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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Hills

When an Old House Becomes a Central Character

Highland House was much bigger than she had imagined, like a dark, mysterious island looming amidst a sea of manicured lawns. ~ Haunting Highland House

Stately Highfield Hall

I never set out to write a story centered on an old Victorian mansion, yet somehow I did. The plot unfolded quickly in my head—as if by magic—when I visited an amazing place on Cape Cod. Though it wasn’t intentional, I’d found my “happy place.” A house that will forever capture my heart and imagination.

Today, Highfield Hall is a restoration success story, a hub of culture and community in the picturesque town of Falmouth, Massachusetts. Yet in the late 1800’s it was the summer “cottage” of wealthy Bostonians. On the day I first visited—a cold December afternoon almost eight years ago—the mansion was decorated for Christmas. I strolled through lovely rooms accompanied by my sister, marveling at restored Victorian-era craftsmanship and holiday decorations. The setting was heartwarming.

Holiday table set for visitors

But something happened there that day. The old house fixed itself as a main character in the romantic plot unfolding in my head. It was impossible to ignore the spirit of the place. Sights, sounds, and scents washed over me, filled me, and my imagination took off. Words tumbled onto pages when I returned home. My career as a writer began.

The estate is called Highland House in my debut novel, and the new property manager, Samantha Merrill, is just as enamored by the mysterious old mansion as I am. Once she overcomes her initial fear that it’s haunted…

Late afternoon sunlight bathed its rooms in a soft glow of amber. Familiar sounds smoothed away the rough edges of the day—the ever-present wind, the pendulum swing of the grandfather clock, floorboards creaking beneath her steps. A sense of calm returned. Steeped in secrets and mysteries, Highland House was still a beautiful place despite the mayhem.

Strange, but she belonged here somehow. She just knew it.

~ Haunting Highland House

A restored fireplace

Is Highfield Hall haunted? Many have asked. I would say, “Yes, I believe it is!” But not by anything bad or frightening. Whoever haunts Highfield Hall, whether they’re there all the time or just stopping by, loves this place as much as I do. Perhaps that’s why they linger in its charming rooms and winding hallways. Or maybe they gaze from one of the many odd-shaped windows, hoping to catch a glimpse of the sea beyond or the surrounding forest. I wonder sometimes if they’re confused by all the commotion and visitors. Modern events such as weddings, concerts, and tours must be puzzling to inhabitants of the past. Hopefully, the ghosts of Highfield Hall will be excited to have their beautiful home serve as a character in a love story. A happily-ever-after for my favorite haunted house.

If you’d like to learn more about Highfield Hall, visit, and be sure to stop by if you’re visiting the Cape. You never know. Maybe it will become your happy place.


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