Saturday, February 25, 2006

Oscar Night: Hollywood meets Saratoga Springs

SARATOGA SPRINGS - With all eyes focused on Hollywood, and the movie world gathered to
salute the best of the year,
actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, director Bennett Miller and writer Dan Futterman closely watched the ceremonies to see it all play out.

The trio collaborated on the multi-nominated film 'Capote.' The fuse that sparked the trio's collaboration was lit in a Saratoga Springs theater group more than 20 years ago.

The three - each nominated for awards in their respective fields as well as for an Oscar as Best Picture - met as teenagers with theatrical aspirations at a summer drama camp in 1984. They shared classroom space and dorms at Skidmore College during the four-week camp for promising youths hosted by the NYS Summer School of the Arts Program.

(The 16-year-old Hoffman is pictured above, wearing a blue shirt at rear, with his fellow students at the summer drama camp in the summer of 1984 in Saratoga Springs. Photo courtesy of NYSSSA).

The collaboration from the Spa City classrooms to the film world's grandest stage has been more than 20 years in the making. It is an unusual footnote in the city's movie-making history, which is more accustomed to providing a backdrop for filmmakers for the past 70 years.

In 2005, residents saw their city's streets become a set for a pair of films being filmed in the region. Anthony Michael Hall, Tony Danza and the late Christopher Penn were among the cast shooting in town in November for the movie 'Aftermath,' which is tentatively slated for release later this year.

Writer-director Tennyson Bardwell and wife and co-producer Mary-Beth Taylor brought their own cast and crew to the city for their second film, 'The Skeptic.'

'We had Ed Hermann, who is the voice of The History Channel, Tom Arnold, who is like the kid in the back of the room in an eighth-grade class, and Tim Daly, who is a combination of both, all together on the set,' laughed Taylor, reminiscing from the Broadway offices of Saratoga Studios, where post-production work will be ongoing through the summer.

During filming, the large space was swarming with costume fitters, department heads and production designers coming in from all over the country for the shoot. Comparatively, the post-production work is a lonely business, where Bardwell sits facing a pair of computer monitors lit with Tom Arnold's face, a scribbled-in notebook, ragged pieces of hand-written notes and a bottle of water. Bardwell said the role of writer and director for 'The Skeptic' was a challenging experience.

'Some of these guys, they've worked with Martin Scorsese, with James Cameron and Steven Spielberg. There is a certain amount of ego which is magnified with their name,' Bardwell said. 'Sometimes, the actors don't mesh with each other. As the director, it's up to you to fix that and, at times, it's like being kind of a den mother,' he said. 'But I'm a believer that what doesn't destroy you makes you stronger. It was pretty close -- but I think I'm stronger now,' he said.

From Bardwell's second-floor window above Broadway, he can glance out at architectural charm so alluring to movie makers.

For many, what brings them here is a past-world charm. Parts of 'Billy Bathgate' and 'Ghost Story' were filmed in Saratoga Springs and the greater Capital Region has similarly been the backdrop for the sets of 'Scent of a Woman,' 'The Age of Innocence' and 'Time Machine.'

Robert Redford his crew here for the filming of 'The Horse Whisperer' in 1997, matching the scenes with natural country landscape. It was Redford's second visit to the region, filming 'The Way We Were' in Ballston Spa and Schenectady a quarter century earlier.

In 2002, Tobey Maguire headlined the list of more than 200 cast and crew attracted by the real-life setting of historic Saratoga Race Course for the filming of 'Seabiscuit.' More than 65 years earlier, the racecourse was the also the setting for Clark Gable and Jean Harlow, filming scenes for 'Saratoga.'

Before the movie's completion, Harlow became ill and died in Hollywood.

'Death Calls 'Cut' in Actress' Life' screamed the cover of The Saratogian, June 8, 1937, which included a statement from Louis B. Mayer of MGM, that the film 'Saratoga' was to be discarded. After a public outcry that Harlow's final film would never be seen, a stand-in was used to complete the movie with its memorable line: 'We women can do things to a man we love that men wouldn't do to a rattlesnake,' was issued in 1937. George S. Bolster, one of the area photographers assisting the film crew with local scenes, was given one of the movie's clips from outside the United States Hotel, as a gesture of gratitude for his help.

Hollywood returned to the city eight years later to shoot Spa City locales for the film 'Saratoga Trunk.'

Bringing a major film company into the region can be a major coup for the Saratoga County Film Commission, whose Clinton Street offices are filled with descriptions and photographs of potential area locales. Luring a major motion picture cast and crew to the county, with potentially hundreds of people staying at hotels, eating at restaurants and buying local goods can have a lucrative impact on area shops and businesses.

'I get calls daily from filmmakers, both local and outside the region, looking for locations,' said Jennifer Joseph Perry, commissioner of the Saratoga County Film Commission. 'It's important if it's made in Saratoga. It puts heads in beds, people in restaurants and provides hiring for local crews and services,' she said. 'It provides dollars for the community.'

Some advantages for having the film industry here are home grown. Every year, a number of independent filmmakers can be found shooting scenes on the city's streets. For some, like Albany-based writer William Kennedy's book and screenplay for 'Ironweed,' shooting local is the logical way to go, and only the future will tell what role the works being produced on a regular basis at the Yaddo Arts Colony will play on the city's filmmaking future.

Truman Capote came here in the 1940s as an aspiring young writer and ended up authoring his first book. Forty years later an even younger trio of aspiring theater students came here and met for the first time. Tonight on the Hollywood stage the three will be battling for Academy Awards for their movie 'Capote.' Coincidences like that are usually the stuff of fiction. This one just might have a real-life Hollywood ending.

by Thomas Dimopoulos
The Saratogian, 2006

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Laura Hillenbrand likes The Smiths

by Thomas Dimopoulos

Right from the start, like a fury of thoroughbreds storming out of the gate, the box office numbers were staggering.
“Seabiscuit” was in more than 2,400 theaters, brought in nearly $50 million and sat perched at the No. 4 spot in the entire country - all in just the first two weeks of its release.

And Laura Hillenbrand, the author of the book "Seabiscuit," is exhausted.

On Tuesday, a CNN film crew came to her Washington, D.C., home to tape an interview. On Wednesday, she spent the afternoon visiting her doctor.
“I stay quiet mostly during the day,” she says. “Although I’ll have like one big punch, a time when I can get some things done.”

Hillenbrand’s debut book, “Seabiscuit,” has lit up the nation ever since its release in 2001, but she has not been physically able to enjoy the accolades coming her way.
Even as the celebrity-filled movie premieres, dazzling galas and literary honors continue, the author who got the whole party started has been living with chronic fatigue syndrome for the better part of the past 16 years.

Completing the book was a task that required all her energies. The result of her efforts has left her physically exhausted.

“To someone on the outside, someone who doesn’t know (about the illness), I seem to be completely normal,” the 36-year-old author says. “But there are other times like today, for instance. Today I went to the doctor’s which took a few hours and now after coming back home, I just get really tired.”

She has lived nearly half her life with CFS. It is a disability that renders her housebound for lengthy periods of time.
Predating her illness is a lifelong affinity for horses. As a child she rode them, and as an adult, she began writing about them. She began publishing articles in the late 1980s, while in her early 20s.

Hillenbrand’s focus included everything from thoroughbred racing and veterinary medical topics to investigative horse stories. She remembers first coming across a photograph of Seabiscuit when she was a little girl.
Her book on the unlikely champion and the equally unlikely cast of characters-turned-heroes is one of those beautifully synchronized moments in life when the perfect story is told at exactly the right time.

So staggeringly awesome is the popularity of Hillenbrand’s “Seabiscuit: An American Legend,” it would be difficult to find anyone from California to the New York islands that hasn’t either been touched, or at the very least heard about the story of that horse.

More than two years after its release, the original hardcover publication continues to count among the top 10 most popular nonfiction books in the country.
Both the mass market paperback and the larger trade soft cover edition each sit at the very top of their respective categories - number one in the nation - dwarfing otherwise perennial chart-toppers Nora Roberts, Tom Clancy and the late Dr. Robert Atkins.
The recently released film “Seabiscuit” - for which the author was a consultant - has brought in more than $50 million and is one of the most popular movies in North America.

Hillenbrand clearly remembers the day she was first stricken ill.

It was a Sunday night in March 1987. She was 19 years old.
Initially, it came on as “an intense wave of nausea,” she wrote in an article published in “The New Yorker” in early July. Hillenbrand continually battled illness and fatigue while completing the article.
“That New Yorker piece took two years to write,” she says.

That initial episode in 1987 was the beginning of the disabilities that would plague her, forcing her to drop out of college, return to her mother’s home and undergo examination from physicians to psychiatrists, all the while enduring the social shunning from people who did not understand what CFS was.
It came during a time that should have been otherwise innocent and carefree.

She was enrolled in classes at Kenyon College, making friends, deciding the path her life would take and enjoying her music.

“What kind of music?” she was asked.

“I listened to a lot of what used to be known called ‘progressive’, but I guess now they call it alternative,” she says. “I liked bands like the Cure and some of the more ‘pop’ kind of things, like The Police and Lloyd Cole and the Commotions - I liked them a lot.”
The memories of Cure front man Robert Smith and his mopey black eyeliner draws a chuckle from Hillenbrand.

“I’d also listen to The Smiths a lot,” she says.

The British post-punk quartet were among the coolest college scene makers of the 1980s.
Their songs “Panic” and “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” could be heard streaming out campus windows from vinyl-draped turntables and then-new CD players.

Take me out tonight/Where there’s music and there’s people/ And they’re young and alive,” sang The Smiths’ young lead singer, whose name was Morrissey, and was the next generation’s new Elvis:
“Take me out tonight/ Because I want to see people and I want to see life ... There is a light and it never goes out.”

“Public Gets First Chance At Man o’ War Yearlings Thursday” reads the headline across the top of the sports page of The Saratogian on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 1936. Across the side of the page is the “Saratoga Chart” - a listing of the previous day’s races that details Seabiscuit’s victory of the day’s fifth race.
Scarcely more than a footnote at the time, the event would prove to be a major development. At Saratoga that day were Charles and Marcella Howard. It was the first time they would see Seabiscuit race.

“The Howards were in Saratoga to attend the yearling sales on Bing Crosby’s behalf,” Hillenbrand says.
While in town the couple decided to attend some of the races as well.

“The sale of Seabiscuit wasn’t at a public auction,” Hillenbrand says, referring to the headline. “It was a private sale.”
It is, coincidentally, nearly 67 years to the day that Charles Howard visited the racecourse paddock area, wrote out a check, and presented the newly purchased Seabiscuit to his wife, Marcella.

The horse had run twice at Saratoga the summer before, both times unsuccessfully. Returning in August of 1936, however, Seabiscuit triumphed in races on Aug. 3 and Aug. 10. They were the last competitions that Seabiscuit would run under the ownership of the Wheatley Stable. For his next race, the horse would be introduced to “Red” Pollard.

“He was a courageous person,” Hillenbrand says, citing Pollard as an inspiration for her to forge ahead with the book.
“Red and I have a lot in common. Our bodies are our main obstacles, and I identify with him a lot,” she says.
Despite physical obstacles and competitive odds, Pollard and Seabiscuit together would triumph.

Overcoming conflict is a major part of the Seabiscuit story, and Hillenbrand says her goal was to write it in a way that would be appeal to both racing fans and to the general public. She says that financial success wasn’t her primary goal. Doing the best job she could with the work was.

“I really didn’t think about how the book would do (commercially),” she says. “I was not emotionally wedded to it being a big success, but I was wedded to the idea of it being done well. That’s what I concentrated on and where my focus was at the end of the day when I went to sleep at night.”

While Saratoga Springs played a role in Seabiscuit’s journey, and Hillenbrand’s book has set the Spa City abuzz since its release, regrettably, she says, she hasn’t been able to make it to Saratoga.
In 1991, there was an ill-fated attempt to visit the Spa City, but during the 10-hour ride, her condition worsened and forced her to return to home half-way through the journey. As a result of the trip, it would be four years until she would feel well enough to write again.
She is, however, well known and respected in the area.

“I haven’t been able physically to make it to Saratoga,” Hillenbrand says, “but I have a lot of friends there.”
On July 31, Hillenbrand was honored by the Teresian House with the “Teresian Literary Achievement Award,” which jockey Jerry Bailey accepted on her behalf. And she has an ongoing relationship with the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

“She is a great person to work with and has done a lot to revitalize interest in the history of racing,” says Kate Cravens, a curator at the museum.
It is a reciprocal relationship. Hillenbrand was aided in her research for the book, as well as for the newly published illustrated edition which cites Cravens, curator of collections Lori Fisher and other members of the museum in its introduction for their assistance.

“We did a major Seabiscuit exhibit that opened in July 2001, shortly after the book came out, and Laura had loaned many items. She had original newspapers from the 1930s and advertisements and things like games that featured Seabiscuit,” Cravens says. “Laura has many friends here.”

Alongside Hillenbrand’s success has also come a lot of publicity for CFS, placing the writer in a role as something of an unofficial spokesperson for the disease.

“I chose that role,” she says decidedly. “I used to sit there and wish that there was someone with credibility that could speak about it and to help people understand what it was. I realized, when the book went to No. 1, that I was in the position of being that person. I could be the one to speak out on their behalf.”

As for the future, she is non-committal.

“I have an idea of what I may be working on in the future, but I’m not telling anybody yet,” she says. “I have a terrible problem with vertigo, and lately I have been pushing myself extremely hard.”

Success has also brought her some financial security that has enabled her to arrange her living environment into a more user-friendly space.
“I live in a house that has been renovated in a way that is easier for me to use. There is a refrigerator upstairs, so I don’t have to go down the stairs all the time and a balcony just outside my office, so I can go outside.”

The wooden staircase is a challenge at times, particularly with her vertigo. She keeps boxes filled with cereal next to her computer which sits on a desk near the balcony window.
She is thankful that she has been able to do the renovations, although “I am certainly not wealthy,” she says. “It’s just that before (the book), we were really in trouble with money.”

Shortly after the book’s release in the summer of 2001, as the screenplay for the film was being put together, she responded to inquiries on the New York Racing Association message board questioning who she would like to see cast in the film’s lead roles.
Names like Sean Penn, Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall were bandied about.

“Oh we would play around, like, ‘Oh, who would you like to see in it?’ and we’d throw some names around,” she says. “But as soon as I heard who was in it, I couldn’t have been happier with the casting of the roles. And after watching their performances - I am doubly happy.”

While unable to attend Seabiscuit’s theatrical premiere, she did view an early version of the film in comfortable surroundings.

“They brought it right into my living room, and we sat and watched it,” she says.
And? “I was very excited watching it,” she says. “I love it. It’s really good.”

Hillenbrand knows, better than most perhaps, what courage combined with perseverance can accomplish. In the meantime, the races continue.
“Oh yes,” she says adamantly, as to whether the horse racing bug is still with her. “I continue to follow horse racing obsessively. And yes, I am following Funny Cide.”

As for those “dark days,” there is always The Smiths, on an infinite loop in a memory in time.
“There is a light and it never goes out,” they sing. “There is a light and it never goes out ...”

published in The Saratogian, Aug. 10, 2003

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Man O' War on the heels of Seabiscuit

by Thomas Dimopoulos

SARATOGA SPRINGS - When 'Seabiscuit' was topping the bestseller charts and drawing millions of moviegoers to theaters across the nation, author Laura Hillenbrand was asked if she had any interest in applying her lyrical magic to the great horse Man O' War.

'I'll need to look elsewhere,' Hillenbrand responded. 'A wonderful writer named Dorothy Ours is now completing 'Chained Lightning,' the first truly comprehensive biography of Man O' War.'

'We became e-mail pen pals several years ago,' says Ours, sitting at a desk in her office at the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

A computer sits on top of a table nearby and a neatly lined row of CDs depict her musical style, which includes the bands R.E.M., Green Day and U2.

'I ran an ad in Blood Horse magazine about Man O' War asking: Do you know anything about this horse? Would you like to talk about him? One of the people who answered was Laura Hillenbrand. She said, 'Oh, it sounds like you're working on a book. I'm (also) working on a book. We should stay in touch while we're doing this. I've been a lot slower in the process,'"' Ours confesses with a laugh.

The two would-be authors sought each other's help in researching equine history and found common ground in characters like Sam Riddle, who bought Man O' War for $5,000 in 1918 and also factored in the story of Seabiscuit.

'It developed into a friendship through that process,' Ours says.

Developing the Man O' War story has been a lifelong companion for the kid who grew up watching 'Let's Go to the Races' on TV when she was 5 or 6 years old. She pestered her parents to take her for horse riding lessons until they finally relented.

'When I was in grade school, Secretariat won the Triple Crown and to me, he was the greatest, like little kids who have their sports hero.

I also got to hear people who are experts in the sport saying, 'Wow! This is the best horse since Man O' War, or he might even be better than Man O' War.' So you start to go 'Oh, what does this Man O' War do anyway?' Secretariat really inspired me to dig deeper. To see what Man O' War was about,' Ours says.

'We lived in Morgantown, W.Va., up in the northern panhandle between Ohio and Pennsylvania,' Ours says, remembering her first in-person visit to the races. 'There's this racetrack that used to be called Waterford Park - now it's called Mountaineer Park - and my dad was a journalist and doing a story about a female jockey who was riding there. That was the first time I was actually at the track. I was 16 or 17 years old.'

Her father has since retired as a professor of journalism. Ours' maternal grandfather had a background as a historian, and the two careers made an impression from an early age.

'I grew up with a lot of that interest. We would be driving down the road in the car and it would be like 'Oh yeah, over in that field 300 years ago this happened.'

There were a lot of those kinds of discussions,' she says.

'I used to joke about it when I was in high school. My friend, just to get my goat, would say, 'You know, Man O' War was a lot better than Secretariat.' We'd have these arguments and I would say, 'Well I'll write a book about Man O' War and show you," she laughs.

'Now, I'm not doing this book to tear Man O' War down and put Secretariat up,' she offers. '
"The more you find out, the more you appreciate each horse for their own strengths. On any given day any of the ones that have that phenomenal talent might come out first. So I don't think you can say absolutely that Man O' War was the greatest ever, or Secretariat or Seattle Slew. We don't know.
But Man O' War was definitely one of those phenomenal athletes that you don't see often. He honestly was one of the great horses of all time,' Ours says.

Through years of research, Ours has built up a fairly extensive collection of materials dating back to the time of Man O' War, including old newspapers and advertisements, as well as things she has bought at auction. There have also been visits to rare manuscript libraries, always looking to learn more about the big red colt and the people and the times they existed, how they lived and what they said.

'Man O' War was such a legend, there is so much information that over time if people were writing about him they would go over previous articles and things end up smooshing it together. They end up repeating things that aren't necessarily accurate. So I really wanted to go back and look at the original newspaper stories and things that were printed at the time he was running,' Ours says. 'Every little bit of it underlines your understanding of what was going on at the time. The more research I do, the deeper you get into the story. There are so many pieces that are just lost in time. I'm making my best effort to be truthful and complete.'

Ours made her way north from West Virginia to Boston, where she worked at the Berklee College of Music for more than 10 years. There she was known, she says, 'as the person who loves horse racing.'

All the while, Man O' War was on the back burner, and Ours was conducting 'reconnaissance' missions to Saratoga. In early 1998, she was ready for the big move, landing a job at the racing museum a few yards away from where Man O' War made six of his 21 total starts between 1919 and 1920. It is also where the grandsire to Seabiscuit has his been recognized with his very own spring - 'Big Red.'

Saratoga is the track where the champion suffered the only loss of his career to a horse ironically named Upset. Friday the 13th marks the 85th anniversary of the race.

Living in Saratoga, and working at the museum allowed Ours to better focus on putting together the Man O' War story.

'I finally reached the point that I better finish this book. This spring I finished the book proposal and got it out there, and St. Martin's Press is going to publish it,' Ours says.

The completed manuscript will be delivered to the publisher next summer and the scheduled date for release of the book is spring 2006 -- a few years later than her 'Seabiscuit' scribe friend delivered her debut perhaps, but Ours is keeping things in perspective.

'I don't have any illusions that this will be the same (reaction). To be one-tenth as successful as 'Seabiscuit' would be wonderful,' she says.

And when she does give herself a moment or two to consider where the book's publication could lead, she hopes that it would garner sufficient interest to do some book signings and inspire reading and discussion at racetracks around the country.

While she puts the finishing touches on the project that has been a longtime companion, she continues to be amazed by the rich history of the sport and the people and things she is able to observe firsthand at the museum.

'Something like a saddle that was used on Seabiscuit can just show up in the mail. If you're a racing fan, seeing some of these things up close is just amazing. You grow up hearing the stories and seeing things on TV, but when some of the leading people come here, and objects that were involved in some of the great moments in the sport, you just feel like, 'Wow - how lucky am I?'"

published in The Saratogian

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Murder, Madness and Abraham Lincoln

LOUDONVILLE - The noises had been heard for decades, floating into the bedroom from a spot behind the wall.

At first, there was the eerie sound of giggling. Then, a woman's anguished cry would follow the startling cannon of a single gun shot, ripping into the darkness of night. Over the course of a half-century, and precisely at the stroke of midnight on April 14, residents would report seeing the ghostly image of a sad-eyed man creaking back and forth in his rocker. The man, they said, bore a resemblance to Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. The date is the anniversary of his being mortally wounded by an assassin's bullet. At 7:22 this morning, it will be 140 years since President Lincoln took his last breath.

There were four people seated in the State Box at Ford's Theatre that Good Friday evening in 1865. Another 1,700 theatergoers paid between 25 cents and $1 to watch the staging of the play 'Our American Cousin.' The president sat in his rocking chair at the right side of the box, next to his wife Mary Todd.

To their right, 28-year-old Maj. Henry Reed Rathbone sat with his fiancé Clara Harris, who had chosen a white satin dress to wear for the special occasion.

Shortly after 10 p.m., the third act of the comedy had begun. John Wilkes Booth crept ever closer to the entry door of the State Box.

Albany connection

Rathbone was born in Albany in 1837, where his father, Jared Rathbone, served as mayor from 1838 to 1841. A banker and merchant by trade, when the elder Rathbone died, he left young Henry sufficient money that would ensure he would never need to work a day in his life. The young man enrolled at Union College.

His widowed mother Pauline remarried. Ira Harris, himself a widower, was a prominent Albany judge who would soon become a New York state senator.

Harris owned a summer cottage just outside Albany, in the neighborhood of Loudonville. Loudon Cottage, as it came to be known, was built in the 1830s and served the Harris family through the 19th century.

Harris had two sons and four daughters, one of whom was named Clara. At the time of her father's marriage to Pauline Rathbone, Clara was either 10 or 20 years old -- depending on whose records you choose to believe. A decade later, Henry and Clara -- stepbrother and stepsister -- had designs on wedding plans of their own, as they sat alongside the Lincolns in the Ford Theater box.

Historic murder

It was about 10:15 p.m Friday, April 14, as Booth crept inside the door, gun in hand. The shot hit the president just behind his left ear. Rathbone rose to grab him, but he was too late. Booth dropped the gun and drew out a long knife, repeatedly stabbing Rathbone across his upper body.

Dazed and bloodied, Rathbone nonetheless tried to assist the president. He and fiancee Clara -- her white satin dress turning crimson as it saturated with blood -- helped escort the mortally wounded Lincoln to a boarding house across the street. The next morning, Lincoln was pronounced dead. Rathbone collapsed from his injuries, but survived the physical attack.

He and Clara retreated to the Harris summer house in Loudonville. She couldn't bear to dispose of the blood-stained, white satin dress. Instead, she hung it on a hanger out of sight. Exactly one year later, she first saw the ghostly image of Lincoln.

She had the closet sealed by a secret brick wall, the dress hang-ing inside the wall like it was in its own tomb, where it remained long after Harris moved away. Years later, guests would hear and see similar visions.

In July 1867, shortly after his 30th birthday and on the eve of his wedding, Rathbone resigned his position with the army, and the couple began traveling around the world. They had three children -- two boys and a girl. The circumstances of Lincoln's assassination however, continued to gnaw at Rathbone.

Friends who visited with the couple in Albany when they returned to spend the summer of 1882 at the Harris farm noticed Rathbone's increasingly violent temper, as well as his becoming noticeably morose and troubled. He suffered delusions and lived in constant state of fear.

His wife also noticed her husband had developed a strong jealousy toward her and fears that she would leave him.

More tragedy

A year and a half later, the family continued trekking around the world and spent Christmas Eve in Hanover, Germany. Early on Christmas morning, the sound of gun shots rang out in the home where the family was staying. The three children slept a bedroom away.

Moments later, Mrs. Rathbone was discovered on the bed, bleeding to death from multiple gun shot and stab wounds. Rathbone stood next to the bed and dropped his gun on the floor. Three chambers remained loaded. He picked up a dagger and proceeded to stab himself several times.

A few days later, Mrs. Rathbone was buried in Germany. The funeral was attended by many friends of the dignified family.

Her husband, much as he did when stabbed by Booth 18 years earlier, recovered from his wounds. As the couple's three children boarded a boat headed for Albany, where they would be raised by the Harris family, their father was committed to a German asylum for the insane, where he would spend the rest of his life. Rathbone lived until he was 73 years old.

Still, his wife's blood-stained, white satin dress continued to hang in a secret closet in Loudonville. And for visitors to the old home, which became an early 20th century boarding house, the ghostly visions and cries in the night continued.

Around the time of Rathbone's death in 1911, legend maintains that one of the Rathbone sons -- now fully into adulthood -- broke down the brick wall of the secret closet, took a flame to his mother's white satin dress and burned it to ashes.

Rathbone was buried in Germany next to his wife. By the early 1950s, there were no more visitors coming to the Rathbone graves. The couple's remains were dug up and disposed of.

According to the town of Colonie historian's office, the Loudon Cottage house was sold in the late 1920s. Its new owner moved the cottage 500 feet south to a location on Cherry Tree Road, where it remains to this day.

by Thomas Dimopoulos
The Saratogian