Mine was not the only house with a history. I’m sure that each of these homes had an interesting past, but there was one in particular that seemed steeped in trouble. It was the house on the corner of Highwood and Linden, the last house in Ridgewood before reaching Glen Rock across the street. It was a house that had burned down twice. The first fire provided quite a show as the neighbors came out at night to watch it burn, while the firemen struggled to extinguish the roaring blaze. The house burned to the ground. No one was hurt as no one was living in it at the time.
The house was rebuilt, and it looked like it was going to be even prettier than the original. However, as luck would have it, just before the restoration was completed, there was another fire, this one caused by some electric device that had been left on when it shouldn’t have been, at the end of a day of work. And again, after fire had completely gutted the place, it was rebuilt, and I kept track of the progress of the restoration as I walked my dog past it each day.
On one of those dog-walking tours of the neighborhood, I noticed a couple sitting in a small, foreign convertible, looking at the nearly reconstructed house. They were in their forties, with the woman probably wearing a bit too much makeup, but otherwise unremarkable. I asked them if they were looking at the house because they were interested in purchasing it. As the chief dog walker of the neighborhood, I often got into conversation with people I barely knew or didn’t know at all. The man said that as a matter of fact, they were considering making an offer on it. We talked a bit about the fires that had gutted the building twice, and from there we moved to the fact that the man was interested in purchasing this house because it was in the neighborhood in which he had grown up. Naturally, I wanted to know where exactly in the neighborhood he had lived, and it turned out that some thirty years earlier he had lived almost across the street from my house, just four houses from the Cole place in which George C had spent his childhood. Naturally, I asked him if he had known George and his brothers when he was living on Woodside. “I knew George quite well. We went to school together, but what brothers?” he asked, looking at me somewhat strangely. So, I told him about the brothers who had died in the train accident. “Wait a minute,” the man said to me. “There were no brothers, and there certainly was no train accident. George was an only child.” George had been in a bad car accident, he continued. After he was pulled out of the wreck he had to have extensive surgery, some of it on his head. A metal plate had been inserted at the top of his skull. He was fine now; however, all he did now-a-days was wander around Ridgewood telling these fantastic stories about a fictional train wreck, his non-existent dead brothers, a leg transplant that never occurred, or anything else people were willing to believe. Somewhat embarrassed, for once I kept my mouth shut.