Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Down in the bottom of this holler, at the end of a long, badly rutted gravel driveway, largely hidden behind the trees, is an abandoned farm. I would say the last residents moved away about a year ago. I spent the day there, checking the property out for the new owners.

What an utterly creepy place. It's like the set for a serial killer movie. Everywhere you look are weird signs of derangement and decay, a mix of the gross things you expect to find around an old farm and oddities that make no sense. The driveway is scattered with what look like vulture feathers, and the feet from the dismembered deer carcass lying next to a shed. One of the deer feet was covered by little orange and black butterflies.

The house itself has an old log core that probably dates to the late 1800s, with additions all around. The original part is on the right in this picture. About 40 years somebody moved in who showered the place with money and love, building additions, stables, sheds, and a concrete bridge over the little stream. The stream was dammed to make two little ponds, and the yard around the house was heavily landscaped. There is a row of corkscrew willows, rows of Norway spruces, a grove of birches, the biggest ornamental cherry tree I've ever seen, two Japanese maples, pear trees, a Russian olive, forsythia, and more. Sometime after that, things started to get weird.

"There used to be a little girl down there. Weird child -- never heard her say a word. Don't rightly know what happened to her, either. . . ."

From the front you can't really tell anything about the house's history because everything is hidden behind strange constructions. On closer inspection, these prove to be cages. The whole side porch of the house is a cage, made with wire mesh heavy enough to keep in a large dog. Next to the front door is this weird homemade thing, probably a bird cage. There is another large cage next to the walkway, the right size for a cockatoo or an injured owl. There were more cages and a couple of broken cat carriers in the back of the house.

Stepping into the house, the first thing I noticed was the buzzing sound. I thought, "flies on the corpse of the unburied last victim," but then I realized that it sounded more like bees. A few steps further in and the sound was so loud I was reminded of those X-Files episodes featuring giant hives that breed bees by the millions. But it wasn't bees, it was white-faced hornets. I never found the nest -- I think it was in the ceiling over the porch/giant cage -- but the house was full of hornets, flying around everywhere. Looking into the basement of the old house, I saw more hornets, and smelled skunk.

The farm has at least a dozen outbuildings. This includes a couple of nice stables, with signs that horses lived in them not long ago. The other buildings are mostly weird little sheds like these. They look like chicken coops or rabbit hutches, but some of them are full of stacked gerbil cages. In the basement of the biggest addition were more stacked cages. There must be a hundred scattered around the farm. Were these people hamster breeders? Dealers in exotic pets? Dealers in illegal, exotic pets? The farm would be the perfect for that. ("Psst, want to own an endangered species?") On one door is is a Visa/Mastercard sign.

About a hundred yards from the house across an overgrown pasture was a tiny house. From the outside it looked too small to live in, but through the broken window I saw evidence that they let their flower child friends crash here for a while.

All in all it was the weirdest place I have been in years. I spent a delightful day there with my crew, exploring and making up stories. Sometimes you want things to be orderly, sane, and beautiful, but sometimes a dash of chaos is more fun.

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