GNH Lumber Outdoor Living

THROUGH THE WOODS: Our old ‘Halloween House’

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By NANCY JANE KERN

Raven. Photo by Nancy Jane Kern

A RAVEN CALLED from my roof today, causing me to think about house spirits. I spent 60 years of my life at my parent’s home and learned about the Widow Tracy, the first inhabitant, who was allowed to live out her days there in the late 1700s. My father was a descendant of the Tracy family. Post-Civil War my great-great grandfather George Kern bought the farm, which eventually came to my father, where he lived until 1998. After the farm was sold, the poor old house went through 10 years of vandalism and neglect until it was torn down.

That was a sad time as I saw my mother’s curtains flapping out through broken windows, and then the walls and chimneys came down. Shrubs that were generations old were ripped out and dumpsters filled with debris. Workmen wondered who I was because I frequently stopped to watch, and it was a mixture of many emotions through those days. I was curious to see the structure and how it was built and knew the beams were rough-hewn and some still had their bark.

The original part of the house was a primitive, small, two-story structure on a fieldstone foundation with a dirt cellar floor. It was not a very deep cellar, and you had to stoop down to enter from outside. The first floor was held up by several posts worn smooth from many hands grasping them until the bark wore off. Whenever there was heavy rain, the water flowed through and out the cellar door. Sometimes I watched the demolition and wondered what past generations would think of the disregard of their hard labor.

There was a small bedroom in the house where I refused to sleep when I was young. I don’t know if it was a stage in my development or what, but I was afraid. We had a guest stay in this room once and he left it during the night because he felt someone was watching him, and he was terrified. It confirmed how I felt about it, and we wondered if the room was haunted.

About 200+ years of births and deaths could have accounted for it if you were inclined to believe such things. Mostly we laughed it off. That room was one of the last to go and I wondered if there were spirits in the house. Would they fly out as the last walls fell, and then, where would they go?

The barn is still standing and is newly-repaired and painted red again, so maybe this would be their refuge. So far, none have turned up at my new house half a mile up the road. The old cellar is filled in and leveled off, and the site is still ringed by our white pine sapling Christmas trees now 70+ years old. Mom’s flowers still pop up in the overgrown lawns. Her mother-in-law hated the old house, and she would be glad it was gone.

No squirrels run over the ceilings at night. The smell of centuries of wood fires and closets of hanging cob-smoked hams are absent. Nothing creaks or groans, and there are no drafts. I still miss the old house though, and if there are any happy spirits of my ancestors hiding out in the barn, they are welcome to come up the road to visit me. Happy Halloween!

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