Abandoned Beauty

Anyone who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s in Richmond, Indiana knew about the two old abandoned Victorian homes at South 18th and Main.  Traipsing through those echoing hallways with flashlights in hand at midnight was a popular endeavor back in those days.  With Halloween quickly approaching in this, one of my favorite change of seasons, I’ve been reminiscing a little on the darker side – thoughts reverting to the ghosts we chased as adolescents……  

Abandoned Beauty

Her rusting iron fence was foreboding,
its spear tops an omen to trespassers.
Unkempt green spilling ‘neath her lion’s paws
told tales of woeful abandonment.

A passerby might look and see,
with eyes full of mystery,
her frightful scale of three stories,
adorned with eerie accessories.
Gabled ends in anguished screams,
murderous throes, her ancient dreams.
Griffins rest ‘neath her pillared porch,
with eyes ablaze as though to scorch
the soul of he who crosses the gate
without pondering his unfortunate fate.
Double wide doors once warm with charm,
now scream of indescribable harm.
Across her roof a width of fence,
moonlit backdrop to her audience,
Oh, what howls there must have been,
before life neglected this dying thing.

Shadows upon shadow and bells at twelve
our spirited hearts endeavored to delve
inside of her anguished majesty.
As flashlights scoured her interior walls,
her grand staircases and spectacular halls,
my thoughts were only of travesty.

For as the others searched the elusive ghost,
thought to roam in our honored host
a most delicate beauty accosted mine eyes;
A wood trim carved by the most loving hand,
Chiseled wood mantles from a foreign land
and angelic newels hung up the rise.

Nothing of her frailty spoke of decay or death,
from amidst the dust she just needed a breath,
a neglected reprieve for sure.
So as my friends woefully filed out
knowing their chase brought nothing about,
I smiled a smile of love for her.

One need not be a Chamber — to be Haunted —
One need not be a House —
The Brain has Corridors — surpassing
Material Place —

–          Emily Dickinson

© 2011 John Richter


About johnallenrichter

I am an aspiring Poet and adorer of life, a conqueror of nothing. However I am a champion curator of truth and friendship and hold both of those things most dearly to my heart. Welcome to my mind's eye. I hope you will enjoy what you may find and please know that you have a friend here. View all posts by johnallenrichter

46 responses to “Abandoned Beauty

  • Easy Living (@Easy__Living)

    Excellent post today. I ready enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing and see you around!

    Here is a great poem to check out:

    The Voice Inside Me

  • kaykuala

    Very effective and realistic, John! I get that impact because upon reading, it makes me feel cold and creepy inside. Those who ventured into the house must have felt more. Excellent write!


  • laurie kolp

    Beautiful writing… I especially like “Gabled ends in anguished screams,
    murderous throes, her ancient dreams.”

  • A

    This is such an amazing poem!

  • manicddaily

    I kept thinking of Boo Radly at first! Something forgotten, and feared, and just needing to breathe in the dust. Those old victorian houses so beautiful. A really interesting topic for a poem. Thanks.

  • jenneandrews

    This is a most affecting poem, John– vivid and beautiful. I have a passion for old houses and have often succumbed to the compulsion to rescue them– an exhausting task. Who knew that at 63 I would be grateful I live in a one bedroom apartment with one dog? xxxxj

  • Adura Ojo

    Lovely poem, John. An abandoned beauty is always a sad sight to behold. The waste and the melancholy…that’s why I’m in two minds about homeless people who squat in abandoned mansions. At least she’d feel great sheltering someone again and they’d embrace her too.

  • claudia

    abandoned houses are magical places somehow…oh how i loved them when we were children…the tension..the stories we wove…the mystery…smiles…loved your poem john and great quote as well…

  • zongrik

    amazing what a love affair you can have with a house.

    as for the ED quote, does that mean that brains are haunted? or just hers? or just the brains of poets?

    • johnallenrichter

      I apologize, I should have left a link to Emily’s Poem, “One need not be a Chamber… To be Haunted.” She was a bit of a hermit, with very deep loving friends who died one by one. She went through a very dark period. Here she was definitely talking about her own mind, but I think it references us all. Everyone takes his own pieces from any poem, but what I take from Emily here is that it is far easier to deal with an external ghost than to deal with the memories of our loved ones within us. Here it is:

      One need not be a Chamber — to be Haunted —
      One need not be a House —
      The Brain has Corridors — surpassing
      Material Place —

      Far safer, of a Midnight Meeting
      External Ghost
      Than its interior Confronting —
      That Cooler Host.

      Far safer, through an Abbey gallop,
      The Stones a’chase —
      Than Unarmed, one’s a’self encounter —
      In lonesome Place —

      Ourself behind ourself, concealed —
      Should startle most —
      Assassin hid in our Apartment
      Be Horror’s least.

      The Body — borrows a Revolver —
      He bolts the Door —
      O’erlooking a superior spectre —
      Or More —

  • wolfsrosebud

    “Double wide doors once warm with charm,
    now scream of indescribable harm.”

    great lines… charm and mystery throughout… wonderful setting

  • California Ink in Motion

    Still in cast to top of arm, but I pecked out this because I really liked it. Cast comes off tomorrow!!

  • oceangirl

    I love this poem. I love old houses and always want to know their stories. Who had built them, who was born, loved, lived and died in them. And oh your words just make me so, so curious of this house.

  • Steve King


    There’s one of these in every kid’s memory. There certainly is one in mine. They await that certain creative breath to breath some life back into them–which you certainly achieved here. I enjoyed this.

  • brian miller

    smiles. we used to when young go into these places to explore…they were frightening yet magical…and you evoke that wellin your words tonight my friend..very well penned…

  • Heaven

    The old house has a mystery and charm. You took me right there in the room.

    Thanks for your kinds in my blog.. I needed it ~

  • Mary

    John, you are such a good writer and create such wonderful word pictures in your poetry. i am so glad to be following your words!

  • ayala

    There is charm in old houses…I came here and found such a treat, just beautiful.

  • Pat Hatt

    Such rich history can be behind a home
    Sure one lurks where all do roam
    Many outlandish tales are spun
    Some go looking for scary fun
    Was a wonderfully rich tale you told
    And with some rhyme I am sold.

  • rob kistner

    I love the foreboding sense that rhyme lends to ghoulish ghostly poetry – enjoyed this John… 😉

  • Ann Grenier

    Wonderful poem John. I too can go a bit crazy over old houses. Love your rhyme scheme and images here.

  • Arron Shilling (@ArronShilling)

    John – this is a very dense and deeply interesting piece – you have skillfully crafted such density – as a poetry goof i was lost among your work
    so much to swim in – a deliscious experience.

    also your fEmilys poem is an absolute stunner – i hadnt come across this before but will now seek out more of her writting – it gave me goose bumps

    thank you for both poems – true gifts

  • colleen

    Positively Gothic and perfect for October!

  • hedgewitch

    You build up an elaborate picture of this old beldame, and have the reader seeing beneath the supposed hauntings to the true face of simple age and neglect–perhaps equally frightening in its way. Perfect Dickinson quote–thanks for including the whole poem in your comment. It’s one I hadn’t previously read.

  • mrsmediocrity

    I love this, I do believe it is quite possible to love a place, a house, to feel the echoes of the lives that have been lived within its walls.

    You did a great job of conveying the possibilities of that.

  • The Borg Poet (@theborgpoet)

    Came back for my 2nd read of this. A great piece of Americana.

  • DW

    this is my fav time of year, and I love nothing more than to feel that tingle up my spine, your post was brilliant, giving just enough creep factor along with a magical longing…..perfection

  • jannie funster

    “just needed a breath.” love that line, John!

    Homes do have souls I believe too!

    Got me in the Halloween moon, thanks. Maybe now I’m inspired to hang those ghouls and put the grave-yard back up. 🙂

  • Gay Reiser Cannon

    Perfect poem for the season. I remember those “break-ins” and trying to see houses as they ought to be seen – beautiful, lived in, full of love, and living. Well done. G.

  • rmp

    breathtakingly beautiful. you paint an amazing picture with your words. I can feel the haunting beauty of the house.

  • Charles Elliott/Beautyseer

    Ah, not haunted, perhaps, but enchanting, this house! And your poem. Thanks for the read…

  • Mark Kerstetter

    I couldn’t help but think about the house on our street when I was just three that we all thought was haunted. I was terrified of it, but it was probably no different than the house we lived in, very old, with floorboards so worn out that I jumped from throw rug to rug to avoid splinters. But now as an adult I’m in love with old houses, live in one that I’m restoring with salvaged wood.

    And thanks for turning people onto the Dickinson poem – she’s incomparable.

  • liv2write2day

    This is just perfect as a pre-Halloween poem. Do you remember the old movie (early 60’s I would guess) with Don Knotts: “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.” The description of the house made me think of that although it was a comedy and this is a sensitive memory.

  • ladynyo


    This is haunting and out-does Poe in the best of ways for me.

    There is nothing better, more….solid…than an old house, full of mystery, tales, lies, frightening history…..LOL! The architecture!!!

    You have captured this all in a very complex poem….but the rhythm is so beautiful it doesn’t miss a step.

    Autumn and Halloween is my favorite season. Unfortunately, here in the South, the religious folk have put a terrible cabash on this wonderful and ancient time. Last year, we had no trick or treaters….and I ended up eating all that candy. Ugh.

    Solid, haunting poem, John.

    Lady Nyo

  • Ravenblack

    An unapproachable person, someone who has gone into that enraged and hostile, or unhospitable state and while others have given up trying to reach and understand this person, the narrator does not either, but he’s is an attitude of acceptance and continued support rather than one of “let’s just get out of her sight”. I really like this one very much. There are times when I go into that mode of “stay away from me” but just a kind smile is just very much appreciated.

    • Ravenblack

      As requested, John. 🙂 I know your poem is about exploring a supposedly haunted house but I thought you could very well be metaphorically be talking about a troubled person who has alienated friends. You’ve given character to a house and houses do develop character or personality over time. Descriptions of the unwelcoming deco and rooms equating to self defences that discourage approach and induce rumors. Maybe I read too much into it. But my thoughts seem to run that way when I read this.

      People are sometimes puzzled by the way I read things, poems have author’s intended meaning as well as meaning of their own that is from the reader. You asked me on my blog why I read it so differently. Well, I don’t know, I am influenced by my own experiences as well, and I just tell the author what comes to mind when I read his or her work. Sometimes I am just way off topic, so apologies if I perplex. 🙂

      • johnallenrichter

        Please, please don’t be put off by me Raven, I’m just so glad that you expanded on that because I didn’t see that before. Please know that I am a firm believer that the reader defines a poem, not the poet. But no, those thoughts were’nt on my conscious mind when I wrote this poem. But i think it is a very interesting take.

        I think I was 13 the first night I snuck out of my house at 11 pm and walked the two miles to this house to meet my friends by midnight. There were two houses, the one in the poem was actually a mansion, right on mansion row, homes from the late 19th century reserved for the wealthiest of the counties residents. This home was absolutely beautiful and I fell in love with it that very first night. For a couple of years after that I would visit her occasionally during daylight hours and explore her intense beauty. I knew every inch of her. When I was 19 the owner of the McDonalds across the street bought her and ran her as a halloween haunted house for a couple of years. I left Richmond and sometime after that he must have sold her because she is gone now and there is a Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken joint there now. I stopped there a few years ago and had a pint of gizzards…. delicious, but it just wasn’t the same…. I’m glad I have my memories of her.

        Thanks for visiting Raven, and I’m glad that you found what you did here…. every piece of art requires the viewers vision, no apologies necessary…

  • kaykuala

    It’s true my posting at #118 didn’t register. I messed up on the publishing. I checked and corrected it. The new posting at #121 worked. Thanks1


  • Brendan

    It’s been clear since Dante that descriptions of Hell are always much more fun than aery profusions about Heaven … And you’re rich in detail here in the infernal anatomy. Yet — and it’s a wonderful turn — your distinction that abandoned beauty is not the same as horror — a matter not of sin but a tad too much dust — lifts this poem to another place, and gives us a forgiving love for one-great things that have fallen into ruin. The quote from Dickinson was great reminder that, like Blake said, “as the eye is form’d so are it’s powers.” – Brendan

  • Luke Prater

    A finely-rendered genuine Narrative piece… nice work

  • willowdot21

    John, I deliberately did not read any of the above comments as that would of left me nothing new to say. I was there , in my mind, outside the house at first then over the fence and into the house…. where I encountered ghosts of times gone by …people passed me in the halls and on the stairs, dinner party guests were surprised as I entered the dinning room and in the bedrooms I encountered love, anger and cruelty all at once. Yes the mind has many corridors you took me into the house then I wondered off on my own. Thank you, excellent poem!

  • The Orange Tree

    touching narrative, what a delight to read,

  • Ravenblack

    A little sad to hear that the house with so much character is gone. I think it’s awesome you got to explore such a house. 🙂

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