By Lady Euphoria Deathwatch
There was a guillotine in the town of Fairview. It was left over from another era and resurrected from a local junkyard as a way to bring more tourists into town. The only easily accessible place that wasn’t already in use was a small empty lot on third street next to Sadie-Ann’s Bed and Breakfast. Sadie-Ann Miller was not pleased about this turn of events at all. She featured a country craft and cooking theme for families, and having a guillotine standing on the other side of her superbly manicured garden hedge made her ill. She had been on a crusade to have it torn down and junked once again.
She petitioned the mayor’s office, but the Chamber of Commerce of Fairview out voted her. After that she ran a series of fund raisers to have the thing encased in a building of some kind so it couldn’t be seen from the street or her property because her guests walked past it regularly to get to the ice cream shop across the street. This plan did go over well with the other merchants because the guillotine wouldn’t need as much money in the way of repair from the weather, it was less prone to being vandalized and a small ticket fee could be charged at the door to help pay for a caretaker and any needed upkeep thus practically eliminating a tax hike for the expense.
After months of planning and haggling by the town council a small, simple, yet old fashioned looking wooden building was built around The Patmore Guillotine and the town started to advertise that it could be seen in comfort year round. There was a picture of the one and a half story tall, one room building in the newspaper and on the website under ‘Interesting Attractions.’ Inside the building was large enough that the whole guillotine and its chest high platform, with its small flight of stairs, to fit nicely inside with room to walk around the base. On the outside there was an awning over a few benches to helped keep those waiting for the next tour, out of the sun or rain.
Mr. Dante Rancho, one of the retired town maintenance workers was hired to sell the tickets and give a talk on the known history of the Patmore Guillotine. This information was gathered together by the historical society headed, none other then Sadie-Ann Miller herself. After she had worked tirelessly to gather the information against the guillotine the town used the information to make an accurate historical presentation for the tours and printed it up in booklet form to sell at the souvenir stand inside. Sadie-Ann Miller was fit to be tied and threatened to sue. The information was the property of the historical society, but she did manage to have them stop using her name as author when the next printing came about.
This information along with a list of the names of the people known to have been executed by the guillotine was also posted on the inner walls. There were illustrations of it’s construction under framed plastic sheeting to make it last longer, for viewing. The same information was available on posters or postcards for sale as souvenirs along with mini guillotine pencil sharpeners. This netted more income for the small community as the visitors increased with the services at the guillotine and this pleased the tax payers.
Mr. Rancho would start the tour by tell the story of how the various men of the Patmore family took turns being the executioner with a hood over their head and a shapeless robe so no one in the town or surrounding countryside would really know who had been the person to execute the guilt party, and in that way the family of the executed had no one person to make their retaliations on should they feel the need. After Mr. Rancho imparted this information, he talked about the mechanics of the guillotine and how it had been made to work best for a left handed executioner. Then he would pull the rope and let loose the latch of the guillotine blade. He did this once an hour to punctuate the end of the tour.
The town went back to it’s peaceful existence well pleased with the amount of extra traffic and income from the sightseers. Well, it was almost peaceful.
In the mornings the lock on the door of the guillotine building was always found to be unlocked. The lock itself was changed and the new one was found unlocked in the mornings also. The mayor asked if the owner of the ice cream parlor across the street from the guillotine could have his outside camera moved to watch the guillotine building for a night or two until the culprit could be caught. The camera never saw anyone by the building much less the door itself even though it had a good view, yet the lock was still opened in the morning.
The police were of course involved and after no evidence was found they added a guillotine lock check to their nightly rounds. When they checked the door they found it locked throughout the night, but the door was found to be unlocked when checked again soon after dawn. A high tech firm was hired to install a lock with a timer that could be programmed to relock the door after sunrise each day. This worked for about a week until the sunrise time came after the door was to relock itself. The company who had installed the lock was unwilling to send anyone out weekly to change the settings as the time of sunrise changed through the seasons or give out the code to change it themselves, for as they said, ‘The policy didn’t cover maintenance against a ghost.’ and they had a hardy laugh before they hung up.
For a while the council had the school bus driver relock the door, but that didn’t work out after day light savings time was over and he was out on the road as the sun came up and busy with his route for the next few hours.
In the end they had to hire someone to come just before dawn to listen for the door to unlock and then they would relock the door. This someone had to be unafraid of ghosts and an early riser. A person hard to come by, so it came with a price. The mayor was getting frantic because this was costing more then the guillotine was bringing in as funds. The town merchants didn’t want the ticket fee to go up because they thought that no one would come to town to see it at all if they did. They also didn’t want it to get out that the door was being left unlocked in the mornings because they didn’t want ghost hunters, or anyone else, coming to town and get into the building causing possible damage to the town’s leading tourist attraction.
After a few days of relocking the door as soon as it was unlocked, the door was found unlocked again shortly after the relocking and at odd times through the night. Feeling undone by it all the out going mayor threw up his hands and said, “Let your next mayor take care of it. I‘m not running for reelection again.” and he walked out of the town hall meeting.
Sadie-Ann Miller was back to suggesting that the whole thing should be taken down lock, stock and barrel, but the word had gotten out about the ghost and business in town had never been so good. Everyone who came to town seemed to want to stay at the Sadie-Ann’s Bed and Breakfast so she didn’t try as hard as she had been to have it demolished, but mostly this was because she was just too busy to get to the town merchant meetings.
Ghost hunters came from all over the world setting up their equipment to try to capture evidence of the guillotine ghost. The media followed suit. Was it an executioner or a beheaded specter? The ghost hunters found that they got some readings, but nothing conclusive. All that happened was that the door would unlock itself night after night, while cameras, people and machines watched quietly on.
After a few months of testing by one group and then another, the outsiders left town and things started to settle down to what they had been before. Only a slight increase in out of town traffic from those looking to see if they could commune with the ghost and find out what it wanted was left of the ghost hunter craze.
The new mayor let it be known that some cameras would be installed and two would be facing the door at all times and a split screen of all the shots inside and out would be shown on a local TV channel and the internet at all hours of the day and night that the Guillotine was not open for business, so anyone at any time would be seen taking advantage of the situation and be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This meant that the anyone could see the guillotine on their computer thus reducing the revenue some what, but the mayor thought it a good compromise.
With the ghost left alone by human interference, dawn was reestablished as the unlocking time and the years marched on with the ghost never missing a day.
After Mr. Rancho decided he was getting too old for the job and wanted to move closer to his grandkids, someone else needed to be found to run the tours. The new trouble to Fairview’s Guillotine Association became that no one in town wanted to take the position. The job eventually went to a group of college students from a near by city, that between them all the hours and dates were covered. It worked out well until the one night when there was some mischief going on and the group lost their jobs for getting into the building and having a midnight séance without permission.
It wasn’t really the break in as much as the fact that they were drunk when they did it that was the issue. Drunk or not they all insisted that they had seen a small left handed person in black executioners cloak and hood with their black eyes glinting with what looked like tears through their mask standing with a gloved left hand on the blade latch pulley robe. The video showed none of the students were on the platform when the blade came down by itself. The students didn’t seem to care about being fired because none of them wanted to come back to work after that anyway.
Part 2 to Follow.