The house I grew up in was spooky. And we felt its effects, too. Part 2 of 3 View in browser
My Older Brother by 1 Year Has Found 4 Dead People

We blamed how our lives turned out on the House. 

In this newsletter I want to:

  1. Share Part 2 of a story about the 110 year old house I was born into more than 60 years ago.
  2. Share some book discovery opportunities.
  3. Include Part 1 - ICMYI
  4. Final Thoughts

I Grew Up in a Spooky House (Part 2 of 3 - 2,402 words)

This excerpt is a first draft of a chapter from the book I am working on. 

Readers of this newsletter get first look.

The whole story is over 5,000 words.

If you are in a hurry, now might not be the best time to read this part 2.

Part 1 is below - ICYMI (In Case You Missed It)

----  The White Man ----

My oldest sister, Chrissy, seemed to experience the wrath from wraiths in the house the most. 

One night, she saw an uninvited visitor standing in the upstairs hallway while she lay in her bed. It was not a specter or some figment of her imagination. Rather it was a man, infamous in our parts, who wandered in from somewhere on Cincy’s west side. He was real flesh and blood, too real.

For years Cincinnati’s west side was bedeviled by a person who for some inexplicable reason painted himself white, wore white clothes, white gloves, white shoes, and a white stocking cap that he pulled down over his face. In the news he was known very unimaginatively as the WHITE MAN. Mt. Echo Park sat on atop of one of Cincy’s seven hills and was a short mile walk from our home. I went past this park on my walks to and from kindergarten.

The white man often went to Mt. Echo to find couples watching ‘submarine races’ in the Ohio River. He beat and left the boys for dead, then had his way with the girls before he left them wishing they were dead. A close friend of the family, a boy affectionately known as Fish, survived an encounter with the hated White Man. But then Fish later was killed in Vietnam. Who wants lunch?!

The unwelcome intruder Chrissy saw was the White Man; she heard his labored and lustful breathing. She shivered violently yet remained motionless, protected by a hand-quilted bedspread made by someone more loving. Try it. It’s not easy to shiver violently and remain motionless at the same time.

The White Man didn’t see her. She lived to tell about it. However, she never forgot this brush with almost certain death or worse. Until very recently. That story is sad and unfunny, too. Throughout her life she had ‘nightmares’ and experiences that frightened us just hearing about them. She was family, however, so we listened. Well, mostly I listened. In the end I spent more time with Chrissy than anyone else in our family.

Most people can’t remember dreams like Chrissy could. She told me of one where my father broke off my second older sister Della’s arm and beat my mother to death with it. The worst dream was a simple one —- about eating chuck roast. Not long after, her husband, Charles (Chuck) died in a horrific high speed car accident. Seriously. Who’s hungry now?

When Chrissy was NOT sleeping, she often saw faces in the bathroom mirror that were not her own. Strangers peeped through the shower windows and curtains from behind her. She saw their faces all too clearly —- scars on their foreheads, cracked lips, a missing or broken tooth. The reflection in the mirror showed the window pane fogging up from their heavy breathing. She saw their eyes; blue, brown, hazel; one person had a different color in each eye. They were all filled with an unhealthy desire for a young woman living alone. One such visitor winked at her as if she had flirted with him. “Chrissy. Can you just tell me the story of the 3 Little Pigs? You know. The one where the wolf does not eat the other two pigs?”

Chrissy heard people walking on the roof of her house and her front door knob was sometimes rattled violently. I saw that happen once when I was visiting with her. She and her current husband, Bill, an ex-convict for armed robbery, now work at a crematory - burning dead people for a living. Chrissy’s life has been filled with ‘what could have beens’. Perhaps it was the house’s influence, if I believed that sort of thing. I believe I want to look back on my life at some point and think, “I could have turned out like Chrissy … but I didn’t.”

After her husband died, I stayed many nights with my big sister and her daughter. At 12-years old I became a god-father to my niece, the first grand-daughter of the family.

In exchange, Chrissy influenced me in my formative years by sharing all her terrible experiences with me firsthand. Can I eat that little pig now? I love bacon.

---- Eaten By a Bed ----

My oldest brother, Lennie, was eaten by a bed once. My parents lost him for an entire day when he was an infant. You know when you are only a day old and you are lost for half a day, that comes to about one-fourth of your life. At 60 that would be like me being lost for 15 years.

How hard can it be to find a baby? Hard it seems.

Eventually he was found, pinched between a bed and a wall. He had rolled over and fallen off the side of the bed into a space between the edge of the bed and the wall. The bed then somehow as if by its own will moved close enough to the wall to hold him in place, just tight enough to keep from crushing him, in a position where he couldn’t scream, but still wouldn’t suffocate. He had no teeth yet so he couldn’t even try to bite his way out.

He ‘survived’ until the day he had an unexpected argument with one particular tree in a grove of trees and the tree was the more convincing. Lennie failed to navigate a turn on a highway at a fast speed with slow reflexes. He left four young kids behind. That old house was two for two in undesirable outcomes, IF you believe an inanimate object could have such power. I tried not to believe.

---- Thrown Off by an Inanimate Object ----

My “one armed” sister, Della, seemingly couldn’t escape the spells that house placed either. There was a long staircase in the center of the main hallway. The same staircase my brothers rolled me down from time to time to see if bounced. The staircase owned a dark brownish-red mahogany banister that connected the two floors of the house. It was a premier sliding kind of banister with hand-carved coils at the top to push off from and at the bottom to keep the adventurous slider from going “Whee!” out the front door. Of course, your bottom never quite got used to the sudden stop. The slider straddled the banister as if he or she were riding a horse. Then with a few scoots backward and hard push off he or she went. An immediate sharp right turn in about three feet was followed by another sharp right turn in a downwards incline. After that It was all downhill.


Kind of like horses do at times, that banister threw Della off once. Fell off? No, she was thrown off. My mom said she saw the banister ‘fling’ Della off, much like when flipping a spider off your arm after it landed there by accident. Della broke her arm on the fall. Worse yet, none of us were ever permitted to be seen sliding down the banister again. It was my earliest experience to what it would be like to live in California. As soon as one thing went wrong with one stupid person, well, they outlawed that one event for everyone. So … we slid down it when mom and dad weren’t looking. We break the law in California, too … when nobody is watching. Many years later Della, suffering from depression and the evils she imbibed to fight her self-inflicted torture, as well as inhibited with low reflexes similar to my older brother, burned to death in a fire while sitting in a chair in her own tormented house, perhaps a ‘relative’ of the one she had grown up in. I have no appetite any more. The house I grew up in was three for three in horrible outcomes for its inhabitants … if … well, I, uh … never mind.

---- So Much Promise, So Much Bad ----

My dad told me before he died that he bought that house as an investment. Development was happening in the area and it was just a matter of time before the investors came knocking and Pop would make a mint, he hoped.

“If we could have just boded our time till then,” he told me wistfully many years later.

He couldn’t. We didn’t.

How could so much bad come from something that promised so much good?

---- 4 Dead People ----

Cheer up. It could get worse. Don’t cheer up yet. It does get worse.

My second older brother, Jerry had a knack for finding dead people.

The river banks of the United States’ second longest river were a retreat site for our family on weekends – a getaway from the house.

Still at times, tornadoes came through Cincy and floods covered the banks and then some of the Ohio River. I remember clearly hugging trees at their base before it became a thing here in California more than once so we would not be blown away to the other side of some rainbow or even worse, to the other side of the river from where those hillbillies waved at us.

Number 1

Our family often spent weekends on the Ohio River. When Jerry was about nine years old he was in a boat and Della was in the water having just taken a tumble while water skiing.

“Look out! Sumdin’ is a floatin’ rat by you” Jerry cried out in his best Kentucky hillbilly imitation. Or maybe the accent was real.

Floating within one good arm’s reach of Della was a dead man. We called the Ohio Coast Guard. They were of no use. They threw a ski line, the yellow neoprene kind, around the corpse to pull it ashore but the line sliced right through an unidentifiable part of the body the dead guy. Everyone threw up their lunch – except the dead man.

“Leave it be,” the Ohio Coast Guard Captain said as they pushed the lever forward on their river cruiser and sped away.

Gee, thanks!

We called the Kentucky Coast Guard. The Kentucky Coast Guard had seen worse, I suppose, because they quickly dragged that corpse up to the shore. The body was terribly bloated, that is until it touched dry land. Like air from a punctured balloon water exploded from its torso. More lunches, breakfast also were lost. One redneck coast guard sailor pulled off a boot from the dead man; the skin on the leg came with it leaving an exposed tibia. However, and I say this with much respect, there was never any more making fun of those Kentucky hillbillies after that. They were either tough as nails or just didn’t give a hoot about what they found in the river. After all, road kill is considered edible in those parts … no kidding. Yuck!

Oh, what Jerry had found. The body stunk so bad we could still smell it two weeks later. The legs were gone, except for that one bone, that is. Riverweeds had grown around the arms such that you could not tell where the arms stopped and the body began. The face was eaten away and we could see pieces of the skull. It was foul, it was wretched, it was loathsome. We could even see the stink. It was later speculated that the man had fallen off the front of a ‘Naw’lins’ bound coal barge on its way from Pittsburgh down the Ohio River to the Mississippi. The dead guy had been un-swimming in the water for about six months. Whoever was waiting for him down south is still waiting … and waiting … and waiting.

Number 2

On another weekend trip, it was Jerry’s turn to be pulled on water skis and his friend, Gil, obliged. Jerry was trying to show off by bending down to grab something from the water as he zipped by. Jerry reached down towards the water to pick something up to show his friend. A face stared back at him. Jerry was the second person in history to walk on water as he scampered into the boat. They circled back around to discover a corpse floating nearby. The dead man had been tied up, shot and dumped into the river with a 25-lb anchor and apparently left …for Jerry to find. I don’t reckon anyone was waiting in Naw’lins for him.

Number 3

Yet another time, Jerry was with a friend on the little Miami River, a tributary of the Ohio, when they found a 17-year old boy who had drowned. You’d think Jerry would stay away from those rivers. There must have been something in the water. Wait for it. It’ll come to you.

Number 4

Jerry was on a service call in his job as an on-call plumber. He knocked, the door opened by itself. No creaks, no omens. The door just opened.

“I’m coming in. I’m gonna fix your toilet!” Jerry said this time with only a hint of hillbilly in him.

It was possible then to just enter a house and not get shot. Jerry found his way into the bathroom. Apartments weren’t that big back then either. Just as he was getting ready to stick his hand into a what no human should ever have to put their hand in, Jerry noticed the door leading from the bathroom to a back bedroom was opened. He hesitantly peeked in where he saw half on and half off the bed yet another dead man. The dead guy didn’t live to tell that he had been stabbed 21 times. Somebody other than me counted the wounds. When Jerry stumbled upon him he was still bleeding freely. The gruesome murder had apparently taken place mere minutes before Jerry had arrived. He may even have caught a glimpse of the slayer in the stairwell on his way in. It may have been the murderer who called him.

The police arrested Jerry! The cops figured the person who found the body was most likely connected in one way or another to the one lying there. Jerry was later released, but he soon gave up that livelihood.

I think he went to live in a shack on a hill at the end of a long path upon a high mountain.

---- My Baby Sister and Me ----

What about me and my baby sister? What did the house have in its bag of tricks for us? Was there no reprieve?

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I Grew Up in a Spooky House (Part 1 of 3 - 1214 words)

This excerpt is a first draft from the book I am working on. You all get first look.

The whole story is over 5,000 words.

If you are in a hurry, now might not be the best time to read this part 1. 

---- What Would You Expect? ----

“What would you expect a person’s life to be like if they grew up there? That house is spooky.”

People in the neighborhood said it.

Friends of the family echoed it when they visited or we met them at church.

We lived there.

Eventually we began to believe there was something about the house as well.

The house I grew up in has spooked, dare I say, haunted my family throughout my life. Goblins and monsters didn’t live there; the evil that happened in that house was worse, because it was not imagined and its influence endured. 

When we lived there in the late 50s the house was already more than a hundred and ten years old. The house, as if it were alive, seemed to cast spells on its residents or cause havoc in their lives. 

My family, it seems, got the worst of it. This may also explain that while I am now an old man, I am still afraid of my own shadow as well as the dark. Or maybe that’s because the Big Darkness is closing in on me. THAT, I am not afraid of.

After we moved the house was demolished. But not before it made its indelible mark on each member of my family and me.

---- My Dad Was Crying ----

My older brother by one year, Jerry, and I came home from school one day —- I had been attending elementary school for less than a month and was happy to be out of the house. 

We found our dad, a hero to all six of us kids, sitting in a chair in the hallway just inside the front doors opening into the house. We were shocked to see tears in his eyes. 

Looking back on it now it seems even Pop could not escape the dirty games this house played on our family.

Pop pulled me up on one knee; Jerry sat on the other.

“Your mom is gone,” he whispered just loud enough for us to hear but not loud enough that his voice would crack. His heart may have been broken but he didn’t dare inflict any more pain than necessary on our little hearts.

Mom had run away … from … the … house … and left him and us behind.

“Gee. Thanks, Mom. For this indelible memory!”

---- What Mark Twain Said ----

The house sat atop one of Cincinnati’s seven hills. 

Mark Twain once said of our fine city, “If I know when the world is going to end, I want to be in Cincinnati when it happens because everything there happens a week later.” Had he lived in our house with us, no doubt, he would have wanted the end to come sooner.

The house was huge, even more so when considered from the perspective of a six year old. The ceilings were high enough that I believed you could have put three floors inside instead of two. 

The outside of the house was the color of dark rain clouds. We lived inside those storm clouds. The windows were taller than me, outlined in white with irregular black specks where the paint cracked off —- or was it peeled off? Chewed off? 

There were five or six steps, maybe more, in a semicircular shape leading up to the front door, one of those huge doors that took two hands, both legs and all the muscle a six year old could muster if he leaned in just to open. 

The inside hallway had beige and black checkered tile floors. When they were wet we could slide on them in our bare feet or on our bellies. My brother and I could hold hands and stretch out the other arms and still not reach from one side of the hallway to the other. We could spin till we were dizzy and collapsed on the floor. Only a temporary escape. 

When we came home from school on that day, Pop was sitting on the left side of the hallway as you walked in the front door.

---- More Rooms Than Fingers or Toes ----

The house had more rooms than I had fingers and toes. A visitor could easily get lost in it and sometimes when we played hide and seek nobody found us. 

We found a blonde haired skeleton in the attic, an apparent winner of a hide and go seek game many years ago. Just kidding, of course. 

More often than not we were scared out of our hiding place by a sound, an odor, a hiss, a hum, a voice or even a touch.

There was a big front yard with ‘the woods’ on the opposite side of the house. 

We played Tarzan on vines that hung like hair from under a witch’s hat. We fought battles against dragons and sometimes defeated Indians, rebel soldiers, the Germans and Japanese, all in a single day. We found bones in those woods, perhaps from an animal, perhaps from something else. Inside the house we battled apparitions and other unexplained phenomena.

Heading out of the house, down the porch steps, to the right and over a small mound we often walked along a small path, created by the six kids in our household and the dozen or so other kids in the immediate neighborhood. 

The weeds to one side of the path tickled my knees. Of course my knees were closer to the ground then. Up, over and down another small hill a ways was a secret cave where we hid from our parents and smoked cigarettes. 

At four years old my older brothers and sisters tried to get me to smoke so I wouldn’t tell on them. I tried. Hacked a bit and resolved then that smoking is stupid. "I am not doing this," I told them. And I never have.

The older kids told stories we little ones shouldn’t have heard and they frightened us with four letter words – kill, hate, beat, rape, dead or worse. On good days in the caves, we dreamed the kind of dreams that took us away from the house.

---- Inside Was NOT Enchanting at All ----

From this cave we could see down on the tall buildings and bright lights of Cincinnati. The lights of Crosley Field, old home to Cincinnati Reds baseball, teased us. We saw the perfectly groomed green outfield grass and the dark brown infield. If we listened carefully and cupped our ears we could hear the roar of the crowd after a home run. 

We never saw the Reds win a pennant. Doubt we ever will. 

Cincinnati’s semi-domed train terminal reminded us that there was a world far away if we dared to go there, if we could escape the clutches of our spook infested home. 

The University of Cincinnati and its sprawling campus sat atop an opposite hill; its beauty was in direct contrast to the ugliness lurking on our side of the valley, especially in our, um, home. 

To our left and north we could see Proctor & Gamble and General Electric. To the right and south we could see the Ohio River winding and flowing etching out its portion of the Mason Dixon line. 

We could see northern Kentucky, but no fried chicken. Sometimes we could see hillbillies waving back at us.

Many things on the outside of that house were truly enchanting in a charming way. 

It was not at all like what came from inside the house.

Final thoughts:

I deeply appreciate having you as part of the GUW world.

Thank you for following along as I write The Story of You.

If you want to become an Advanced Reader of the WHOLE BOOK while I write, HIT REPLY and tell me why. 

I will get back to you if you can be included in the Advanced Reader Group.

Have a great summer!

111 W. Arques Ave, Sunnyvale
CA 94085 United States

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