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Nell’s House

nells house


Estimated reading time — 6 minutes

Everybody’s got a story. I don’t believe in ghosts but if you ever asked me if I’d been somewhere haunted, this is the story I’d tell.

Down the road I lived on as a kid, there was an old dilapidated house. It was small and the yard was always overgrown and bushy. It was surrounded by woods on almost all sides and on the western side there was a pond that you could kind of see from the road.

When we drove to school I would always look out my window for the chairs in the woods near the pond. For as long as I could remember, there had been two chairs in the woods in different areas, but both facing the same way. Every few months they would move a bit, but always in the woods, always facing the same direction. It seemed a little strange to me that they would keep showing up in different places when the house was so obviously abandoned, but I didn’t think about it too much. It was just something fun to keep track of on the way to town.

My parents always told me that this place was Nell’s house. We were not allowed near it because Nell was mean. She was technically my great aunt on my fathers side, but there was some bad blood between her and my grandmother. Mamaw would never talk about it but the story went that Nell had a bad temper and took a disliking to her after she married Charles, Nell’s brother. She even pointed a gun at her and threatened to shoot her if she saw her walking past on the street.

As kids, we used to go right up to the edge of the property and watch, but no one ever went in. There were never any cars out front, no sounds, no signs of life. We would watch for a bit and whisper whatever stories we had about the place which wasn’t much.

The story was that Nell had lived in the house with her mother, father, and two sisters: Mary and Eunice. Mary was straightlaced and quiet, Eunice was simple minded and sweet, and Nell was mean as a snake. She and her mother had actually tried to kill her father by poisoning his coffee for a few months until he caught on. He nearly died and was weak for the rest of his life. At least, that’s what we were told. After his death the house went to his wife, and then to Nell. Judging from the stories I’ve heard about my grandad (he died before I was born) and personal experience with my dad, I wouldn’t be surprised if there had been major physical and mental abuse going on in that house that made Nell the way she was.

Anyways, she later got married and adopted a little girl but surprising no one, Nell had turned out to be a horribly controlling and abusive mother and as soon as she hit 16 the girl left and never set foot in that house again, leaving it and her mother to rot. No idea what happened to the husband but I assume he died.

The daughter later sold the house to my dad after it had been vacant for years. He wanted to keep it in the family since it had been his grandfather’s house. I went with him to clean up the yard and take a look to see if anything inside was worth salvaging. The whole place had a bad feeling to it. The kitchen was the worst. Whenever I was in it I always felt prickly and anxious like when dad was in a bad mood and I could tell I was gonna catch hell. Like there was a storm coming.

The whole house was a total wreck. It had been looted by druggies a few times already due to there being only hook and eye locks on the doors. Old bug infested piles of clothes and furniture, books and cans of unopened food, creepy rotten dolls, you name it- total nightmare shit. There was a very skinny set of stairs at the far side of the house leading to the attic which was more like an open crawl space. It was where transients would camp sometimes in the winter and they would leave mattresses and old blankets from downstairs up there. There were also some old trunks and a tiny rocking horse. I never liked to be up there long. The side furthest from the stairs with the trunks was always dark and smelled horrible.

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There were 3 bedrooms in the house (aside from the attic) Eunice’s was filled with toys, dolls and fabric, she liked to sew clothes for children even though she never had any of her own. She was very jolly and her room had a horseshoe hanging above the door- an old superstition to catch luck. She had health issues and died not long after her parents. Nobody knew much about Mary but I think she got married eventually and moved away.

Nell’s room was on the back of the house, basically a kind of screened in porch. The bed that she died in was still there when I went inside. I found out much later (to my surprise, I’d always thought the house was abandoned). That she’d died of cancer when I was nine.

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While I was exploring the inside and seeing what loot I could find, dad poked around the barn and talked shop about how he could clean the place up. After looking around the house and finding a few cool knick knacks, I was eager to get out of there so I could clean them up and examine the finds. I went home and didn’t go back by for a few weeks.

My cousins lived closer to the house than we did and a few weeks before we bought the place, they’d gotten two new puppies for their kids to soften the loss of an older pet that had recently died. The puppies were cute, but always running the neighborhood since they refused to keep them penned. One day they went door to door down the neighborhood asking everybody if we’d seen them. Turns out one had been hit in the road, and the other was missing. The kids mourned the dead pup before eventually adopting another dog and nothing was ever found of the other one. Most of us assumed it had either been stolen or ran off, which was common for way out in the country where we lived.

Dad came home one night after clearing the brush around the house and burning it. He looked tired, but not in a bad mood so I asked him how it went over at Nell’s. He and my brother Charlie had decided to tackle draining the old water out of the cistern that day. The cistern was a large well-like thing that was partly under the raised kitchen. They used it for storing up water for the house back in the day. It was as big as a garage, mostly underground, and the half that wasn’t under the house stuck out into the yard but was covered with a wooden lid to keep debris from falling in. It was deep and creepy and I did not go near it because of the stagnant water smell. I joked that if there was a dead body anywhere on the property it would be in the cistern.

When dad and Charlie opened the cistern that day to drain it, they’d been hit by the stench of death. Both avid hunters, they decided to finish the job anyways and fished out all the detritus that was a few feet below the lip of the wall. There were a couple of raccoons, a lot of trash, some clothes and DOGS. A lot of dogs. Including the corpse of the puppy that went missing. They piped out the rest of the debris and water and buried the rest.

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I was completely horrified and heartbroken thinking of that puppy swimming until it drowned under the house but the more I thought about it the weirder it was. First off, why were there so many dogs in there? I assume a lot of them were strays trying to get at the water or even the raccoons. If they’d just been thirsty though, the pond was only 30 feet from the house. Maybe they’d jumped in by mistake and couldn’t get back out. It was explainable. But there were other things that weren’t so easy to explain. The walls were slightly domed so if any animal tried to get at the water or fell in, they wouldn’t be able to get out. But the lip of the cistern was well off the ground. Almost 5 feet. The bigger dogs, sure. But there’s no way in hell that little puppy could have jumped in on it’s own. Strangest of all, the cover had been completely on when they went to drain it.

I avoided that place like the plague for a while after that but eventually decided to go back and give it one last pass to see if I could find any more cool junk. This time I walked around the outside towards the woods to avoid seeing the cistern. Remembering my sightseeing days on the way to school, I went into the woods to see if I could find those chairs. I found one after nearly missing it, all covered in leaves and bark. I suddenly got the urge to sit in it and see what was so great about the view that made someone leave it there. I sat down and looked west. It was just trees. Endless trees and quiet. I left the chair in the woods.

I went by a few times after that but it was mostly so dad could brag about all the changes he had made. It still looked the same but the bad feeling was gone.

It still stands to this day. Dad says he’ll fix it up or bulldoze it but he never does. It seems like it’s determined to sit there and crumble to dust. And maybe that’s for the best.

Credit : Old_South

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