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Monday
Nov072011

The Legend of Tyree Manse

From Kincaid’s Gazetteer of Legendary Haunts

That there was an Elias Tyree, there seems little doubt. His name is on property records, legal papers, and contracts dating as early as 1840. The lack of a birth certificate suggests that he probably immigrated from some other country, but there’s no way to prove this. He must have been a man of considerable wealth, since he paid top dollar for his workers and materials, shipping in artisans from Europe to build his dream home. A few letters and one journal survive from those workers. All describe a taciturn, tall employer of few words and exacting standards. No one may have known much about Elias Tyree, but he definitely knew what he wanted.

There are no reports of him making direct contact with any of his employees after 1869, which is when the manse reached its current size and general shape. Although work continued on the interior for decades to come, the orders were always carried out according to plans and letters delivered by Tyree’s business managers and lawyers, none of whom ever left any records of their contact with him aside from the requisite legal and accounting forms. One lawyer, Malcolm Haught, wrote in his will that “Tyree’s folly built this firm and our lives, but has damned us all forever. I’m so sorry for that. So sorry.” The four sons to which this last testament was addressed never read it, all having died in a murder-suicide pact on the night Haught retired from his law firm. The old man lived on for another decade, never again leaving his Boston home.

In 1910, the house - which no one had ever been known to actually live in - was put on the market. By that time it had already claimed the lives of dozens of workers and developed a cursed reputation. Coming off an incredibly popular and profitable tour of America in 1912, British stage magician Howell the Great bought the Tyree Manse and declared he would “plumb its halls for secrets only someone of my profound magical ability could understand.” His 1913 nationwide tour, while even more profitable, was infamous for the dark themes of its illusions and the wake of suicides and accidental deaths it left in its wake as it steamed back and forth across the country. In 1914 an emaciated and wild-eyed Howell invited reporters and fellow magicians to join him at the manse for a preview of his new show. The soul survivor of that night, Althea Parker, never spoke or wrote a word again, but her chilling paintings portrayed scenes of endless violence, blood, and depravity. Neither Howell nor any of his servants or guests was ever seen again.

The building passed to Percy Howell, the missing magician’s nephew in England, who never visited America and allowed the cursed structure to languish unattended throughout World War One. In the 1920s bootleggers took up residence there, distilling rotgut alcohol and using the manse as a base for smuggling. Its secluded location and access to the sea may have accounted for the seven occasions on which bloody gunfights between warring mobsters took place. With the coming of the great depression, the Tyree Manse slid into further decline even as its reputation as a last stop for local children on dares and wandering hobos looking for shelter.

In ensuing decades both local and state governments attempted to seize the property through eminent domain, but legal maneuvers from far away London law firms and unexpected strokes, wasting diseases, and bouts of madness amongst government officials foiled all such efforts. The house settled firmly into its role as one of the most legend-haunted buildings in the country, accruing an ever-increasing list of supposed victims.

In 1953, a well-known Catholic priest proposed to exorcise the evil spirits from the place, but after spending three days there he declared the legends false and the entire manse “untouched by any sign of evil.” He was later elected to the College of Cardinals and suspected of complicity in the poisoning of Pope John Paul. In 1968 the psychedelic rock band The White Jacks recorded their album Revels Rue in the manse, which became a posthumous multi-platinum hit when all seven members of the band disappeared after turning the tapes over to their producer. Teenagers across the country played the album backward, searching for hidden messages. At least seventy-nine of them are known to have found them, with tragic consequences.

In 1975, the well known occultist and editor of the magazine New Aeon, Cynthia McTavish, was the first person to bring film cameras into the Tyree Manse, with plans to make a documentary film about the haunting there. A self-proclaimed medium, McTavish channeled Elias Tyree and led her film crew on a tour of the house, supposedly guided by the manse’s builder. Tyree-through-McTavish seemed extraordinarily garrulous and forthcoming during the ninety-minute interview. That and the fact that in many shots McTavish’s head seemed to transform into that of a red-eyed goat for several frames led many to conclude that her whole film was a fake, but she swore to her death in 1998 that the possession had been real and that the demonic goat-thing still caused her blackouts and lost time.

Real or not, the film’s success encouraged dozens of imitators in the decades since, although very few of them manage to escape from the manse with any usable footage. The building has a deleterious effect on recording devices of all kinds, including the human brain. In 2005, on the thirtieth anniversary of McTavish’s expedition, TV psychic Alan Theroux tried to repeat her feat and channel Elias Tyree during a live satellite broadcast from the grand ballroom. He’s rumored to have paid the Howell estate one million dollars for the rights. At first Elias seemed the same affable sort that McTavish had channelled, and spoke of hidden gold and other treasures buried in the basement. Right before the satellite feed suffered an unexplained interruption, Theroux’s tone changed, and in a booming voice he proclaimed “I AM GOG-MAGOG.” When the signal returned forty-seven seconds later, Theroux was gone along with all of his crew and staff. In his place stood a child of about seven years of age, who looked blankly at the camera for a full minute before walking off to the right.

Since that famous event, viewed live by millions, the reputation of the Tyree Manse has continued to grow. The mysterious Howell Family Trust refuses to comment, but its lawyers have vigorously resisted all attempts to seize the building. Several local religious groups have tried unsuccessfully to fire bomb the house, but the flames never seem to spread. Theroux’s mention of the treasure brings in a whole new class of explorers, people willing to risk everything for the hidden gold. Although surrounded by fences and alarms and even a local sheriff's deputy, those who want to always seem able to find a path in. Those that manage to find their way back out are seldom willing or able to return a second time.

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