Eleanor Franklin wasn’t always the reclusive cat lady of Franklin Mansion. She was once one of the most beautiful socialites in New York. “That was such a long time ago,” Eleanor told us, “Ancient history.”
One of Eleanor’s oldest friends who became a famous fashion magazine editor describes Eleanor as a survivor. Even as a young woman, Eleanor’s life was difficult. Her father was a terrible alcoholic and her mother committed suicide when Eleanor was barely sixteen years old. Eleanor left home to work in the city as a stenographer but her beautiful face was what brought her to the attention of many of Manhattan’s most eligible bachelors. “We were dirt poor back then, but Eleanor had a knack for always making her off-the-rack clothes look like haute couture. You wouldn’t know it now because she really let herself go after Ed passed, but she was one of the loveliest girls I’d ever seen. She was really stunning back then.”
Not only was Eleanor beautiful, but she was smart. She attended night classes at NYU and eventually got a position as a buyer for one of the city’s major department stores. She worked hard, but she also loved the night life and was a regular at places like the Stork Club and Copacabana. Prior to meeting Ed, Eleanor was rumored to have had a torrid affair with a beatnik writer of the day that resulted in a terrible breakup and a miscarriage. According to our sources in the city, the young writer roamed the country for a couple of years trying to forget Eleanor but he never managed to recover from the loss of her and the child. She and Edward had no children of their own, possibly because Eleanor was not able to conceive again.
Eleanor politely refused to address the subject, choosing only to discuss how much she missed Edward and her friends in the city. She said that she sometimes daydreams of simply packing up and leaving for good. “I can never leave, though. Ed’s still here in his way and I have too many cats to manage in an apartment. I am happy here, as happy as I would be anywhere else.”
When asked about how she and Edward Franklin met, she brightened a bit. “He was the kindest, most wonderful man I’ve ever known. He was so persistent,” she laughed, “He invited me out every single day for over a month. He was so young. We were both just barely eighteen when we met. I finally gave in so he would let me alone. My girlfriend thought it was a terrible decision but it was the best terrible decision I ever made. There was so much more to him than anyone ever knew. He was very forward-thinking for that time and I adored him. We were inseparable from our first date.”
Within a year, the couple was married and Edward was eventually moved up to a position as regional vice president for a large bank. They lived on Long Island’s Gold Coast for the first two decades of their marriage. It was there that the Franklins enjoyed hosting grand soirees with famous guest lists. When Ed was offered an opportunity to oversee his company’s holdings in Blue Mountain, he and Eleanor planned only to summer on the Savage Coast. Eleanor fell in love with the old house with its tragic history and she soon transformed the residence into a bustling destination for all the Franklin’s friends. The mansion was soon better known for its beautiful gardens than for the dark events that had occurred there before the Franklins moved to the area. “We had grand parties in the beginning, and we would invite everyone-it was during a time when things were changing so quickly. We were so hopeful then. Everyone was. We really thought the world was going to be a better place. We were wrong. We were so very wrong.”
Fate, the old house, or something much more sinister had other plans for Edward and Eleanor. Within two years of moving to Blue Mountain, Edward was dead by his own hand and Eleanor transformed from an outgoing social butterfly into an isolated recluse who spends her days in conversation with ghosts and cats. Like many of the inhabitants of the Savage Coast, she seems resigned to whatever terrible future awaits.
“Sometimes I think I’m as much of a ghost as Ed. I gave up the idea that I had any control over my own circumstances long ago. I just wait and watch what goes on, but I’m no more connected to it than any of the spirits keeping me company here. As long as Ed is here, I have a home. Ed has always been my home.” With that, Eleanor Franklin lit another cigarette and looked out the window at the dead gardens, still focused on the past she’s spent the last several decades reliving.
Mayahuel Bailey is a new addition to the Tuppenny Dreadful staff.