October 9, 19__ Saturday
I decided to start my exploring with the upstairs rooms.
I peeked into the sister’s room 1st. A smaller room with a large double bed. So the two had shared a bed their whole lives I commented to myself, feeling that it was rather strange, but than the whole household had always appeared rather strange in that respect. There was a large closet that held a collect of handmade dresses, most of which had been in style pre works war 2, as were the hats and shoes that neatly lined the floor and upper racks, waiting for owners that would never return. The rest of the room consisted of a few old bureaus and chests that had been hand made by their father. I opened a few, but saw nothing but old clothes and some bits of costume jewellery. In the reading racks was a bible, a book on Churchill, and several old newspapers, most of em from the war years. The wallpaper was a yellowed old fashion print of flowers, daises, whose centre looked like so many featureless faces trying to stare out. The only lights in the room was a smaller gas bulb by the door, and several oil lamps, one of which was missing its chimney. The room as a whole felt a little dampish, and old, seriously old.. I could not imagine what it had been like to share and sleep in a room like that for one’s whole long life! And as adults they had shared a bed!… That thought to this day continues to haunt me!
The other room, across the hall from mine, must have been the older 2 boys, the ones who perished in the 1st World War, or THE World War as it had been known to them. This room was also old, with two twin beds, the same style of dressers and bureaus. From the ceiling hung an old, dusty Sopwith Camel biplane, and on the walls were a couple of framed black and white photos. One of a droll young man with stern eyes in a turn of the century suit with and arm around a smiling, rather homely girl in a paisley dress. Both sets of eyes just seemed to look right through me.
The 2nd was of a different man with similar features , obviously the older brother of the 1st, this must have been Jacob JR., and the other his brother Frank. This picture of Jacob was taken in the backyard, sitting on the same stone bench that still sat off the victory Garden. He was smoking a pipe, his hand resting on a pointy nosed ragged haired old Collie. He was not smiling either, and I remember wondering if anyone in that family ever had managed a smile!
The room really contained nothing more of interest, except for an old violin inside a battered case that sat in a corner of the closet. A few old suits and shirts were hanging above it, and I thought rather morbidly that they had been saved, saved to lay the brothers out in the Morning parlour when their cold bodies were recovered and brought back. I shook that thought out of me head and left the room. I became aware that the house seemed to be closing in about me, like I was being drawn into the misery of the place, starting to live in the unhappiness that had been their lives, as far as I was concerned, and it seemed to seep out from the very walls.
I Went down the hall and entered the child’s nursery. I looked around, touched the dolls and stuffed animals that lined the shelf by the door. I went to the chests of drawers and opened them, finding a cache of old sewing materials, bolts of cloth, a few old magazines from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s , nothing of real interest. I went over to the naked sewing form by the window and moved it around, it squeaked a bit. It was old, moth eaten in places, with a wire skirt at its bottom. The head-on perched top was an old yellowed faceless, earless shape, and I was not really sure of its purpose, for it defiantly had been an added piece.
The room held nothing more to my imagination, and so I U turned and went to leave, with the intention of checking out the parents room/shrine next door. It was as I was going through the door that I felt smoothing slightly hold and pull along me shoulder from behind! I stopped dead in me tracks. Thinking one of the dolls had fallen off the shelf I looked up, but everything appeared to be in order. I looked down on the floor, then all around me, there was nothing there. I looked around the room, nothing had moved out of place. I shrugged me shoulders, just me imagination I convinced meself and left the room.
I went into old Jacob and Adelaide’s room . It was larger than the others, but dimly lit, even with the gas lights on. The two windows that faced in different compass points were of no use on this gloomy, sunless Autumn day. A shrill wind came up, whistling around the house, and I shivered a bit, the heat was probably not on and I decided to check out the basement after I was done here to see if the furnace pilot light was lit.
The room was quite shadowy. The large four poster bed dominated the middle part of the room. It looked like a prop from an old scary movie, with its hanging curtains. Along the west wall was an old vanity with and old large smoked mirror. On one side of the vanity was a smaller jewel casket( I always was fascinated by that term for a jewel case!) I opened it, mostly costume jewellery, a fine silver necklace and a set of pearls, yellowed with age made up its meagre contents. No marriage rings, but of course she would have been buried in the vault with them. This thought caused me to remember a night when we were kids,, and me brother and cousin Jesse were tellin scary stories. One of em was a bout a lady who had been buried with her jewels and a grave robber had broken into the crypt to have em for hisself. He easily stripped he corpse of its valuables, except for the rings. Rigour mortis had apparently set in, so he pulled out his knife and began to cut off her fingers to have em. The lady , as it turned out, was not dead but in a coma, and the blade cutting into her flesh woke her, making her sit up wild eyed and screaming….. ENOUGH of that I scolded meself, time to put all such thought out of me head, I had been looking over at the bed as if her body was laying there!
I focused my attention back on the room.
The east wall side was lined with two large chests which contained nothing more than drawers full of antique clothing. I turned slowly around looking at several pictures that hung from the walls. They were all religious in nature. One of the cross at Golgatha, the Mother Mary weeping at its rock base. The rest were saints with drawn out, sorrowful faces. I turned away from them, spying a 2nd closed door next to the one I had entered, I went over and opened it.
Inside was a stairway leading to the attic, next to the stairs landing was a long closet with bagged suits and dresses, looking like a row of headless bodies, body bags I thought at the time, knowing full well that they weren’t, but that was the type of thoughts the place was giving me! I went to the stairway, and turned on the switch. Nothing happened, then I realized the door was closed to the attic up the stairs, I than could make out a faint glimmer of light just around the doors cracks. The wind again shirked around the house, shaking it a bit. I suppose, today looking back, that I had been a bit daft for going up into that attic alone, but for some reason I was drawn to it, like a moth to flame, with no thoughts at the time as to why I shouldn’t….
I made me way up the creaky stairs and opened the door, and went inside. Unlike the sparse rooms below, the attic was packed with bags of old clothes, broken clocks, forgotten damaged dolls and other toys. There were also several pictures, old , yellow and damp, of various family members. They were all tinotype photos, black and white, except for one that had been professionally hand coloured. It was of a young boy of about nine, something about him just did not seem quite right. He had large almond shaped eyes that just stared out, quite creepily from a slightly oversized head, and I wondered who it was, and what his story had been. No one had ever mentioned a handicapped child being in that branch of the family, but than in that era, things like that were hushed up. Thank God we no longer think that way!
As I walked through that dusty and damp room looking over the old fashioned traveling trunks, cartons, yellowed newspapers and letters, I began to get a sense of what their lives had been like. Whatever they had bought of value had been used until broken, then stuffed up here away to hopefully be fixed someday. I was pretty sure that most of the vanished Stephen’s left behind objects were up here today also. I remember wondering what had ever become of him, was he the boy in the antique coloured photograph?
I soon spied, crammed in a corner , a rather unique rocking horse. It looked like it had been hand made using real horses hair, some of it today eaten away, giving it a rather witchy, dishevelled appearance. The long face was also rather peculiar, looking all for the world like it had been startled by something, its eyes budging, nostrils flared! I moved it ever so slightly, and as it rocked I heard the springs squeak, it almost sounding like a young child saying “mine”. I stopped it, then did it again, this time the squeak sounded just like a squeak should. Blimy I thought, this place with its strange moans, creaks and other noises certainly does play tricks with one’s imagination!
I turned away, and spying a group of old toys jumbled about out on a table ,and went over. They were all broken in one way or another, some of them with what looked like red crayon marks. I picked up a doll that had a long fancy dress, its face and hands had been made of delicate porcelain. I looked it over, seeing that the side of the face had been smashed, which was giving it a rather gruesome, one blank eyed appearance. A red crayon that had been lying underneath the doll rolled off the table and fell on the floor. The tap it made when landing actually echoed in the room, it was today that quiet, with the wind having dyed down. The crayon had been resting on some papers and I picked them up. It was letter, written by their children’s mother Adelaide!
It was handwriting in neat, crimped feminine script, it was signed Adelaide Froes. It had been written to one of her sisters, and it told of her experience in the sanatorium, of hoping she would be well enough to come home soon. How she missed little Joseph, and hoped he was well ( none of the other children were mentioned!) . The letter started to tell about some of her experiences; constant screams and cries from the other patients, about how one night a man had escaped his bindings and had been entering rooms including hers! As I read the letter, I was starting to get seriously creeped out, so I started to put the letter down, when I noticed that someone had been scribbling on the bottom of the margin, in red crayon! It was a child’s wobbly scrawl, and spelled Joseph, with the letter 9 under it. There was another word beneath the 9 that looked like the spelling of the word “wotcher”.
I thought of Old Joseph, wasting away in the old folks home, the last known living member of the family( If one believed that Stephen was not still alive) . It must have been him scribbling at age 9. It was at that moment the lights flickered off, and I jumped as the room went dark . But then me eyes quickly adapted, I was able to see the open door, outlined faintly by a window set high in the wall. I Carried the letter with me and made my way quickly to the door. Just as I reached it, the wind started to howl again outside, causing the house to shake and creak. And as I hastened through the door, some of those odd noises sounded like something was riding the evil looking rocking horse , creaking its springs! I hurried down the stairs firmly shutting the closet door. Noticing that I was still carrying the old letter, I went over and set it down on the vanity, and closing the door behind me, left the room.
But I will admit today that I was to return to that room it a bit later that evening , for a most peculiar reason indeed!
I was today definitely chilled, and figured that the sooner I had the heat on the better. I made my way downstairs, but stopped for a look inside the Mourning Parlour. For some reason the room had always held a fascination for me. It was a corner room, with its own outside entrance, facing to the main entrance, with quite long windows to let in the light of day. It had only ever been used for the purpose of laying out bodies of the deceased relatives for viewing before traveling to the Church for a service of the dead, than laid out in the family crypt. So far had the room been used for that purpose 6 times. Though two of the caskets set up for viewing had been empty , those of the Jacob JR and Franks whose bodies were buried in a mass grave a continent away across the channel.
The room was still laid out as it had been for Frances’s viewing.
The room was smaller, with high ceilings and close walls. Off to one side was a smaller organ… I had remembered that both Mary and Frances had played that organ.
The other side was a couch, a few easy chairs, and some chairs from the kitchen… laid out in front of where the coffin had been. On either side of that space were two odd looking objects.. Black wrought iron contraptions’, a large grilled fan stood at the top of each of the wrought iron stands, and on top of each of the fans were candelabras, with 3 tapers each, that had been burnt down about halfway. I stood for a minute, realizing that the candles purpose was to gain light to the coffin and the corpse, while the fans were meant to keep things cool. At the base of each were large flower pots, still containing faded flowers, wilting from lack of water. I tried not to think what the purpose of the flowers had been!
I started to again shiver, feeling cold I convinced myself was the reason. I closed the parlour’s doors and went to the kitchen. Off to one side was the cellar door. I turned on the light and headed down.
The cellar was large, partitioned off by several walls. Probably for the root cellar and Jacob’s work room. The room was full of old crates and mouldy cardboard cartons, all full with odd and ends of all types collected over the many year’s gone by. In a far, shadowy corner were an ancient washer, drier, and an and even more ancient clothes wringer. Next to them, in a corner, was the old furnace, with its many vents raising up like a many armed monster about to pounce from the shadows. Kill the imagination girl, I chided meself, this place is eerie enough on its own…
It was at that moment that the tapping on the wall started.
End Of part 3
to be continued …..