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Monday
Oct192015

Thirteen Octoberish Pilgrimages

For the past couple of years, I've written posts about things Octoberish: books, movies, and music that put me in a pleasurably melancholy mood. I'm not much for Halloween itself, but I do love the mystery and sehnsucht that (for me) herald autumn. Think more Misty Mountains than Mordor, if you get my drift. 

Christian (above, in a photo taken by his friend, Emily) asked me whether I was going to do an Octoberish post this year. I had to think hard about what I'd list this time, having previously covered the most obvious ground. Then it hit me: pilgrimages. What could be more Octoberish than being a stranger in a strange land? Below, I'll list evocative, forlorn places around the world that I'd like to visit. I decided I wouldn't include any place I've already been, like Tintern Abbey or Eureka. The yearning is part of the fun. 

 

Château de Gudanes

Sometime last year, I first read about this castle, located in a remote corner of southwestern France; I've been following it on Instagram ever since. An Australian family bought the abandoned château a few years ago and is now in the process of painstakingly restoring it. Every photo they post could inspire a book.

 

Aokigahara

Japan's "haunted forest of death": need I say more? No, really: go read about it. Freaky.

 

Zverglgarten, Salzburg, Austria

Another location that needs little explanation, this 18th-century garden filled with statues modeled after real dwarves at the Mirabell Palace is clearly an ideal setting for a creepy children's series. To my mind, the statues are just this side of clowns and marionettes.

 

Elephanta Caves, India

Located on an island near Mumbai, these caves filled with ornate sculptures that date to the fifth century AD are now a UNESCO World Heritage site. I love this photo, taken in the 1870s. Indiana Jones should have explored this place.

 

Detroit, Michigan

Nope, not prosaic in the least. My son James once said, "There are only two things to do in Detroit: meet Eminem and get shot." Despite his (widely shared) pessimism, Detroit fascinates me. I'm not alone; it's recently been the filming location for several post-apocalyptic or horror films. The link above leads to much more photographic goodness. 

 

Noisy Castle, Belgium

After spending a fortune on it, the Liedekirke-Beaufort family only occupied their opulent summer home for about forty years. During World War II, it briefly housed German troops, and actual combat took place on its grounds during the Battle of the Bulge. In the 1950s, it became a convalescent home for children, but was abandoned sometime thereafter. (Think of the possibilities, ghost-wise.) Now there's a struggle between the department of Celles, which wants to preserve the building, and the castle's current owners, who threaten to demolish it. Perish the thought.

 

The Louisiana Bayous

The bayous have given rise to countless urban legends, folktales, and ghost stories. And then there are the alligators. I don't know what autumn is like in Louisiana, but I'd love to find out.

 

Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland

Unsurprisingly, I haven't been able to avoid heavy inclusion of the British Isles on my list. Among the many places I'd love to visit in Erin are Moore Hall, where the photograph for the cover of Dispirited was taken, and the twisty, fabulous Dark Hedges.  

 

Devil's Bridge, Ardino, Bulgaria

I could do an entire blog post on the many so-called Devil's Bridges the world over, but this is my current favorite. Ardino looks to be pretty much in the middle of nowhere, which makes it all the more appealing for my purposes.

 

Castell Coch, Wales

Apparently, untold wealth + several centuries = Octoberish for me, though the portion of this massive Welsh castle visible is only about a hundred years old. As if I needed another reason to visit Tongwynlais

 

Svartifoss, Iceland

Its name means "Black Fall." Its uniqueness derives from those natural hexagonal pillars of crystalline lava that flank the waterfall itself. Remote and peaceful, it looks like a place Merlin would have loved. 

 

The Isle of Skye

There's the haunting "Skye Boat Song." And the legends of "The Old Man of Storr." Everything I know about Skye speaks of melancholy and what C.S. Lewis called "northernness." 

The Yorkshire Moors

Undoubtedly in an effort to attract tourists, the official website makes the moors look sunny and bright. But Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, The Secret Garden, Nicholas Nickleby, and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell tell us otherwise, don't they? Don't be fooled by modern propaganda; the moors are a place where anything magical and mysterious might happen. 

Oooh, now I have all kinds of story ideas humming through my head. I'd better finish this and go write them all down in my idea journal before they fade away. I'm much indebted to the brilliant website Atlas Obscura for some of the details and images above; if you want to lose an hour or four, follow the link.

What melancholy place most strikes your fancy?

Reader Comments (4)

What fascinating places! All is not bleak in Yorkshire in October though. Yesterday I peeled and stewed another few pounds of apples from the garden, and today the sun was hot and the day was beautiful. Remember, you're more than welcome to come to stay and explore the moors from here.

October 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLemongrass

Don't crush my dream, dear Lemongrass. ;) And rest assured: someday we will descend upon you and do just that.

October 19, 2015 | Registered CommenterLuisa Perkins

Gorgeous and evocative!
Here's a haunted, melancholy desert place for you (Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park):

http://www.nps.gov/media/photo/gallery.htm?id=FF5C3901-155D-451F-67834E810684AF7A

October 20, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLee Ann

Oh, Lee Ann. That's definitely going on my list. Thanks!

October 20, 2015 | Registered CommenterLuisa Perkins

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