The Hoarder’s Fortress

Hidden in plain sight in the center of town, this sad looking house has a story to be told that would make misery proud.

This once attractive house is steeped in hard luck and roams in the ether. Though it was once a symbol of grandeur, it now stays down with its demons, lost to the vines that ensnare it – trying to keep its skeletons in.

As the story goes, the house was the home of an elderly woman, who over the years she lived there, became an extravagant hoarder. Eventually, the garbage inside reached ceiling level, and the house was in absolute squalor. A once proud and independent person, she now sealed her house like a fort, fighting her secret wars. 

She was eventually evicted, and the house became condemned, and left to sit there. Gazing upon it from the sun bleached sidewalk out front, it’s amazing how overwhelming nature can be when melding with something artificial; something man made.  These countless plants have securely attached and actually have became part the exterior walls. Who knows how long it would be before the force is too much, and the first pane of window glass breaks, allowing entry for the outside.

Summer Humidity

I had picked the worst day to investigate this house. It was an incredibly hot August afternoon, and the humidity was sliding off the streets. As me and a friend parked the car out front, I was beginning to rethink my decision, but decided to push forward.  Making our way through the urban jungle to the back of the house, we needed a way inside that was unobstructed by garbage. Walking through long grass that were needles that drew blood, the sweat that was forming on my body began to sting the fresh wounds as it entered. I finally found our entrance, the only door that had been spared by a barricade of garbage. The door swung open effortlessly, and we stepped into the dark interior, our eyes painfully straining to adjust.

Upon stepping into the kitchen, I soon realized I had my work cut out for me. The garbage was so high that the floors were not visible. In order to walk around, we had to awkwardly stumble across the top of the garbage mounds, which were well over knee deep in height. I now had to hunch over to prevent my head from hitting the ceiling, as I attempted to walk from room to room as I fumbled and fell in the unknown below my feet. Ironically, there were “paths” leading from room to room – obviously someone had went through the trouble of getting around in here before.

And then, something strange happened. Subconsciously, both me and my friend found ourselves being intently silent, daring not to speak in anything more than a whisper. Even stranger, we both seemed to recall our actions at the same time.

Another thing I didn’t anticipate was the humidity inside the house. It was stifling. I had only been inside 5 minutes, and between attempting to successfully move from one place to another while seeing where I was going in the smoldering shadows, I was already drenched in sweat. The summer heat baked the house, and the smell of plaster rot, mold, water damage and the cooking garbage was pungent. I had made my way through the kitchen and the parlor, and found a staircase on my right. The door had so much garbage on both sides that I had to spend several minutes attempting to open it just wide enough for me to squeeze through. Not surprisingly, there was more garbage on the stairs, making it a dangerous trip up. I looked at my friend, and she looked at me as if to say “your call”.  At this point, I was wondering what I had gotten myself into. Through the maze of littered hallways and staining shadows, it was almost like a silent challenge to the house, as if to say “come and find me”, as I felt smaller and smaller.

There were some other unusual things inside that I noted. The doors and windows were covered in strips of fly paper that had been there for years, hundreds of dead flies clinging to the stained yellow paper. Also, each door upstairs had a “No Trespassing” sign and a “No Smoking” sign nailed to both sides.

Old photographs, furniture, handwritten letters, priceless China and clothes lay scattered in heaps within each room. All that captured her heart was on the table, lost to the ether. Part of me wished the ghosts in the room would let me hear their voices when they ask what I see.

In terms of a psychological experience of discovery, this was quite powerful, allowing you to pick at the pieces of someone else’s puzzle, while allowing your wondering mind to read between the lines, telling yourself to come down, it’s alright. Underneath waning silhouettes, I felt strangely connected to this person I’ve never met before.

Today, the house has long been gutted, and is in the process of being renovated. It’s like this mysterious woman and her alien, lonesome world never existed. If there is one thing I’ve learned about life, inhabited throughout my urban explorations, is that no matter how grand something might seem, nothing is ever more than temporary.

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6 Comments on “The Hoarder’s Fortress

  1. You really captured the clustered, overwhelming, desperation of the house, and the poor women’s mental demise. So sad to see all the old family photographs carelessly strewn on the dresser. And a lot of the stuff was new and just “stored” there….very creepy. The lighting in some of the pics made it look surreal. Very well done. The history was well written.

  2. I love this, thanks for taking us along on your journey 🙂 have you ever tried to contact the family or owners of the house? I have done that before and you’d be surprised about how much people will tell you. If I were there I’d have to clean up as I explored. If she’s still alive it’d be funny to talk to her, bet she be pissed as hell that you went inside lol

    • I drove by a few weeks ago, it’s not even recognizable!

  3. Is this in the St. Albans area, by chance?? The woodwork around the door and window casings are identical to the interior of my house. One of the photos (4th up from the bottom) looks EXACTLY like my bedroom.

  4. I know this place…I’ve grown up in this town. When I was little this woman would be seen walking the streets bundled in layers and layers of coats on hot summer days. I also recall many old cars on her lawn. Many of them were old Boarder Patrol cars she somehow acquired. My Mom told me a story of her youth, crossing through this yard (young and curious..wanting to investigate)…the woman somehow knowing and yelled at her to get off her property. Now I’m grown and I still live in this small town. The house has continued to be a work in progress of renovation. The old grandeur slowly coming back to life, but I always have the picture in my minds eye of how it used to be.

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