Dinner with Dorian

By Morgan Karpiel

The thing about haunted houses is that they’re never quiet. It’s the most disturbing, or most interesting, thing about them, depending on your point of view. A good friend of mine recently offered her summer house as a place for me to recoup after my somewhat disastrous winter. The house is a furnished, 3,700 square foot manor in the mountains, set right on the edge of a vast, rolling meadow. Beautiful. Perfect. What could go wrong?

I moved in a month ago. As described, the house is beautiful, and it has a name: Krzyia. Surrounded by overgrown gardens and vines, its entrance is framed by stone colonnades, and French doors set with warbled glass. The interior is a bit austere, single beds in huge, high-ceiling rooms with wood floors and ceramic heaters. There’s a dumbwaiter and two winding staircases and mirrors that seem to reflect only half the light in the room.

The house has been visited by different generations of the same family over the years and trails of modern life are everywhere. Two television sets. A stack of CDs. A collectable Lenin stamp issued by the CCCP and framed photos of dashing looking people without names. There are romance novels and copies of great poetry, chipped dinnerware and a calendar with the date of July 12, 2009 marked in red.

All of these things whisper to the heart of a writer, but nothing in the house has quite the same intriguing tone as the “Family”. These are a group of oil portraits that exude more personality than sheer canvas and paint should be allowed to capture. At first, I was fairly unnerved. Being a creature of imagination, I could “feel” the life lingering in a strange gaze or a subtle turn of the lips. But after some time, like the lonely scientist in Never Cry Wolf, I began to talk to these people. Now, I’m afraid to say that it has become therapeutic. Allow me to introduce you to my new friends.

The Four. These portraits are together, placed on the same wall. I’ve named the matriarch “Maude”.


She sports a dour expression, but I think the hat speaks volumes about her sense of humor. I tell her jokes and, like the straight man in a stand-up routine, she never cracks a smile.


Obviously the one with the common sense. This guy is an excellent listener, always advising me to take the safe path, not become drawn into those heated situations where I’m apt to say or do the wrong thing. Also, he’s a big believer in careful spending and budgetary responsibility.


The wild one. Dorian is all for the heat of the moment and the pursuit of artistic passion. Dorian detests all things conventional. His advice, usually delivered in taverns and whorehouses, is to celebrate what it means to be free and to be human, come wealth or ruin, as those are the experiences that allow men to truly live.


Secluded in a separate room, Donald is most obviously a vampire. No other paintings will dare to share a wall with him. He is, perhaps, the patriarch of this group, as his portrait was most definitely completed by the same artist, and yet . . . One wonders about Donald. Too old for Maude? His portrait is the smallest of the three. His clothes, also, are undefined, just shading, more or less. And his expression? A man with a secret. But then, we all have secrets, don’t we?

So there it is, the grand tour of Krzyia. Now, a few odd facts:

  • The upper balcony has a railing that bears the emblem of the Freemasons. It is the only railing that bears that design.
  • Doors open and close without help at night.
  • One (very old) neighbor told me that Krzyia was built as a bed and breakfast before the war and that there are secret rooms in the attic.
  • There are, indeed, secret rooms in the attic, and I’ve yet to find the door.

A bit eerie? Sure, but I was that way when I moved in. The trouble with Krzyia is that there are beginnings and endings everywhere, pictures of other lives, fragments of times lost, left to the memory of neighbors and passerbys, when the souls featured in the center of the gilded frames are long gone. It’s all, in a sense, gone. So what is that stares out from those portraits? What is that seems to listen while I diatribe about all my troubles? As I meet Donald’s suspicious glare, I’m forced to concede that it might not be the ghosts of Krzyia I’m living with. Might just be the ghosts of Morgan. After all, the best haunted house stories are the ones that exorcize the haunted, not the offending spirits, allowing the living to face their tormentors and be released.


  1. Amazing! Loved your post Morgan. It reminded me of The Shining! ;) I think you have the makings of a book here - a supernatural thriller about a woman - just like you - whose friend lends her the use of her family home for the summer and she becomes tangled in a spooky tale of spirits who haunt the estate. I hope you're doing better! Take care!

  2. Love this post! I'm a huge fan of historic homes, and I think they all carry a few ghosts. I also love those portraits--how cool would it be to have a portrait gallery of your family like that?


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