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The Mystery of the Second Floor (Part Two)


After hearing about the inaccessible second story at my new house, Brother Bill loaded an extension ladder and drove an hour and a half to investigate. Curiosity is a powerful force. He set the ladder up to one side of the house, where the second story window is flat against the outside wall. Once up there, he found that the windows were not painted and you could see inside! What he saw was a vast expanse of dark... just enough to make you want to get in there. He convinced me to climb up and see.

I am not afraid of heights. I will fly in an airplane, look out from the top of the Empire State Building, and climb trees. However, I am afraid of falling. I fell off a six-foot ladder a few years ago when the slightly-bent aluminum leg gave out. I landed on my shoulder on a brick pathway and felt the pain for a month afterward. Since then, I tend to either ignore roof problems or pay someone else to fix them. Getting on a twenty-foot extension ladder was difficult, but I did it. I looked through the glass window. The attic is huge! Dark and unfinished, but could be made into a lovely living space with a lot of cash.

Brother Bill was determined to get in, so he brought the ladder around the front of the house. The window in the front gable appears to be covered in plywood, as you can see in the picture. That would be the easiest place to break in. This entails climbing a section of the rather steep roof. I had earlier hired a plumber to clean a chimney in the back of the house, and he was terrified at the pitch, although he'd done a lot of this kind of work. Bill scooted up slowly and discovered that the window was not covered in plywood at all! The window is actually a door, made of glass framed by wood. The glass was painted over, which made it look like a cover for a broken window. It was held shut by a small hook at the top which was really hard to reach while standing on such a slant, but he got in!

The first thing he saw was a simple light fixture with a pull chain -and the bulb still works. Nice. But not enough light to see all around, so I found a flashlight. I couldn't reach the door from the top of the ladder, so I had to throw it (while hoping he didn't reach too far out to catch it). Then I stood on the ground and listened to how big the space was and what a neat room it would make. Wanna come up and see? No, I don't think so... I'll take your word for it.

So Cable Dude and Southern Buddhist were right -the attic was built to look like a second floor, but it was not seriously considered as a living space. Or storage space, for that matter. There is no floor, only joists. And no insulation, which explains why someone installed a second, lower ceiling of asbestos. He found a couple of "small stoves" that weren't connected to anything and may have been left when the house was first built. And bat droppings. I admit I like bats. mainly for keeping the mosquito population down, but as far as I'm concerned, they can poop somewhere else. I can imagine what someone will charge me for cleaning that up. At least they are OLD bat droppings, according to Bill.

Bill asked if I had a camera handy, since I wasn't about to go look for myself. I attached a camera to the end of a broom and handed it to him from the top of the ladder. He took lots of pictures and some video footage so I could see from the safety of the first floor. When he came down, I took a peek but couldn't see much in the tiny screen since it was a sunny day and I don't see too well anyway.

A couple of days later, I downloaded all the photos from my camera and my daughter's camera. Where are the attic pictures? Nowhere! No images, the camera said. Who deleted my attic pictures!?!? My two daughters looked at me with blank faces. I can't even remember which camera they were on. I could kick myself for not downloading them immediately. Maybe the ghosts or the crazed murderer who lives in the attic wanted to destroy the evidence. Either way, I have no proof to bring you of this most excellent adventure. Bummer.

So the next step is to find an adventurous architect who's not afraid of falling or bat guano. Bill thinks I should built a tower on the side of the house to hold a staircase (because there certainly isn't any room to spare inside). I'm sure it's possible, but I may have to rob a bank to pay for it. If I can find a bank that has any money!

Many thanks to Brother Bill for risking his life to solve the mystery!

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Keep us informed. This is fascinating.

Glad you didn't find your evil twin up there.

said Baierman on October 31, 2008 10:22 AM.

Keep us informed. This is fascinating.

Glad you didn't find your evil twin up there.

said Baierman on October 31, 2008 10:27 AM.

So someone ran electricity and a light fixture up there, then sealed it off...sounds like the rumors are true...someone does live in your attic! Did your intrepid explorer see any sign of where the access used to be (if there was any)?

said The Spectre on October 31, 2008 11:12 AM.

Keep us informed. This is fascinating.

Glad you didn't find your evil twin up there.

said Tim on October 31, 2008 11:19 AM.

Guess I should have read the comments first.

said Tim on October 31, 2008 11:28 AM.

Keep us informed. This is fascinating.

Glad you didn't find your good twin up there.

said Dan on October 31, 2008 12:12 PM.

Keep us informed. This is fascinating.

Glad you didn't find your exactly-matching-you-plain-simple twin up there.

said Leonardo Carvalho on October 31, 2008 12:56 PM.

What about one of those pull-down attic ladder thingies? You know, the kind that looks like an attic hatch with a rope which, when you pull on it, a ladder unfolds down?

One of the most articulate comments I've ever made!

said old geezer on October 31, 2008 1:25 PM.

A pull-down hatch would be fine if we were going to use it for storage, but I really really need a third bedroom, with easy access for those living upstairs.

said Miss Cellania on October 31, 2008 1:44 PM.

The Spectre, he looked all over, but found no place that looked as if it had ever been open to the house interior.

said Miss Cellania on October 31, 2008 1:49 PM.

Miss C., did Brother Bill show some strange behaviour when he came out of the attic?

Maybe he has entered there as B.Bill and came out possessed by some ancient spirit that was living up there, waiting for someone to enter and be its holder.

Did he ask if you were a gatekeeper or something?

Oh hell... who knows what evil entity is roaming at large on the earth right now... and it's Halloween, so people will take his rotting body, his raggedy clothes and his pink eyes as if it was a costume...
Too late when they notice that he's actually an evil-guided brain-eater zombie.

said Leonardo Carvalho on October 31, 2008 1:56 PM.

No wonder why the cameras' memory chips were erased.

said Leonardo Carvalho on October 31, 2008 1:58 PM.

Keep us informed. This is fascinating.

Glad you didn't find your evil twin up -- Ma'am, the attic is coming from INSIDE THE HOUSE.

said Don't Swayze Bro on October 31, 2008 3:38 PM.

Can you put a spiral staircase beneath the attic from within the house?

If not, here's a possibility:

Close in the 1/3rd of the porch (preferably the back porch, if you have one, but you can make it work on the front porch, too), and put a permanent "winding" staircase in the porch-space. Access through the roof of the porch would open into the roof of the attic.

Also, don't hire M.C. Escher to build the staircase. That guy will stick you with incredible overruns.

said Don't Swayze Bro on October 31, 2008 4:03 PM.

AAAAAHHHHH! The kids erased my pictures!!!

If they weren't so darned cute, I'd be upset. No problem, I'll come take some more... and some measurements.

For the curious following this story, the attic has open ceiling rafters with no decking, so you have to walk on the vertical edge of the boards (not easy). In this condition, it's not even practical for storage. There is no indication that there has ever been any access other than the front window. The space is very intriguing... cross shaped with the central brick chimney in the center. The ceiling height next to the chimney looks to be at least 16' high. It was hard to judge in the dark, but I'll guess there could be almost 800 square feet of living space.

A lot of work will be required to make into a room, but if Miss C. can afford to do it, it will be the coolest room in the house.

said Brother Bill on October 31, 2008 7:58 PM.

Don't Swayze Bro, the back porch has already been enclosed; that's my office. It's so far back that the roof slant is too low for any access from here. Now there is a roofless deck instead of a back porch. A spiral staircase would be possible, but would still take up too much room downstairs. Even that much space gone would effectively take away an entire room away from whatever purpose it has now (sleeping, dining, watching TV). The kitchen is too small to add anything! I'm sure a staircase of some kind is possible, but I will let an architect explore the possibilities. I would rather do this right than just do it and regret it later.

said Miss Cellania on October 31, 2008 8:54 PM.

BB - "and some measurements."

That seems rather presumptuous!

said Tim on October 31, 2008 9:32 PM.

Miss C - You've probably already seen and/or considered this, but in case you haven't ... at my daughters' dance studio they have a metal, spiral staircase that goes from the first floor to the second. The total floor space usage is 3 foot by 3 foot, if that.

Don't know if that is still too much space to be used, but just thought I would throw it out there. Metal staircases aren't my thing, but it is practical given the small amount of space it uses. Kinda looks like one you'd expect to see in a warehouse loft.

said Tim on October 31, 2008 9:37 PM.

Tim, nice thinking on the small footprint---but remember that she will need a viable way to get furniture upstairs...no blow-up beds if it's going to be a real room up there...

I can't wait for updates though...

said sarcastic one on October 31, 2008 10:13 PM.

Thanks for the update! The layout sounds just like the attic in my house now, and fowl poop -- oh, man, you don't want to know about bird poop. Our attic, parts of which were open to the sky, had over 400 pigeons living in it. The "insulation" is literally three to five inches of guano. We've slowly dug half of it out, carefully covered from neck to ankle and wearing industrial-quality respirators (not dust masks). I'm sure you're in much better shape, since it sounds like your roof was solid. On the plus side, if you can renovate it and add a huge bedroom suite up there, you'll really raise the value of the house. Good luck.

said Southern Buddhist on November 25, 2008 2:04 PM.
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