Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The House of Blue Lights

It sat alone in a field outside the city limits.  There was a porch running around two sides, buckled front wooden steps, a warped porch swing hanging by one chain.  It was an old house, a single-story, turn-of-the-century Victorian with missing windows and weathered siding. 

Like all old dilapidated houses, it seemed a perfect host for a legend, which went like this.  The house belonged to an elderly woman with scraggly hair and no teeth.  Her husband died mysteriously in one of the rooms years before. but no one came to remove the body.  The suspicion was it was buried somewhere on the premises.  The woman was said to wander aimlessly from room to room talking to the walls, trying to contact her dead husband.  She also kept a herd of feral cats, vicious things that would attack if anyone approached.  At night she would wail hideously, her screams echoing throughout the house.  That was the story, told and retold by every teenager in town.  It was gospel, irrefutable as far as kids (and some adults) were concerned.  Yet even as people described this old woman, over and over, no one claimed to have ever seen or spoke to her.  And how could they?  The house was vacant.  It looked abandoned.   Nothing moved - inside or outside.  People who lived on neighboring properties dismissed the story.  No one lived in the house, they said.  It had been deserted for years.  There was no old woman there.  There was no one there.  How could there be.  Because anyone living in the house would eventually be seen. 
They'd have to come and go, get groceries, pick up mail. 
They couldn't live there and stay hidden.  It was impossible.   

But the story of the scraggly-haired, toothless woman persisted.  True enough, there were never any signs of life.  Never, ever.  No old woman.  No cats.  No screams.  Well...not during daylight hours, anway.  But at night... so the story went...things were different.  At  night, something happened which no one could explain.  People had seen it.  Young people especially (of course).  And it was always on a dark night...moonless and cloudy.  Gloomy.  There was no old woman, or cats, or screams, but there was something else.  Lights.  Strange lights.  And they seemed to move mysteriously on their own, suspended in air, floating.  Blue lights moving inside the house, flickering eerily from window to window.  Blue lights, unnatural glowing orbs nobody could explain.  And so, over time the place became...the house of blue lights. 

I was eight years old when I first heard about it.  And it was all because of my sister and her current boyfriend.  He wanted to take her for a drive in his car.  My mother wasn't sure this was a good idea.  So being cautious, she forced sis to take me along as insurance, to prevent anything from happening in the car that
shouldn't. (I guess I was the 1950's version of birth control)  Much to my sister's irritation, I was the unwanted passenger, and I jumped happily into the back seat for my big adventure.  The boyfriend, as I recall, was some cocky teenager doused in after-shave who, for some reason, didn't seem too worried about having me along.  So, with my sister gritting her teeth, off we went on our drive.  It ended just out of town at the house of blue lights. 

Once there, the boyfriend told the story everyone but me seemed to know.  The old woman, the cats, the wailing, and the lights.  Then he instructed me to sit in the front seat (while he and my sister got in the back) so that I could watch closely for the lights.  I was told to never take my eyes off the house, or I might miss something.  It was very important, he said, that I keep looking, and never turn away.  And so I watched...and watched...and watched...and never did see any blue lights.  Saw no cats, and heard no wailing either.  But after what seemed hours of waiting to an eight year old (more likely less than thirty minutes) I did see something... a light, a very bright, white light streaming in through the back window, and I yelled excitedly, "I see it!  I see it!"  The boyfriend and my sister jumped apart like they'd been tasered.  I noticed they looked scared, and it made me scared too.  "Is it the light?  Is it?" I asked, nervously.  They didn't answer.  My sister began straightening her blouse.

A face appeared at the back window of the car.  "Looking for the blue lights?" asked the cop.  I nodded eagerly, and said I thought I saw one.  He smiled as he glanced into the back seat.  "Good for you, buddy.  Maybe you can tell these two all about it on your ride home."

The cop waited until we drove away.  I was disappointed.  I never actually saw the blue lights that night.  I just fibbed.  I wanted the cop to think I had.  But as I got older, driving out to see the house or the lights didn't seem all that important.  The legend had faded.  Other things had become more interesting to me, things like driving a car somewhere to park with a pretty girl - and not look for lights.

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