Sunday, July 15, 2007

Lanesville Life (part 4)

So there we were. One week to sit and wait. Would Bob get back in time? Five months we had been at it. Would it all go to waste?

One of the longer weeks of my life!

As I'm sure you've guessed by now, Bob got back and immediately called us. We set up a time to visit Susie, affidavit in hand. Bob drove to Salem. Bob sped to Salem.

The meeting went well with Susie and there was no problem with her signing the paperwork. Archie was the sole surviving child of James and Susan. Archie had no heirs. On August 21, 1978 we would become the third owners of the house. Greenough - Natti - ________. Then the fun began. We moved in the day that we closed on the house. Remember those original pictures? Move over dining room table and make room for a sleep sofa and suitcase. No water, no electricity, and a nervous first night.

Oh yes, we were definitely nervous. The house had been broken into just two weeks previous. How would anyone know that we were living there? Would someone try to break in again? Day two meant getting electricity of some kind! My dad came to the rescue along with the power company. Dad made sure the main line was shut off at the fuse box and the power company turned on the juice. Dad spent the rest of the day terminating wires damaged by the fire, activating a few temporary outlets, and rigging an outside light by the front door. We kept a front door light lit every night for a year. We weren't taking any chances!

On night two it began.

In the hush of the late night I heard it and for some reason it woke me from my sleep. It sounded like it was in the parlor. I froze and listened. Closer and closer it came. The sound of little feet. Little human feet running into the room. Then they stopped, like something had surprised the person they belonged to. I waited, trying to not even breathe. I can't imagine how long I lay there silently, not daring to move. The room was a veil of darkness with not a moonbeam to lend a hint of the contents, human, objects, or ............otherwise. When there was nothing more than the stillness of the night, I whispered to Doc, "Did you hear that?"

"Yes," he said. "What was it?"

We didn't have a clue. We turned on a lightbulb dangling from a fixture overhead and left it on the rest of the night. Maybe the better question would have been, who was it?

As we cleared each room and sorted it's contents, we also tore down the inside plaster and lathe of the exterior walls. This was in preparation for installing insulation. We also labeled and removed all the trim woodwork for sanding and for ease of running all new electrical (thanks, Dad).This process of "readying" rooms one at a time meant that our sleep sofa journeyed from the dining room to the parlor as all the dirty work of demolition was finished. By the end of November, we contacted the movers to bring our furniture. We had not completed the house by any means and we lived for three years with insulation, vapor barrier, and exposed studding as our walls. Never daunted by the work still needing completion, I simply decorated by hanging our "stuff" from the studs. At least now we were living in ALL the rooms. And this meant a real bedroom with our antique brass bed instead of a sleep sofa.

And a new adventure!

Sometime during the second year it began. We still had no finished interior/exterior walls and the chimney had been exposed and rebuilt from the cellar floor all the way up through the roof. Again, it was late at night when we were both sound asleep. This time Doc prodded me awake.

"Quit doing that," he said.


"Shaking the bed. I wasn't snoring."

"I wasn't shaking the bed. Go to sleep!"

Maybe a few weeks passed. This time I awoke to the firm but brief shaking of the bed.

"Doc, cut it out!"


"Doc, are you awake?"


"I said cut it out."


"You were shaking the bed."

"Not me."

The accusations continued for some months, both of us sure the other was being at worst irritating, at best a poor attempt at amusing. Until the night we both were awake as the bed was gently shaken. And then we knew it had to be Harry. Harry was the only child who had died in the house that was old enough to play this particular poltergeist prank. From that time on the "Doc, quit it!" and "Deb, quit it!" became "Harry, cut it out!" And he'd stop.

We were very grateful to have Harry "living" with us. One night I was wakened from a sound sleep at four in the morning. There was no particular reason for doing so, but I sat up in bed, leaned forward to the foot of the bed and looked out below the half raised shade of the bedroom window. Then I discovered that the front corner of our property was on fire. It was a fair distance from the house, actually closer to the neighbor, but would spread quickly with all the dried, old, oak leaves as fuel. I called the fire department and then the neighbors. A potential disaster was averted.....Thank you, Harry! (I'm sure) see footnote

(I have an aversion to writing either stories or letters that contain an even number of paragraphs, sections, etc. so there *will* be a part five to this story. In part five I'll tell some short funny stories about things that happened at the Lanesville house.)

We found out that a local drunk had been sitting on the wall and flicked a lit cigarette back on the property.


mary said...

omigosh, Deb! It is almost 11 pm, everyone is alseep and I am reading this and holding my breath! This is a spell binding. When you "think" you are done with the story, I want to know more about your moving in and how you managed. The photos showed an unlivable dwelling - how did you have the courage, guts, know how to see the possibility and put in the sweat hours?! And Harry? Tell us more . . but I think I'll read the next entry by daylight~ :-) I keep telling you this but you have a real gift for writing word pictures and taking us right into the story you lived. Wow!

Thank you for writing. I know this is a very emotionally draining and sad time for you and your family. Will be praying for you as you travel to Bourne on Tues and return on Thurs. I visited that National cemetery one memorial day and it is a solemn but magnificant place. I hope that you will feel able to share how the day goes but don't feel you have to if you prefer to keep it private.

Our prayers for comfort go with you.

dickiebo said...

Crumbs! Did Harry pay rent?
You certainly had your work cut out there, gal.

deb said...

Mary, Huh? Everyone is asleep at your house? I can't imagine it!

I'll fill in other work details about the house at some point. It took 5 years and we finished it only in time to sell and move to FL.

At my mom's request I'm taking the digital camera with me to the National Cemetery.

Dickiebo, for the amount of work we had to do, I could have used some rent money! There were two reasons for the renovation taking so long. The first was that we were both working full time teaching jobs and did MOST of the renovation work ourselves in spare time. The second was having to save enough money for major things like kitchen cabinets, appliances, drywall, plumbing, roofing.................

dickiebo said...

Blimey Deb. Wish I had some of your 'get-up and go'!
Thank God for Barbara!