a funeral home, or perhaps a bed and breakfast.
Of course, buildings are not the only structures built and used by people all over the world. Bridges, dams, towers and canals all stand in the silent shadow of their own history. How many people know that the top of the Empire State Building was designed to be a mooring place for transatlantic passenger dirigibles? How man realize that the Eiffel Tower was once condemned and reviled by the leading citizens of Paris; or that the Great Wall of China was the subject of a hoax by American newspaper men in search of a story on a slow news day?
A few years ago, I started doing a talk about some of these largely unknown stories. I even included Cinderella’s castle at Disney World and Harry Potter Land at Universal Studios. They have something in common. I am now working on a book on the subject and I am digging up all sorts of weird facts about famous (and not so famous) buildings, bridges, dams, etc. So if any reader knows about a local building with a fascinating past, please let me know. If I use it, I’ll mention your name in the book.