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Friday, May 18, 2018

Microstory 845: Trapdoors Galore

The Legend of Trapdoors Galore is something everyone in the county knows, but I’m not from around here. I found out because haunted houses, and other location-based mysteries are a passion of mind. I don’t believe in ghosts, or other supernatural occurrences, but I don’t go around debunking myths either. I just love researching the history behind these stories, and the superstitious beliefs people have for them. I’ve been wanting to come here for awhile now, but I only make so much money, and only have so much vacation time, so I have to be very choosy with every trip. Built in 1813, the mansion first served the wealthy family who founded the town of Rower, appropriately named for them. The Rowers were famous for being kind and compassionate people, even going so far as to purchase an abundance of slaves, for the express purpose of housing them. They used them as labor, but treated them well (read: equally), provided them gourmet food, and paid them competitive wages. Slaves technically built Rower, Missouri, but they did it while secretly independent. Townspeople today claim Rower was designed to become a haven for former slaves; fortified from foreign threats, and autonomous from the rest of the U.S. While this is a questionable assertion, the fact that the Rowers were abolitionists is undisputed. Whenever an employee wanted to quit their job, the Rowers gave them a handsome severance package, and helped them travel farther northwards, to avoid southern backlash. After the end of the war, the entire project was abandoned, and Rower eventually began to suffer from the same population decline as any other small town. No longer with the need for so much space, the family downsized to a smaller house, and later generations started flocking to the big cities with everybody else. No Rower lives anywhere near the area. Decades later, in order to revitalize the town, and try to attract some tourism, a descendant returned to her roots, and started a massive remodeling effort on Rower Manor, hoping to establish Trapdoors Galore as what would have surely been the world’s first ever escape room. Unfortunately, the spending ran a bit too much higher than the budget, and the building was once again left to rot. Her daughter grew up and attempted to convert it to a museum to showcase its history, but she grew tired of the work, and gave up too.

Now it remains alone on the hill, cordoned off, and forbidden to be entered by trespassers. I’m pretty determined, though, so I recruit a horde of crazy townies, and sneak in under cover of darkness. It’s even larger and harder to navigate than I thought it was. I’m even considering the possibility that it exists in another dimension, like some kind of 1940s police box, and it’s literally bigger on the inside. We quickly find ourselves lost, and soon after that, we’re separated. While Trapdoors Galore never opened, it was meant to be self-sufficient, requiring little setup from any staff members. Apparently the Rower descendant was further along with the engineering than anyone knew, because walls would move, and actual trapdoors would drop us to dark windowless rooms. The few brave souls I managed to stick with and I just keep going, trying not to panic. We have no doubt we’ll find an exit before we die of starvation, so we’re even trying to have a little fun. There’s never been any gossip about ghosts, or demons, but it still feels creepy, and then we start hearing someone come after us. None of us can agree what the sound sounds like, or where exactly it’s coming from, and this only reinforces some of our concerns that it’s not human. We start running through the rooms, desperate to get out of there, all the while fairly certain that what we’re worried about is completely in our imaginations. We meet up with a couple other people experiencing the same fears of being chased, so we decide to circle the wagons, and fight, if it comes to that. They’re standing in a circle, insisting on keeping me as safe as possible in the center, since I’m a visitor. A woman none of us recognizes casually bursts into the room from a trapdoor no one noticed, holding a candle. She’s wearing an anachronistic outfit, and just has this look about her that screams she’s from the past. She also looks exactly like the famed matriarch of the founding Rower family, Marthanna. She looks directly at me and says, “Lois Vivianne Rower.” My name is Lois Vivianne, but I am not a Rower, as far as I know. “We have been waiting for an heir to show up ever since King Dumpster was elected president. We think it may be time to start the Rower Haven Project. Your friends can help us too.” As we’re standing there, stunned, people begin to materialize around the room, wearing similar outdated garb, and smiling. Most of them are black. “Meet the rest of your family.”

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