Haunted House?

When I was a child in Lebanon, Oregon, this house was known as the “haunted house” in the neighborhood.   It was surrounded by hugely overgrown hedges and the front porch was wrapped in dark, discolored plastic.   It really did have a spooky aspect to it.

In the fall of 1964 my parents bought the old house, (The photo was taken around 1900, the house was built in 1890) and we moved into the ground floor.   At the time, the house was being used as a rooming house: (as it had been since the end of WW2, and it was more than a little worse for wear) there were three tenants upstairs, and one who lived out back in the former carriage house that was now attached to the rear of the house.

My parents bought the house with the understanding that the tenants would be allowed to continue to live there for six months, but all of them were gone within about 90 days.   The entire infrastructure of the house was overburdened.  The main source of heat in the main part of the house was an oil stove in the living room.  The stove pipe passed through the center of  a circular cast iron register set in the ceiling up to the second floor.  In the second floor apartment there was an additional radiator like device with a small built in fan to extract  the remaining heat from the stove pipe before it took a 90 degree turn into the brick chimney leading to the roof.

The wiring was all in the old knob and post fashion with the lighting fixtures having cloth insulated wires running from the switches (which were either rotary devices or two push button types) up the wall and across the ceiling:  the house was built in the 1890’s prior to electrification.   The plumbing fixtures were all from the 20’s, with two claw footed cast iron bathtubs.   The two bathrooms were added at some point after the initial construction where the two halves of the house came together, (the house being shaped like a “T”) off to the side of the kitchen, so as to minimize the additional plumbing needed to add indoor plumbing.

The house lacked a perimeter foundation with beams supported by posts sitting on large rocks set in to the earth.   It was sagging in places and the east end was a couple inches lower than the west.   During the next 15 years my stepdad  (a sheet metal guy: he also grew up on a farm) upgraded virtually all the systems in the house, installing central heating, rewiring most of it, adding insulation where possible, re roofing it, remodeling the bathrooms and kitchen, and leveling the house by pouring some concrete pads and adding supports.  We had to raise the entire house with jacks to do this.

I received a real education in construction during all of this.   My step dad explained everything he was doing to me, and took the time to show me interesting details.  How the house originally was put together with square nails and how and where the additions had been added.   I wanted a more “modern” room and so we remodeled it and it was the only room with sheet rock,  wall to wall carpet, and a modern closet in the whole house.  We converted the upstairs apartment that had a kitchen into her art studio, and she worked in the garden to convert a virtual jungle (blackberry thickets, etc) into something that that was nice to look at out of the 16 panel window that faced the morning sun.

My step dad passed on in 1979 and never had the chance to “finish” the house the way they’d planned.   I moved to California in 1980.  My mom was going to sell the house and move to California to move in with her sister who was also recently widowed.   She never could get herself to sellthe place, however.  She’d lived in Lebanon for over 30 years at that point and she just loved that house.    She lived there by herself for the next 20 years.   I spent my summer vacations for the next decade visiting her and trying to do whatever repairs were needed.  Many of my friends also helped her when she needed things done or they’d show up with a cord of wood or fix her garage door.

In 1990 she fell down the stairs and I ended up returning to Oregon.   I spent a lot of the next decade getting reaquainted with virtually every aspect of that house.  I replaced all the toilets, much of the rest of the plumbing, painted the entire house twice and replaced the floor in her bathroom, it always seemed to be something.  I got to know the guy at the hardware store real well.   I tried to get her to sell the place and get something smaller, cheaper and a lot newer, but she wasn’t buying into it.  Those of you who knew my mother understand fully that getting her to change her mind was out of the question.

My mom passed away in November of 1999 at the age of 89.   She’d lived the last 34 years of her life (she was only hospitalized for 2 weeks) in that house, and her ashes are scattered in her garden in the back yard.   I think she probably lived in the house longer than any other occupant.

It’s changed hands twice since then, and If you wish to read a little more about it, here’s a link to a historical house website: http://www.ci.lebanon.or.us/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=2145

Many people told me I should have kept it.   It was my mother’s dream, not mine, and I was tired of worrying about it.  I didn’t love it and after my mom the house was used to having someone who loved it take care of it and preserve it.    People often send me photos of it, and here’s the latest one:

I think my mom would be happy with this.      I should probably send the current owners a copy of this post, after all, I know the address.  They might find this interesting.

My mom also collected antiques: she was also an oil painter and the house was full of her paintings.   It was a little like growing up in a museum.  That probably explains a lot.




Author: fauxsuper

Guitarist since 1964, motorized vehicle enthusist all my life, Married with two step children. Born and rasied in Lebanon, Ore.

10 thoughts on “Haunted House?”

  1. Scott,
    Remembering your Mom with fondness, I took art lessons for quite a few years from Jo and received an honorable mention ribbon (aged 12 or 13) at the state fair one year! And some man contacted me to buy it but I had, alas, already given it to my folks! Jo was a wonderful artist and teacher! I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent learning from her! Amazingly, she wore lots of bracelets or bangles which I could not do and draw at the same time because mine would catch on the table. She must have had some technique where the bracelets didn’t interfere! I still have to take off jewelry when I do artwork or guck up both!

  2. Nice that you have memories of her. It’s always great to hear from people who were students of hers and they spanned a couple of generations. She was still giving lessons well into her 80’s and was drawing right up until the end. (She gave up painting in he mid 80’s due to stiffness in her fingers, she just couldn’t create what she could see in her mind.) I still have a little pencil drawing she left at her bedside that she drew the day she passed on: Creative right up to the end. I was planning on doing a post one one of her paintings, but can’t find the scan I was looking for, maybe on the other computer—stay tuned.

  3. When Cathy Langdahl bought the house across the street north,I came to live and work on a few things for her.I met your Mom and she just started talking to me as a friend.Many times we sat and or stood and talked.She had many friends traveling the world who would stop by and visit when in town.We talked about you and then we opened up that chapter of junior high schooland rock and roll bands-I was in a few with Bart and Ron Benshoof and Donovan and others.She brought out a bag once with little pieces of bone painted with gold and red and black faces-the starving children of Bangkok,Thailand sold them to ward off evil spirits she said and gave me one that I still have.A couple times we looked through her art work and she said I want you to have this.A piece of leather about 10″ by 14″ with a soiux indian painted on it the way she remembered them with a headdress;a painting small in a gold frame of a ship out at sea just returning I think she said,and a print of Mission Santa Inez that I lost to a child’s color crayon.Mrs. Hayes I always called her.And I did call her a few times after I moved away.I shared some of my poetry with her,and one time I remember talking to her on the phone and doodling a teepee on paper,and exactly as I drew the teepee a door she said she must go and we said goodby.I think that was the last time we spoke.She was such a kind and knowledgeable woman.She often spoke of you Scott,or Cheryl,and many other Lebanon people that I always knew of,but never knew.I will get a picture of those beautiful works of art and put them on facebook,but will you get them then?

    1. Rick:

      Thanks for what you wrote, you really caught a sense of what my mom was all about. People were always giving her interesting little things to pass along, secure in the knowledge it would find it’s way to the right people. I love hearing from people I had no idea she’d connected with.

      I lived in her house for six months after she passed on, and had all sorts of people drop in on her from all over, all of who had some unique persepctive on who she was.

      I imagine the people who bought the house had a few such encounters along the way.


  4. I am the new owner of the house. I love it. The real estate agent had opened the door and all I saw were the stairs, door and transoms. I said this is it! My husband and I are also artists. We have owned a graphic design business for years. We are also both painters. The history of the house is very fascinating to me. Thank you for sharing. Lessa Clayton.

  5. I lived at 580 east ash and my friend and I would walk to town and we always admired the unique beautiful rocks all around the yard , it would have been early 1980s . One day she talked to us about them and she told us we could pick a couple each to take home boy were we excited , good times

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