It was an overcast and rainy afternoon as we drove across the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick into Prince Edward Island. My (irrational) fear of bridges was amplified the entire 12.9 km stretch, but I knew that just over the bridge, awaited our charming little bed & breakfast retreat.
When we first planned our epic East Coast road trip (that had us visiting four provinces and two states in nine days), the PEI bed & breakfast was the first booked. It was to be a traditional style B&B on a working family farm. The room was located in the old family home, hot breakfasts would be served family style in the dining room and tours of the farm property and animals were encouraged. The images of romping in the fields with large dairy cows were promptly shattered when we arrived.
Through the thick fog and rain, we managed to find the house on our second attempt, having turned away the first time, certain it could not be the correct location. A large for sale sign was propped up on the front lawn. What? The house is for sale? And the house itself appeared smaller and older than the images posted online. Where is the farm? Triple checking the address, we knocked on the door. After a few moments, a short older woman with disheveled clothing appeared, looking as if we disturbed her. Oh no, maybe this is the wrong house. Without cracking a smile, she opened the door for us and pointed to the long narrow staircase. Our room was at the top of the stairs. We were in the right place.
The house itself was as described, albeit smaller, darker and quiet (save for the creaking floorboards and steps). That's when we realized, there was no other family in the house. The old woman was it. We told her about our dinner plans that evening (delicious PEI lobster at a local harbor restaurant), so she wouldn't "accidentally" lock us out, and she nodded in agreeance. We carried our overnight bags up the narrow steps and opened the door to "Anne's Room", so it was named.
Like the house, it was smaller than the photos had implied. There was one "double" bed (that just barely fit the both of us side by side), and our feet dangled over the edge. Sitting on springs and wheels, it squeaked loudly with each small movement.
As the name and the photo suggested, the room's theme was Anne, of Anne of Green Gables fame, but what was not expected, was the dozens of terrifying dolls that lined the desk across from the bed. In order to get some rest that night, we covered or turned them around to face the other direction. What have we gotten ourselves into?
There was one other room in the house available for rent, the "Cow Room", seemingly in honour of the dairy cow farm on the property. The bed in this room was smaller, which is why we opted for the other, but not sure which dolls would be more frightening to wake up to.
As we unpacked, the rain outside subsided into a mist and we decided to explore the grounds. From our bedroom window, we could see long farm building in the back. The property was indeed a farm, or at least it was. The barns were all aged and shut, no animals on site. This had not been a working farm for quite some time. But why would they continue to advertise the property as such and encourage farm tours?
After we gorged ourselves on lobster (and potatoes, and wine, and dessert) for dinner, we made our way back through the dark roads and to the house. Luckily we were able to get in, but had to feel our way in the dark back to our room. We had not seen or heard from the old lady since we first arrived. The only noises in the house were those that we made.
It was a long and relatively sleepless night. The shared bathroom was down the hall, but neither of us had any intention of leaving our room until day break.
Sunrise brought with it another overcast morning, and we packed up and dressed early, hoping to make an excuse and leave without breakfast. We loaded our bags into the car and came back into the house to say good bye. That's when the old lady appeared for the second time.
She was surprised to see us up so early and though we explained that we needed to leave, she insisted we stay for breakfast. She disappeared again and avoiding the dining room, we explored the adjacent living room. It once could have been cozy, with it's country furniture and Knick knacks, but something dark and creepy overshadowed it now, as if it had not left untouched for decades. Spread among the Knick knacks and behind (what we presumed to be) family photos, were funeral pamphlets. What? Why have information pamphlets to local funeral services in your house? And why so many?
That's when she appeared again and lead us into the dining room. The large dark wood table was set with two plates, two cups and a platter of mini muffins. As we sat down at the table, she disappeared behind the door to the kitchen and returned with a pot of coffee. The "special casserole", she said, was almost ready and we needed to wait. Our nerves got the better of us as we sipped on the thick coffee that tasted as if it had been sitting out for hours. Where were the rest of the family? What made the casserole so special?
She re-emerged with a large casserole dish, hot from the oven. Through the mixture of yellow and green, I could see what appeared to be pieces of meat.
As a vegetarian, I politely declined and reached for a muffin instead. My other half, unfortunately, scooped a portion onto his plate. Liquid ran from the spoon as he did. Whatever it was, it did not appear to be cooked through. The old woman then sat at the head of the table, leaned back into her chair and smiled.
As we took polite bites of the food in front of us, she watched us as we ate.
Neither of us can be sure what was in that casserole (or that muffin) but we both felt sick almost immediately. Just as the awkward silence began to envelop us, a man emerged from upstairs. Wait, what? There was another guest somewhere? Overly cheerful, he asked for a cup of coffee and chatted with the old woman. It was eerie and seemed staged. As soon as we could, we took the opportunity to say good bye, thank-you and left. Though it can never be proven, but we are convinced the old woman fed us the remains of either the previous guests or her family. An online search today has no record of the home or farm.