Chapter 13: Blair

☚back home next☛

July 6, 2004 

1

What she did next depleted Blair like a slow bleed. 

Replacing the torn-out magazine page in the box with the rest of the clippings was the opposite of unpacking, but Blair couldn’t stomach the memories anymore. She wasn’t supposed to be unpacking anyway, she was supposed to be helping unload the moving truck out front.

Boxes and boxes of memories over the last fourteen years; at best the relics were a pain in the ass to move, at worst they triggered feelings she thought she’d buried along with the museum.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of artwork, a lifetime’s toil, and she kept the aftermath: magazine pages and missing persons flyers. Shit everyone got.

“Don’t stay down there too long,” David called down the basement stairs. “I don’t want dad trying to carry your bed out of the truck.”

“In a minute.”

Enough people were upstairs to help haul her stuff out of the moving van: her brother and parents and several people from the law firm who only came because David owned them. Blair didn’t admit around the office that they were related, but now everyone knew. It was bad enough David had gotten his job through nepotism; she couldn’t be seen the same way, especially since she hated the place.

She hated her co-workers free-floating in her home, especially in a disassembled state. But Blair took the boxes to the basement herself for the very reason she was keeping them down there: she needed to make sure the vials of potion stayed hidden. Though they should have been in one of the boxes with the news clippings and other museum memorabilia, they hadn’t shown up yet.

The footsteps upstairs thundered in a hoard.

In 1990, before or after the interview she’d just revisited, Blair couldn’t remember, she let her dingy shared studio apartment go and occupied the museum’s basement as a last-ditch attempt to save money and keep the place afloat. Blair and Cy both put their faith in the magazine interview to buoy ticket sales at least until they unveiled the Bollywood spectacular — except said spectacular led the police to the museum. Once the validity of one statue was in question, they all were: the police dredged up old missing persons reports from the late eighties and matched one to Kieron.

“I told you before,” she’d explained, in a calm, reasonable voice, as the officer stood over her desk in the museum office, the one place she counted on to give her peace. “Kieron was my boyfriend and he disappeared, so I channelled my distraught creativity into the statue. That’s all that happened.”

“And Joshua Rossi. That statue also based on sadness?”

“I attended his last concert,” she’d said. No use lying since witnesses put her at the theater that night. “His performance moved me. Come on — playing violin while singing isn’t something you see all the time. It stayed with me. I worked on that piece before I heard he was missing.”

It was true. She’d spent a week holed up in her studio getting the costuming and pose right with Cy; returning to the city after installing the statue, a missing persons flyer for Joshua caught her at the first subway entrance. The gravity of the situation didn’t strike her at first; after staring into his face over the past few days, Joshua’s photo seemed like a normal part of her day. She’d snatched the poster and crumpled it in her purse, but the city was littered with them.

“What about the other two?” the officer continued. “If I peruse my database, am I gonna find reports for them as well?” He paused. “You’re not running a House of Wax situation, are you?” The officer laughed, but Blair hadn’t understood his reference. “House of Wax?” he continued. “Movie from the fifties? Vincent Price? Wax poured over human corpses?”

The insult awoken in Blair at the statement almost made her spill the secret.

“Poured wax—? Have you never coated your finger in candle wax? It’s thick and bulbous — I’d never get any detail — Have you seen my statues?”

“I’m sorry.”

“You don’t ‘pour wax’ over anything and have it look realistic. Is that what you think of my art? Are you calling me a sham?”

But she was. Nothing but the poses held any of Blair’s sculpting. She wasn’t particularly good at sculpture and hadn’t intended to create the ones she had.

It had been Kieron’s fault, though. Or Blair’s friend who introduced her to the Magik Mystic shop. Gothic art hadn’t been Blair’s forte, but visiting the place provided a place to exercise her creative muscle.

“You want Kieron to like you, right?” the friend asked, waggling a tiny bottle at Blair.

Love Potion.

“Get that out of my face.”

“What if it works?”

The label held a particular old-world charm, so Blair forked over the ten bucks.

The bottle lay at the bottom of the box woven in amongst her stack of newspaper clippings. She’d been staring at it the whole time. 

Love Potion. 

She still scoffed at herself for believing in it, but beside it, a full bottle of Preserve — upon finding, she let go a massive pent-up sigh. If that vial hadn’t worked, her life would have been vastly different.

While she wouldn’t admit it aloud, even as it happened, since the love potion had worked on Kieron, Blair returned to the Magik Mystic when her childhood cat died of old age. 

Something to raise the dead? No such thing.

But hundreds of tiny bottles lined the wall of shelves and Blair believed one of them would help. 

Money. Luck. Lucid Dreams. Anti-Anxiety. 

But on the top shelf stood a few bottles marked Preserve.

“It’s for things to stay the way they are,” the shop owner explained. “Not much demand for that one. Everyone wants something to change.”

“Nothing to bring something back or revitalize? Anything—?”

“The realm of the dead is nothing to be toyed with!Things never come back the way you remember them.”

“So, you do have something.”

“I don’t offer anything in this shop that will cause harm to another creature. It goes against everything I believe in. It sounds like you want something I can’t give you and you need to leave.”

“But you don’t understand.” Blair couldn’t stop talking, close to tears and trying to appear rational. But the more Blair tried to convince the shop owner she wasn’t actually trying to raise the dead (she was), that it was for an art project (it wasn’t), the more impassioned she became until she was banned from the store.

In a fit of rage, Blair clubbed the woman with a heavy walking stick leaning against a nearby cabinet, and scooped every vial from the shelves into her purse.

The officer waited for her to continue on her wax tirade. 

“Didn’t mean to insult you, ma’am.”

“If you want real information, don’t be insipid.”

It wasn’t the last time the police were “in the area”.

Focusing on the boxes in the basement didn’t do Blair any favors. They’d probably stay packed.

She pushed the box into what would become its permanent corner and rose to go upstairs when stampeding footsteps and an exasperated shouts barked through the ceiling.

Even after fourteen years, they kept a side eye on her as though given her own way she’d rush back to “that lifestyle” and “that man”. This house was a gift and a punishment.

She’d unpack the domestic bullshit after everyone was gone. Her family would be sweaty and red-faced by now, every one of them miffed and assuming Blair was in the basement moping instead of helping. She should be excited to be moving into a nice place like this, given her previous situation, grateful her family was willing to help her move.

After shoveling the last mound of dirt on the hatch doors in the woods fourteen years ago, after living at the mercy of her friends’ sofas or spending the occasional night riding the subway, Blair marveled how a precious dream got away from her, how the people who loved her could dismiss it so easily.

Blair grounded herself in the present, however objectionable it was.

Castrated and boarded in Westchester.

2

There was a huge difference nit-picking details for her own art and wading through the minefield of mistakes she might make in a legal document.

Use blue ink instead of black? New form.

Don’t all-caps a surname? New form.

One typo? No white-out, new form.

Going home time now, just like in high school, was her favorite part of the day.

Except it wasn’t.

“Goddamnit!” Blair slammed on the brakes. 

Someone cut her off in traffic. 

Laying on the horn was the New York Way, and she applied it liberally, prompting others to do the same in a chorus of rush hour fury.

The driver in front, now stopped mid-way in his lane change as the sea of cars stagnated, stuck his face out the window.

“I’m just fucking trying to get home, bitch!”

“No shit. I thought this was a carnival ride.” 

HORN.

“Hey, fuck you!”

The difference between the end of the school day and now was that she’d either catch a ride home with a friend — where even if traffic was a nightmare, they had each other and didn’t care — or she walked.

Everyone encouraged the ideas she’d cultivated in school. Art clubs, shows, and excursions filled her extracurricular schedule until every waking moment was consumed by her art. When her parents encouraged her to get a “real job” after high school, she had her artwork displayed in a tiny museum. It payed, so it qualified as work, at least to Blair.

At least in college, she’d moved into the dorm to stop listening to her parents gripe about the trajectory of her life. Only she didn’t finish college (and what little she did were the classes that inspired her), and after her second year, moved into a studio apartment in the city with a fellow dropout. With curtains dividing the living space, she spent as much time in her art studio as possible until she opened her own museum, fitted with a room specifically designed for her to live in.

Traffic eased and she drove toward her gilded cage.

She hated her parents for helping her buy that house; hated her brother for getting her the job. The next big project could have been right around the corner, but everything she threw together to keep herself in the art scene was a repetition of something she’d already produced. Though people still loved her work, she wasn’t relevant; younger artist were surpassing her at an alarming rate. 

The corporate world not only commandeered her time, it drained her heart.

It wasn’t a huge house, but it was the biggest space Blair had ever had to herself. With no roommate, she felt free to live in boxes, unpacking as needed, without having to hear about it from a second party. Although —

“Goddamnit.”

— she often annoyed herself by not being able to find a thing as simple as a frying pan.

In the two weeks since she’d moved in, she’d eaten a box of “red berry” flake cereal, Hot Pockets, and assorted takeout (and leftovers from that takeout). This evening, after email-fighting with David all day about bullshit legal procedure, and the nightmare of a commute home, the only morsel of food in Blair’s kitchen was a frozen package of raw hamburger meat and a box of accompanying pasta/powder mix. She might not have had culinary skills, but she wasn’t about to microwave it.

Five ripped-open boxes later, she unearthed a newspaper-wrapped pan and threw the meal together without taking care to drain the meat, as specified in the instructions. Taking the oily bowl of meat noodles to her basement, she switched on her computer and surveillance monitors.

One thing David had been good for was setting up her spy equipment. She didn’t have nine separate screens the way she had in the museum, but she’d fit a big flat screen TV to the feed and every now and then tuned in to what her life’s work looked like now.

Each of the nine squares flipped once a minute to reveal another section of museum. The hall of hanging costumes, where two of the mannequins had fallen to the ground. The now dirtied and dry silver fountain with her sculpture of a woman holding an ax (even though it had been one of Cy’s creations, she loved it). The fashion gallery that had only been an excuse to display her opera singer and his adoring fan. Though Joshua Rossi been dead fifteen years, he looked as alive as the night she’d dragged him to her studio and with trembling hands administered the fatal dose. With Kieron, the murder had been an act of passion — an angry jab with no thought to it. The opera singer had been deliberate. Sophia, David’s office lackey was too.

Tapping a few words into the program that controlled the feed, Blair activated its sound. Immediately, the mournful operatic music through her tinny speakers flooded her with nostalgia and sadness and longing.

She wished she hadn’t tried to salvage anything in there, just left the exhibits exactly as they were on the last day of business. The music had been something she couldn’t bear turning off, but she hadn’t bothered insisting her small crew keep anything neat. Half-filled boxes she hadn’t bothered bringing lay along the sides of the rooms, even in the middle of the floor. Step ladders, brackets and shelves ripped from the walls, dirt tracked in from the garden outside: though the things she’d rescued from the now abandoned building were still in her rented studio space, she wouldn’t have them in her home, hoping the distance would fuel her to create something new and vibrant.

She’d had the time to make the museum perfect, but she lacked the focus. And while using dead bodies as mannequins captivated the visitors — all the while she insisted they were carefully sculpted statues of a secret composition — she was sure she didn’t have the balls to do the same thing again.

The next one would be spectacular. Designs for it were already forming, giving her something to think about during meetings at the office, something to fill her notebook with to make the lackeys over there think she was diligent enough in her work to write things down.

Blair kept the surveillance footage running in the monitor beside her and opened an internet browser and a Word document.

The audience is part of the exhibit⏐

The curser blinked at the end of the line. All her ideas about the new place receded into some dusty corner, superseded by the music she thought she’d never hear again.

That was the gallery where she’d spent her last moments, sitting beside Sophia on the bench, wiping flecks of dust from the bridge of the dead woman’s nose, drinking a bottle of something, letting the music wash over her. She’d thought about having that moment be her last anything, but couldn’t work out how to be a beautiful corpse to fit in with the rest of the exhibit before her brother and Cy came to deride her for not packing, and told her it was time to leave.

She’d been too drunk to properly plan a suicide, anyway, so she went with them.

The curser blinked.

With fourteen years behind her, and the internet more useful now than it had been even five years ago, she typed her own name in a search engine to find out if anyone was still talking about her — if anyone remembered her or her museum at all.

While her own name yielded more results than she could sift through, adding the word ‘museum’ to the search pulled up a message board entitled, Subway station in the middle of nowhere. Museum?

“That’s me,” she murmured, taking a bite of meaty pasta and clicking.InternetMessageBoard.com

Home  Calendar  Chat

New York>Society & Culture>Museums

 Subway station in the middle of nowhere. Museum? (diya)

⤑ (diya) My friends and I found a subway station (MTA lines M,S,E, Museum Street?) in upstate NY in the middle of the woods. Not anything I’ve seen on a map, but I’m sure I went to a museum like this as a kid. I don’t remember the name of the place, but I’m sure it was here. Any info?

⤑ (panda123) Legend has it someone opened a museum in upstate NY (outside Banksville near CR 10) with a discarded subway railing as the entrance. Can’t find anything online, though, but there was a magazine article about it a few years ago. Will try to find it.

⤑ (dadbod) don’t your parents remember it? You said you went as a kid.

⤑ (diya) They didn’t go. It was me and a friend. We were staying at our cabin in the woods (parents stayed at the cabin ok?) and went hiking and found it. I’m sure we went inside and there was an art museum in there. Creepy cool. My friend doesn’t remember it. I’m starting to think I made it up.

⤑ (majordude) I have a photo from when I visited in 1992. Kind of blurry, but it’s there. 

⤑ (panda123) That’s Photoshopped.

⤑ (majordude)I swear to god it’s not

⤑ (panda123) why isn’t there more than one photo if you took it?

⤑ (majordude) The bitch who works there threatened to confiscate my camera, so this was all I could get

⤑ (diya) I’ve seen better ‘shop jobs

⤑ (dadbod) Why is it so blurry?

⤑ (dork567) It’s a broken .jpg. Can you re-upload?

⤑ (panda123) Blair Ames is the name from the magazine article. There was definitely a museum out there. Artistique summer/fall 1990 if you want to order a copy.

⤑ (diya) Wasn’t it a wax museum?

⤑ (diya) I don’t think it was fully a wax museum. There were realistic looking human figures, but also lots of other things. Costumes, statues, taxidermy. Beautiful.

⤑ (majordude) Madame Tussaud?

⤑ (diya) I said NOT a wax museum

⤑ (panda123) Mme Tussaud isn’t realistic at all

Internet Message Board © 1998 .website.com

Website for weird and scary shit.

June 27, 2001

If you’ve never been to Blair Ames’ museum, you’re too late by about a decade. That shit shut its doors allegedly around 1992 (give or take), but the why might surprise you.

For the uninitiated, here you go: niche art museum in the middle of the woods run by two (?) people who either took over an existing museum or (as legend has it) ran its owners out and squatted. Ticket prices were sky high, in the ballpark of $50-100 each, others say they went for a cool $500. And not for some black tie event shit, just to take a run-of-the-mill tour. Like if you went to the Met and instead of paying $1 for their “suggested donation” they charged you $50 or you could go to hell.

They definitely used strobe lights in part of the exhibit, and though I can’t find the source (if any hoarders out there have any Banksville, NY newspapers from around 1990, please send me a copy), these flashers gave at least one person a seizure. I don’t want to contribute, but legend has it, that person died on the premises, and instead of calling 911, because they were so far out in the middle of nowhere, and the curator was an evil fuck, his body went on display.

“No photos” signs were in every gallery, and they were not kidding. If you actually got your camera up to your face without having it slapped down by an attendant, they would straight up confiscate your film if you did take a picture. That usually lead to a person being banned from the facility. But honestly, it was pretty dark and moody down there, so the pictures wouldn’t have come out anyway and flash photography would have ruined the atmosphere. (“ruining the atmosphere” was the official party line for the photography ban, btw)

From innocuous mannequins wearing (quite frankly) fashion designs that took themselves too seriously to ax-wielding fountain statues, this museum was more akin to a chamber of horrors. Not for the faint of heart, but fucking brilliant.

COMMENTS

(licker69) First

(angel) I remember visiting and seeing a statue that looked like the charred remains of someone. Like Spontaneous Human Combustion. Just some legs. One shoe on, one off, and burned off at the thigh, still trying to sit in a chair. Creepiest shit I ever saw.

(diya) I don’t remember that one, angel but I know the museum shuttered right as they announced there would be an exhibit about Ajay Kapoor, the Bollywood actor. But almost immediately after the announcement, Kapoor was kidnapped.

(angel) diya, please tell me you’re not suggesting taxidermy humans again

(panda123) The SHC statue was definitely real. I mean, I could smell it. Voting taxidermy.

(majordude) put jeans on mannequin legs and it looks real. No skill to it. Burn off the ends, done.

(diya) SHC had one shoe off, and that foot looked human, majordude. Toenails, hair, everything

(majordude) so not only is diya suggesting human taxidermy works at all (it doesn’t), she’s suggesting SHC is also real?

(licker69) Wasn’t there a Polybius cabinet down there?

(panda123) SHC is real. It happened to my friend’s neighbor. Nothing left but shoes, and no other part of the house was damaged.

(diya) I never said taxidermy humans in either of my comments. I was merely pointing out that the statues looked remarkably realistic in a way I’ve never seen carried out before. And for the record, if you can taxidermy an animal (which WAS down there), you can taxidermy a human.

(angel) my grammaw went to the Hollywood Wax Museum and spent ten minutes trying to get the attention of a wax figure dressed like a museum employee by the entrance. The lighting in Ames’ museum was super dim, and your brain is wired to pick out faces and recognize threats. They were wax or plastic mannequins, simple as that.

(diya) ok angel, if you’re so smart: why wouldn’t taxidermy humans work?

(angel) whyhumantaxidermydoesn’twork.com diya

(majordude) if they were taxidermy humans diya, people would have lined up with pitchforks and torches. Tribute or not, no family members are gonna stomach their loved ones being propped up in some exhibit

(diya) majordude that’s absolutely untrue. There are funeral homes out there who will prop up a dead body to look like they’re doing the things they love. It’s a mark of respect, and people pay good money to have it done. Don’t tell me there aren’t people who wouldn’t want their loved one memorialized in a museum as well.

(majordude) diya it’s “funeral homes WHICH will” it’s not a person, it’s a place. So WHICH

(diya) majordude it’s people doing the work

(moderator) let’s keep it on topic, diya, majordude, angel

(diya) there are documented cases of human taxidermy and corpses that simply don’t rot. Has anyone ever heard of Eva Peron or Lenin or any of them? Or what about that mannequin in Mexico that was fashioned from a human body? Once you see something like that (and I did!) you know if it’s a person or not.

(majordude) diya it’s been about a decade since the place closed. Are you saying your memory is so stellar that you can remember details from these mannequins well enough to 100% say they were humans and not plastic? Because even if it could be done (and it would take an army of scientists all day every day to make that happen), there’s no way your memory is that detailed.

(diya) do you remember events from a decade ago majordude?

(majordude) memoriesdegradeovertime.com diya

COMMENTS CLOSED November 12, 2001 00:34ScaryPizza.com

The scariest stories on the net

Killer Museum

By diya © 2004

(a scary story about two lovebirds who get locked in the museum overnight and have to battle the statues that come alive.)

For more Pizzas about Blair Museum, click here.

Best reviewed: The Killer in the Shadows, Eyes in the Dark, You Can Never Leave, The Museum

Comments

(angel) 7/1/2004 00:37 love it

(majordude) 7/1/2004 01:47 you’re missing the entire point of the museum itself. While yes, its main roots are in urban legend, it was a real place (I have photos) used for mind control. That’s why it was shut down. That and human trafficking.

(diya) 7/1/2004 01:47 human trafficking? majordude you’re off the hook as usual.

(majordude) 7/1/2004 01:58 it’s not a secret that people had been kidnapped. Verified missing persons showed up at the museum as statues. You can look at any police report from the era. I’m not trying to poop on anyone’s Pizza, but diya’s story was factually inaccurate.

(diya) 7/1/2004 011:28 you don’t have to be a dick it was a story

(majordude) 7/1/2004 013:45 you don’t have to be a stupid bitch

(angel) 7/2/2004 017:05 I do remember hearing about police raids before the museum officially shut, but I can’t find any reports about it. I’ve checked the Wayback Machine, but it only goes back to 1996.

(angel) 7/3/2004 00:03 I found a missing persons poster in a police archive. I can’t post a picture here, but here’s a link: JoshuaRossiMissing 

(flowerchild77) 7/4/2004 03:29 diya, I loved the part in the subway car. Amazing Pizza overall. Extra Toppings.

(diya) 7/4/2004 09:23 thanks flowerchild77! It means a lot to me

(angel) 7/5/2004 00:21 I remember the subway car in the real museum! That was my favorite part of the exhibit. So creepy to see a station that empty and quiet. Part of the reason I wanted to work for the MTA in the first place.

(troll) 7/5/2004 00:27 there’s no way anyone could have gotten a real subway car

(angel) 7/5/2004 01:30 why not? The MTA regularly de-commissions subway cars and drops them into the ocean to create habitats for wildlife. If someone wanted to buy one of them, I’m sure they’d be more than happy to take your money.

(troll) 7/5/2004 01:33 you don’t get it. That place wasn’t real to begin with. You’re all deluding yourselves. Bunch of old fucks

(diya) 7/5/2004 09:21 don’t forget the subway railing outside at the front door. Best museum entrance ever! It’s still there, BTW

(troll) 7/5/2004 14:18 again, if any of you ever visited the site where that subway entrance is, you’ll find there’s no door anywhere. Ya’ll all made up that story about something being underground and mind control and all that and really ya’ll just got your brains cooked being on the internet too long. Why don’t you take your comments to a reality show blog where they belong and leave the literature to us.

(diya) 7/5/2004 14:27 there IS a door at the site. It’s grown over with grass and tree roots (really cool — here’s a photo)

(daisydude) 7/5/2004 17:12 nice story, diya. I added some Extra Toppings on your profile

(diya) 7/5/2004 18:19 thanks daisydude!

(majordude) 7/5/2004 20:57 troll, are you calling ScaryPizza literature?

(troll) 7/6/2004 00:17 I’ve seen your profile on conspiracy theory websites, asshoe

(majordude) 7/6/2004 02:35 asshoe? 

(troll) 7/6/2004 05:47 I say we dig. Let’s you and me go out there and dig under the subway railing and you’ll see there’s nothing there. And your arms will be tired. lol3

The spoon dropped from Blair’s lax hand, leaving a chunk of ground beef on the desk before hitting the floor.

Dig.

The bowl almost joined the spoon as she shoved it on the desk to focus on the monitors beside her.

The cameras flipped leisurely from one section of the museum to another, each displaying the consistency she was hoping for, but she found it impossible to focus on each of the nine images before they changed. 

The statues were still standing where she’d left them, posing forever.

Returning to the message board, she checked the date of the last comment.

7/6/2004 05:47

Five that morning on a run-of-the-mill Tuesday, these people were up at all hours talking about a fan-fiction story about a museum. Her museum.

Since there was no camera outside monitoring the grounds, Blair stayed glued to the inside feed, slowing the room changes, zooming in, studying  until a beeping in the room upstairs indicated her morning alarm was going off.

She refreshed the comments page to find only one more:

(majordude) 7/7/2004 04:22 you dig.

Blair clicked the “leave a comment” button.

(blairames) 7/7/2004 06:01 It’s time I set the story straight since you all have rampant imaginations. My name is Blair Ames and I’m the creator behind the museum you’re so fondly remembering. While I’m flattered, this is a train wreck I never thought I’d witness. The museum was a project between myself and Cy, who I haven’t spoken to in years. We worked together at the art museum in the woods for years before buying it out. Contrary to your entertaining stories, the exhibits had nothing to do with displayed corpses or missing persons, and everything to do with the human condition. I used a wax/plastic compound and cast moulds of people I knew to create the lifelike textures of the statues. I would have liked to make more, but it was a costly, time-consuming project. I needed to fill the space, so I focused on art I could produce more quickly. I did model one of the statues off an opera singer who went missing, and the idea of corpses ballooned from there. Quite frankly if I’d known you all were thinking “displayed corpses” as a conspiracy theory, I would have run with it for the ticket sales, and maybe I could have kept the place open. But it wasn’t true and my business went bankrupt. In early 1991 we shuttered the doors, which is a shame, because I had some great exhibits lined up for later that year and into the next. Sorry if bankruptcy is more boring than getting raided for displaying human bodies or whatever it is you people believe. I’m sure you’ll all doubt the truth in this statement, but go ahead and send me an email and I’ll do my best to answer your questions. Blair.

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