Weirdly enough, I was with my Mom at the Melrose Kroger and she was telling me about her friend, Helen, who had just been in the house on Sigler Street after having bought it, and how Helen said there was nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong with it, when the woman in line in front of us started to shake and spilled her purse all over the floor.
Her face was completely drawn. I scrambled to get her things back in her purse while my mom put her arm around the woman and tried to keep her upright.
“Y’all talking about that house at the end of Sigler Street?” She gave us the house number and my mom said, “Yes, that’s the one.”
“I used to live there,” she said. “We rented that place.”
“So, is it true?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, so firmly that I felt bad that my mom and I had been having such good fun laughing about it. She went on. “That lady’s stuff was still in the house. Not all of it. But there was a big chest, like a foot locker, that we never could get in, that was in the bedroom. And one of the closets had a bunch of her old dresses. And you’d just find shit… stuff… I mean, all the time. Like, you’d go to get a spoon out of the drawer and there’d be a lacy handkerchief in there. Old-fashioned. Looked handmade. Not there before and not mine. That’s for sure.
“We’d hear someone walking around the house all the time. And we had a cat and it would never go in the bathroom. You don’t want a cat in the bathroom, but it would sit, for hours, and just stare into the bathroom, but it never, ever went in there.
“That place is wrong. There’s something wrong with it.
“Your friend should not live there.”
Well, we thought the conversation was strange, but we didn’t bother to mention it to Helen, because she wasn’t going to live there, she was just going to rent it out.
She asked me and my husband to help her move some stuff out of the house. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. So, over we went, one sunny Saturday morning. The house seemed fine, just an old Victorian that, if it were on the east side of the river would have been fixed up grandly and sold for half a million dollars. Hell, that might be its fate on this side of the river, some day, if its reputation doesn’t precede it.
I had thought that, when the woman in Kroger was talking, that she made it seem like she had lived in the house many, many years ago. But when we walked through, we saw, just like she’d said, a hope chest in the front bedroom and a closet full of old dresses in the back room.
“What’s in here?” my husband asked, knocking on the hope chest.
“I don’t know,” Helen said. “They didn’t give me a key for it. But it needs to go.”
“Honey, let’s you and me move it by the front door.” So, he grabbed one end, I grabbed the other and, I swear to you, we could barely lift it. It was so heavy. It took us a good ten minutes to get it out into the front hall.
“How are we going to get that in the truck?” I asked.
My husband just shook his head. “We might have to get some of the guys over here to help me.”
The upstairs had been converted to its own apartment, so the grand staircase had been walled off at the top. We went around back and up the outside stairs.
As we were walking into the upstairs apartment, Helen was telling us about her plans to restore the house back to one home. We heard a noise. It took a minute for me to recognize it, but it was obviously the squealing groan of wood against wood.
We all looked at each other.
And there was the noise again.
My husband and I ran down stairs, ran into the house, and there was the hope chest, not in the hall where we’d left it but in the bedroom doorway.
“No,” my husband said. He stormed down the hallway, checking rooms. “There has got to be someone here.”
“There’s not,” I whispered. I didn’t mean to, but I couldn’t help it.
“This cannot happen,” he said.
Finally, Helen appeared in the doorway. “What was it?”
My husband just motioned to the bedroom doorway, almost like he was disgusted.
And then, that damn hope chest moved again. With us all looking at it, it just slid three inches across the floor.
I screamed and ran outside. They quickly followed.
We all stood there, not sure we should leave, afraid to go back inside.
“What am I going to do?” Helen asked.
“Well, I’d leave that god damn chest in the bedroom, for starters,” my husband said.