In Halloween 2019, a unique opportunity was presented to me: spend a night at Villa Marjaniemi, a villa with a colorful history that includes service as a code-breaking facility during World War II.
Like many an old mansion, it also has a long history of ghost sightings. Rather than go through them again, I’m going to send you to this blog post from earlier in the year; you will find all the juiciest tales there. To visit Villa Marjaniemi’s own website, go here.
So, on a dark, rainy evening in late October, I took the bus from downtown Turku to Ruissalo, a gorgeous, nature-oriented part of the town, where the Villa is located. I had nothing to eat with me, but this was not a problem – Laura, the amazing, hospitable boss of the Villa, had arranged a late night snack for me; all I had to do was get there and enjoy my stay… or die of fear.
Armed with a steady mind, a steely resolve, and a fresh pair of boxers in case I actually encounter a ghost, I arrived at Villa Marjaniemi.
After stepping off the bus, I find myself on a pitch-black gravel path that I will need to negotiate to make my way to the Villa.
Walking forward in the dim light of the lampposts situated along the way, I reflected on my own attitudes and ideas about ghosts. Do I believe in them? To be honest, the answer is a “No” – but a hesitant one, I rush to add, as I have seen enough things in my life to occasionally question the very nature of reality. My belief is that, if ghosts are real, the phenomenon is most likely tied to the space-time-continuum rather than any spiritual “afterworld”; if ghost sightings are real, they are most likely enabled by some kind of a tear in the aforementioned continuum that allows us to look into a gone (or perhaps even future?) time through a hole in reality.
The Villa appears before me like a guesthouse from an old horror tale: the lights in the windows are shining an inviting, cozy light, and the whole building looks like something Charles Dickens may have imagined in one of his novels. There are some occupants there tonight, possibly celebrating someone’s birthday; they won’t stay the night, however, and once they and the staff leave, I will be alone.
Opening the door to my room, I realize there’s a surprise in store for me: they’ve put me in the finest suite in the house! This is the room where the man who had the place built had his own, personal bedroom. Nice!
The ceiling is high, and there’s a feeling of old-timey upper class novelty to the room; you can easily imagine an industrial magnate (like the builder of the house) relaxing hear after a day of… well, whatever the upper class got up to almost a hundred years ago.
As for myself, I put on the 2007 film 1408, based on a Stephen King short story about a writer who stays at various supposedly haunted locations to determine the truthfulness (or lack thereof) of their ghost tales. Perfect mood-setter.
The only problem is, now I’m starting get a little creeped out… Suddenly, every little creek (of which there are plenty in an old house, believe me) starts to sound like a potential invasion from the Netherworld of Terrors. I can feel a little bit of legitimate fear entering into the equation, which I welcome – after all, it would be a waste to not feel a little scared under these unique circumstances.
The night is finally here. I’ve watched 1408, and my fat ass has hammered down the two sandwiches the hostess of the house was kind enough to have delivered to my room.
But still no ghosts.
Time to up the stakes. I pop in The Innkeepers (2011), one of my favorite horror films, and one of the most underrated films in the genre possibly ever.
It’s here – the Hour of the Wolf! And still, absolutely nothing peculiar. Well, unless you count the mystery of how a room this majestic.
I decide to take a little midnight tour of the house, and snap some photos for you, My Dear Readers. And who knows – maybe the ghosts are hiding in the photographs, unable or unwilling to show themselves to the naked human eye!
See anything? I didn’t, unfortunately, though I do have to say that an old mansion like this after dark is eerie, no matter how skeptical you are. The walls creak, as does the floor under your feet as you walk, and there’s a kind of sense of the presence of history in the air everywhere.
After my one last attempt at being face to face with some demon from Hell has failed, I retire to my room to get some sleep after a long day.
And I don’t even have nightmares!
There is a kind of inherent need in people like me to get a personal validation for all those paranormal tales we’ve heard, to experience firsthand what we have only read about in books. I did not experience that in this house, but of course that doesn’t mean that the phenomena are not real: maybe I’m just not attuned to the right “frequency”, or there is a skeptical barrier in my frame of interpretation that is impenetrable to the Otherside, the “Ghost World”, or whatever you call it.
The try has been fun, though: Villa Marjaniemi was beautiful, and it was a fantastic chance to experience a little luxury at the end of a long work week.
I leave the mansion determined to do the same at some other mansion, to stay the night and see what happens.
Maybe next time, the ghouls will be ready and waiting for me…