The Devil’s Homestead Act
“Every industry—from publishing houses to pantyhose manufacturers—organizes itself by departments, divisions, specialty areas—whatever you want to call them--each unit focuses on a particular product or market. In the real estate game, we traditionally used types and locations. Brownstones on the Upper East Side; Ski Aspen Vacation Properties; Homes over 5 million in Boca. We have some new ideas to market—not just location and price, but concept. Homes geared to an individual’s penchants and avocations. For example, if you were a horror writer wouldn’t you want to live in a genuine haunted house? Of course you would, and with interest rates plummeting like depression-era stockbrokers from skyscrapers, we can’t miss. And I tell you, some of these concepts—and the houses themselves--they’re going to blow you away.” ~Paula Rand, CEO, World Wide Realty.
Advertisement in NADAA, the National Association for Dark Authors and Artists Newsletter, May 2010
Real Estate: Sales and Rentals
World Wide Realty: Of course you could find a charming little atelier sous les toits de Paris. Or we could find it for you, quicker than you can autograph your latest chapbook. But let’s face it, kids: being an expatriate is passé. And you’re not Hemmingway. Plus you probably cannot afford the Dakota or you wouldn’t have time to read this ad. Does this mean you have to be doomed to four square on a fifth floor walkup? No. Does it mean if you want a house, we’ll bring you to look at a lot of hyped up—but, ultimately, depressing—domiciles in need of thousands of hours of work and thousands of dollars period--and drag your ass all over Greenwich, Connecticut or Westchester, which you also can’t afford (even with all the goddamn foreclosures so don't get me started,) then foist you off on an associate in some hick town in Dutchess County? No and no and no.
You write dark, you want dark.
We got dark.
How dark do you want it?
Studio, Upper West Side. Sublet. Former tenants have imprinted the walls of this monastic-looking cell with vibrations of their wretched life experiences. Haunted by alcoholics, wife-beaters, dog kickers and a suicide from 1971. $1200 a month.
Two BR, No View. Small eat-in kitchen, working fire place. East 50th. This one won’t last, get your down payment down. Aside from the usual assortment of misfits (dating back to original owners, renters, etc.) this charm-filled apartment’s curricula vitae includes a mass-murderer whose next residence was on death row. It has been repainted in white to conceal its once blood-stained walls. In fact, since the blood stains keep reappearing, you may be doing a little whitewashing yourself in your spare time. In 1938, Phillip Pentergast murdered his entire family, cut them into pieces and attempted to burn their remains in the working fireplace. After the third go round at roasting failed; and, uncertain how to get rid of the bodies, Pentergast boiled and ate his victims. The place practically screams Jeffrey Dahmer, darlings. Private. Quiet. Access to a small courtyard garden behind the building is through a third floor window and down a drainpipe. Small enough to be cozy, large enough to swing a cat or a cleaver, this pied a terre is the perfect retreat to absorb old evil like fine wine and turn it into productive writing. 360K
Poughkeepsie, NY. A real shack in a seedy neighborhood, but oh boy what we found and what a deal. We can’t guarantee you’ll find even more bodies in the basement, and we can’t mention the killer by name, but over time this serial slayer did away with eight slutty but vulnerable women and kept their rotting bodies right in the house. If you can’t get a bestseller out of this one—with the very bones of the dead crying out for their stories to be told—you should find another line of work; maybe as youth counselor at the YMCA or even something less demanding like a lighthouse keeper, because you will not do well even in an ugly job like used car sales. Bank Foreclosure close-out. 112K
Brewster Bargain! It’s a crappy-looking house originally built in 1966 and selling then for the low-end price of $6500, so you already know you’re not getting decent-sized bedrooms, storm windows that go up and down or hardwood floors—much less grown-up type amenities like a Jacuzzi. On the other hand, at today’s market price, its current tag of 278K is a real steal. The lot is a half-acre desperately in need of mowing and landscaping because all the previous owners were too busy dealing with their various mental problems to take care of the yard or the house. To date, the notorious Brewster Raised Ranch has been home to three manic-depressives, four schizophrenics and twelve chronically depressed individuals. Rumors have it that the children of one couple who were forced to use the basement bathroom which only had cold water shower facilities can still be heard whining in the plumbing. Serious arguments often erupt among the families living there and the police have been called on too many occasions to count. Something pervasively evil lurks here and the color schemes of mold gray and shit brown and the dirty non-descript flocked wallpaper covering the foyer, kitchen and hall areas should be a real boon to the serious dark fiction writer.
Around the Nation, Around the World:
Georgetown. This is it kiddies. The big Casino. World Wide is the exclusive agent for—gasp—yes! The original home owned by the original family whose kid was possessed and later “fictionalized” as Regan MacNeil by William Peter Blatty in The Exorcist. Lights flicker. Thumping sounds can still be heard in the attic. Furniture hurls itself across entire rooms and hired help run screaming out the front door never to return. Jesuits have walked and prayed here to no avail, and occasionally occupants report they hear the sound of cassocks lightly brushing the floor of the bedroom where the demon boy puked his last. Frankly, we could get millions for this house from some big name writers who are not only jaded, but whose career slumps practically demand they get their asses kicked, but pride keeps them from realizing their imaginations are dead and this could be their last ticket to a blockbuster. You, on the other hand, even though your visions burn like a Colman lantern, might as well take a stab at catapulting yourself onto the New York Times bestseller list. Don’t think of it as reporting….think of it as enhanced storytelling. Among the unusual features of the house, are a Butler’s Pantry—with handy escape hatch to the garage below, 5 Boarded Over Fireplaces (could be brought into working condition again, but we don’t recommend it, considering you- know-who’s predilection for fire and flames); Kitchen with built-in bolt down lock slots to secure sharp knives and assorted cutlery; 3 to 4 “softwall” (i.e. padded) windowless bedrooms, (the fourth smaller bedroom could used as an office, confessional or sacred space to pray the Mass); and, on every floor including basement, Code Red Direct Telephone line to local Parish Priest. 402K.
Cotley-on-Stokes-Trent-Newbury-by-the-Well, England. Once a private asylum, and later turned over to local magistrates for use as a work house-cum-debtor’s prison, this medium-sized stone fortress is a veritable beggar’s opera of suffering, abuse and despair. The cellar was home to various maniacs and troublesome peasants from the 18th century onward, and the old heavy wooden doorways to the barred cubicles can still be seen along with random scratchings on the floors, walls and ceilings. Few of these carved musings are legible or comprehensible, but there are lots of them.
Moving upwards through the house, the next floor showcases the great room, where criminals, terminally ill folks and the mildly insane mingled freely. Masturbation and fornication abounded in this atmosphere and there were plenty of knife fights, strangulations and bludgeonings thanks to the warder’s policy of slinging in a communal trough of oatmeal during the infrequent mealtimes. Fires on this level were common since the only illumination allowed inmates were a few small dishes that held dirty rags burning in rancid grease. Outbreaks of pox, catarrhs and the like not quelled by raging fires were kept in check by the aid of a system—similar to our modern household central vacuums-- that allowed scalding steam to be sprayed through the entire room in under one minute. This was considered revolutionary in its time, since few contemporary homes in Britain even had running water. The steam—heated to 1200 degrees by large copper kettles housed in an unused portion of a sub-cellar and forced upward to the inmates’ living quarters through pipes—was also used as a method of exterminating lice and other vermin, and further ensured that overcrowding—so typical of substandard facilities like Bedlam—was not part of the day-to-day experience at Cotley’s Motley as it was quaintly called by the locals.
Though considered humane and state of the art for its time, troublemakers--those deemed vicious, lazy or even a little bit “hinky” by the headshrinkers and quacks who ran the place--lived under the constant pressure of knowing that merely on a whim they could be starved, burned, beaten, steam blasted or unceremoniously flung down into the locked iron boxes and foul cages of the cellar where things were really grim. This tended to increase anxiety, tears and riots. It has also been rumored that on occasion bored and/or sullen orderlies conducted lotteries among those who would not sign over their property and lands, and that these unfortunates were chosen for “special treatment” either in the steam room or below stairs in the sauna.
The upper floors of Cotley-near-the-Elms-by-the-Well Manor were reserved for staff, family and visiting dignitaries. And while these environs may not contain the imprints of the colorful house memories that the lower quarters continually exude like a stinking miasma, there were plenty of shenanigans, japery and perversions up there, too. One family diary notes that Dracula was a guest sometime toward the end of the 19th century and stayed in the small tower room on the right.
In short, Cotley is fount of pain and misery and bleakness—as dark a house as you can get in Merry Old England, and practically guaranteed to set your juices flowing, end any creative blocks and give rise to nearly every possible plot situation demanded by your novels, screenplays, stories or your personal life. Indeed, the last tenant, Sir Geoffrey G. Geoffrey Jeffries, Earl of Wandsworth-by-the-Brook, chased three of his illegitimate daughters with an axe up through the attic and out onto the leads where they jumped to their deaths on the flagstones below rather than submit to his incestuous advances. A small fire—long since repaired and hidden so you can hardly see the scars or smell the dirty smoke and soot—ensued shortly afterwards when Sir Geoffrey became further deranged just like the first Mrs. Rochester in Jane Eyre and tried to burn the devil out of Cotley.
A steal for any writer from gothic to gothic romantic to just regular dark and nasty and horrific at a mere 2million £. That’s about four million or so American for you, bub.
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