Tuesday, April 12, 2022


For lovers of Historical Fiction, Action and Adventure and Biographical Fiction.  

Both books are available on Amazon. Take advantage of the "Click Page" for a "Free" sample read.

For Amazon readers' reviews, click on the book cover, then scroll to the bottom of that page to see the reviews.  

For chapter previews from In Search of the Cannibal King, scroll down my blog to the post: Chapter Previews.   

Monday, October 11, 2021



Something tells me you're reading my blog because you like an adventure. Especially when it doesn't require you leave the comfort of your home to have one! If that's the case, then you will want to follow a man on an incredible journey from New England's civilized society to the remote and uncivilized Marquesas Islands— beginning in 1845.
Was it fate that caused this young adventurer to leave his home behind and live among a tribe of cannibals? Or was it something else?

AVAILABLE: Amazon Prime, Paperback Prime, Google play, iBookstore, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and Kobo.

Monday, June 28, 2021






Old Royal typewriter for those first words.

Letter from the English author.

Old diaries and the ship's log.

I HAD THE SOUTH PACIFIC STORIES. Everyone I told the partnered stories to over the many decades said that they needed to be written. Many, wearing startled expressions after they heard the stories, exclaimed, “MOVIE!” Above all, I knew they were stories that HAD to be told. But I needed an author.

IN THE FALL OF 1993, a female friend from the U.S.—with whom I had shared those stories—was travelling on a river boat in Thailand (see letter above).  While on deck, she met an Englishman.  During the course of their conversation he shared his love of the South Pacific with her.  She, in turn, enthusiastically shared my South Pacific stories.  It just so happened that the man was an author and my stories sparked his interest.

THE UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES around this author finding me after he returned from his trip to Thailand, is, in and of itself, another story. Short version: The English author was eager to write what he referred to as a “fascinating” story. When we could not reach an amicable agreement, he gave up his pursuit and suggested that I write the story. “No one has the passion that you do,” he said that last time we spoke across the miles

REALLY? ME...WRITE A BOOK? The Englishman was right about one thing. I did have the passion. But how would I go about undertaking such a daunting task?

WRITING, I DISCOVERED in those early days, was like gourmet cooking.  I had to come up with a great recipe. Then, I had to assemble all the right ingredients to make it a pleasing dish. Finally, I had to invite the guests to partake of it; guests I hoped would like it enough to ask me to share my recipe.

I HAD MANY OF THE INGREDIENTS…but not all of them.  It required  special ingredients to bring those unique stories to life. So began my thirty year adventure. I dug deep (real deep) and uncovered old letters and diaries and documents for the spice. I found others’ accounts of their experiences, adding them for that perfect blend. It was an arduous task, one that came with its share of excitement and often brought the unexpected. It certainly stirred the adventurer in me, inspiring me to wander the world’s exotic pantries for that finishing touch.

WITH ALL THE INGREDIENTS ASSEMBLED, I took the English author’s advice and embarked upon my writing journey in 1994, writing the first line on my (above) old Royal typewriter from the 1940s. Needless to say, I quickly replaced it with a word processor (why use an old word burning stove  when there’s a state of the art oven to make it easier). Eight years and countless hours later I had written two complete manuscripts. To whom should I present those manuscripts? And how should I go about it? Remember, I was a novice.

MY UNSUCCESSFUL PUBLISHING JOURNEY BEGAN IN 2002. Eagerly, those literary folks came to my table. They liked the dish, each wanting to alter my recipe to suit their individual taste. But that's another long story. Short version: In 2003— still unpublished—I placed the manuscripts upon a shelf, never once letting go of my conviction that one day that right person would come along and present my stories to the world.

In MARCH OF 2020 A PIRATE SHIP threatened to take the world on a perilous journey—with me on board (that ship was finally named Covid 19). I thought at the time… Where can I go while I’m on this unknown course? My inner voice replied, “The South Pacific.” I immediately went to the shelf, blew away seventeen-years-worth of dust and resurrected the manuscripts.  I felt that the time was right. And that person waited. I knew exactly what to do this time.

TWO REVISIONS AND NINE MONTHS LATER I telephoned a literary agent/author friend and told her I was ready to introduce the two South Pacific stories. Having joined me on my writing journey earlier on she said, “I know just the lady!”

 ON JANUARY 8, 2021, that "right" person called me and said, “I am intrigued by your stories.  I want to publish them.”  It just so happens that was my birthday. And what a birthday gift that was!

AS FOR THE SOUTH PACIFIC STORIES: In Search of the Cannibal King hit the market May 26, 2021. Cannibal King will hit the market October, 2021. 

NOW I HAVE BEGUN A NEW JOURNEY!  Where this one will lead me?  ONLY TIME WILL TELL!  

TO MY FELLOW WRITERS: NEVER give up your dream.  Even if it takes years to realize it.  


What would cause a man to leave the civilized world behind and live out his life among cannibals?






Saturday, June 12, 2021

In Search of the Cannibal King - Chapter Previews

TO MY READERS:  Stay tuned to this post.  I will periodically add more chapter previews. Just scroll down the page to see what's new. 

Early Marquesan 

Marquesan Tapa from the island of Fatu Hiva 


My Introduction to the Cannibal King

 Peering over his shoulder, I managed to see the protruding edge of a newspaper revealing the words Yankee Cannibal King.

From the far-off Marquesas in the Southern Pacific comes news of the death of John Rumell, long a Yankee King of cannibals.

...the time to dig deep into this man's mysterious and thought-provoking life would have to wait until my shoes were well-worn and ready to walk along my ancestor's path.


The Remote Marquesas Islands

One afternoon, Derek and I walked into a travel agency to begin the first stage of our adventure.

The agent squirmed in her chair and wrinkled her brow when I read the part about Rumell's comrades being eaten by cannibals.

With a departure date and flight arrangements out of the way, I could now get down to some serious research.

Question was, where do I begin?

        CHAPTER 3

         The Mormon Library

According to the newspaper article, a Mormon missionary had written a letter of salutation to Rumell's sister...

As luck would have it, there was a small branch of the Mormon Library in Charleston..."

She went directly to a part that revealed a microfilm...

Should I even dare to hope that the manuscript would reveal information about the mysterious Cannibal King?


The Family History Center's Surprise

Dialing the History Center, I paced the floor...

"The church does not give out that information over the phone."

"Would it matter that I am a relative of the Cannibal King that may be the subject of the manuscript?"

I felt the short hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. "So it's possible that these missionaries also kept diaries?"


The Pacific's Volcanic Wonders

...early inhabitants of the Marquesas were not only cannibals and warriors...

Theirs was a custom of strict taboos, in addition to worshiping stone idols.

My discovery that Herman Melville (Moby Dick) and John Rumell had both resided in the Marquesas in the 1840s, in an era described as one of savagery and cannibalism...


News From the History Center

"Nanine, I've found information regarding the manuscript..."

"The church records indicate that in 1974, the grandson of the missionary, Edgar Lafayette Ellsworth, allowed the center to make copies of several volumes..."

"Wait! I have more information regarding the missionary, Eli Walton..."

"According to our records, Eli Walton had four children..."

"Two spinster daughter living in Ogden, Utah."

"Did Walton keep any diaries?" 


    A Call to Dr. Ellsworth

There was an awkward silence. "For what reason do you have for inquiring about my grandfather's diaries?"

"I gathered my composure around his suspicion...."

He hesitated for a moment, breathing into the phone in a way that hinted trepidation.  "There are no guarantees that I'll even find anything regarding your relative."


An Unexpected Phone Call

"My grandfather writes that Mr. Howard is a tattooed Bostonian who tells him how difficult life was for him...   He also shares with him part of his fascinating story."

"He came here when he was just a young man,  and in a short time, became infatuated with a princess..."

"I think we've found your Cannibal King.  The question is, my dear, are you serious about pursuing your relative's incredible story?"


Petunia Penelope Pletzenbaum

"My father spoke little about his mission, but I knew about the tattooed man..."

" Well I just know of one (diary) but there might be others in his missionary trunk in the basement."

"Oh dear... Jennie would be so angry if she knew I told you about Papa's trunk.  She allows no one to look at our father's missionary things."


A Letter Buried Away

Then, as I neared the end of the book, I found two letters sandwiched between the brittle and yellow pages. It was an amazing find...

Rumell sailed on the whaling ship Starita...

"I saw it in the captain's own handwriting on parchment paper. John H. Rumell, deserted February 10, 1847."

If Rumell deserted on the friendly Hawaiian islands, how is it he ended up on the shores of the Marquesas  Islands?



A Seaman's Letters

The caller introduced himself as the senior curator of the Old Dartmouth Whaling Museum...  

"...there are seven letters. I must warn you that the letters contain graphic details of cannibalism."

"I checked the Starita's log. The first mate noted he found the bow boat gone with six crew members: Rumell was among them."


Salt Lake City

"Those are the copies of the pages from my grandfather's diaries..."

It was 10:15, which meant we had nearly seven hours to pour over the fourteen volumes.

The moment we wound our first piece of film, we felt like treasure hunters, sifting through the sands of time... both hoping that Mr. Howard - the confirmed John Rumell - would, at some point, lay bare in the sifter.


CHAPTER 13    

Mr. Howard

When my reading took me to the excerpt where Ellsworth called in on the "tattooed Bostonion" the skin on my scalp drew taught and tingled.

Mr. Howard was young and foolish and because of his act banished himself forever...


The Walton Sisters

Joyce squared her shoulders, allowing a hint of a smile to ease through her frustration. "Well...I know you want to read papa's diaries..."

The animal sound roared from the kitchen..."Oh dear, I must ask Jennie."

Derek breathed heavily with excitement, opening the lid with a trunkful of treasures from a missionary's past.

Peeling back layers of old newspaper, he exposed the trunk's belly, where a little red diary crept out from beneath its wood shavings.


The Final Hour

I fumbled in the dark for my notes and the copies of the twenty-nine pages of Walton's diaries  and slipped quietly into the only room that offered privacy.

He wrote: The man called Howard bears the burden of his pain entirely on his own.


The Last Leg of the Journey

I tore open the envelope and looked in awe at the enclosed letters...

I said, "... John Rumell kept his life a secret...The story of his affair with a princess was all anyone on Nuku Hiva knew..."


The Adventurous and Daring Rumell

The adventurous Rumell was all to eager to sign up for the rigors of life on a whaling ship.

Trouble plagued the captain and officers when they discovered that John Rumell made his first escape attempt...

The first mate came on deck and discovered that the bow boat was gone along with six members of the crew.

There was concern over the cannibal tribes living deep within its valleys.


Escape and the Start of a New Life

John's letter....with its revealing contents surrounding his escape...

Their plan was foiled when John was found and captured by French soldiers...

Perhaps it was a strange attraction held by danger and the unknown that drove John Rumell to place himself in the midst of native onlookers with hostile stares that fateful day in 1847... 

He witnessed all manner of barbaric acts where others were killed and cannibalized before his very eyes. 

What was his secret to survival when others had perished alongside him.



Life After Hiva Oa

He wore only a loincloth to hide his nakedness.

1881...A letter from his favorite sister did not set well with Rumell...it forced him to visit a life he'd long since forgotten and left him buried in regret.

He told his sister that he could not disgrace her home with his ugly disfigured face...


Rumell's Last Written Words

He expected the (French) authorities to call on him any day and force him to serve out his term...

If the French discovered his real name....what unpleasant circumstances would he face.


What Was John Rumell's Real Story?

He looked like a native.  One side of his face was tattooed in native designs and he had the swarthy copper color like the islanders. 

One question lingered.  Did the memory of John Howard Rumell, Yankee King of Cannibals live on in the Marquesas?

With two tickets to the South Pacific, Derek and I were about to go to that part of the world where it all began.  



Arrival in the South Pacific

As we neared the island of Nuku Hiva, mountains with deep, verdant valleys indented with long and narrow bays came into view.

In the midst of the already unusual and unexpected, a native girl's breast escaped the side of her native wrap and remained in view...Derek looked at me with a raised eyebrow.

Nearing the village where a road circled alongside the bay, I dared to imagine an encounter with the tattooed old Bostonian, Mr. Howard.



Wolfgang had a sly grin and bushy eyebrows that rose to perfect peaks. 

Before long, an engaging Derek held Wolfgang captive with the Cannibal King story...

"So, Wolfgang, you are an outsider, like us.  What makes you think you can get information regarding Nanine's relative?"

"...we will start the gossip that you are here.  It will spread quickly."


Taiohae, Nuku Hiva Marquesas

"This relative of yours...He was a man of great mystery.  The princess, the tattooing, maybe a leader, changed identity."

Wolfgang said with a gleam in his eye, "I see these people like you two. Hold on to your seats, my friends, you are in for quite the ride."



Josephine was an armed officer with the French police.  I was immediately drawn to her.

"What is the name of your tattooed relative?  Maybe here there are some half-blood relatives to you. I can find this for you. There is the city hall with the old papers. I will take you to there."


The Monsignor

"Who calls?"

"The Americans for their one o'clock audience," Wolfgang replied.

The monsignor was polite, attentive, reserved in his replies, and expressionless; that is until Wolfgang went on stage with the Rumell story...causing the Monsignor to squirm uncomfortably in his chair, and change his crossed leg from right to left.

When the Monsignor learned that I was looking for information regarding Rumell's life, he showed a keen interest and offered to look through the old church records for anything relevant.



A Bumpy Ride

Josephine said, "Nanine, this is my friend, Pierre."

The Frenchman's skin was tanned to a golden brown, showing off every blond hair, including the stray hairs that trailed down his neck and curled around his earlobes.  Bright blue-green eyes flashed and twinkled from a face that needed no help. 

When I glanced at Pierre, his sparkling blue eyes looked at me in a way that made my face flush.

Josephine said, "Today is the birthday of Tahia. I think you and Derek must go and see how we Marquesans make the party."

Tahia's eyes flashed their approval when Josephine told her that the handsome man she had observed earlier at the Moana Nui was my husband.


Paper Lanterns

The night was a moonless black, lit only by the paper lanterns flickering dimly on the porch of Tahia's house.

Inside a candlelit room, our hostess (Tahia) cast only a quick glance in my direction, showing an unhesitating admiration for her new male guest with eager arms and a prolonged kiss. Locked in her embrace, Derek simply shrugged in submission.

An old leather-skinned man with faded tattoos commenced beating a drum and chanting.  There came a breathless moment, all eyes upon a young woman with undulating hips shuffling barefoot into the room. She married her movements to each drum beat, pausing, thrusting, and writhing in a display that mesmerized all that watched her.  

When the empty floor was filled with couples crushing their bodies tightly against one another, Pierre sauntered over and held out his hand.  Unable to deny a strong attraction that was drawing me to him, all inhibition was given over to the moment.

A strong breeze whistled through the window of our bungalow. Derek breathed softly beside me. 

I felt myself being swept away by a culture that dictated pleasure in all forms. "Are you feeling what I am?"

He said through a long and languid sigh, "Mmm... this place...it... has a hold of me. I feel myself floating on an incoming tide of pleasure."




It was rumored that the old man behind the counter was the richest man on the island.  If this were true, and the old man behind the newspaper were Maurice, his skid-row appearance was misleading.

Maurice wiped the sweat from his face; his eyes drifted off in a pensive stare. "There are many relatives....but they all living on island of Ua Pou; all except..."


The Dreaded French Infirmary

In spite of my earlier plea, Derek had resisted medical attention, ... that insidious rash had spread to other parts of his body. 

A look of alarm came over the doctor's face. "When did this rash begin, Monsieur?"

The color left Derek's face and fear took hold. "If my lungs are infected, then what?"


Mayor Puhatini and the Old Cannibals

It was surreal... there I was, in another century, on a remote island, staring at an old document, further confirming that John Howard Rumell really had been there.

I said, "That period from 1849 when he submitted to the painful tattooing custom and was living with the cannibals was a time he wanted to bury."

Derek said, "As we both know, Nanine, John Rumell was a branded man both physically and emotionally."

The mayor gave me a reassuring smile, "Josephine told me the story of John Howard, and that you are here because of this man. Many descendants live on the island of Ua Pou. Monsignor Cleace knows much about the old culture. He can help you..." 



A Step Back in Time

Where the road leveled out and sliced its way through the jungle, we were rewarded with the long, narrow inlet of Taipivai. There, where a thick jungle cast swaying shadows upon a gray pebbled beach,  I imagined it to be the same place where whalers and seafarers alike fell victim to the savage inhabitants known as the Taipis.

In the midst of indescribable beauty, I could not help but feel a wild pulse emanating from the native tattooed descendants of cannibals seated in a circle far down the inlet....



Leontine stood frozen in her spot, speechless and wide-eyed, trying to process what she had just been told.

Leaving the counter momentarily, she reappeared carrying an open purse, removing from its contents a tattered hand-written document.

Amazing though it was, I had just made another discovery.


A Quiet Place

How strange it felt standing on the ground that held the closely guarded secrets of a tormented man.  

My imagination was about to place me in harm's way.  

I asked Leontine, "Can we look inside the prison?"


A Descendant of Cannibals Remembers

Maurice stood over me kicking little divots in the sand with his thong. 

"What was it like on Nuku Hiva during Mr. Howard's time in the eighteen-hundreds?"

"The people, they start to go back to the old ways.  Be cannibals all over again."


Hakaui and the Ua Falls

I gasped at the sight of the jagged perpendicular rocks that rose thousands of feet.  In the distance, a plateau sent a ribbon of rippling white foam plummeting into a dark canyon. The drumming roar of the Hakaui River punctuated the sight in that land that time had forgotten.

We climbed over huge boulders, down through a crack in the rocks, inside the dimly lit chamber filled with the thunderous sound of the waterfall...  



Monsignor Cleace

Streams of sunlight penetrated the panes of glass in a cozy sitting room leaving yellow trails across the floor and furnishings.  Monsignor Cleace, the elder Bishop of the Marquesas Islands, was easily identified by the cross embroidered over the left pocket of his crisply starched shirt. A squatty and nearly bald (all but a tiny strip of fuzz that traveled his pate from ear to ear) man sat across from him, gripping a cardboard tube.

The monsignor rose from his armchair and introduced the Chinese man as John Rumell's adoptive grandson and namesake, Kihi.

I replied through a rising excitement, "No doubt Josephine has told you the reason why I have requested an audience with you today?"

The Monsignor knew why we had come and answered warmly, "You wish for me to ask Kihi about his grandfather, John Kihi Rumell."  

The Monsignor turned his attention to Kihi, addressing him in Marquesan.


A Serendipitous Moment

I said, "Your Excellency, some time ago, I contacted the Mormon Church in search of information on two missionaries who knew Rumell during their mission on Nuku Hiva in 1899. Subsequent to my inquiry, the church discovered a handwritten manuscript on the Marquesan language authored by the two missionaries.

The news had the Monsignor on the edge of his chair at the same moment he pled, "Oh, Madame, you have no idea how this undiscovered manuscript could enhance my studies."


An Emotional Farewell

That morning of our departure a heavy heart ached with sadness. 

Derek flew in the door to the bungalow, his face flushed with anger. "Bad news. The muscles in his jaw bunched. "The mail boat we're due to take in an hour, has broken down and is sitting in the bay near the airport.  There goes our transportation."

Josephine poked her head out the truck window and yelled, "The rain washed out the roads, and no Land Rover goes. I talked to Kahti's father and he will take you to the bay. When you get there, my friend with the Jeep will drive you to the airport." 

I shrugged and clenched my teeth in dread. "You won't believe this."



The Main Road Fades From Sight

Pushing the throttle into gear, Henry sped off, leaving Josephine waving at us from the shore as Mr. Howard's main road faded from sight.

When we finally arrived at our destination, the only vehicle in sight was the crippled mail boat...

A black Jeep sped into the bay, coughing up a huge brown dust cloud as it screeched to a stop.

With only twenty-five minutes left before the plane was due to take off, we were in another race against the clock, with the driver pushing the accelerator to the floorboard. 

The driver approached the curve at high speed; it was sharp and blind.



I heard the grinding roar of the dirt bike's tailpipe seconds before the bike came into view. 

Terror struck every fiber of my being. God this isn't happening. Have we killed him?

Nothing could block out that terrifying vision, even the final glimpse of Nuku Hiva as the plane curved around the last stretch of coastline.

The pilots made a soft landing on a grass runway, taxiing a short distance to the small airport.  When the engines ground to a halt, we disembarked into the sunlight and the warm, tropical ambiance of Hiva Oa.

"I am Amelie, your hostess, and I welcome you to Hiva Oa."

"This is our last stop on the Marquesas.  I can only hope that this place where Rumell's island story began will reveal something."


Land of the Savage

Derek spoke with his head down, signing the traveler's checks. "We are looking for an employee of the bank named Madeleine."

"Unfortunately, many of the people on the island died from disease, famine, and wars, so going back and finding anyone with information could be very difficult. However, there is an old woman living here that is a descendant of one of our cannibal chiefs. Perhaps she could know something that could be useful regarding your relative."

My mind wandered.  Gauguin lived here during Rumell's time.  Was it possible that Gauguin had heard about Rumell?

Comparing Rumell with Gauguin, I discovered that Gauguin was also fascinated by the savage, which spoke to the darker side of both men's nature. 


Hinahia Titiienui

I shook my head vehemently. "The princess was his love. I believe the other women were substitutes and easy to love and leave according to the custom. And the child did not obligate him to remain with Hinahia."

Derek was aghast with mouth opened wide. "But how is it that you didn't tell me about such an important account of Rumell?"


Traitor's Bay

Awaiting word from Madeleine, Derek and I decided to visit the island's archaeological 
 sites remaining from the cannibal era.

The more we traipsed along that rutted road, the deeper into the confines of the jungle we went. All the while Rumell's savages crept into my consciousness, and a suffocating jungle heat wrapped me in a blanket of humidity. 

I peered at the small openings in the trees to see dark clouds billowing across the sky, and a prickle of fear caused the skin on my forearms to tighten. "I  don't want to get lost and get caught in a storm in the middle of a jungle." 



All was not quite finished.  One last player, who would add to the cast of dozens,  promised to help write the ending to my story.

That player's name was Marita...

The question could wait no longer. "John Howard or Kihi, does she recognize either of those names, Amelie?"  I took Marita's hand in mine, feeling the fingers twitch.






Sunday, May 2, 2021









I could not walk in my ancestor's shoes...I could only trace his footsteps and walk the paths that he once trod.



SYLVIE ("Who drew me to her with large sympathethic eyes") AND DEREK


(notice the boar's tooth!)





















Tuesday, June 25, 2019




In 1996, after nearly a century of service, the once-bustling Charleston Naval Complex wrote its final chapter.

During a visit to Charleston in 2010, a friend who is well-aware of my adventurous spirit suggested I pay the old navy base a visit.  Although it was not a sight charted on Charleston’s history trail like downtown Charleston, or a place that could arouse that part of me that loves to walk into the past, I decided it worthy of a quick stop since it was on the way to my planned destination.



      I recognized the entrance to the base by the familiar brick guard station marking the entrance. In the absence of uniformed guards with white gloved hands held up in a halt, I felt the pervading emptiness commingle with an uninviting scene in the foreground. I stopped the car beside the empty station in contemplation, Do I really want to waste my time? I'm here. Why not.
       I made a left turn and drove along the same road where government-issued vehicles used to claim the pavement.  Row after row of vacant and neglected industrial-type buildings that once echoed with the sound of noisy typewriters and upper-ranking officers issuing orders was all that marked the depressed landscape. 
       Although the scene was ghostly, there was no denying a lingering ambience that was exaggerated by the abandoned hunks of rusting steel, towering shipyard cranes, and

crisscrossed railroad tracks that seemed to go nowhere. And there were those buildings with the big bold numbers that suggested they once housed something Top Secret, and were meant for Security Personnel OnlyThese buildings all ran into another, leaving little doubt that there was anything in the way of interesting architecture. Maybe my friend's recommendation isn't a fit for this "intrepid" traveler as she suggested.
      Just as I was about to exit the complex and head downtown a massive building standing alone on a corner - identified as the POWER HOUSE - diverted my attention from the traffic light where I was about to exit.  Even in its neglected state, an appearance of ageless grandeur suggested that the building had found its roots in European architecture. Being a lover of Europe and a descendant of Venetians, the building sparked my interest. 
     The light turned green. I checked the rear view mirror for cars and hesitated. Hmm, maybe I should explore a little more and see what's at the end of the road.   

       An eighth of a mile down that monotonous road I crossed over the same railroad tracks, which trailed off in another direction and disappeared from sight. Ahead, the boring and cold landscape that had nearly caused my hasty exit softened to a meandering lane lined on either side with graceful moss-laden crepe myrtle trees and old live oaks. Interesting.  Is this still part of the base?    
       Since the  scene warranted it-- and no one objected when I pulled the car onto a lawn behind the crepe myrtles-- I took the liberty of shooting several pictures and named the street Crepe Myrtle Lane.     

     The only inkling that I might have come to another area of the base, possibly residential, was the old white house with an awning-covered screened porch that seemed to creep out of the WWII era.  In the absence of any signage I could only venture a guess as to what lie beyond Crepe Myrtle Lane. Suddenly that did not seem important, for I was immensely gratified by the rays of light shooting through the avenue of crepe myrtle trees creating elongated shadows across the lane and tinting the Spanish moss in soft shades of silver.   I can always return and follow the railroad tracks if Crepe Myrtle Lane leads to nothing illuminating.

      At the end of the lane I stopped at a sign with a painted red arrow directing cars around an island of live oaks boasting a century or more of growth. WOW! 
     There was no guessing then that I had just entered the naval military residential area, an area  that could easily have been inspiration for an artist's canvas depicting the old south. This is incredible! The only thing missing is a plantation house.

       I paused in silent reverence, staring through the windshield at curled moss swaying like long strands of hair in the breeze, while splashes of sunlight settled in soft patterns on the ground.  It was as if Mother Nature had smiled upon that special place, leaving it for someone to ponder its past. And in the empty silence, it seemed that someone was me.   

      My curiosity was peaked.  I drove around the island of giant oaks and parked the car on a grassy spot, answering an urgent call to set out on foot and explore my surroundings. I strapped the camera around my neck (meant some serious photo shooting)and began the trek over a narrow sandy roadway, paved with the fallen oak leaves.
     Military-like housing was scattered about the landscape.  My attention was drawn to two desperately weathered houses. First, and most impressive, was the two-story home that boasted upper and lower sprawling porches, a copper roof turned green, and an impeccably manicured landscape; I likened the house's appearance to a polished fingernail with a rough cuticle. 

Off in the distance I could see that the leafy roadway ended in a cul-de-sac encircled in more of those splendid live oaks. Another empty house with boarded windows--much simpler in design than its neighbor--sat nestled beneath tentacle-like oak limbs that crawled through the space overhead.  

Beyond that house an opening in the trees revealed a continuation of the railroad tracks that led to nowhere - because that somewhere was long gone. While I captured the images, I realized  that both homes had housed those of different rank, and belonged to a bygone era.

I felt inexplicably drawn to the place.  At the same time I thought, I am privileged to be a witness to another time. But the sight of all these homes that are slowly being lost to the elements, time, and man’s indifference, leave me sad.  I quickly dismissed those thoughts for my imagination was tuned up for more, and the adventurer in me would not have it any other way.      

        Continuing on foot, the mature old-south landscape was nothing short of spectacular, at the same time inviting thoughts of a hammock and a gentle breeze.

In no time it became apparent to me that the early-century homes spoke to their creators understanding of the intimate relationship between nature and architecture.  Even a century later the landscape afforded the weathered and decaying homes privacy from critical eyes.

Drifting peacefully on its path behind was the historic Cooper River--a river synonymous with the Civil War; the same river where battle ships and submarines and air craft carriers once stood in waiting to transport men and women to major conflicts and two world wars. 


        As I continued to explore on foot, the narrow roadway lent itself to a leisurely stroll along quiet lanes where an even finer set of porches than before shown from the trees and called to "that part of me that loves to walk into the past."  A new-found commitment had me thinking, Downtown Charleston will have to wait 'til another day.  

      In the absence of NO TRESPASSING signs, police, or residents with disapproving eyes, I was left to wander the grounds of my new-found discovery, unimpeded.   All sense of time was lost to beckoning gardens, windows inviting a peek, vacant porches lit with an afternoon sun, and trodden paths that offered an empty concrete bench calling me to rest and clean the sand from between my toes.

        I was immersed in my discovery, looking through a window of time (96 years worth) at  chandeliers, curved staircases, and smoke-stained fireplaces. It was no ordinary military base.  No, it was unique.  And the camera lens and I were partnered to capture it in perpetuity were it to be lost to the likes of another hurricane Hugo,  termites, or.....

     Wherever my feet took me, left-over relics scattered about the landscape gave a hint to its former residents. 

 And because I looked down at my feet as much as I looked up, the reminders were everywhere. 

Even the rusted clothesline, concrete bench, broken bird bath, and misplaced grill grate had a story to tell. And nothing captures a story more vividly than a photograph.

     The day was drawing to a close. I was weary, hungry, and my feet hurt.  Despite all I'd seen, and felt abundantly rewarded for, something was urging me to go just a little farther.  And like a moth drawn to the flame I followed the urge.  
     Then I saw IT, rising majestically from a landscape of sprawling oaks, flowering red camellias that sounded of clamoring bees, and azalea bushes heavy with their flowery burden.  What an image.  I was stunned, tripping over those earlier old south scenes and skipping blithely into a scene from Gone With The Wind.    
      It looked like an old plantation house with its multi-stories, dormer windows, and massive white columns that supported the elegant wide porch.  Since it seemed to demand such, I  named it THE MANSION, thinking it the perfect centerpiece to an already stunning area.

       The Mansion was perfectly situated near the banks of the Cooper River, affording it splendid views. It suggested a style of architecture dating it to the early 1900’s, and spoke to a class of  former residents who held high-ranking positions. Questions fanned out of control in my mind. Who really lived thereWhat stories lie within its walls? What major decisions were made by dignitaries smoking cigars and sipping Cognac? Did a First Lady sit with the Lady of the House on that elegant wide porch?


      I thought the Mansion a copycat of the plantation house, Tara, ( from Gone with the Wind) allowing for an easy visual of ladies and gentlemen of the day enjoying polite conversation at a lawn party hosted by the plantation owner.  I was convinced that it had hosted some of America’s finest. 

       Owing to its proximity to the Cooper River it was a perfect breeding place for the mosquitoes, relentlessly in pursuit of my flesh-the only impediment I had experienced throughout my discovery that day. Even the breeze that sent dying oak leaves to the ground could not deter the mosquitoes from their fevered frenzy. It was as if they were warning me to leave alone what they had claimed.  Determined to see more I moved closer for a better look at the exterior, one hand ready for the camera, the other busy swatting and scratching. 
       What a shame! Disappointment set in at the sight of the massive front door entrance secured by the chain and padlock to keep out unwanted visitors.  The orange band sprawling the sagging front porch bore a Keep Out sign. That once-beautiful porch above, now rotted and sagging, threatened to drop on my head should I venture closer. And the massive columns with their rotting base had all they could do to hold it all in place.

From a distance the Mansion had stood proud, maintaining its distinctive style and character
-that Gone with the Wind look. But viewing it close up revealed years of neglect and the need for a major renovation. It was a beautiful but decaying piece of history, driving me to think the impossible, I'd love to own it and bring it back to life.

It's going to take a boatload of money to fix this Mansion. The siding and overhangs revealed rotting wood. Sections of glass were missing from their decorative lead casings, and the window supporting them was overgrown with vines that threatened entry through the broken panes. An ugly, obsolete pipe trailed the exterior over tired paint that curled away from the siding in large sheets, suggesting it had not seen a fresh coat in recent history.  A second story window with tattered curtains felt, eerily,  like someone was lurking behind. I shivered as a scene from the old house in the movie, PSYCHO came to mind.

      What better finale could I have experienced than to wander the Mansion's interior, fix my gaze on its stunning appointments, grand staircases, and the rooms that once felt the warmth from the marble-faced fireplaces.  Tempted though I was to step cautiously on the rotting porch and look behind the giant front door, I knew better for,  “Keep Out” meant just that.  Decidedly, I had to be content to leave the interior to my imagination.
Walking the path that led back to the road I turned, taking one final look before leaving the Mansion behind.  It was then that I made a firm promise to  praise my friend over a glass of wine for her spot-on recommendation. I vowed I would return one day soon, armed with more information about the base's history. 
     I strapped the camera back around my neck, leaving it to sway as I made the long walk back to my car.   Rewarded by all that I had experienced that day, I felt a bounce in my stride and let out a huge sigh of appreciation as my parked vehicle came into view. 
     Back at Crepe Myrtle Lane I was left to ponder the fate of all I had seen, drifting back briefly to that earlier feeling of sadness that now lay heavy on my heart.  Despite that emotion, I held firm to the hope that one day an entity with a vision would rescue this piece of naval history from its inevitable fate and return the Mansion to its former grandeur.  Why not send that wish into the Universe?  Someone just might come along one day and claim it! 
1906 Photograph of "THE MANSION"



       It is now 2019, some 9 years hence of my first encounter. 

I am pleased beyond words to say that the Charleston Naval Base’s "Officers' Quarters Historic District" is hardly a forgotten piece of naval history.  In fact, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the process of restoration is well underway.

     In addition, and since I am not a full-time resident of Charleston, I have, on recent visits, been privileged to be a witness to the current restoration project of the “ADMIRAL’S"  house (MANSION) where I’ve been able to go inside and satisfy that earlier desire to explore its corridors, climb the three stories of stairs, look across the lawn from that sprawling second story porch, and press my ear to its walls.  SORRY,  I'M AFRAID IT HAS TOLD ME TO KEEP ITS SECRETS TO MYSELF!

    Is it any wonder I was drawn that day in 2010 to what has since been classified as: "Late 19th and 20th Century revivals. An IMPRESSIVE mix of Colonial Revival, Neo-Colonial, Brick Classical Revival, Neo-Classical Revival, Italian Renaissance, Mixed, Concrete Panama, Prarie School, International and Italian Revival Architecture." 

        I am a frequent visitor to the historic naval base, forever discovering more of its mysteries.  It is my wish  to spend a night in the Admiral’s house which, I'm told, is earmarked as a Bed and Breakfast upon its completion.  And if I am fortunate, perhaps that person that I hoped for with a “VISION” -- who did, indeed, come along--might afford me the honor of being the first person to spend a night there.   And I repeat: "There’s certainly no harm in putting it out there."



      I dedicate this piece to all those military families who were stationed at the Charleston Naval Base from its inception in 1901 to its closure in 1996.   

      To those men and women who went to war from its port, gave their lives for this great country, stayed behind to shed their tears in loss, gained pride in their accomplishments, and made decisions that forever changed the course of history, I thank YOU for your service. 

I feel you each time I travel through that avenue of crepe myrtles (Crepe Myrtle Lane) and walk beneath the sea of live oaks, staring again in wonder at ALL you left behind.  There may be newly applied coats of paint, but the feeling is always the same.

     If you, or someone you know, left their footprint on the old base, I'd love to hear their story.  There's a comment section for you to leave your contact information.

Nanine Case, Author/Photographer