An air of desolation hanged over the place. The wainscoting was only precariously held to the walls, the wallpaper was peeling off and an aura of plaster dust seemed to hover over everything. The staircase, though it held our weight, creaked and moaned under our feet. Cobwebs draped most surfaces.
Only the bravest among us–almost never me–would voluntarily ascend the ladder to the attic, a vast dark hollow filled with a wreckage of chests, chairs and spinning-wheels which, in the shaky light from our flashlights, appeared in monstrous and hellish clumps emerging from the dark in quick flashes.
But the attic was not the worst part of the house. More than that, we hated the dank, humid basement, even though it was wholly above-ground facing the river, with patio doors and a line of windows separating it from the lane that ran down to the waterfront. We argued constantly about whether we were obliged to go into the basement in order to fulfill our unspoken familial duty to patrol our ancestral home or whether we owed it to our parents and our sanity to stay out of it.
For one thing, the bad odor of the house was strongest there. For another, the basement wasn’t finished. The newest part had concrete walls and a concrete floor, but then, the middle part had an uneven brick floor with brick walls. The oldest part, which you were obliged to walk through, as that’s where the basement stairs led you had rock walls filled with rickety shelves of ancient pickles and preserves no one dared eat, and a bare, dirt floor. Here is where, in the spring and late fall, strange white fungi sprang up from the earthen floor and sprouted from the walls. They rotted quickly, though not so quickly that we failed to notice that they became slightly phosphorescent. Hunters and fisherman who passed the house in the early morning dark sometimes claimed they saw witch-fires glowing in the house.