Editorial note: This post is a follow-up to a post entitled Ghost Story at Kansas City’s Beautiful Haunted Mansion.
When I open the door and step across the threshold at Vaile Mansion in Independence, Missouri, I always feel as if I’m inserting myself into a drama that’s still unfolding. The setting is authentically Victorian, yet feels current. The ceilings appear to be freshly painted; the woodwork still shows its gloss; the furnishings—so perfectly right for the space—are in nearly pristine condition. If a house is capable of retaining the memory of those who lived there, Vaile Mansion’s memory seems a short one, as recent as yesterday afternoon. The air in the place might still carry the voices of the Vailes and their servants, or the sounds of cutlery on fine china in the dining room, or the swish-swish of full skirts down the length of the staircase. The setting casts a spell. Yesterday is not so long ago.
But of course, it was long ago. The Vailes, and everyone they ever knew, have been long dead. The house was built in 1881, before the Titanic set sail or the World Wars were fought. And now, well over a hundred years later, a blogger is crouching low in their parlor, trying to get the right angle for a detail shot of a fireplace screen. Time marches on.
When I wrote about my visit to Vaile Mansion back in October, I spoke of my “creepy feeling” at the house, particularly in what had been Mrs. Vaile’s bedroom on the second floor. The mansion is purported to be one of Missouri’s most haunted places. But there was no such creepiness when I visited today. The house was spectacularly beautiful, all decked out for Christmas. Every room had a tree heavy laden with ornaments, every mantel had an evergreen bough plump with ribbons and glittery picks. Christmas casts light on the shadows. Who can be afraid in a place where friendly-faced Santa dolls hold court? Each room was thematically different, having been decorated by a different designer. But while color schemes and motifs varied from room to room, every display was lavish and arrayed to take full advantage of the many gigantic mirrors throughout the home. In those mirrors, one fairy light became two; ten became a thousand. Is it any wonder I love mirrors?
Of all the posts I’ve published to date, none has prompted as many emails as the one I wrote last month about Vaile Mansion. Most people were interested in the stories of ghosts there. I’ve never encountered any. But a couple of people asked if I would show the house in color (the October post was in black and white). So…color it is! Each year, Vaile Mansion closes down right after Halloween in preparation for the Christmas season. It reopened the day after Thanksgiving. I got there just as they opened, mainly so I could avoid the crowds, which ended up being a good idea. By the time I left, there were three tours going at the same time, and at one point I was trapped between two of them and couldn’t reach the door. Unfortunately, getting there so early when the sun was low on the horizon and shining directly into the house made for some pretty harsh lighting. As a result, some pictures I thought would be really amazing ended up being washed out and dull. Still, what I have here might at least give you a feel for just how very pretty Vaile Mansion is at Christmas time. Let’s take the tour…
Detail of bedroom ceiling and extravagant tree topper. One thing I couldn’t get a good shot of was a fantastic large musical carousel that was playing on a table next to this tree. I took a hundred pictures of it, but because it was rotating, every one of them came out blurry. It was a wonderful piece.
Another lavish display playing up a grand mirror. This cinches it; I need more mirrors!
Vaile Mansion is featured in the book Christmas in Historic Houses, if you’d like to learn more. However, nothing quite compares to actually being there and walking from room to room and from our era to theirs. It’s well worth a side trip if you are traveling to the Kansas City, Missouri area.
Looking for Christmas gift ideas? Be sure to check out my 2017 gift picks for a little inspiration!
Until next time…