About 50km from Tallinn lies the small town of Riisipere. After a lengthy bike ride we came face to face with this magnificent yet eerie mansion. Dating back to the 1800’s, the building and its grounds have been completely abandoned and left to the mercy of the elements for many years, giving this once grand structure a far more imposing aura.
I have often heard the phrase ‘a wall of silence’ used to describe a stillness so profound that it feels all-consuming. The grounds of Riisipere Mansion were engulfed by silence. No birdsong. No breeze. No rustling of the leaves. No life could be heard. Gardens were overgrown and a solitary rusting bench lay forgotten next to a vast lake that stretched out into the void.
A voice pierced the silence.
Hearts thumping we crawled and contorted to squeeze in through the knee-high hole at the base of a locked side door; an opening left from previous visitors no doubt. Inside the musty smell of decaying woodwork and muted sounds of creaking floorboards filled the atmosphere. Nervous yet utterly absorbed we began to explore, tip-toeing around in classic Scooby Doo fashion.
Gradually, as it became apparent that we would not be greeted by a hungry vampire or eaten by a ravenous pack of zombies we began to relax and appreciate the wonderfully preserved grandeur of the manor. Intricate patterns adorned high ceilings, jet-black fire places conjured images of glowing embers and winter warmth while a plethora of empty rooms dappled with beams of light penetrating through boarded-up windows each held stories we would never hear. Cameras were clicking as whispers of “oh, cool” and “nice” permeated the air.
“There’s someone outside”, I said, peering out of the window at the cloaked figure silently stalking around the grounds, a large German Shepherd at his side.
With my heart thumping once again I cautiously leaned out one more time to catch a second glimpse of this man. With a quick snap of his neck his face turned as if pulled by some magnetic force and our eyes met.
“He knows we’re here”
With a click, a scrape and the undeniable sound of metal-on-metal this hooded figure unbolted the huge front doors, creaked open the rusty hinges and began his slow but purposeful ascent of the stairs. He was coming our way.
Being British, it is against our nature to slip into full-on panic mode at such a situation – we are far too refined for that – so instead I adopted a strange combination of fast walking, frantic eye movements and controlled breathing as we scrabbled around for an alternative exit. Shuffling down long corridors, away from the thud, thud, thud of our pursuer and jangling dog leash and towards… towards what? I don’t know where I’m going!
The footsteps were methodical and unceasing as the stranger continued walking. No shouting, no words; just walking.
Eventually we were cornered. How foolish of us to try and outrun this man on his own turf. As we turned to face our the situation the metronomic thudding of boot on creaking floorboard grew louder and louder, boosting our adrenaline with every fresh vibration, until… he emerged. A gangly figure dressed in a long trench coat, eyes fixed on us, striding forward, an unbroken chain of equidistant steps leading closer to his prey. Still he said nothing as he calmly moved towards us. What does he want? Why is he here? How does he have the keys to this place? Why isn’t he speaking? We prepared to defend ourselves when only a few paces from us, he stopped. Paused. Then spoke in a hushed, gruff Estonian tone. Despite the language barrier his message we clear: we need to leave.
Adrenaline slowly subsided as we timidly traipsed towards the huge front doors, shadowed by the familiar thud, thud, thud of our pursuer. To this day we never found out how he came by the keys to the mansion, why he stalked the premises with his dog or what his purpose was. Our minds raced with wild answers to these questions as this shady character hammered up the hole we had climbed through, once again entombing the mansion and its secrets from the world.
Finding our bikes outside, we speedily boarded, placed our feet on the pedals and cycled away from Riisipere Mansion.