The other day I was thinking that I ought to write a story about “The Big House on Marvin." Here were "secret" spaces and a "semi-secret" tunnel. A cistern with a cement angel in it. Or was it a lamb? A ballroom with bats. And a nursery where freshly hung wallpaper failed to adhere. And according to my kids, who were (and are) on the look-out for things spooky, a female ghost that roamed up and down the central stairs.
The “Big House on Marvin” is a treasure-trove of stories, most of which will never be known. Former owners and the current owner know their stories, but they’re not my stories. Those owners who have preceded us are no longer with us. They’ve taken their stories with them. I’ve heard snatches of a story that came after us. For certain it is not a true story, because my family is in it, and that’s not the way it happened at all. All that can be said with any certainly (and even then the memory may fail) is, what stories that are known, are the stories that I know.
So we begin...
“Dad! Dad!, my kids pealed as they ran the stairs, “The wallpaper is peeling!” “No!,” I moaned, thinking, not again, this is the third time.
The room, by the way, that they referred to was to be the nursery.
Where do I begin to tell this tale. Even today, I am not that I really even know what it was about. Do I begin the nursery, or do I begin with the wallpapering?
Perhaps, the wallpapering where to begin.
First, a brief word about the “Big House on Marvin.” The house really didn’t belong where it was. It should have been a block or in the other direction. It was designed by a now famous local architect, and built as one of the first houses of what was to be a new neighborhood of large homes at the beginning of the 1900s. Not mansions like those across the street, but nevertheless, quite large. Something went wrong, and just a few of the larger homes were built, the “Big House on Marvin,” was one of those.
The first owner was an heiress, the own immediately prior to us was a local TV personality, an exercise guru. When we took possession the house has been sitting vacant for several years. I tell you, only to give you a feel for the house. Undoubtedly more will unfold as more stories appear.
Enough, back to the wallpapering:
As I mentioned, this was the third time the wallpaper had begun peeling (there would be fourth and fifth time too). What I didn’t mention that it always began during the night of the day the wallpaper was applied. Even back then I was not wallpaper newbie. I had papered many a wall by this time.
In fact, by the time we got to the nursery, we had already papered several rooms and halls. And the paper didn’t peel!
Like every room and hall before the her, the nursery was prepped in the same way: Old paper steamed and scrapped off plaster walls, walls patched, cleaned with STP and sized. Yet, the nursery wallpaper faithfully peeled again and again.
Let’s try it again – peeled again.
It’s like a broken record and before I try again , I get my go-to-wallpaper-help-guy over. He just happens to also own the wallpaper store. He suggests that even though the paper is paste backed we try using wallpaper paste this time around. We put up a roll … and wait. The next morning the paper is peeling.
Before round four my go-to-for-help wallpaper guy comes over. He owns the wallpaper store. He suggests that even though the paper is self-pasted, we might try using wallpaper paste.
I’m perplexed. My go-to-for-help wallpaper guy is perplexed. Not my kids.
“Dad!!!” (They love the exclamation mark when they think they're right.) “Dad!!! The room is a ‘devil room. I’s evil!”
And let’s face it, the wallpaper refused. Which didn’t surprise my kids kids on iota. Did the wallpaper know something I didn’t, but the kids did? It appears so.
Which brings us to the room herself, the nursery.
This room was the only room in the entire house that bore graffiti, and not just ordinary graffiti, but pentagrams and the like. When we took possession there was even a huge bowl with ashes, floor-centered, surrounded by candle stubs (but that’s another story for another time).
To wrap my tale up, the kids did an exorcism of sorts, and I painted the walls.
And just in case you are wondering, not one of kids (and I have several) was ever again willing to sleep in that room (although some unsuspecting guests did). To this day, my youngest tells me that I warped his life by thinking that he should sleep in that room.
Well, this ends this story, but their are more. Perhaps one day, I will tell another. Or maybe I should get my children to tell one? © Frank A. Mills, 2020
The original of this piece first appeared in the old online blog, "Urban Paradoxes," 2005