(first appeared at moonmagazine.org 11/8/2013)
The story starts in the driveway.
I could tell you volumes about what transpired previous to your visit but this story starts in the driveway.
As you’ve come to expect from the homes in your price range, the driveway is beautiful. Long and winding and chock full of ancient trees and fountains.
The long driveway will give you a minute to process what I’m about to say to you. If you’re the kind of person who associates ghosts with senseless or vindictive acts from beyond the grave, and you are unwilling to budge on this opinion, then I believe we’ll make use of the roundabout in front of the house and move on to the next property.
If you are a little more open-minded, then we’ll proceed inside.
You can drive hours between legitimate hauntings but when a mansion has been in a family for centuries the problem isn’t whether or not there’s a resident ghost as much as how many ghosts can live comfortably under the same roof.
I’ll give you a second to process that.
As a lowly realtor, earning what a realtor earns, it’s easy to dismiss my next observation as jealousy but the truth is when a billionaire puts his or her head down on the pillow at night knowing there are hundreds of millions of people living in abject poverty and they have more resources than he or she knows what to do with, they are already haunted. Either that or they are devoid of a soul. Put generation after generation of family members dealing with the same issues in the same residence and the house can’t help but be a magnet for misery.
I’ve seen your credit report; you know exactly what I’m talking about.
The question remains, are you ok with inheriting the sins of another family’s past?
Especially at this price. We both know it’s well below market value and I wouldn’t haven’t driven you all the way out here if there were severed heads and screeching apparitions floating all about the place. In fact, if I had the cash I would probably buy the house myself.
There’s something almost beautiful about the place.
As I said, the story starts now.
In the foyer. You have a sophisticated enough eye that I don’t have to bore you with details of where the wood and marble came from or how many bulbs are in the chandelier hanging above us. What I would like to call your attention to is the custom music box on the front table. It plays a tinny but recognizable version of “Omaha” by Golden Palominos.
Don’t be alarmed by the ghostly dog chasing ghostly deer around it. That’s Lucky, the last owner’s dog. Whenever the music box is opened, he will come out all golden and shimmering and chase the twinkling deer around and around, little sparks flying off of him and bouncing harmlessly on the floor. Of course, while he was alive Lucky was about fifty pounds overweight and at the end couldn’t even stand up under his own power. He ate better than most people do and never once had a meal of dog food. He ate exclusively from the table of his master and died five years earlier than he should have. Now he spends his days waiting for someone to lift the top of the box so he can come out all svelte and in good shape, nothing like the barrel-with-legs he appeared like during his lifetime.
This way to the library.
As you can see, the prior owner felt a strong need to have people think he liked to read. These stacks go three stories in the air, the last two rows of shelves only reachable with the mobile ladders that adorn each side. The woman who is now standing at the top of the ladder on your right is about to jump to her death, so please don’t be alarmed.
This happens every time someone new enters the room as well as any other time she feels the need to come out and stretch her legs. She was the bored daughter of one of the past owners and if you watch closely you’ll see her body splash onto the hardwood with a puff of black ash. I always thought that was quite polite of her not to show her head splitting open and whatnot. Now she just melts away. It makes watching her death almost tolerable, although I will confess that the slight chill you get from the look on her face as she departs the ladder never really goes away.
Of course there is an indoor pool complete with a bloated corpse that pops up from time to time and a wine cellar littered with the oft-dying groundskeeper hanging around. Upstairs there are four and half baths with both a woman slitting her wrists in one Louis XIV knockoff tub and a man downing pills in front of a gorgeous crystal and gold sink.
But I can see from the look in your eye you want to see the master bedroom.
The only room in the house where there are no restless spirits.
I suspect that all the talk of free markets and risk and reward ring hollow when you’re alone with your thoughts in the depths of night. Knowing how other people are living and how easily you could improve the quality of their lives but don’t. The quiet night where all your airtight rationalizations get exposed. How could it be that this room is devoid of ghosts?
Is that what you’re asking yourself?
Or perhaps you already know. Perhaps you’ve already decided to take it.
Perhaps you already feel at home.