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Session 2, Part 1, Lannon, Alice, "Open, Open, Green House".
Descriptive TitleSession 2, Part 1, Lannon, Alice, "Open, Open, Green House".
CategoryOral traditions, expressions and the written word
Person as TopicLannon, Alice
DescriptionAlice Lannon sharing her story, "Open, Open, Green House" at the 18th Annual Conference of Storytellers of Canada-Conteurs du Canada.
CollectorJarvis, Dale
InformantLannon, Alice
Recording LocationCanada-Newfoundland and Labrador-St. John's
Extent17:19 minutes; 15.9 MB
Resource TypeAudio
CollectionIntangible Cultural Heritage Inventory - Oral Traditions and Expressions
TranscriptGood afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm here to tell the story that was, in our family, told orally for over two hundred years. My grandmother came from Lawn in Placentia Bay, and she had a maiden aunt who lived in a place called L'Anse aux Barque, think it was a cove in Lawn and grandma had seven sisters and four brothers. On Saturday night, they would have their bath in the washtub and their aunt Ellen would come down and help the girls washing their hair, and when she combed it out, there was no such thing in those days as shampoo that eliminated tangles, so she would tell them these stories as she combed their hair so as to distract them and they wouldn't feel the pull on the tangles. And through the years, she told us the stories as well. See, when I was growing up there wasn't entertainment in a small outport and people would gather at different people's houses and tell ghost stories or stories about how they almost got lost hunting or fishing and it was something that went on that we enjoyed, as children. I guess it taught us to be good listeners. Grandmother used to tell us those stories all the time. Now, some of them were kind of scary but we were used to them, we knew they were only stories. One of the stories she told us was called...she called it "Open Open Green House", it was a castle that was haunted, and it had been painted green. And for many years, no one lived in it, but there was a caretaker who went there every day and took care of the castle. And every year, there was a notice in the town office that if someone would stay three nights in the haunted castle, they would get a bag of gold. Maggie was a young girl, fourteen, and her father was a carpenter but he had hurt his back and couldn't work. So when she saw the offer of the bag of gold, she thought, "If I could do that, I could get money for my father to go to a doctor and get his back cured." So she went into the town office and she said, "I'd like to spend three nights in the haunted castle." and the clerk said, "Strong men have stayed there for one night, they couldn't stay two, even." She said, "But I have a request." And the Mayor said, "Yes, let her try!" And she said "I want to take my little cat and dog with me and bring some apples to eat, some nuts to crack and my little dog and pussy cat." They said, "Well, that's fine, you just can't have another person." So, she asked a neighbor to look in on her father and she told him that she was going to spend the night with friends. He was delighted with her because she was earning a bit of money by running errands and crocheting little cloths and selling them, where he couldn't work it was a meager living. He was glad for her to have a friend to visit. So just before dark on the evening that she had to start, the caretaker met her at the door. It was on a hill, she climbed up the hill and he met her and he took her into a big ballroom. In one corner there was a small stage, there were some tables and lots of chairs around the sides, and a big fireplace that was glowing. He had a pile of logs near the fireplace and he told her, "Don't let it burn too low, when it burns down, put one or two logs back on." That night, she curled up in the chair by the fireplace, the little dog at her feet and the little cat in her lap, and nothing happened. Time passed and passed, she kept adding the logs to the fire. But just at midnight, from the big door down at the end of the ballroom, someone called out "All alone there, maid?" and she said "All alone, I'm not. I've my apples to eat, my nuts to crack, my little dog and pussycat and all alone, I'm not." And then the voice called out, "Open, open green house and let the King's son in!" and the doors swung open. In came six men carrying a canvas bag on their backs, and behind them was an old witch. Then there was a band. They came in and the old witch directed them to the corner where the stage was and she made the men put the bag on the table, untie the straps and a handsome young man was lying there. She touched him with her hand and up he popped, sat up, and Maggie fell in love with him almost immediately, such a handsome young prince! So he stepped down and she motioned the band to start, and they played fast and furious, and she would only dance with the young man who came out of the bag. He had princely robes on. So, they were fast and furious and the crowd that followed, oh--they were skeletons, some missing arms and legs. One fellow had no head, but he had a big eye in the middle of his chest that kept rolling over and over. Sometimes it would be blue, sometimes brown, sometimes black, sometimes only just bare white. And he danced and giggled as best he could. Then there was a fellow with a long leg and a short leg, and as he came in dancing, he would jump up on the chair, up on the table, down to the chair again and he twirled around, and the music was fast and furious. And when the old witch saw Maggie there, she shook her fist at her. "You go home! You're not supposed to be here." And Maggie said "I'm staying. You can't scare me." And as the witch and the young Prince danced by, he looked over the witch's shoulder and he mouthed to Maggie, "Stay for three and I'll be free." Well, Maggie was convinced then that she was going to stay, for sure. As night wore on, the wind came up and the shutters rattled, the wind blew and whistled down the chimney and around the corners but she wasn't afraid. Every time the old witch passed by, she would scowl at her and shake her fist and tell her to go home. But Maggie wasn't going. And just before daylight, they heard a cock crow. She told the men, touched him with her wand, he went right stiff, they put him down in the bag and tied it and then all the crowd -- she told the band to stop, and they all went out through the back door just before the sun peeked over the hill. They just disappeared. Maggie went to look to see where they went. There was a graveyard a little ways down below. There was an incline going down but then it was level. And this is where all the crowd went. Maggie said, "Well, nothing happened, " and she was tired from being up all night, so she took a nap in the chair until the caretaker came. She had to go to the town hall at nine o'clock and report what happened. When they asked her, "Oh not much, " she said, "the wind rattled the shutters and roared down the chimney, but nothing much happened." And they were amazed and all the people around were talking about Maggie who was spending the night in the haunted castle and how she said, "Nothing happened." So the next night, the same thing. She went again, the caretaker met her and took her in. But that night there was time to spare, so she wandered through the castle. There was a big dining hall set with lace tablecloths, silverware, everything gleaming, but the tablecloths were lace and beginning to get old and shabby. And the same thing with the bedrooms -- beautiful bedrooms but the curtains were beginning to get frayed and old. As she walked, she thought, "There must have been some really good times held in this castle." So, she went back, sat by the fire. Same thing happened. Eleven o'clock, the wind came up, and the shutters rattled, and the wind whistled down the chimney and around the corners of that castle. And then right as the clock struck twelve, an old voice came out, "All alone, fair maid?" and she said "All alone, I'm not. I've my apples to eat, my nuts to crack, my little dog and pussycat and all alone, I'm not." And then the voice boomed out again, "Open open green house and let the King's son in!" So, it was a repeat of the night before, only some of the creatures that came in behind her were even more horrible looking than the first night. But Maggie wasn't afraid, and she did the same thing, the band went to the little stage, and the men laid the bag on the table, untied the strings -- there were no zippers in those days -- and the young man was lying there. Soon as the witch touched him, he sat up, slipped down, and she motioned the band to play and they went twirling and whirling fast and furious around the room. She was even madder at Maggie for staying that night, so she tried to make faces at her and said she was going to chop off her head, and Maggie said "She can't hurt me." She wasn't afraid. And again, when they danced by, the Prince said over the witch's shoulder, he mouthed to her "Stay for three and I'll be free, " and thanked her for staying the first night. So, she was determined. There was nobody who was going to scare her away! They kept down the same procedures, all right long, coming before daylight when the cock crowed, she got the men to put the man back in the bag, she touched him, he went right stiff. And they laid him in the bag, tied it up and put it on their shoulders. The band stopped. First the ones with the man on their shoulders, they went out. Then all the weird crew followed and went down over the hill. And the same thing -- Maggie was so tired that she curled up and had a nap until the caretaker came and she had to go to the town hall again. The whole town was talking about Maggie staying at this haunted castle, and that she said, "Nothing much happened." She didn't say what happened. So, the third night, same thing, she got someone to look in on her father and she went to the castle just before six o'clock and the caretaker was anxious to get out of there. As soon as he had Maggie seated and more logs for the fire, he left. She was kind of expecting -- she half knew what to expect, but she wondered what they would do. But this night, though, the witch was more vicious. And oh, she scowled, and she grumbled at Maggie, "You shouldn't be here. You should go home." Maggie said, "I'm staying." She made the motion that she would cut her head off, and Maggie thought, "She can't hurt me." So the night continued on much the same as the night before, and again when the young Prince and the witch passed by, he mouthed over her shoulder, "Thanks, and stay tonight 'cause I'll be free." So even though she tried harder, she even danced with the Prince near the fireplace to make the smoke come out to sting Maggie's eyes, but Maggie just pushed the chair back and relaxed. Sometimes she was amused, especially with the guy with the rolling eye and the fellow that had the long leg and the short leg-- he would hop up on the chairs, to the table, and down. He had a peculiar laugh as he was doing that, and he whirled and twirled. The skeletons, their bones rattled as they danced. So Maggie, she half knew what was going to happen, but that night, the witch tried even more. She was nasty to Maggie. And the same thing happened, they danced all night furiously, twirled and whirled and the music was fast and furious. Coming on daylight, the old witch was so interested in trying to scare Maggie away, she didn't hear the cock crow. Before she knew it, the sun was peeping over the hill. She motioned to the men to put the man back in the bag, but when she touched him, nothing happened. Everything came to a standstill and they tried to go out the door. The old witch went up in a puff of smoke and so did all the crew that was with her, they just disappeared. He ran up and he hugged Maggie and he said, "I'm free, I'm free, thanks to you!" He told her that the old witch, years ago, had fallen out with his father, and to punish him, she put him into deep sleep or almost dead. But after seven years the curse was supposed to be up, and it was almost seven, then. He thanked Maggie for freeing him, and he said "My father was a noble man and I'm a Prince, and where we lived in this castle, there were many happy times." His mother had lived there for years before she passed away, and then he said "About five miles away, I have a sister who lives in a house, we'll go visit her." Maggie told him about her father, who'd been ill, and why she needed the bag of gold. So that morning when the caretaker came, the two of them walked down to the town hall and she produced him as the prince who had been cursed to sleep for a long time. Then she went home to her father, and Maggie was only fourteen, so he said "I'm going to fix up the castle and live there, and when Maggie is a couple of years older, I want to marry her." And the father was fine, so she dated him and saw him and the father was pleased. After a couple of years, they got married and had a family and lived in the castle, once more the happy place that it had been years before. And he thanked Maggie for being so brave to stay in the haunted house. And they all lived happily ever after. ### Transcription by Erin Erskine 1 August 2012 Transcription checked by Nicole Penney August 2, 2012
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