Thursday, July 20, 2017

Chatterbox House (Part 1 of 2 Parts)

 After last week’s bit of fluff, let’s go for something with a little more meat. I hope you enjoy learning about Chatterbox House.

Courtesy of Geographic
Chatterbox House. The name intrigued me as much as the bargain basement price for the vacant property.
I bought the old Tudor with overgrown greenery at the end of Englesbury Lane six months ago without knowing its history or even the origin of the strange name. That was just what folks called the place. I knew that the previous owner died some years back from a fall down his staircase and that five daughters lived with him at the time. That was the sum total of my knowledge—other than the fact that the house had lain vacant for two years.
I settled in for a few days before starting to modernize the place, choosing the old-fashioned kitchen as my initial project. According to my budget, I could spend up to $25,000 in repair and refurbishing and still make a killing off the place. The one acre, semi-rural lot would easily accommodate another home if I chose to go that way.
The first time I took my crowbar to the cabinets over the sink, a scream reverberated through the house. The impression was so real that I paused before applying the tool again. This time, it appeared to be only the squeak of old boards as they came free. I quickly ripped them out and measured for new cabinets. I’d build them myself rather than buy pre-fabs.

As I washed up in preparation for bed that first night after starting work on the kitchen, I thought I heard a woman’s voice in the next room. I grabbed the antique, discolored porcelain knob and turned off the running water. Nothing.
Then a murmur. A second voice seemed to answer a bit more sharply.
“Who’s there?” I called.
Silence, but it was a restless silence—whatever that meant.
I grabbed a towel to dry my face and walked into the bedroom. Empty. I opened the heavy, brocaded drapes and peered into the darkness outside. The yard light exposed an expanse of green, clipped lawn. Nothing unusual. Certainly no strange women. Snorting in exasperation, I went through the house room by room without discovering intruders. After that, I completed my ablutions and turned in.
I was almost asleep when something brought me wide awake. Whispered voices. More than one. More than two. I wasn’t certain, but I thought they were all female. Damnation, had my womanizing youth caught up with me at age thirty?
I sat up in bed and caught a single word. “Hush!” Mature voice. Softly spoken rather than whispered. Then a smothered giggle. Enough moonlight poured through the open drapes to see no one was there. Shivers played up and down my back. The hair on my arms prickled. Impulsively, I hit the button on my bedside radio and soft swing music floated through the room.

Once the kitchen remodel reached completion, I turned to the dining room. The large, built-in hutch was quality work, so I decided to leave it in place and simply refinish it. I’d no sooner applied my sander to take off countless layers of paint than that anguished scream came again. I froze. My back puckered fiercely. I had the impression of multiple eyes staring at me. I whirled. Nothing there. After drawing a shaky breath, I returned to my work. Once the paint was removed from the beautiful natural maple of the hutch, I used alcohol to remove the original shellac. Then I moved the can of alcohol to an out of the way place in the hall near a table at the base of the stairs.
The dated, tufted velvet wallpaper was next to go. There were no more eerie incidents during that laborious process, but I felt the weight of something—disapproval?—as I worked.
This house didn’t like what I was doing. That thought gave me a jolt. A house was wood and brick and nails and paint. It had no likes or dislikes. It was just… there.
Once finished with the dining room, I inspected my work, pleased with the renovation thus far. This house was going to be one grand showcase when I finished. The logical place to proceed would be in the living room… or as the family called it, the parlor. That brought me to a halt again. How did I know they used an old-fashioned term like that?
Deciding to ignore logic, I tackled the bedrooms upstairs. There were five of them, and simply by tearing out a non-load-bearing wall, the two smaller ones would make a great large master bedroom suite, complete with its own bath and lounge area.
As I lugged a sledgehammer up the steep stairs, it seemed to grow heavier and heavier with each step. Shrugging it off as my imagination, I selected the spot where I wanted to begin the demolition and lifted the sledge over my shoulder. All of a sudden, I found myself on my butt. Reason said it wasn’t possible, but the weight of the head of that hammer had thrown me off balance. I’m an experienced builder to whom many weird things had happened, but for the life of me, this just didn’t seem possible.
Embarrassed—even though there was no one to witness my humiliation—I got up and drove a hole in the interior wall between the two rooms with one mighty whack. No screams this time, but I had the impression of gasps… and a distinct “Oh, no!”

What’s going on here? Has our nameless hero happened on a house with a soul, or is it something else? Perhaps something more sinister. Tune in next Thursday for the finale.  Let me know what you think of the story at

Remember, the March 21 release date of The City of Rocks is right around the corner. The following are my contact links:

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