WHEN MY SON was a mere tot of three or four, he would sit in the back seat of our car as we drove through our neighborhood and proclaim, every so often and in a somber tone, “That house is haunted!” At first we were alarmed, and also a bit proud, speculating that perhaps Zack had special powers. Was he a modern-day oracle? It sure would be handy to have one in the family. But then so many houses were supposedly haunted it seemed impossible, especially when he would declare, “All the houses on this street are haunted!”
Eventually we understood that in Zack’s mind, a house where nobody was home and all the lights were off was a haunted house. How funny! We laughed, and explained that the people were just away, at work or on vacation, and that the houses were perfectly fine and not haunted at all. He remained unconvinced, sticking to his assessment that things were just not kosher in certain homes. Now I’m not so sure he wasn’t onto something, because the house across the street from us has been empty for five months and it is clear to me that it is indeed haunted.
It used to be Polly’s House, where she lived with her cheerful dog Bailey and was visited often by her children and grandchildren. Sometimes Gracie the bulldog who belonged to one of Polly’s kids came to stay for a few days. Those were fun times. I loved Gracie. But then Polly moved, having sold her house to a couple who have yet to show up.
All the windows are dark. The house just sits there, all alone in snow, wind, rain, ice and sleet — unoccupied and unloved. There’s never a cheerful light twinkling from within, suggestive of a big pot of soup simmering on the stove and a fire in the fireplace, with maybe an adorable doggie running around chewing the furniture, or possibly a child having a bath before being tucked into bed. It’s just dead space.
Even worse, it’s freaking me out! Who wants to live across the street from an empty gray hulk? And just what is the story with these people? Why buy a giant house and never move into it? I met the new owners at our neighborhood Christmas party last December and they seemed normal enough, despite giving their names as “Bruce” and “Brenda” with no last names. That sounds mighty suspicious, like they made them up on the way to the party. Are they meth heads? (I watched five episodes of “Breaking Bad,” and it changed me.)
I should ask Zack to come over and take a look and see what he thinks. He’s 30 now and his skills have likely been perfected over the years.
Andrea Rouda blogs at The Daily Droid.