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The Mystery of the Second Floor

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October is the time for spooky stories and general weirdness. and I have a weird little tale of my own. As many of you know, I bought a house a few weeks ago. It is 103 years old. I have a picture of the house from a 1906 newspaper, but I can't find it. I can't find anything right now, since it's all jumbled in boxes in the basement. There are plenty of secrets in this old house, but none more mysterious than the second floor.


I saw the house and thought how nice it would be to put the kids upstairs. They'd have a little privacy and a place they wouldn't have to keep nice for company. And I would stay downstairs and not clean their area. How do you get upstairs? I asked the realtor. "There's no access to the attic," she said. "It doesn't have a floor anyway." What? "The only way to get to the attic is to go through a window," she said.

No access? Surely they didn't build the house with no access to the attic! It's got three windows! I wasn't concerned with the second story having no floor, because we can always build one. The supports in the ceiling have to be strong enough to hold the roof up, after all. But there had to have been an access point sometime in the past.

After moving in, several people looked at my ceiling and either said "Asbestos" or "You don't wanna know what the ceiling is made of." which means the same thing. Asbestos is not as dangerous as some would have you think, as long as its sealed. The only real danger is when they take it out... or cut through it. Sigh. For the life of me, I can't figure out where an entry point to the second floor would have been, or when. One of the several plumbers that have been here said, "Those windows upstairs may be just for decoration." Windows just for decoration? That's nuts. "Yeah, they did stuff like that back then," he said. I don't know, that just sounds crazy.

The plan is to get a structural engineer to get inside and see if a new room or two, or even just a working attic, is feasible. It won't be easy, because the windows appear to be painted shut. Then find an architect to tell us how difficult and expensive it will be to build a staircase. Then sell the old house to pay for it. Selling is not going to be easy. We'll see.

The first night we had the keys, I moved the beds over to the new house. My daughters quickly made friends with the neighborhood kids. "Which house do you live in?" they said. When they were told, their eyes grew wide! "Do you know about the second floor?"

My kids came back to the house crying about how they can't stay; they want to go back to the old house. There's a man living in the attic. When you go to sleep, he'll come down and smash you with an axe while you're asleep. You'll never know what hit you. There's a secret trap door no one can find. There's skeletons upstairs where he hid the bodies of the last people he killed. That's why no one lived here for the past seven years.

It took a while to calm them down, but I put my foot down. I didn't haul three beds over here and crank up the air conditioning just to turn around and go sleep on the floor at the old house. I should have only bothered with one bed that day, since both girls slept in my bed that night. No one came down from the second floor to kill us, because there is no way to get down here!

You will be informed if any clues to this mystery come to light.

Update: Part two is here.

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12 Comments

I used to run cable in NC and I ran into those all the time (attic with windows). I even saw one that had a light bulb up in the window with cutains in front of it to give the appearance of it actually being a second floor. As far as psychopaths in the attic, I'd be much more concerned with what's under the house. Running cable under houses was far worse with the kind of stuff you'd find there, alive and dead.

said Cable Dude on October 24, 2008 3:47 PM.

Miss C,

Knock and ask if the ghost is reading Hemingway. If so, it may be Johnny Wright.

said Baierman on October 24, 2008 4:51 PM.

Rent a sawzall and hack through the ceiling. That'd be the sort of thing I couldn't wait to do.

said Sofar on October 25, 2008 2:07 AM.

Im intrigued! Id climb up there on a ladder and check it out. take a stanley knife (box cutter) up to deal with the paint and have a looksee.

said Evangeline on October 25, 2008 4:30 AM.

No doubt. Who knows what goodies you might find up there.

said Tim on October 25, 2008 11:29 AM.

Not to sound like a "guy" here, but you seriously bought a house without inspecting the attic?

said Scaramouch on October 25, 2008 1:53 PM.

Scaramouch, it was a limited time offer and an unbelievable price. Well worth it, even if there were no attic at all. Kind of a long story.

Evangeline, ever since I fell off a ladder a few years ago, I am a bit leery of climbing. Besides, I don't have an extension ladder. And climbing on this roof is a scary proposition, The plumber who cleaned the chimney said he was scared of such an unusually steep pitch, even though he does this for a living.

Cable Dude, you may be right. According to the circuit box, there are two electrical circuits in the attic. I DO have a fine basement with a workshop and storage cabinets and lots of electrical outlets -just not quite big enough to hold all my tools, garden implements, extra furniture, AND all the stuff that was in the attic of the old house. No problem running cable underneath (even when installed at 9PM).

said Miss Cellania on October 25, 2008 2:08 PM.

thats creepy first impression, poor lil uns.

said notjohndoe2 on October 25, 2008 4:46 PM.

I'm with sofar on this one, Rent or buy a saws-all, and get some Respirator masks, and cut a hole in your ceiling. there may be something valulable up there if your house is that old.

said Sheriff Pablo on October 26, 2008 1:56 AM.

I just read Brad Meltzer's new book, and that talked about finding copies of Action Comics #1 in an attic.

Of course, it WAS Jerry Seigel's attic. But nevertheless...

said Scaramouch on October 26, 2008 8:43 AM.

I gotta agree with you Cable Dude. I'm in the cable industry myself and my friends that are techs have told me some horror stories about running cable under a house. There were some good stories about running cable in the house ;-) but those don't qualify under this post.

said Bigus Dickus on October 27, 2008 9:53 AM.

Heck, yeah, tell us all as soon as you bust in to that attic! I'm dying to know (bad choice of words?).

I'm not surprised, though, that you may have a "fake" second floor. I've owned two Victorians, and they did a TON of fakery back in the day. Faux stone, faux wainscoting (which my current house has throughout), faux-grain painting (ditto). I just toured Monticello with an out-of-town visitor and was struck by the beautiful grain of some of the woodwork. I asked what kind of wood it was and the docent said dismissively, "Oh, that's just pine. It's faux-grained." So even the wealthiest people did it.

Most likely, the owners couldn't quite afford to fully finish a second floor, but wanted to create an illusion of affording it. Hence, the exterior shows a second floor with windows and all, but inside, nada. Besides, back then nobody ever showed the private areas of their house to visitors. My 90-year-old neighbor was friends with the woman we bought the house from for 40 years, and she commented that she had only seen the upstairs once, when Mrs. W had just gotten home from the hospital, and she'd visited her in her sickbed. Another 80-year-old I know gave me a "tour" of her house that included only the living room, parlor, and den. It just wouldn't be seemly to exhibit the bedrooms. So nobody in 1905 would ever have been the wiser about the fake second floor.

said Southern Buddhist on October 30, 2008 12:20 PM.
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