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Posts Tagged ‘haunted house’

We moved into the house when I was 7. It may have been 1964, but I was still in the Third Grade, and I wouldn’t be 8 until the late fall. I remember a little about the house buying process: our parents wanted a large home, with plenty of rooms, and a shop. They looked a house after house, when this one fell into their laps: a rambling old ranch, hand-built by the previous owner, still lived in by his widow. $13,000.00 is what I believe they paid, or some figure near that amount.

The house was built entirely of poured concrete. The man who built it didn’t use forms, so the walls were often wider at the bottom than at the top, and the stairs were uneven heights. The plumbing was a nightmare as he jury-rigged everything under the house. It featured an attached barbershop (the man who built the house had been a barber), a work shop behind the barbershop, a hallway between the shops and the residence, an unfinished basement, an attic, and a roomy living space in the ranch style. The yard was huge and sported several old fruit trees, several flower beds, a side lawn, a large strawberry patch, a gravel area for extra cars, and a rusty old swingset with a tire swing. The drive was large enough to accommodate customers and family cars. There were arborvitae and Oregon grape planted along the concrete porch with tiers (unevenly poured). Chain-link fence. The lot took up a full third of a block one direction and half a block the other: we were bordered by the alley, two streets, and one neighbor behind us.

The place was a wonder. We moved in and were gifted with everything the widow, Vera Williams, didn’t wish to take with her, such as a collection of 1950’s and 1960’s rock and roll 45 RPMs (vinyl records with hits like Tequila by The Champs and Rockin’ Robin by Bobby Day that my sister and I danced to for hours). There were spices spanning the past two decades in her cupboards with exotic names like curry, cardamon, cloves, ginger, allspice, oregano, rosemary, thyme, allspice…

I recall my mother tossing all the spices out. My sister and I grabbed the tins and made mud pies to our hearts’ content: lovely wafting herbal and spicy scents that mixed in the mud. I suspect my life-long affinity to herbs and spices was sparked in those hours, but before then I was only vaguely aware of cinnamon, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

We found evidence on egg shells in the garden. “Compost”, my mother suggested, but we eyed it with suspicion: surely the widow Williams had been a witch, and the egg shells some part of a spell?

There was a dog’s skull we unearthed when we tilled the abandoned strawberry patch. What evil spell had been cast when burying the dog’s head in the garden, we wondered.

The fruit trees were a wonder, and my father forbade us to climb them, claiming we’d damage the bark. But those wide, twisting, strong branches were no match for his “no” and our agility. When the peaches fell and began to rot, we started a war of peaches with the neighbor kids – until we were all grounded for weeks.

My parents decided on a soft peach color to paint the house, and had the local hardware store mix up several gallons of the paint. They applied it, and it dried. Brilliant pink. Grotesque pink. Glaring PINK. I grew up in the Big Pink House.

Night would fall, and we’d snuggle into our beds, hugging each other. Night times were a test. The house was dark. Bedroom doors closed. Footsteps would pace the hallway. The attic would creak. Too frightened to get out of bed to scramble to the bathroom in the dark, I wet the bed. Again.

My sister screamed in her sleep. A lion was in the shadows on the wall, and the lion was trying to kill her.

Our father put in a wall and built a bedroom for our brother. One night, when the footsteps began wandering, the family dog shot into his bedroom, jumped on the bed, and shivered there, growling, but unwilling to go out into the hall to investigate.

The attic window broke out. Dad fixed it. The attic window broke out. Dad fixed it. The attic window…

There was probably nothing wrong with the basement, but my brother hid in the shadows and leaped out at me as I worked in the hallway, ironing clothes. My heart stopped. I cried. (To this day, if you do that to me, I will kill you. I promise.)

Dad remodeled the barber shop into a guest room. Sometimes we would beg our way into spending the night there, but only when we wanted to be scared witless in the night. Things moved. Doors opened and shut. You could hear footsteps on the concrete in the hall between structures. The walls breathed.

I was in my fifties when I had my last dream of the house. I stood across the street, staring it down. Every nightmare began and ended here. I stepped forward and began to march slowly around it: one, two, three… seven times. Each time, declaring it would never haunt me again. The Shop. The house. The two back doors. The hall between living spaces. The basement. The attic. The two front doors.

The poltergeist that lived within those walls. The one that moved things, hid things, smashed things, slammed doors, and paced the floors. I banished that from my subconscious.

I sleep easier now, but I am still haunted by basements and attics.

 

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