"The Winston Chronicle"
Tragedy strikes at the Huntley Mansion
On an overgrown weed infested lawn of the Huntley Mansion lays a corpse. She has dark curly hair entwined with grass and glass. Her glazed brown eyes stare somewhere beyond our world. She appears to be in her twenties. Glass shards are embedded in pale skin. She is wearing a cotton sundress with lace embellishments. Blood stains are few. Without identification, she is now sadly "Jane Doe".
The stained glass window, now broken beyond repair like the young woman, was once crafted with roses. There are previous black and white photographs of the home. A local artist made the window so there is a history. The mansion has been vacant except for creatures, possibly paranormals or vagrants for over fifty years. There are intact padlocks on all the doors and police said there was "apparently" no way someone could have entered the home.
A search of the house didn't find any clues. There wasn't a vehicle parked close by and, so far, no witnesses to the event. A police investigation continues.
Callie and Cole Van Sandt ventured from the city most weekends to explore the interesting areas of their state. Callie would find blugrass festivals, art fairs, Civil War re-enactments and antique sales and swaps on the Internet. It is fall and the colors are splendid. There are shades of crimson, copper, brunt orange, cinnamon and rust. Callie, a painter, often took both color and black and white photos of local people and unusual places that sparked her creativity. The patience she had would reward her with wonderful snapshots of personality; interaction between parent and child, children at play, looks of love and life going on around us without posing.
The city of Winston had a delightful town Square. It was being decorated for a Fall Festival. People wandered in and out of stores, probably visitors or with no special time limit, they were just enjoying their town. Some were sitting on benches waiting for a friend or watching the town move on a lazy Saturday. It seemed like a friendly place as older ladies dressed up spoke with children parking their bikes.
Elderly men sat in Elkin's Drugstore at a lunch counter in their assigned booth. You could tell they had been friends for years; probably worhipped at the same church, drank whiskey at their children's births, went to the Masonic Hall and buried friends together. It was like stepping back in time with parking meters. The signs on store windows outside advertised the Fall Festival for next weekend. The drugstore employees were decorating windows with pumpkins, gourds, fall colored leaves on fishing lines and ceramic store wares. We ate mouth watering chicken salad sandwiches with home grown tomatoes and real cherry cokes at the lunch counter. It was interesting listening to the waitresses gossip to friends/customers about the newest Johnson baby born, a local robbery where heirloom silver was stolen and a Meth lab had been found when the cops raided a trailor last week.
Everyone kept staring at them as if they were aliens. What if they had been black? They couldn't help but notice the lact of black faces here; it was like the 1960's. They proceeded to take a ride over country roads. The further out they rode, civilization was almost nonexistent.
Once in a while they would see an old gas station in a older red brick building. Callie had to stop so they pulled into an old Citgo. She expected to see 'Colored' bathrooms like she had seen in documentaries about the old South. This gas station had a torn screen door and a Coca-cola chest on the porch. Callie wondered when she would see a place to plug in for an electrical car or other alternative fuel. There were posters for Romney and she had seen a poster for O'Bama that had been defaced. If she spoke her mind here, it would not be welcomed. It takes many years, people moving in from other cultures, different churches and social groups and education for such things to change. A mixed breed dog lay outside and a couple of men in worn overalls were chewing tobacco and probably swapping fishing stories (or a favorite porn site).
Inside were boiled eggs, pickles and pigs feet in jars of a sticky liquid. Most places had the Confederate flag proudly displayed. People often asked where we were from and if we had kin here.
There were groves of apple and pecan trees along the winding roads. The smell in the air was burning leaves and apples. Occasionally there was a fruit stand with apples, boiling peanuts and cider. Riding through the area was a treat when you lived in a busy metropolitan area.
They almost missed the treasure, set far back from the main road, in the whispering pines.
"It's my dream home, honey, please stop," Callie pleaded.
"It's not for sale, babe. Do you see a sign?" Cole asked.
The house was a huge weathered Victorian that had seen much better days. There was yellow paint in places that spoke of it's former beauty. The wrap-around porch had exquisite beaded woodwork that was very fragile now. The pearls hung down sweetly like they had been placed around the slender neck of a girl that was being married. As if they were placed there by her mother as something old and borrowed for a promise that her life would be as wonderful.
It didn't appear that anyone was living here. This appealed to the romantic and adventurous side of Callie's personality.
Cole figured one day the cops would arrest them for trepassing and throw their butts in jail. Then a deputy with too much time on his hands would torture them with a pistol, making them dance. That would end the excursions and he could watch football on television. He smiled at that. It would be a depressing way to end their fun. It was getting to be a time to start making babies, being responsible and stop acting like naughty children. This is a frightening place to act that way anyways. This adventure was about to bring them into deep and dangerous water.
Callie, like 'Nancy Drew girl detective' would find the perfect house, take pictures and then put them under her pillow. Just like the tooth fairy, she thought money would magically materialize. She would get thehouse for a song, they could make all the repairs, and then decorate it beautifully. The house would have a history with glamor like General Sherman sleeping there. The trees would be perfect for a child's imagination. Cole could hang a tire swing. Places to dream are found in a yard complete with a pond and both vegetable and flower gardens. There could be a bird hotel and a wrap around porch with wooden swings to read books. There would be a screen porch with white wicker furniture.
Cole knew this whimsical side of Callie was just one reason he loved her. She would get so excited, like a small child overwhelmed by all the flavors at a Baskin-Robins Ice Cream Parlor.
Cole knew if the owner did want to sell, they didn't have any cash. They could barely afford the rent on a one- bedroom apartment.
Callie wasn't in denial, she knew their situation. She was a struggling painter and Cole was a DJ for a small radio station. The dream house was a harmless game.
They parked the car.
"Babe, something special is drawing me to this home," Callie was saying.
They knocked, the door swung open. There was life here already. It was inhabited by bats, rats and spiders. Looking past all of that, you could tell it had been a beauty at one time with exquisite crown molding and silk wallpaper.
The living room ceiling had faded cherubs painted on four corners. Some of the furniture, period pieces, were still here. They were covered by dusty sheets. Unfortunately,the rats had eaten away at the upholstery.
Callie giggled, "The rats certainly have good taste".
She went on to say, "I could imagine restoring it, then sitting on the front porch with a Mint Julep in my hand. I would wear a white embroidered cotton dress, a straw hat with lavender ribbons. We could discuss the latest neighborhood news and serve cucumber tea sandwiches".
Cole then burst her bubble,"'Do you have any idea what it would cost to fix this place up? Even if I did most of the work myself?"
"I know but I can dream, can't I?"
They began to walk around, going from room to room. Callie wandered off by herself. Suddenly, he heard a ear splitting scream.
"What the hell?"
Cole came running.
There was a yellow drawing of a body on the floor.
"Oh my God, someone was murdered here!" Callie's voice echoed off the walls.
Cole, "Let's just get the hell out of here, okay?"
They went back to the front door. The fragile weathered door was shut and would not open. A sense of panic was beginning to overtake Callie. She was sweating and shaking.
All of the windows on the first floor were locked and would not open. Everything that had appeared to be falling apart had changed into a fortress of strength. They tried the fireplace poker and a brick but nothing would break the windows or glass in the door.
It was a nightmare! They realized they had left their cell phones in the car.
It was hard not to be frantic. The two of them clasped hands tightly and ventured carefully up a staircase that was falling down.
On the top floor there was a stained-glass window that looked down on the foyer.
It was a coffin with a woman in it surrounded by dark red roses.
'What kind of person would want such a morbid piece of art?'
Their beautiful home had become a frightful place, seeming to undergo a metamorphosis.
Callie began to hyperventilate. Cole tried to calm her down but she was sure they were trapped in a monster.
The house sounded like it was breathing, becoming a living thing. They searched the top floor. All the windows were sealed and after trying to break them, they were becoming desperate and weak. They checked for what might be an attic, but couldn't get the door to open.
Cole said perhaps there was a cellar. The two creeped carefully back down the steps. One of the steps gave way and Callie's foot became caught.
The pain was incredible and she was terrified that she wouldn't be able to get loose. Cole managed to pull her out but the ankle quickly swelled and the pain was extreme. She couldn't walk on it. Now Cole had tocarry her. He put her down on the dusty couch and kissed her.
"I love you and we are going to get out of this horrible place!"
There was a small door behind the stairway. It opened.
Callie was whimpering but tried to be positive.
"We are going to get out . We'll sell the story to People and make tons of money".
"Callie, please hold the door. Get the visions of money sugarplums out of your head, okay?"
Cole went down and investigated. He felt his way down the steps. They kept talking to each other. It was pitch dark and you could hear the scurrying of rats and mice.
"I see a small window..... I'm pushing it open. I think we can get through it. Be careful, Callie. Feel your way down here," Cole instructed.
Then Callie heard a bang.
"The window closed but there's an ax here. I'm coming to get you....don't move."
"Callie.............I love you. Oh my God!"
That was the last time she would hear her husband's voice.
Suddenly, a strong wind pulled the cellar doors from her hands. She couldn't open it.
Callie, in full panic, was screaming Cole's name over and over.
There was dead silence on the other side of the door.
Callie sank to the floor in tears.
The house was breathing. It had a strong heartbeat that caused her head to pound. The chambers of the heart were opening and closing. She felt like she was inside a body and her pulse was the same as the house.
Remember take deep breaths and think positively. She didn't have control anymore. Callie felt like she was suffocating, her chest was in severe pain. She felt something around her, a dark presence. The house wanted her dead, that much she knew and Callie was tired. She closed her eyes tightly and waited.
By Kathie Stehr
July 7, 2012