Ichor Falls

Excerpts from A Room at Cedarspring

by on Aug.06, 2008, under By Kris Straub

“A Room at Cedarspring” (2008) is a locally-produced documentary by West Virginia filmmaker Warren Jeffs.

Cedarspring at the Falls, a gated community in the Elysia district, was completed in 2006. A sprawling confluence of townhouse, apartment and loft living, Cedarspring occupies one of the more scenic regions in or near the Ichor Falls area, nestled in the grasslands beside the falls themselves.

The community is made up of 80 townhomes, 50 lofts and 50 single-bedroom apartments, with the kind of aesthetic logic that puts ivy on the ten-foot-high brick wall that surrounds the complex — evoking Old World with none of that hard-to-sell history; beauty that draws you in without letting you past the front gate.

It’s a way to clamp a pleasant lid down on the less-savory aspects of the town. Despite the last decade of development and the boost to tourism, Ichor Falls is still rooted firmly in the American mind as a ghost town, a curiosity of a bygone age — if it’s in the American mind at all. The New Elysium Group, since its acquisitions in the 1980s, has invested a lot in a town comeback, but instead of a respectful merging of Ichor Falls history with a newly-planned future, New Elysium bulldozed the old; or, when required by West Virginia law, simply built around it.

The result is a two-faced town; a patchwork monster of town planning. Lower Alethia is still a suburb in ruins, but you wouldn’t get the impression it was even there, with glossy places like the New Elysium Fashion Park, a rapidly-changing town center, and of course Cedarspring. The town is one of deep, deep history, of tragedy, and of the triumph of human perseverance. Successful future plans will need to honor that. You can’t honor a memory by trying to hide it, ignore it or repel it.

Cedarspring, with its impersonal McMansion townhomes, its stuccoed, faux-finished walls, pleasantly-distressed murals and its Americana-cute street names, is Ichor Falls by way of Disneyland.

Today, none of the 180 living units in Cedarspring are occupied. New Elysium still pays gardeners, caretakers, trash service and security guards, but no one actually lives in what was supposed to be the hottest upscale new property in a thirty-mile radius.

I spoke with Michael Hayes, a junior architect and planner for Cedarspring and one of the few people to return my phone calls.

What were your feelings on Cedarspring?

Michael Hayes: “I’ve worked on a number of these townhomes for various developers. Pleasant Valley Homes, Turnkey at the Pines, the New Avalon in Atlanta. Cedarspring was ambitious. I don’t doubt that Elysium jumped the gun on the project as far as the timeline. I think they’d intended to have the rest of the town further along, drawing a bigger crowd than it was.”

Cedarspring has been vacant for two years, with the longest tenants moving out after only three or four months. Do you think the “faux authenticity” angle just isn’t accepted in a history-rich town like Ichor Falls?

“A lot of times it doesn’t play in a town like this, where the contrast between faux rustic treatments and the truly old is so stark. But it wasn’t our target demographic. We were after people who wanted quaint country living, but didn’t want to have to replace lead pipes and have the foundation leveled. The mist in Ichor Falls is a draw for the area, but you’ve got 4,000 houses probably need a serious overhaul.

“Communities like Cedarspring succeed in nearly every other instance. So I don’t think that’s why it hasn’t appealed to homebuyers.”

Paul Lloyd, one of the first tenants at Cedarspring, moved there in February of 2008, and broke his lease to leave in May. I traveled to Portland, Texas, where Paul currently lives.

Paul Lloyd: “I lived there for four months. Four months too long. I still think about it.”

Talk about what happened to you while living in Cedarspring.

“This is going to sound really odd. But it’s your home. This stuff matters. No one wants to feel like an intruder in their own home. The whole time I lived there, there was — it’s like there was an impersonal feel to every part of the house. That’s not a surprise, I’ve lived in that kind of housing before and it’s all a little cookie-cutter.

“It’s supposed to be this getaway. But this was like… you know that feeling you have, waiting in the dentist’s waiting room to be called? The buzz of the fluorescent light, the cold, the antiseptic smell? It’s anxiety. It’s isolation, like you’re separate from the rest of the world. Cedarspring magnified that feeling ten thousand times.

“And it’s everything in Cedarspring. It wasn’t just my house, but the streets, the empty playgrounds, the fountains. And it had nothing to do with them being empty – I had friends living in other units. We ended up getting together every single evening. No one wanted to be alone.

“I started having nightmares at night. Not about death or monsters, but… suddenly I’d be in this empty white space, this featureless room. Devoid of all context, all emotion. The sense of isolation became this huge weight, a billion tons of invisible rock pressing me into the ground, suffocating me. This slow-moving glacier of pointlessness, about to slide over me. I’d wake up and that feeling would eat me alive. Same with the other tenants. We’d gather just to be near something alive, something natural.

“After three months, I… I started cutting myself, getting into fights in places, screaming in my room. Just to feel something. Some of my friends there admitted to the same thing. I’ve never done anything like that before. And I haven’t since I moved out. It just got so bad. I stopped crying, stopped laughing. It’s like we were going hollow.

“I don’t want to get melodramatic about it, but I’ve thought about it a lot since then. Some people think of hell as some burning pit of torment, but I don’t think it is. I read once that the real hell is the absence of God. Ichor Falls has a reputation of being a haunted town, and when I lived there I saw my share of things out of the corner of my eye. But I never saw them at Cedarspring. Somehow that became the opposite of comforting.

“Ghosts haunt old buildings, old places. Is it possible for a place without a past to be haunted by its own lack of history? By bleakness? Can a place be haunted by absence?”

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24 comments for this entry:
  1. ilitchev

    Ooooh. I like this story because it makes Ichor Falls seem more like a damned town as opposed to a haunted town. Ghosts gather over time but the fact is that the entire region has been this way since its discovery, it’s more than just “haunted.” This gives a great sense of that.

  2. darkmayo

    Something about the former resisdents dialogue doesnt sit well with me. Doesn’t come across as natural, a little too verbose, like he was channelling HP Lovecraft.

    I think it would have worked better if it was an excerpt from a diary or journal, instead of a in person interview.

  3. Gauntlet

    Disturbing.

  4. Gauntlet

    @darkmayo
    I think it’s important that there be survivors of the town, and for a documentary in particular, I don’t feel that it is out of place to have a one-on-one chat with a person. But he was very open about his experience.

  5. Kris Straub

    @darkmayo
    It’s hard for me to see it as undialogue-like because that is what comes out of my mouth a lot of the time, but tonally it doesn’t quite sit with the set-up, you’re right. It could use some dampening. I worried about it being a tough concept to relate.

  6. darkmayo

    its a brilliant concept and I agree how that would be hard to get across without getting more descriptive.

    kind of reminds me of what astronauts would go through in sensory depravation chambers, except in this case the abscense isnt your senses its something less tangible but you are aware of it not being there even if you cant describe what you are missing.

  7. Warren Jeffs

    In regards to “darkmayo”, we had a lot of difficulty getting Mr. Hayes to speak initially, but once the interview was underway, he did not want to stop talking.

    What Mr. Straub was kind enough to reprint here is just a short excerpt of Hayes’ comments. I gather from Hayes’ experience that not many people want to discuss his time in Cedarspring and he was glad to find a friendly ear.

    We have had issues distributing and airing the film, and are currently in litigation with the New Elysium Group regarding certain claims made in the documentary. Also troubling is that many scenes filmed at Cedarspring are blurry and indistinct on tape, probably due to an incorrect exposure process or damaged lenses. Post-production revealed many of the film reels were accidentally black-and-white instead of color. The sound guys reported noises and dialogue from on-site filming were similarly “washed out”.

    (Thanks again for the free publicity, Kris, we’ll let you know when a general release is available.)

  8. The Buzz » Blog Archive » Excerpts From a Room At Cedarspring - Ichor Falls

    [...] Ichor Falls has a reputation of being a haunted town, and when I lived there I saw my share of things out of the corner of my eye. But I never saw them at Cedarspring. Somehow that became the opposite of comforting. …[Continue Reading] [...]

  9. Dublin Jack

    The interview wouldn’t have flown with me if you hadn’t qualified that he’d been thinking about it for a while. The speech sounded planned and rehearsed, but that isn’t technically inaccurate. Still, the motif behind the story was solid, and you did well conveying it.

  10. sandchigger

    Warren Jeffs? Wasn’t he a polygamist cult guy in the news just recently?

  11. Xavier Brentwood

    Apparently he broke out of Utah State Prison to make a documentary.

  12. Darth Skeletor

    “Can a place to be haunted by absence?” is such a fantastic question.

  13. Mreeee

    The last sentence is what makes a story, and the last sentence of this story doesn’t make sense. :(

  14. Grr

    I loved the last sentence. It’s beautiful and haunting.

  15. Ralphomon

    Great. And just as I was about to take solace in the fact that I’m currently living in a modern, purpose-built, and, admittedly, soulless building.

    Well played, sir, well played. I will NOT be getting any sleep tonight.

  16. Torpedo Vegas

    I think this story really adds to the concept of Ichor Falls being a damned town, that it is an entity in itself, that it just does not like you, and is angry at you for removing part of it.

  17. Alan Royalty

    I can relate to this perfectly. I have always feared going to live in a place that was just… impersonal. It’s like going to spend the night in someone else’s home and everything just seems so fake. Like the furniture in a funeral home or like the story said, in a dentist’s office. I absolutely believe something can be haunted by nothing.

  18. Gucci Fans Blog

    Seventh time in the Swimsuit Edition! Don’t you agree with me that it’s about time she will get the cover picture next time?

  19. Random Reader

    I stumbled onto your site through way of “Creepypasta” and I’ve read all of your stories up to this current one (I plan to finish the rest by tonight or tomorrow)and have been impressed greatly. I don’t know if I’m gullible or if you’re convincing but I actually did some slight research on the Hirsch Camera story.
    Regardless, I wanted to say that this one wasn’t as impressing. It seemed more like you just through something together.
    Might have been something you wrote just to write or something you wrote to make a statement but it didn’t carry the same weight your previous stories have.
    Just thought I would try and throw my two sense in there. I’m not an author or anything so please ignore me if you believe I’m wrong lol

  20. Athosismyhero

    Whoa, I seriously loved this one. Made me question Ichor Falls’s existence. I’m not kidding. I’m a pretty new fan of this site and town, so I looked it up. I guess it makes sense, though, that there’s little evidence of the town except what you’ve written here. Good and creepy!

  21. Elissa Frett

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  22. rsgoldjw

    very good, it’s very useful to me, thank you very much!

  23. Annabel

    I reeeeally love this one. :D
    There’s nothing wrong with ghosts, but they get a little cliche, a little old, so I love the idea of a place which is horrifying exactly because it isn’t haunted. I’m living in this kind of accommodation right now, but it was originally an eighteenth century manor house, so that makes it okay. Although now rumours are persisting it’s an ex-mental asylum, so maybe it’s just gunna go the other way for me…
    Also, I just thought I’d mention that I read this story before reading all the info about the Ethylor Summer and Ichor Falls becoming a ghost town, and it still made perfect sense. I mean, now that I’ve read that, it enhances it, but I just thought I’d say kudos for being able to fit all the information into one story without requiring people to read the extra information too. I’ve always had trouble with that. :)

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