Christmas at the Haunted Mansion

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.

Vaile Mansion
The morning sun hits the mansion. I was just there a month ago, but even in so little time a lot had changed on the grounds. There were still flowers in bloom then, and water in the fountain. Now it looks like, well, winter. Go figure.

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?

Vaile Mansion
There are so many things I love about this mansion, but none more than the bold, dramatic mirrors placed throughout the home. Most are above mantels; this one is in the entry. Always beautiful, arrayed in Christmas lights, this mirror becomes a magical looking glass.

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…

Vaile Mansion
The main parlor. According to the tour guide, the “S” curve chair was ideal for courting. It was assumed that no one could get fresh if sitting in opposite directions. Fascinating theory. By the way, while all the furniture in the house is true to the period, none of the pieces are original to the house.
Vaile Mansion
A lovely little nook under the main staircase that, under normal circumstances, always looks a little lonesome to me. Here, it looks cheerful and festive.
Vaile Mansion
This sideboard/console is my favorite piece in the entire house. With a marble top, mirrored base, and a large mirror up top, it literally sparkles, even when it isn’t decorated for Christmas. This is directly opposite of the staircase shown above.
Vaile Mansion
Detail of the mirrored side board.
Vaile Mansion
Fireplace in another main floor parlor. This space has a more masculine feel to it.
Vaile Mansion
Parlor, with door leading into the dining room. The Christmas decorating scheme in this room had, as its central motif, the peacock. Blues and greens were the dominant colors in the palette. Beautiful!
Vaile Mansion
Detail of one of the displays. Exciting discovery: I own this same exact bird!! I purchased this bird (and its mate) at a local antique shop a few years ago. Sadly, this does not date back to the Victorian era; I still love it, though! My birds are sitting on the shelf of a large etagere in my TV room.
Vaile Mansion
Detail of the peacock tree. This tree had what looked like hundreds of decorated egg ornaments like the cameo egg pictured here. According to a tour guide, the woman who decorated this particular room made each egg by hand. Wow. Every egg was different, and very neatly and meticulously made.
Vaile Mansion
This is the one shot from the kitchen that came out OK. The light in here was really bright, which made picture taking difficult. The decor in this room was primarily blue, and many of the ornaments on the tree were kitchen themed, such as pretty little china cups and saucers.
Vaile Mansion
I didn’t count the number of Christmas trees that were in the house, but I overheard the tour guide say that they had fifty trees on the property. There were at least four in this bedroom alone. Incidentally, I’m crazy about the lace mesh bed cover. The minute I come across one of those at a shop I’m going to snap it up!
Vaile Mansion
Detail of dolls in the bedroom.
Vaile Mansion
I should have taken a better picture of the lamp here. It was a stunner. I’m always attracted to displays that feature glass; in this case the glass was from a cranberry colored lamp.
Vaile Mansion
Another bedroom.

Vaile Mansion

Vaile MansionDetail 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.

Vaile MansionAnother 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…

Jennifer Passariello

 

 

 

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *