The house on Crenshaw Street
I had driven by it numerous times, but only in the last few years did it look neglected. It was an enormous, old, red brick house built at a time when houses were architecturally designed, sparing no expense. It sat on a huge piece of property in a middle class neighborhood. It looked out of place.
One day my office got a call asking us if we would be interested in buying it. I was less interested in owning it than I was in seeing what it was like on the inside. So, when I picked up my 11 year old son from school one day, we headed off to see it. The lawns had been kept cut, but that was all. The hedges and grapes vines were badly overgrown and needing pruning. The perennials were still growing in the gardens, but so were the weeds. When we pulled into the circular drive, my son asked if it was a haunted house. I told him I hoped so. He liked that and said he hoped so, too.
I have been in many unoccupied homes in my life and it has never failed to pique my curiousity about the people who once resided there. I've seen people leave behind things that should have been the first to be packed, like family memorabilia. In other houses, people have stripped permanent fixtures, like fireplace mantels or bathroom sinks.
Never had I seen anything ike this house. Apart from a few places where shadows were left on the walls where artwork had been removed, the place appeared to be fully intact. The place looked clean and dusted (until we went upstairs) and filled will antique furniture and art, including a beautifully carved old Steinway and Sons baby grand.
The house was part of the estate of a 108 year old woman who had died in it nearly 3 years earlier. The heir was in a hurry to sell and was not interested in putting it on the market. She wanted a quick sale and was asking a fraction of it's value, so probate could be closed.
There was one unusual condition, however. I had to buy the house "as is". "As is" is not so unusual but in this case it meant the sale included 100% of it's contents, including all personal papers and what appeared to be family heirlooms and photos.
This too, piqued my curiousity, not just about the old house and the dearly departed, but also her heir, who preferred all contact be made through the attorney, who was also the trustee of the estate. That was not good enough for me, however. I wanted to know everything about the old woman and her family. I began to feel like Miss Marple. My curiosity needed to be satisfied. It would be satisfied.
As we left that day, we looked up the staircase and I said to my son "I keep expecting Miss Havisham to come down the stairs". To my delight, he got it.
So began an adventure...