But that doesn’t matter, because I’m feeling compelled right now to tell the story of our very own, neighborhood
It’s just a 30-second walk from my place, but thankfully, because it’s on the opposite side of the street, I can only see it when I’m strolling down the block. Still, every time I find myself walking by, even during the day, I’ll admit it: I get creepy-crawly chills.
Okay, I’m not sure that there are actual spooks roaming its halls.
Here’s what I do know.
The house is completely abandoned, and has been for more than four years. A forsaken red jeep sits in the driveway, nearly covered with crackly old pine needles. Close by are some tall, completely dead trees that brush against the structure. One of those tree’s branches intertwined with several electrical wires right above it. Yikes. And, that’s alongside some of the gnarliest, driest tumbleweeds I’ve ever seen. There’s also a giant 1970s-era satellite dish, long rusted, and anchored not-so-jauntily to the garage roof.
Here’s more about its festive exterior.
The outside walls are made entirely of wooden shingles; it also appears that this siding is 100 percent dry rotted and probably abuzz with zillions of happy, I’ll-never-go-hungry-again termites. Adding to the creepiness is a fairly large hole, which immediate neighbors say has given easy entry to rats—not the cute little cartoon mice who sewed Cinderella’s gown, but rats—along with mold and mushrooms, to move in and flourish.
And the story behind the walls?
Well, its elderly owner lives several hundred miles away and is using this place, or so he says, to store items that he plans to display in a museum dedicated to vintage computers. (Can you say hoarder? In fact, a peek into the garage through its swollen plywood door shows that space literally packed floor to ceiling.)
But here’s the most troubling thing: with the epic drought we’re experiencing here, our neighborhood haunted house is also a tinderbox just waiting for one bored teenager with a match.
There’s a bit of good news.
Never one to not try to right a wrong in my big girl clown shoes, I have found a sympathetic person in our local government to help put the house in order.
I promised this person that I wouldn’t give any specifics about his or her identity or plan, because this person may be overstepping his or her bounds. But this person strongly believes that it is important to do so because, this person says, the home’s extremely combustible interior and exterior represents a clear and present threat to all of the other
So far, I’ve convinced nine neighbors to send in complaint forms to our county health department, which this person instructed me to do. I’ve also posted the form to a town Facebook group I’m in, so folks I don’t know, but who might want to help, can join my little crusade.
I felt powerful for only about a week, though, since my call to action hasn’t done much.
Both the county code enforcement folks and the public health folks say that since no one lives here, and also because there are no broken windows, there’s not a whole lot they can do right now. (However, a small victory: one tree—but not the most potentially dangerous one that hugs the electrical wires—has been cut down. Too, a good amount of brush has been cleared since I began my squawking.)
So, yes, with this person continuing to advise me in any way he or she can, I’ll keep working to ensure that this house is made even safer than it is right now.
But I’ve realized there’s another reason I really, really want it cleaned up.
It goes back to when I was a very little girl.
In those days, I walked to school, first my grammar school and later, the middle school.
To get to each of those destinations, though, I had to pass the house where The Jungle Lady lived.
I never learned her real name, but the moniker my brother and I gave her was a perfect fit.
Only about four doors down from where I spent my entire childhood, her tired wooden residence seemed to have been haphazardly plopped down amidst a jumbled front yard overgrown with under-pruned trees and vines. Worse, meandering over the worn picket fence and almost onto the sidewalk were a dozen out-of-control oleander bushes. Their nasty, pointy leaves started an almost immediate rash if I accidentally happened to brush against them, and I soon learned that if someone chewed on those leaves, or a flower or stem, the consequences could, literally, be deadly (http://articles.latimes.com/2000/jul/26/local/me-59440).
In my mind—and I still think I’m right on this one—those oleanders were planted on purpose by The Jungle Lady to keep neighborhood kids out of her way. Indeed, when I did get the occasional glimpse of the slow moving, grey haired woman who lived there, and who always seemed to be glaring at me, I was petrified... as were a whole lot of other children.
In fact, I’m getting a queasy feeling in my gut, right now, just picturing her and where she lived.
So perhaps, getting the creepy-crawly house that’s down my street in proper order might be serving as a method to vanquish a few of those old memories.
It’s also a proactive way to honor one of my core beliefs, which is this: I can’t change the world. But I can always try to do my best to change a corner of a corner of a corner of the world.
So maybe, just maybe, I’ll eventually do a bit more than make our neighborhood haunted house safe.
I might be able to save one or two little kids from feeling scared and powerless when they have to pass that corner to get to school. I could prevent a few nightmares, too.
And that, I know, is A Very Good Thing.
What spooky houses, and the people who lived in them, do you remember from your childhood? Since I can’t be the only one, I look forward to your stories!