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The haunted house

By Yvonne Nyenhuis

Fri, Oct 25th, 2013
Posted in All Commentary

One sunny day my sister Vange, and I set off on a great adventure. I was 9 years old and Vange was 13. We were heading for the ‘Haunted’ house, a two mile walk from our home, along Second Street Pike. When we arrived at our destination, we waited for a lull in the traffic and darted across the highway.

There it was, a massive, dark, imposing stone structure. It had been the home of a wealthy farmer and had been deserted for over 50 years, before the turn of the century. According to the story a cataclysmic event had shattered a peaceful family dinner. Whatever happened so terrified them that they ran from the house leaving the food on the table and all their belongings behind, never to return. What was it that so frightened them? What did they hear? What did they see?

We crept to the basement where we found we could easily remove the pieces of wood that were nailed over the windows. Wriggling through we found ourselves on a pile of coal. We lost no time exploring. In the first room we came to, we were amazed to see what appeared to be a laboratory with beakers and flasks. An oil lamp had been knocked over, spilling an amber fluid over a pile of letters strewn on the floor. They were written to Sarah and Helen Hallowell.

Further investigation revealed a store room with cupboards; shelves filled with quart jars of preserved vegetables. I gingerly lifted a jar of asparagus covered with thick dust. To my astonishment the movement caused the spears to dissolve into liquid. They totally disintegrated before my eyes!

On the first floor the furniture was covered with sheets, but we could see a grand piano and a china closet with a collection of bone china tea cups and saucers. Under our feet were oriental carpets.

Vange held the flashlight as we worked our way up a dark winding stair to the second floor. I followed close on her heels. I wasn’t about to be left alone in the dark. On the second floor a black silk parasol with a wide lace border had been casually dropped in the hall. The bathroom which had no windows was like a long closet. The tub was curiously narrow and framed with a rim of oak wood. There was a throne of sorts with a tank near the ceiling and a chain that hung to the right of it.

There was a cry of excitement from Vange as she disappeared into small adjoining storage room. There were trunks filled with quilts made with velvet patches in a myriad colors, skillfully embroidered, each shape edged in feather stitching. A treadle sewing machine was in the corner with an array of thread, a pin-cushion, other articles and an oil lamp standing tall at the left.

As we came into a large open room on the third floor, we were temporarily blinded by the sunlight streaming through the windows. Evidently, it was not considered necessary to board up the third floor. There were chairs assembled in rows and an organ as if church services might have been held there. Strewn carelessly on a small stage behind the organ, were dolls with china bisque heads, cheeks blushing pink in white faces gazing up at us with glass eyes!

In a shallow closet there was a crutch, a cane and a dark brown cotton dress with white lace at the neck, on a hanger. I was stunned then to see on the wall, next to the closet, a wedding dress! It had leg of mutton sleeves and tiny covered buttons down the front of the bodice. The skirt was full and had a short train. There was an overskirt that came to a point front and back with a fringe of white cord. The bride must have been petite. I was 9 years old and the dress was only slightly too large for me. A box when opened revealed a bouquet of roses that had been dipped in wax to preserve them and had aged to a butterscotch color. I paraded “down the isle” between the chairs as Vange played the wedding march on the organ.

Just then we froze! We both heard it at the same time. A car pulled into the driveway! We ran to the window and cautiously peered out. It was a police car! The uniformed driver got out and surveyed the house. Had he heard the strains of Loengrin coming from the organ? Would he notice the wood bars that lay loose by the basement windows? We held our collective breath. What if he came to investigate? Where could we hide?

Relief flooded over us as we watched him, apparently satisfied that the scene was secure, get back in his car and drive away!

Before we left the area, we checked out the barn. It was large with ramps leading to rooms on the second floor. There was a sleigh, a surrey with a black fringe, wagons, farm equipment and stalls for the horses.

Some years later my father, who was a tree surgeon, was asked to trim some trees on a remote farm in the country. Dad wondered vaguely why the owner of the house had not answered the door. Instead he and his co-worker were shown around the estate and told what was required by a caretaker. Dad noticed the shades were drawn at the windows. The caretaker went on to explain that two old ladies lived in residence. They lived a reclusive existence, admitting no visitors and not venturing out. The decor of their world was Victorian including the use of oil lamps instead of electricity. To all appearances time had been held in suspension for over 50 years. Their names were Sarah and Helen Hallowell!

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