Despite this turn of events, the trio decided to venture into the house on Willow Street. Parking outside, they approached the home, its curtains drawn as if to protect its gruesome secrets. With the key Mr. Dobbs had given them, they entered to see a gloomy hallway stretching from the front door to the rear of the house. A pair of French doors stood on their right, open to reveal the living room beyond. A trio of doors stood along the left wall of the hallway, the portals shut tight to protect their contents. The air was stale and dusty, with a faint hint of rotting food beneath it.
The investigators began with the living room, discovering it to be filled with numerous crucifixes and Catholic icons—even more so than could be expected in the home of devout Italian immigrants. Seemingly out of place amongst the religious paraphernalia was an outré painting that hung on the far wall. The piece was an odd mixture of style. It depicted the unmistakable Catskill Mountains to the northwest, their profiles easily identifiable to residents of the area. However, beyond those picturesque peaks was an abstract image that gave the impression of being a city of glittering gossamer drifting amongst the mist-shrouded mountains. Checking the painting closely, the signature “Nelson Blakely” was discovered. Who was this gifted painter and why was his work both evocative and slightly unsettling?
Connected to the living room was a modest dining room, its mahogany table set for dinner for three. A soup tureen sat on its dusty surface and another door beyond led out of the room, presumably to the kitchen. The scent of rot was stronger here and the investigators chose to move deeper into the house, discovering the kitchen and signs that rats had been at the pantry.
Exiting the kitchen, they entered the main hall to find themselves at the far end of the house. A set of stairs led to the second floor, while another closed door stood across from them. This door was sealed tightly—someone had installed a lock and no less than three deadbolts on the door. Besides the stairs was another door that led into the house’s mudroom. Old coats, buckets of coal, and a door leading outside were within this room, and the investigators noted that the exterior door also bore three deadbolts and two locks. Some resident of the house was concerned about his or her safety to paranoid levels.
The two well-secured doors made the three realize they had never inspected the inside of the front door, and they returned to the front of the house to do so, finding four deadbolts—rather new ones—to have been installed there as well. As they were yet unwilling to ascend the stairs, the three started with the first closed door off of the main hall.
The room beyond was stacked with junk: old water tanks, broken bicycles, rusting pipes, and other bits of trash that had accumulated in the house since its construction. Against one wall was a set of cabinets, sealed tightly by 2x4s nailed across its doors. The investigators attacked the lumber with their pry bars, suspecting that something of value or interest lay concealed within.
As they did so, a loud, booming, pounding was heard from upstairs as if an angry fist was pummeling the floorboards above. Charlie cried out nervously, “We’re getting into your cabinets and there’s nothing you can do about it!” The thumping repeated itself.
Chuck continued to attack the cabinets while Charlie and Joseph watched. With the screech of rusted nails coming loose, the last piece of wood was pulled free and the cabinets opened. Inside were three small books, dusty and dropped askew on the bare shelves within. These tomes were gathered with some caution and the sounds above ceased.
Charlie inched down the hallway, drawing his .38 revolver and taking up position at the bottom of the stairs. Joseph and Chuck proceeded to check the next room, only to find more junk: smashed furniture, broken boards, and other detritus bound for the fireplace. Chuck grabbed a long board, hefting it in his hands.
As the three reached the bottom of the stairs, the sound of scratching, long nails dragged across a hard surface began from the floor above, causing Charlie to rush from the house in a panic. The remaining two stared up the flight of stairs before grimly making their ascent. Charlie hovered by the front door, watching his friends vanish from sight. At the top of the stairs, Chuck and Joseph discovered another long hallway running the length of the house. Four doors stood along the left side of the hall; the right side was pierced with three curtained windows that let only a trace of sunlight into the house. Advancing to the second door from the stairs, the one from which the scratching seemed to be coming from, they tentatively grasped the handle.
The sounds stopped.
Pausing to steel their nerves, they opened the door to find a Spartan room beyond. A large bed, lacking a mattress stood against one wall. A chest of drawers occupied a corner next to a closed window. From the ceiling dangled a single bare bulb, swaying gently at the end of its cord.
As they stood in the doorway, the sound of tapping was heard. It seemed to come from across the room, near the shut window. Chuck threw the light switch, but the house was without power. Joseph stepped into the room cautiously and approached the window while Chuck covered him. Reaching the window, Joseph gazed out the pane, looking for the source of the tapping.
The bed frame lurched across the room, carving long scratches in the dry floorboards as it sped towards Joseph like a locomotive. The surprised Pole threw himself out of its path, missing being hurled through the window to the grounds below by inches! The iron frame crashed into the plaster wall, creating a spider web of cracks throughout the plaster around the window. As Joseph climbed to his feet, blood began to flow in rivulets from the shattered plaster. The two rushed down the stairs, nearly crashing into Charlie who had crept back into the house after the sounds ceased. The three poured out the mudroom door and ran down the alleyway to take cover behind their parked vehicles.
After a long pause and several nervously smoked cigarettes, the trio resolved themselves to re-entering the house and searching the remaining upstairs rooms. They returned to the upstairs before fear could overwhelm them again.
In the second floor hallway, they began to open the curtains to allow more light in and it was then that they noticed that someone had nailed the windows shut. As they had to put the “haunted room” behind them in order to explore the rest of the second floor, there was concern about possible routes of escape. Charlie produced his pry bar and began to break each window, clearing the glass from the frame as Joseph and Chuck started with the far room.
That room turned out to be the master bedroom: a queen-sized bed, more religious statuary, a bible, and dressing table lay within. As the approached a bookshelf on one wall, the two noticed that the sound of breaking glass had stopped. Chuck turned in time to see Charlie put down his pry bar on the window sill, reach down and grip a handful of jagged glass. Slowly, as if sleepwalking, Charlie opened his mouth and started to raise the razor-sharp shards to his face, intending to eat the broken glass. Chuck launched himself across the hall, tackling Charlie to the ground before he could dine on his possibly fatal meal. Joseph came out of the bedroom at his heels just as the door to the haunted room began to rattle in its jam, shaking as if in the grip of hurricane winds. The two gripped the dazed private eye between them and dragged him towards the stairs. As they passed the thundering door, they glimpsed blood oozing from beneath it to pool in the hallway. That was enough for the intrepid investigators and they fled from the house, rousing Charlie from his inattentive state, and then driving out of town to seek sanctuary at Joseph’s farm…