Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mystery of the Stone Tower: A Frank March Adventure

It was a dark and stormy night...

Actually it was early morning and bright, bitterly cold. There had been a storm, but that was yesterday's news and the main roads had been scraped clean. Country roads were sketchy, yet passable.

Frank was out to old haunts. He had been here only recently solving the "Mystery of Hidden Pond" Even in reveling that elusive body of water he discovered something that drew his curiosity. Yeah, he knew what people said about felines dying to know, "Curiosity killed the cat". For some reason people seldom finish that quote, "But satisfaction brought him back." His curiosity wouldn't be satisfied until he followed an old trail he had spotted that day. It came off of and followed down along side the road before curving into the trees. He promised he would come and explore it sometime and here he was.

He parked in the lot below the creek. It was right off the highway and frankly nearer that discovered path than driving further on back roads and up the hill to the other lot.  From here he would cross the bridge and hike a bit up the road.


Crossing over he could see the creek below was half froze over. A band of geese huddled together up on one clear spot near the shore. They raised a racket as he crossed. It was an oddly eerie sound, like the baying of hounds.

Already he was having second thoughts. The road might have been partially cleared, but only to the width of the traffic lanes. Despite the patches of packed snow and refroze ice, cars and pickup trucks (especially pickup trucks) would suddenly appear over the rise ahead and whiz by him, causing a rush of air that rustled his pant legs. Frank walked through the deep, loose snow on the shoulder for safety sake.  He preferred to give traffic a wide berth.

It wasn't long before he could see his objective, but the path was fully buried in white and not at all promising. There was danger there in that ragged, rugged indentation beneath the snow cover. It hid who knows what. A broken branch stuck up here, a jagged stone there; things to trip you, things to twist your ankle. It contained no footprints of man of beast. Frank decided he would not make the first. He abandoned his initial plan and backtracked across the bridge and up to a wide trail with which he had some familiarity .

This trail was called Piken Creek Road. Why it had that name was beyond him. It ran alongside Brandywine Creek and he had been unable to find any Piken Creek on any map. It ran from dead end to dead end mostly through the woods. It wasn't a modern road. It was packed dirt and gravel. It wasn't built for cars, although there were deeper groves worn on each side about axle widths apart. These days it was closed off by a chain across the entrance. A sign announced it as a bicycle trail.

It had not been plowed, of course, but several human feet had been on it even with the snow and it was not too bad walking if he was careful, if he stepped where these others had stepped.

They were probably afternoon tracks from yesterday. He didn't expect he would meet many people, if any, this cold morning and through most of the initial woods he didn't.


 At a point where a narrow trail joined, one that came up through the thicket near the creek, he saw movement. He paused.

There was a large and lone black dog coming up that path. 


This was not a welcome encounter anywhere, especially so in a woods. You could never be certain of a dog. Why was it here on the loose? Was it friendly or hostile?


Frank stood still and watched. The animal flopped over and began rolling from side to side. Its tail wagged, its tongue flapped and it had merriment in its eyes. It got up, ran a few yards and flopped over again seemingly in glee.


At that moment a man came around the bushes further back that trail and shouted to the dog. The dog continued to roll until the man caught up to it and then both walked up the path to where Frank was standing.


The dog bounded ahead and came to Frank, bouncing about him in greeting.


"Making snow angels," Frank said to the man.


The man chuckled." More likely rolling in something disgusting," he said.


The man and dog crossed Piken Creek Road and went up a groove going up the wooded hillside. Frank watched a moment, then continued on his way.


Here there was a break in the trees. The path had curved down closer to the creek. Across the way was a patch of open field and then a distant hill topped with a patch of trees. But there was something else, some lone structure.


Frank stared across as he walked. It was a tower, a stone tower with what appeared to be large windows near the top. It was hard to be sure because it was far away.


What stone tower would be around here. He knew of the stone tower in Rockford Park, but that couldn't be this one, it was in the wrong direction. 


No denying it was there. It was boldly sitting alone atop that far hill.


As Frank contemplated why this tower was there he saw a man moving very slowly toward him on the trail. Most people came with a certain determined speed even if only walking as was Frank himself. This man walked very slow and with a slightly odd gait, not as if he was halt or lame, just slightly less than normal. The closer he came, the less he seemed physically impaired in any way, yet there was still an unreality to his slowness.


Frank always watched strangers on the trail carefully. The man did not seem threatening. Of course Frank always wondered about how he was perceived, he in his beard and torn coat.


"Good morning," he said to the man.


"Good morning," The man answered as they passed on the path.


Then Frank turned, "Say, do you know anything about that tower over there?"


The man gazed out over the field and said nothing for a moment. "No, I don't know anything about that tower." He continued to look at it. "Maybe it has something to do with the castle."


Frank wasn't certain he heard correctly. "Castle? There's a castle up there?"


"Yes."


"What? Is it part of some duPont place?"


"Yes, the family still lives there. You go up the road and around and its up there."


"Well, thank you," and they went their separate ways.


Frank had no idea there were any castles here about. He also didn't know what road the man was referring to. To get where Frank now walked he had turned off Beaver Valley Road.


That was the infamous Beaver Valley Road. It seemed every Delaware teen had to at least claimed they had been to "The Valley" at night. Frank's own children had talked about it. It was like a rite of passage, even though the actual "horror" of Beaver Valley Road was across the line in Pennsylvania. Some where in the narrows of the forest was "The Devil's Road", "The Cult House" and mysterious black cars that would chase any night visitors from the area. There were tales of the KKK, tales of Devil Worship, tales of some malformed, inbred monsters kept imprisoned by the duPonts. The place was the personification of evil, so horrid that even the trees were malformed and reaching away from where the house stood as if struggling to escape. Legend said a girl was buried beneath a tree and had absorbed into the roots and the tree had grown in the shape of a human skull. (This tree is pictured, you can make out the form of a skull.)


But that would have been in a direction north away from here and no one had ever described the "Cult House" as a castle or said anyone still lived there. So what was this castle?


Not long after speaking with the man, Frank came to the dead end of the trail at a road. Was this the road that circled about past this castle and its tower? 


He didn't know. He didn't even know the name of this road. He was sure it wasn't the one he had driven down earlier in the morning. 


Frank decided he needed to do some research when he got home. 


It was not easy. He Googled, "stone towers" and several came up, but except for the one at Rockford they were all downstate around Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, watch towers built by the military during World War II. There were eleven towers constructed along the coastline to guard against an artillery attack. He found nothing about any tower near the Brandywine.


He tried searching for Castles in Delaware. This was complicated because he was searching for a castle in New Castle County, where there is also a town named New Castle. He would get lots of hits on castle, but none were about an actual castle. He also got many strikes on Mike Castle, who had been a leading politician in the state ever since Frank lived there.  He tried, "duPont Castle" and actually found there was one, but it was in Virginia. 


He was just about to give up when he saw an image of a tower. It looked like the one he had seen and it had several bicyclists in front of it.


Finding the website from the photo he discovered it was for the Granogue Cross Expo, some world-class cross country bike race that begins at that tower, located on the duPont family estate at Granogue. Now the mystery is solved. There is a tower, there is a castle, sort of. Granogue, where some of the duPonts reside in a large 17-bedroom mansion in the hills of Northern Delaware. 


Now the only mystery Frank is left with is why would anyone want a house with 17 bedrooms?





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