The Catskill Mountain region in upstate New York is the oldest, creepiest, most magnificent part of the state. All you can see as you drive around in the daytime are gnarled trees and a thick layer of mossy sediment with the occasional waterfall or whisper of a brook. There have been more devil sightings in the Catskill Mountains than in any other part of the country, a fact which once got a red-faced man on a flight from Memphis to Tulsa to stop talking to me.
Next to the sign welcoming you to the town of Neversink, a town which had to be relocated when they built the reservoir because the old settlement was flooded, there is a large swampy pond and a 5 ft tall stone wall with a house on top. It's a little house. Two stories, white paint job, long front porch, little glass windows and a stream running down right next to it. The house looks like it's been empty for years. The front door stands open and some of the window panes are shattered. The white paint has big dirty cracks.
The house looks down on you as you drive up past it. Perhaps it's the open door, but something sweet calls you home every time you see it.
Last August my dad, filled with the spirit of adventure or hearing that call swerved to the side of the swampy pond and parked the truck when we were driving past on our way home from Woodstock. It was a bleak day. All dark and rainy. I wrapped a shall around my head to keep the damp out and followed my dad across the road and up the muddy embankment to the old house.
We climbed onto the porch from the right side. The porch creaked as I crossed it to the front door. There was a window on my right. Classic four-paned. Something slanted about it though. I tried to look into the front room through the warped glass but it was too dusty. I took a step closer and put my hand up to the glass to cut the glare from the sun, trying vainly to reach me through all those clouds. There was just furniture inside. A small plump couch and two chairs, and a desk. The place looked untouched, encased in a thick layer of dust and mildew.
A chill took me and I pulled back from the window just as the sun darkened, momentarily. I continued to the front door. My dad was already inside. There were newspapers all over the floor of the kitchen and all the drawers were missing. Then my eyes adjusted to the dim light and I saw the drawers were shattered and strewn with all their contents over the linoleum floor. The walls and ceiling were white, the ceiling low.
My dad picked up one of the newspapers on the floor. It was pinkish and old. 1973, he said, and dropped the paper.
The picture above is of the kitchen, taken from the staircase opposite from the front door. As you can see the place is a mess. I was too scared to leave the stairs after I climbed them. The next picture is of the room at the top of the stairs. Taken with flash.
There were two rooms leading off this main one on the second floor. One had an old spring bed in it. The other had the ceiling caved in.
I closed my eyes and saw a woman in black come out from behind the wall on the right of the picture and stride into the front bedroom, the one with an intact ceiling.
Let's get out of here, I told my dad. He had to check out the collapsed room first. I waited on the stairs, trying not to look at the little boy watching me from the bottom. His blonde hair dirty with mud. Finally dad was back and he let me grab his hand and pull him from the premises. We noticed a collapsed shed as we crawled back down the embankment; it was covered in moss but you could still see the springs of a mattress inside.
I was happy to see the truck again. We clambered in and drove off. The sun had come out for a minute and the damp earth shone a most brilliant green.