Besides having been vandalized our new house came with its own story. We had bought the house from a very nice woman who also happened to be a real estate broker. She had modernized the kitchen with money from an insurance payment for an oil truck having accidentally demolished the porte-cochere on the side of the house. She had married recently and hoped to make the house the home in which she and her husband would raise their own children. It was not meant to be. They divorced after about a year, and she put up the house for sale without making any of the other planned improvement.
The owners from whom she had bought the house were an interesting couple. Their name was Henry, doctor and doctor Henry, he a psychiatrist, she a psychologist. They had two children, a son and a daughter, whose names I never learned, although we did meet the girl years later, when she visited her childhood home, now our house. She walked up and down the house, chanting, “bad Karma, bad Karma,” in a lugubrious voice, and while this was passing strange, for her family she was right, her family’s story being even sadder than that of the woman from whom we had bought the house. Because we never met these people (except for the girl), it is all hearsay, but it is interesting hearsay.
I don’t know what private demons haunted Dr. Paul Henry, but after returning from a trip to Washington he had committed suicide in the house. He had hanged himself in one of the rooms, but we didn’t know where. This in turn led to speculation among us as to where he had done it, in which room. Somehow the consensus emerged that the awful event had taken place in the room that became Melissa’s. The closet there seemed the perfect place, and as Melissa was still too young to be troubled by visions of a man dangling in her closet, it seemed a happy solution to the mystery.
The vandalism in the house had been caused by the son of this unhappy family. It came about when he found out that the house was going to be sold. He and his teenaged friends had formed a band, and the large barn which had stood in the backyard was the place where they rehearsed their music. It was also the place where he and his friends held raucous parties, parties loud enough to have the neighbors call the police at times. The police were used to dealing with these types of situations and would shush them up.
After the boy found out that his mother had sold the house, and that they were going to live in New York, he and his friends spent a night drinking vodka, pouring plaster of paris down the toilets and smearing green paint over the original woodwork. They also set fire to the barn, which burned to the ground. I don’t know what happened to the Henry boy after that, but he did leave the house a mess.
Mrs. Henry’s story ended even more sadly than that of her husband, and I only heard about it years later. I don’t know the reasons, but it seems that Mrs. Henry became a homeless person. She spent her days and nights riding the New York City subways, and then, one particularly bitter winter night, she froze to death in the street.
Old houses come with stories. . .