As a travel writer with over 40 years experience in the hotel and tourism industries, I have often confidently said that I had Been-There-Done-That. At least I thought so until I recently visited the Thimbleberry Inn in Bayfield, Wis.
To be fair, the large guest rooms and Lake Superior lakefront grounds of the Inn are lovely. The private decks and wooden loveseats overlooking the Apostle Islands are romantic and peaceful; exactly what we expected.
Then there is the owner of the property and where the similarity with the infamous “Bates Motel” comes in.
Following our first night at the Inn we took a short drive into the charming lakeside village of Bayfield for lunch, returning mid-afternoon to accept our hostess’s offer to make a dinner reservation for us at a local restaurant. Upon knocking on her door, however, I noticed that she approached in a somewhat crab-like sidewise gate, glaring over her raised shoulder at us. As the door opened she launched into a disturbingly shrill eye-rolling rant about our unpardonable lack of adherence to her (unspoken until now) guest policies. We must leave at once!
Among our sins were that I had fondled our shower head to increase water pressure, we had not made our beds, I had slept in and not come to breakfast and that we had not socialized enough with the other guests. We were also not married, an offense that had resulted in her throwing out another couple once before.
In addition, we strongly suspect that my companion had not bowed her head deeply enough under the proprietor’s watchful eyes at the hand-holding prayer breakfast of canned peaches over waffles earlier that morning. This was especially distressing as it was fresh peach season.
Her alarming tirade lasted an incessant 10 minutes recounting our transgressions numerous times, insisting that the increased water flow from our shower head had nearly torn down her home, that her husband had now left her because of it and she would now be forced to sell off the property.
Just for a moment I considered reminding her of the legal and customer service obligations of Inn ownership, but her fanatical rant, and how it was related to a shower, gave me an uneasy Alfred Hitchcock flashback, so it seemed safer to leave without dispute.
Upon relating our experience at the front desk of a substitute accommodation in town we were greeted with wide grins and knowing looks. “Did she make you pray?” they laughed. Mrs. Bates, it turns out, is a legend in her own time.