Appropriate to the date today, I had a really creepy experience in a truly haunted house.
The backdrop to this story is that – suffice it to say – “two people I know” recently bought a house from an old lady. Part of the sales negotiation was my people agreeing to clear out all the stuff she wanted to leave behind. She was, after all, old and alone, so it would have been hard for her to arrange the move and more importantly, it would have taken her longer than my people were willing to wait.
So hands were shaken, deeds and contracts signed, etc. etc. and finally, a day or two ago, they were handed the keys. They went excitedly (I assume) to their new home, unlocked the door, stepped inside, and . . . were immediately floored. Every room was still furnished and every closet and cabinet still filled to overflowing with . . . “stuff”. The beds had used sheets on them and there was dirty laundry on the floor. The closets were full of clothes. The refrigerator and kitchen shelves were full of food. The breakfast dishes were still on the table. There were 1000’s of dusty books, 100’s of worn shoes, stacks of old magazines and newspapers dating back to the 60s. Packages with the remainders of every prescription medicine the lady and her deceased sisters had taken in the past three decades filled up many a cabinet. There were toiletries and cosmetics and cleaning supplies and papers galore. And there was soap. Hundreds of bars of soap, mostly lavender – its aroma greeted them each time they opened a closet door . . .
They were overwhelmed. There was no way they would spend the next month going through all of this . . . “stuff”. They ordered a huge dumpster to be set up outside. Yesterday, The Removal of the Hoarded officially began. My people went from shelf to shelf and just swept each one’s contents into a crate, toted it outside and emptied it into the container. They did this all day long. And they were still not even halfway done.
When I saw this picture on a cell phone last night, I thought, “How could they?!” There could be all sorts of still useful or recyclable things in there. Maybe an antique or two! Maybe some of those books were valuable!
Today my husband and I visited them and toured the house. At first I kept on the lookout for hidden treasures and did see this or that item of interest. My people kept saying “Take anything you want! PLEASE!” But the more I saw, the creepier it seemed. All the little souvenir trinkets. The boxes of buttons and gloves. The face powders. The photo albums and letters and diaries . . . And there were surprises. Like a human skull and a handgun – both of which looked very real to me. After a half hour, I didn’t even want to touch any of it anymore, much less take it with me.
I have been on something of a house de-junking mission lately and this experience added a little fire behind that intention. I pictured someone having to go through my house and figure out what to do with all the crap in it. Would my treasures all end up at the bottom of a dumpster, smothered by books and half empty shampoo bottles and obsolete electronics and framed pictures of questionable taste? And now I should pick out a few items from this house to add to that future pile of . . . “stuff”? I didn’t think so.
My people seemed almost distressed that I hadn’t taken anything, so I searched for an item, ANY item, that didn’t repel me. In the basement, I chanced on an old “Lesekasten” – a pseudo-game for kids back in the 30s or 40s to help them learn the old Austrian alphabet. I thought it might make a nice present for my colleague Ann who teaches German.
“That’s all!?” my people asked. “Are you sure you don’t want to take more? Maybe the skull?”
I was sure.
I not only had this old alphabet box / future present, I also had my something to write about for my Halloween blog post. And no one I know will ever have to tote either one of these to a dumpster someday.