18 May 2008
The Good, The Bad, and the Haunted
So Mr. Jovanka and I are currently looking for a house to buy at auction. We got the idea when our neighbor’s house went on auction, and having been there for a party where I saw how cool it was inside I became mad with the need to possess it. I thought we’d get a good deal on it, too, because our friend Robbie bought a house on auction and there was only one other bidder who got there too late to bid, so Robbie got it super cheap. Granted Robbie's place needed work, and it was haunted by the spirit of a dead crack addict who’d been found inside, but apart from that it was rather fabulous. The spirit has gone, by the way, after a conversation I had with him at a party where I urged him to move on. You’d think these sort of things would be obvious to spirits; I’m dead, I’m stuck on the earth plane, hey what’s that light over there? and that they wouldn’t need some drunk woman at a party to shout, “move toward the light!” into and empty room, but dead people aren’t too skilled with deductive reasoning, apparently.
So when we were getting ready to go to the auction for our neighbor’s place I was feeling very positive. I was certain we’d be the only people at the auction and get the place for like 20 Euros or something. I was already eyeing the place possessively and telling the rabbits they would finally have a garden. When perspective viewers came by to look at the place I would try to send them vibes saying, ”You don’t want this place” and we purposely left our bicycles tipped over and generally didn’t clean up in front of our house so they’d think the neighborhood was shabby. We were also encouraged by seeing a few of them arrive to view the property with smiles on their faces and leave with furrowed brows and looks of concern. On one particular viewing day I was positively dancing around the living room at the looks of misery as they left the place. “Look at them! They hated the place! It’s ours I tell you!! Ours! OURS!”
So I was, to say the least, rather nonplussed when on the day of the auction nearly 100 bidders showed up; in fact there weren’t enough chairs in the room. Given the rather non-Rockefeller state of our finances, we were outbid rather quickly (before we’d actually made a bid, actually), and we went home where I suppressed the urge to throw a tantrum. But the whole episode had sparked something and we soon discovered that there are auctions going on all the time, so now we’ve begun looking at the listings and yesterday we had our first day of driving around and looking at places.
Here’s what we are looking for: A small farm. Belgium is absolutely silly with small tracts of land with 100 and 200-year old farmhouses on them (some even older!) just screaming to be painted all sorts of funky colors and turned into small animal sanctuaries. So that’s what we looked at: Places with the word “farm” somewhere in the description.
A few places we saw, we didn’t even bother getting out of the car. Some people’s concept of “farm” must be a warehouse 2 meters from a major highway with Russian mafia guys hanging around outside, is all I’m saying. But we did end up seeing a few charming places. One was so charming that I forgot to take pictures of it. It was in a tiny village that takes “charm” to almost sickening levels; it was big and roomy inside, and the rabbits would go absolutely nuts if they saw the garden. In retrospect I’m glad we didn’t bring them along for the viewings for this very reason.
So we were in a great mood and ready for even more charm when we went to see the next property. It was way back, remote, tucked away away from everything in an overgrown field, which I love. So points on right away. It was slightly shabby-looking, but hey, what’s wrong with a fixer-upper?
Aaaaaand, then we went inside. This was the kitchen:
Hmmm. Being generally cheerful in nature, though, I thought well hey, what’s wrong with an even bigger fixer-upper? I tapped my fingers reassuringly against the green metal wall paneling and we moved on. Here’s what the living room looked like:
I was just trying to talk myself into thinking that the dark oppressive feeling was nothing a lick of paint couldn’t brighten up when we saw the upstairs. First of all, I use the term “stairs” very lightly; it was really a barely glorified ladder that the strange woman showing us around planted herself at the bottom of and refused to go up. I soon found out why:
Mmmmmm. Nice, eh? So….Let me paint the picture for you: These people knew that people were coming over to see the property to possibly bid on it. Did they think, “Perhaps I’ll fold a few things, put some things in a drawer, tidy up a bit.”? No. Apparently they instead opted to present it in the “decrepit neglect” style, chucking a few broken chairs on top of everything to complete the look. Before we had started to ascend the “stairs”, the strange woman told us it was a bit dark up there because the light bulb kept going out.
“Oh really?” Wim joked, “Have you got a ghost?” To which the strange woman replied with an awkward silence and a swift change of subject. We soon realized why. We felt an icy chill behind us, turned around and saw this:
OK. I exaggerated that a bit with special effects. But still, it looked like this:
And it was really spooky. Trust me. I guess you had to be there. There was definitely a ghost there. And you really have to wonder about a ghost who would be willing to be seen in such an absolute state. I was temporarily overcome with the urge to stand in the doorway with a glass of wine and shout him toward the light. But I thought better of it and instead struggled down the ladder first so Wim would have to be the one standing there alone for a few seconds.
I tried to think of positive things about the place. Maybe it was better on the outside?
Unfortunately, the “farm” bit consisted of a rather grotty and decidedly small bit of yard at the side of the house. The current crop looked to be ready-for-harvest tracts of ragweed, and while they did seem to be flourishing, it wasn’t quite my cup of tea.
But the good news is we could probably get it really cheap. And us being who we are, that was how the conversation ran the whole way home in the car.
“OK. There isn’t really any land to speak of, the electricity won’t work because someone died upstairs, there’s green metal paneling in the kitchen and it’s smaller than where we live now…But do you think we could make it work?”