I was far into adulthood when my uncle set before me the notes and data which he had collected concerning the shunned house. Dr. Elias Allen was a folklorist by profession, having settled in at Austin Peay University after a short stint in California. He was a bachelor. White-haired, clean-shaven, often described by my mother as “delightfully fussy,” he was so much older than my father and his two other brothers that Uncle Elias was the closest I had to a grandfather.
He lived in a large Victorian house in Clarksville and, even as a child, I loved to visit him and listen as he delighted in sharing with me which spoon in what drawer was used by Governor Houston when he visited our family and which flask was known to be a favorite of President Jackson when he accompanied our ancient kin on hunting trips. Once he even gave me a minie ball which he claimed had come out of the leg of one of our relatives after a gruesome Civil War field surgery. I have that in my pocket still.
The notes on Allendale were mostly genealogical in nature and hard for me to follow, seeing as how the Allens had a tendency to reuse the same names, generation after generation, repeating them in each branch of the family tree. An anecdote about a George Allen with no clues as to the year of birth of that George was almost meaningless, applying as it might to ten or fifteen different men, myself included, over the two-hundred years we’ve lived in Tennessee.
But even as particular details were often impossible to attribute to the correct people, slowly a continuous thread of trouble woven through our branch of the family began to emerge. And that thread tied directly to Allendale.
I began to exhaustively research the home and the families who had been tied to it and what I learned would eventually send me and my dear uncle on our disastrous quest. And my poor uncle, who had not been in the house since he, himself, was a young man would enter it one night and not come away with me from it in the morning. I erected a monument to his memory in the Gallatin city cemetery, near to our more famous relatives and I visit it often.
I am lonely without him.