The Peabody Barek Halfhand


by Barek Halfhand


There is a duality associated with the Peabody Estate (tomb) legend,

and most that grew up in the Chicago land area are at least vaguely cognizant of it as some of the lore is apparently founded by fact while much is the result of fabrication and the added embellishments of countless retelling the artistic license of childhood narration permits (insert wise crack here) ....

Recent research has nudged the sublimated memory to the surface of a tale an older kid in the neighborhood used to spin about getting chased by monks on a surreptitious night visit to the grounds to catch a glimpse of Mr Peabody laying in state immersed in a preservative and encased in a glass coffin ... Another axiom associated with this legend purports a huge cache of gold buried beneath the Portiuncula Shrine replica that many still believe houses the body of the Peabody patriarch. When in fact all human graves have been relocated to a local catholic cemetery and only the equestrian graves remain...the legend portends that if caught on the grounds by the residents Franciscan Friars or Monks of the day you were forced to kneel on the pebble surfaced cement or the hard stones that landscaped the rear of the shrine where a cross faced by a makeshift alter still resides on a flagstone platform in a conspicuous state of disrepair on this in contrast to the chapel’s pristine maintenance and the meticulously manicured lawns beyond ...

While one may find mirth in visualizing a squad of vigilant twilight sentinels comprised of seemingly agile, robed Franciscan friars wearing the tradition garb with perhaps the exception of tennis shoes, chasing and apprehending a group of fleeing terrified teens, then issuing their own version of punitive retribution for the transgression by forcing them to kneel on gravel and pray in abject penitence as an alternative to police notification, these portended tales more often than not dissuaded thrill seekers from attempting the perilous trek through the dark surrounding forest, sprawling grounds and depending on the route selected; the potential for traversing the spot where Francis fell from his favorite steed while participating in a fox hunt in his own back yard least three of his prized equestrians are still buried to the east of the main hall where the wooden crosses that stand today are probably replacements based on the absence of visible weathering the untreated looking wood will inevitably display...

The spectacle of these crucifixion capable sized crosses casting moonlit shadows along the narrow ***** of land between them and

where the woods abruptly terminated in favor of the sprawling plush summer grass must have been a daunting sight for those that emerged from the southeast path along a lake that Pottawatomie Native Americans probably fished as this property’s original residents ...But when the oppressive enormity of the Gothic structure beyond came into focus, full appreciation for the Tudor Revival styled construction exclusively fashioned by renowned Chicago architect Benjamin Marshall was probably neglected by the ill informed tomb searching, thrill seekers of the day...The memory of these stories alone from our older siblings or neighborhood kids with a penchant for yarn spinning are cherished with a nostalgic reminiscence that mitigates any lingering contempt I may have held for those responsible for perpetuating some of these fallacious tales in retrospection...Paradoxically; all of these years later credible seeming adults that have recounted their adolescent misadventures online and while some have mentioned being chased by monks or other nondescript pursuers, the contemporary consensus seems to be that those that were actually caught were set free following a simple admonition for trespassing on the property and a promise for more severe consequences if they returned ...

This popular local legend and the activity purported to be occurring at the abandoned house that overlooked the site of where the Grimes sisters were discarded where those that seemed to figure most proximately in my memory growing up in the area as Resurrection Mary was considered something too scary and real to even discuss back then and to some degree that has not changed ... Some tantalizing details that have up until recently eluded me, include a disclosure a Du Page County Forest Preserve ranger that was reinforced by a corroborative source that served a stipend as an Estate curator and resident replacement following a requested reassignment by the Ranger that lived there an overnight security solution of that time ...the recurring experiences of the sound of a bouncing ball and the continual sighting of a boy of 8 or 9 with curly brown hair by both the curator and his assigned predecessor ...some of this information has been garnered but not excerpted from a book by Richard Crowe... There has been speculation that Mr Peabody had an affair with a servant and the resultant illegitimate child may be the specter bouncing the ball in that cavernous vacant wing of the estate darkened by night and long forgotten secrets ...There is a covert passage concealed by a section of paneling in the study that I must have walked past obliviously the several times that I was inside, but there are conflicting reports online as to where the spiral staircase leads from the study...some say a bomb shelter in the basement, some contend to a sort of “panic room” should the labor dispute related tumult that was transpiring over coal mining regulatory issues become severe enough to lead a disgruntled employee to the CEO’s driveway ...Another theory points to this passage being utilized by My Peabody as discreet access to the servant’s quarters further fueling the rumors of a tryst that produced a love child not to mention a rather sordid addendum to the estate diary...there is not much information about the second marriage but considering that he named the main residence “Mayslake Manor” after his first wife “Mae”, one wonders if his second marriage was premature and made in haste by a grief stricken man terrified by the prospect of being alone or if the second wife was more of a business relationship, the first marriage to Mae had produced a son (Jack) and heir apparent to the Peabody legacy

The famous photo of Mae Peabody alone possesses a quality that seems to transfix those that view it, this radiant woman was undoubtedly an integral part of the formula that helped to defined the F. S. Peabody that forged an empire as the coal mining mogul he became ...her passing may have compromised the fastidious foundation he institutionalized into his work and personal life and this may have contributed to the alleged infidelities that occurred during the discourse of his second marriage and adversely affected his health that subsequently lead to his demise on that August morning along the southern banks of the lake with his favored horse “Dunbar” grazing solemnly nearby ...Again, some of this is simply the result of speculative musing and hypothetical conjecture based solely on unsubstantiated internet heresy by myself and others, I stress this to divert the summation that this is all simply more Halfhand Revisionism in action, when much of it is formulated on the collective suppositions of others that have researched this subject...

As The Friary stands at the polar opposite end of the property from Mayslake Manor and in an effort to maintain a focus this will be broken into two separate updates as the friary was not revisited on this particular occasion but I will added to this same thread at a later date ...

A previous New Year’s resolution granted me yet another headache free New Years Day ...the single digit frigidity of the predawn morning was humbling but was oddly idyllic in conjunction with the icy brilliance of the bejeweled Blue Moon that beckoned from above ... I neglected to consult the web for winter holiday hours of accessibility, so consequently and much to my chagrin the main entrance to Mayslake Manor was gated securely with no noticeable posted hours of admittance visible thus confirming my suspicions that the hour before sunrise and hour after sunset summer rules did not apply especially on an extremely cold holiday ...and while I had my heart set on the estate, I reconnoitered the Dog Park lot adjacent to the friary to the southwest but elected to make the intrepid trek through the woods back to the estate as opposed to simply starting with the visible and much closer friary partly because I was already psychically attenuated for that location but mostly because I already had the first half of this composed before ahead of time ...I had to stop and decide if I really wanted to go through with this unexpected extension to the excursion as the deleterious effects of the cold started to become noticeable early into the walk down the path leading back northwest almost following the beaming lunar lamp that still shined obstinately even as it declined into the westerly horizon and competed with the increasing orange hue that threatened from just below the tree tops to the east ...

A detour through the virgin snow and waist high, indigenous prairie weeds that grow along the path between a fenced off picnic area and the stately oaks that bordered the woods along the southern rim of the property proved to be even more of an difficult jaunt than it appeared ... the deceptively deep snow and my well insulated but less than snug fitting snowmobile boots made this part of the journey like walking in quicksand and as the sub-zero temperature stung my unprotected face, I comported myself to forge ahead defiantly ...I had to laugh when the unfrozen creek at the bottom of the western slope of the field revealed an unfrozen, rapid flowing creek that while relatively slender width wise, seemed like an amazing feat of athleticism to jump in my boots, layered clothing, camera in tow and the banks on both sides being completely snow caked ...there were several circular bon fire remnants of almost identical diameter and interspersed at amazingly consistent space intervals on both side of the creek that dotted the landscape visibly as far as I could see coming and going ...This was the fist time I have ever approached the lawns of the manor from the emerging path the lead uphill towards the rear of the stationary Shakespearean stage and there I discovered 3 more of the wooden crosses that must represent even more favored horses from the Peabody corral, bringing the actual count to six unless some of these markers represent the final resting place of his demised hunting dogs as well ...

The arrival at the main building would have seemed much more triumphant had I been met by a servant at the front door and lead promptly to the Great Hall or Study for a fireside cup of Earl Grey tea and some “lively’ conversation with Francis and Mae ...I had to settle for just the conversation....

Here are the unedited (compressed) photos of my most recent trip to Mayslake Manor ....01/2010 ( 136 total)







































Aanica Aanica
36-40, F
Mar 1, 2010