Maggie by Melodie Rae Gunn

Still Hungry for More Thrills & Chills?

We will continue to run a new story each day this week. These stories were written at an Inlandia workshop for those wanting to write for Ghost Walk.

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This annex was built in 2 phases….1913 and 1926. It 1st served as a girls’ dorm for the staff of this hotel. Later..a boys’ dorm was added to the back. That bridge goes straight across to a stair case that goes down to the kitchen, where they would start their day. Our story is about a young girl, just 17 years old…named Maggie. . .

It was Halloween and Maggie was one of the few staff still working. She was orphaned at a young age & had to start working early in life. Since she didn’t really have any family or friends to spend the holidays with…she was always willing to work so others could have the night off ..and..of course… so she could make a little extra money.

It was just past midnight & she was heading to her room. She always dreaded walking across that small, dark, bridge to her room. Tonight …there was a thick cloud cover ..so it was much darker than usual. And maybe….just maybe..since it was All Hallows’ Eve …her imagination was working a little harder than normal.

There is a large cross just before the bridge….and for some reason…she always imagined someone …or something…crouched upon it…ready to jump. She diverted her eyes and hurried towards the gate. The gate closed behind her with a resounding click. She started across the bridge…and felt as if someone had followed her… and was right behind her. Terrified…she paused. The hairs on her neck stood up. She took a deep breath and whipped around and started to say ‘Who’s there?!’ and her question fell short….

She was greeted by darkness….and dead silence.

She had a bad habit of biting her nails when she was nervous….and tonight…she looked like a wild, animal caught in a trap…. As if it were chewing upon its own flesh to free itself from the steel jaws.

She picked up her pace and made her way across the rest of the bridge and went straight to her room!

She was glad to find Beth there. They had become best friends and confidants in the last year since they started working together. Beth had taught her a lot about her job…

Maggie started to get ready for bed and thought she heard humming. She paused to listen ….and it stopped. She chided herself…

Beth: Oh Maggie.. you are really letting your imagination get the best of you tonight.. Stop this nonsense!

She continued getting ready for bed and suddenly there was a loud noise…like something falling to the floor. Beth woke up …and rolled over…

Beth: Maggie…are you OK? What was that?

Maggie with a strained voice said: It wasn’t me Beth.. I don’t know what that was!

Beth sat up ..wide awake now & reached for some matches. Electricity was still very limited in places…and their rooms were always dark. Beth lit her candle and together, they started looking for the source of the noise. They found a book on the floor by the chair and nightstand. It was Beth’s from earlier. She thought maybe she might have set it too close to the edge of the table earlier….as she was quite tired when she had retired for bed. They both let out a strained laugh and went back to what they were doing.

Maggie: Beth..I thought I heard someone humming when I came in. Is there anyone else in the dorms tonight?

Beth: I don’t think so…but maybe ….

Maggie: OK. I swear…ever since that boy, Mark, told me about seeing strange apparitions in the catacombs and that some guests had been mysteriously pushed down the stairs near the honeymoon suite…I think I jump at just about everything these days!

Beth: Oh Maggie…they are just silly stories the boys made up to scare us!

Maggie: I guess so. But even tonight…as I crossed the bridge…I swear it felt as if someone had followed me and when I turned around…there was no one there.

Beth: Wow…that is odd. But I’m sure it’s just your imagination.

Maggie shrugged: Yeah…probably….

Maggie finished getting ready for bed and Beth was almost asleep when Maggie thought she heard humming again.

Maggie whispering: Beth…do you hear that?

Beth in a half sleepy voice: Hmmm..what?

Maggie: The humming…I hear it again.

Beth: Mmmm…maybe there is someone here then….

Maggie: I’m going to go look & see if I can find anyone else…

Beth: OK….and she instantly fell back asleep as Maggie went out to look.

The next morning….Beth awoke and Maggie was not there. She figured since they were so short handed…that maybe she had already started work. Although it was unlike her to just leave without saying something….

She got ready and headed down to start her day. She asked several of the other staff members if they had seen Maggie yet. No one had. Beth went to the security office to ask.. they hadn’t seen her and she hadn’t clocked in either.

No one had seen or heard from Maggie since she got off work the night before.

Beth thought it odd that Maggie would just go off without saying anything. She had no friends or family out here in Riverside. So where would she go??

Beth went about her day and hoped maybe Maggie would be back in their room later. When Beth ended her shift…she went straight to their room. No sign of Maggie…or that she had even been there at all.

No one knows what became of little Maggie….

And sometimes….to this day…people report hearing what they think is a young girl humming…

Just up there…where the girls’ dorms used to be…

Inlandia Founder Remembered by Cati Porter

No one could ever say “no” to Marion Mitchell-Wilson.

After I began attending Inlandia events in late 2007, Marion invited me for coffee. Before my cup was empty, I had agreed to become a member of Inlandia’s Advisory Council.

Smiling, thoughtful and almost always full of energy, Marion had a way of making you want to help with her projects. And you never regretted it.

Marion, founding director of the Inlandia Institute, died a week ago after a long battle with breast cancer.

I never envisioned an Inlandia without Marion. Occasionally she would say things like, “Cati, when I retire,” but I couldn’t think past the here and now.

Even after she officially “retired” in 2012 to work on getting well, she continued to be present for me, whispering suggestions and offering solutions, serving as Inlandia’s institutional memory.

Many of us have fond memories of Marion, and how she got us involved in promoting the Inland area’s literary life. We’ll share a few thoughts here from several Inlandia board members and local writers.

FRANCES J. VASQUEZ

Marion Mitchell-Wilson cared passionately about many things and all things Inlandia: the people, their stories, and the literary expression of our regional voices. Multi-talented, she was a wonderful gourmet cook who loved to share her bounty and her kindness with others.

One Friday, I helped Marion with preparations for an Inlandia member reception being held the next day. Her amazing menu included a favorite recipe for asparagus spears roasted with orange slices in lemon-infused olive oil and orange vinaigrette. And, a reconstructed whole poached salmon with cream cheese, cucumber sauces, and other delicacies.

During several hours of washing, peeling, and slicing fruits and vegetables, I spilled water on the kitchen floor. I asked for paper towels or rags to wipe the floor with. Marion, in her efficient way, quickly turned to a drawer and handed me a large cloth towel. I bent over to wipe the spills when Marion stopped me. “No, Frances. Don’t bend. Skate like this.”

Marion tossed the towel on the floor, stepped onto it with both feet and skated gracefully around her kitchen floor. We both laughed heartily and continued with the food preparations.

ELIO PALACIOS

I met Marion at last year’s Advisory Council workshop. My first impression was how unassuming she was considering the part she had played in creating and shaping Inlandia. And her love of and dedication to Inlandia was also very apparent as was her knowledge and wisdom.

KAREN RAE KRAUT

Marion and I met in 1990 when the California Humanities Council sponsored a series of public programs on the theme of “Place” and its effect on how we experience our lives. How’s that for foreshadowing?

Our expanding group of interested people went on to receive a grant from the Humanities Council to locally sponsor the American Renaissance Chautauqua, which resulted in the formation of a non-profit organization called the Inland Empire Educational Foundation. IEEF (rhymes with leaf), as we fondly called it, sponsored reading and discussion groups and public programs for the next five years.

Marion was an important part of all these free programs, and her vision and common sense contributed greatly to their success.

ELLEN ESTILAI

It was impossible to be part of the Riverside arts and culture scene and not know Marion Mitchell-Wilson, but I really got to know her after she invited me to a meeting with Malcolm Margolin at the Riverside Main Library to talk about the literary landscape of what we would eventually come to know as Inlandia.

That meeting helped lay the groundwork for Heyday’s book, “Inlandia: A Literary Journey through California’s Inland Empire.”

When the anthology was published, no one in the community wanted that journey to end. Marion was the engine that drove the bus, and she cajoled and sweet-talked fellow travelers into hopping on.

In 2007, I retired from the Riverside Arts Council to devote more time to writing. I was hoping for a respite from meetings and committees, but Marion was having none of that. She told me she wanted me to serve on the advisory council of a new organization, the Inlandia Institute.

“It’s just a few meetings a year,” she assured me. When I demurred, she said, “There will be liquid facilitation.”

I’ve now been in for eight years, as a council member and board member, but also as a writer. Luckily for me, the Inlandia Institute emerged just as I was learning to be a writer. I cannot imagine writing without Inlandia’s support. Like many others in this unique literary community, I am indebted to Marion for her vision, strength, and yes, occasional liquid facilitation.

ENDOWMENT

When Marion first learned the cancer had returned and was terminal, she met privately with Inlandia board members and staff, sharing her one big wish: that an endowment be founded in her name, so she could ensure the future of the organization.

In keeping with Marion’s wishes, the family is requesting donations in lieu of flowers.

Contributions can be made via PayPal, using donations@inlandiainstitute.org, through CrowdRise and by mailing a check to the Inlandia Institute, 4178 Chestnut St., Riverside, Ca., 92501.

And save these dates: Aug 28 for a memorial service at the California Citrus State Historic Park, and Sept 18 for a special endowment kickoff party in Marion’s honor at the Riverside Art Museum.