Recently I read the current issue of Writer’s Digest and regretted not having noticed the prompt in December for Contest # 27 in the YOURSTORY feature. It began with the title of this blog post, followed by, “End it with: ‘That’s why tomorrow I’m setting it on fire.'” (Congrats to Bradley Woodrum of Chicago for the winning entry, “Paradise.”)
Of all the homes I’ve owned or rented, one stands roof and attic above all in the “I never would have purchased this house if I’d known . . . ” category. After living in Florida four different times, and California and Nevada, my husband and I abandoned the South and West for the Northeast. We looked online and found a couple of homes in New Hampshire, two hours north of the Manchester airport, past the Franconia Notch, an hour south of the Canadian border.
On our exploratory, check-it-out-in-person mission, we stayed in Littleton, at Thayers Inn. The town is famous as the birthplace of Eleanor Hodgman Porter, author of Pollyanna, and Thayers Inn, for having played host to a long line of presidential hopefuls, due to the state’s all-important primary. We arrived on the eve of the winter’s first snowfall, and as Keith and I climbed into the cupola of the Inn to take a picture of Main Street, we knew Norman Rockwell and Thomas Kincade were alive and well.
We saw two places: one, a charming chalet with a pot-bellied stove and handcarved hearts in its wooden beams; the other, a log cabin, the price of which was ridiculously low (that should have been my first clue). The latter was, well, rustic. Actually, it was unfinished. The owner/builder either had run out of money or interest or both. After scaling a dirt mound outside, one entered through a padlocked wooden door into a cement-floored basement. A wooden staircase with slatted steps led to the main living level, an open kitchen/dining/living/family room with only sub-flooring, and whose French doors remained permanently locked, as the intended deck had never been constructed. A small bath and “master bedroom” were tucked away behind this area, while a treacherous wrought iron stairway with no handrail led up to the third level, a single enclosed loft. The more I looked at it, the more I disliked it, but tried to keep an open mind. My husband is a talented designer and decorator, and had great plans for the house on Quebec Road. He was excited about the fact that he could finally have some property (the cabin came with eleven acres of forest land) and he had the time, money, and inclination to make this place into our dream home. To me it was The House on Haunted Hill.
To be continued . . .