Friday, March 5, 2010

Michael Myers' House

Every neighborhood has one of these. The house that all the kids give a wide berth when they trek to and from school. Sometimes, it’s the house with the cars parked in the lawn, all abandoned and rusting. Or, it could be the tall slender Victorian with the shades drawn and no one ever seen coming and going. Maybe it’s the house that remained empty for a long period of time.

Why do you suppose every neighborhood has to have a house like that? My guess is that neighborhoods are like families. You have the “perfect” house, the “party” house, the “neat and orderly” house and the “scapegoat” house. That scapegoat becomes all that’s wrong and as long as the rest focus on that house, their own houses go under the radar.

Lots of movies have portrayed these kinds of homes. My personal favorite is “The Burbs.” If you haven't seen that movie, it's really quite a must. Tom Hanks was awesome and Bruce Dern as the hyper military Vietnam Vet neighbor. I laughed so hard when I watched it because it was really close to the truth. New neighbors move in. You don't see or hear from them at all. They come and go at night. You don't so much as see their car...

We've had a lot of those neighbors here because the houses on both sides of us are rentals. We had one very bizarre family we called the "Klopek's" (from "The Burbs") who were never seen, but their dog repeatedly let himself out the front door and wandered around all day coming and going out the open front door. For a time, we wondered if perhaps the dog had rented the house.

One time, I'd had enough of the dog being loose. I was worried about him, so I went and peeked into the front door. No furnishings. An empty dog dish. I worried someone had robbed them or something. I called the cops. They said it was animal control's issues. Animal control said it was the cop's issue, so I called back the cops and said, "look, I don't know if they've been robbed or what, but the house is empty from what I can see. I'm not going to trespass." So, they did check it out, locked the dog inside again (he unlocked it again later and got out). I still to this day wonder who the Klopek's were. Or even if they existed.

Of course, “Halloween,” had the scene with the neighborhood kids daring each other at the house of a murder scene. That's another reason a house becomes a pariah. The old "I dare you to knock on the door" routine must have been exploited by every pre-adolescent. I admit to having done it myself a few times.

“The Ghost and Mr. Chicken” is the most adorable favorite of that genre. The scary house, the site of a murder is believed to be haunted. The haunted house always gets the bad rap. I have to admit, I lived in a big scary mansion on a hill in the middle of sprawling suburbs. TV crews came and did seances for shows and reports wrote about the ghosts often. It was about as "I'm not going near it with a 10-foot pole" as you can get. You'd think the kid with the huge yard and big house would be popular. Not so.

I remember on Thursday nights calling every girl in my class to find one brave enough to spend the night and sure enough by Friday afternoon, she'd have an excuse. Even their parents were scared to have them stay there.

I was relieved in sixth grade when we took an embarrassing field trip to my home. Yeah, who ever gets a school field trip to their own home? It was both embarrassing and in the long run a relief. Curious mothers came in tow to see the place. My mother graciously put on a good southern spread, toured the house, showed the blood stains from when it was a Civil War field hospital, explained the contents of the huge display case of relics we'd dug up, and then proceeded to let the kids play in the yard to their hearts content. I showed them how to use the metal detector and suddenly my world wasn't so weird anymore.

I'd love to hear about the scapegoat house in your neighborhood today or when you were a kid.


  1. I think I would embarrass too if my class took a field trip to my house. Mine is probably the only "sane" one on the block, but still.

  2. that must have been strange to have people touring your home...and being ghostly as well. On my street when I was growing up were two strange houses. The first sat on a corner, was a wooden two-story. I never saw a person come or go, but a very old lady lived there and would peek out between the curtains occasionally. I lived in that neighborhood for 18 years and only saw her that way 3 times. The other was another two-story, with an old lady. When she died people found that she was what we call a hoarder now, with only a narrow path that lead thru the entire house, couldn't even tell where she slept. But both houses were the ones where dares were made to go up on the porch and knock...

  3. Yeah, I was kind of used to the weird tours of our house because it was on the historical society and the tour bus would come by, drop people off, they'd take the tour, and then the next one and the next one. It's kind of weird, though, when your school principal shows up. Those shut-in's homes are the usual target of speculation. I have to admit, I miss the front-porch world. When I moved to AZ, everyone had cinderblock walls around their yards 6-feet high and not a front porch anywhere. My first few weeks here, I wandered around the neighborhood asking my friend "so, where are the kids?" He was like, "oh, there's one in that house and that house and that house" (pointing to all the houses), but it was so freakin hot, no one came out. You just never know what's going on behind the walls of the houses around you. If you knew who was actually in them and what they were doing and realized you live not 15 feet or 50 feet from them, you wouldn't want to stand in a crowd that close to them, much less make your home that close. Creepy, huh?

  4. I love stuff like this- I've always been a big fan of the creepy and/or run down neighborhood house. Several spring to mind, but the one I think I remember most was the one down the street from my grandad. He lived a neighborhood of WWII-era houses, and when I was growing up (70s) it was still kept up pretty well...except for one house at the very end of the block, next to the boulevard. The hedge had become so oevrgrown it was hard to get a good look from the street unless you were standing directly in line with the walkway. Then you could see the neglect: faded and chipped paint, busted windows, cracking front just looked the part of the old Myers place. The story I got from my parents was actually a common one: old lady had died, no immediate relatives in the state, ended up in the courts where it just sat for years because there seemd to be no interest in doing anything about it. Not as glamorous as the stories I'd created for myself about murders and ghosts, but that's the way it goes sometimes.

    The coda is that I visited that street for the first time in forever, and while the neighborhood had declined overall, the old "haunted house" had been restored and actually looked quite nice.

  5. Two thumbs up for the 'burbs and the Ghost and Mr. Chicken. Two more favorites of mine. We had a house on the corner near our grade school that had oleanders all around the property. There were many stories about the people that lived there.....witches, murderers, the Addams Family or the Munsters. I still don't know to this day who really lived there but the house is now gone.

  6. In our current neighborhood we don't really have one...yet. There's 3 i the making though. (1 a lady killed her baby in a couple years back. 5 years ago a guy who owned a home in the cul de sac died while riding his motorcycle. The current owners of his house have all kinds of trouble. Been broken in to a bunch of times. Just them. No one else. And then a few blocks over another guy killed himself in his home last year. Just last week in that same home the cops surrounded it with guns drawn for some kind of standoff. You'd think we live in a ghetto instead of a more upper middle class hood! CRAZY!) Fun post!

  7. Bleaux Leaux;
    It's a classic. With your creative horror-loving mind, you probably had all kinds of scenarios in mind. I was a child of the 70s too and I can relate to that era pre-video games and VCRs and computers. We actually went out in the neighborhood until we knew every dog, every car, everything that changed. I'm thrilled someone redid the house, though. I love diamonds in the rough.

    Don't you love neighborhood gossip? I knew you'd love those movie mentions--they're classics!

    I do remember similar things in our neighborhood. With the hippie movement, there were a lot of suicides. I remember one time going with my brother to his friend's house where he was taking care of his chamelion while he went on vacation. I was standing in the den in this split-level house and heard something go "thunk" and looked over my shoulder to the stairs and saw something dark dangling in the stairway. I tapped my brother on the back and told him and he turned and looked and there was nothing there. As we were leaving the house, he told me that was creepy. When his friend's family bought the house the last family moved out because their teenaged son hung himself from the stairway right there where the banister above gave him a place to tie off. Creepy!

  8. I'm jealous. It sounds like you lived in an awesome house. I would have loved that as a kid. Of course, I was a wierdo. My grandma owned a house that had been in our family for 150 yrs. It was the huge haunted mansion and I looked forward to visiting that house more than most kids look forward to visiting Disney World and I hated my grandma. I still dream of living there. It is awesome you got to live in that house.

  9. Jessica;
    For my parents lack of supervision, they chose the ideal place for us to grow up. My love of nature and romanticism, drive to have a sustainable living situation, and desire to be around old dusty historic sites came from that house. We also had a Victorian on the Chesapeake Bay that was our second home. We'd go there in the summer and drop crab traps and take the rowboat to the abandoned lighthouse and at 4 am when it was low tide, we'd take the rowboat out with a lantern and dive for clams and oysters and fill up the boat. It was quite magical. I actually liked the summer home even better but that's because we had a huge garden and a cabin cruiser and kind of lived off the waterfront eating from the earth. I still adore that kind of thing and work hard to try and have as much sustainability as I can in my desert backyard. I think I've written a few times in the past about our summer home. If you do a search in the right hand side in the search bar for "Newpoint" you'll get a lot of different stories about it. It was just as magical in its own way and quite haunted too. I hope you get an old historic home to live in. I think you'd be quite at home in an old place with a lot of history. I dream of getting one again myself because I feel so at home in creaky old places.