Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), and several Kindle ebooks.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Farewell Blue Lady

The Blue Lady, the best little bookstore in the county, closed a week ago. Actually, it was the only bookstore in the county. My self-pubbed book, Patches on the Same Quilt, was the best-selling novel there. The Blue Lady carried a lot of Appalachian books—both self-pubbed and commercially pubbed, so those of us who are hard-core AppLit fans loved it.

The Blue Lady, probably the smallest haunted bookstore in the South, got its name from one of the resident ghosts. The actual “Blue Lady” is a ghost—Margaret Hale who died in the 1880s and who is buried less than a mile away. You can sometimes feel her presence—or smell her perfume—in the music room of The Grove, the pre-Civil War mansion on whose grounds the bookstore was located. A few folks have actually seen Margaret in her blue dress. I haven’t been so lucky, but I once smelled her heavily floral-scented perfume. A sociable ghost, Margaret makes her presence known during social occasions. The bookshop itself, located on the edge of The Grove’s remaining acres, used to be Confederate General Jubal Early’s former law office and might contain a spirit or two itself.

My first encounter with a ghost was at the Blue Lady a few days before it opened in February 2002. When I took some of my books there to Ibby the owner, she invited me inside to see the new wall-paper. She closed the door firmly behind us. A few minutes later, the door opened. Maybe it was the wind, I thought as I closed it. I made sure the door clicked firmly shut. A few minutes later, the door opened again. A couple of days earlier Ibby and her husband had gotten locked inside the shop when a lock that had worked fine for a hundred years wouldn’t open. She had to leave via the window and get the key from the house.

Was that a ghost or just the wind? I can’t be sure, but I do know that something was in The Grove during the store’s grand opening. As one of the authors-in-residence, I was assigned to greet guests in the music room of the mansion, which was built in the 1850s. The first time I smelled the strong sickenly-sweet floral scent, I thought it might come from one of the customers. The second time I was alone in the room. The third time—I knew it was the ghost. I snapped a few pictures with my digital camera. Several of the shots contained orbs, supposedly evidence of ghostly presence. Ibby’s son Andrew gave a few of us a tour of the guestroom nearby where the ghost sometimes appears. Parts of the room were considerably cooler. I’ve been in that room a few times since, and I can always detect the temperature differences. Is it because Margaret Hale’s son died of typhoid in that room?

Did the Blue Lady close from lack of sales or owner’s lack of interest? Nope, the insurance company refused to insure the Grove if a business was located there. The insurance company wins, but the readers in Franklin County lose. We’ve given up the ghost, as it were.

However, the Blue Lady Bookshop—a mere ghost of its former self—still exists online for those who want to order regional books. Have no fear—your order won’t be taken by a real ghost. At least, I don’t think it will.

Don’t forget to buy my books while you’re there.

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