The House on Nine Mile Road
Does the bootlegger still hang out at his old house in North Spokane?
“For God’s sake, what am I after? Some treasure, or tiny garden? Or that untrodden place, The house’s very soul?” -Richard Wilbur
The second account from outside the Valley of Shadows concerns a house my cousin renovated and flipped back in the fall of 2009. A structure which, according to stories he had heard, was a stop for bootleggers smuggling Canadian liquor during prohibition.
Amid the Jack pines, large boulders and a few low hills, the area had an eerie, isolated feeling even though bustling North Spokane was only a couple of miles away. Which is what likely bought bootleggers there in the first place.
My cousin and his soon-to-be second wife pulled into the small, mostly overgrown gravel parking area. Getting out, the first thing to strike them was the quiet. No sound of the city, of any nearby residents, not even a breath of wind.
The second thing to strike my cousin was taking in the scale of the job ahead with this house. Not really a mansion, it was a three-story, wood-frame, tall and narrow Victorian built around the turn of the twentieth century. He usually scheduled eight or nine weeks per job, but was that this place was likely going to take half again as much time, and it was only a couple of weeks before Labor Day. He hoped to get the house done before any serious snow flew shy of Thanksgiving.
Inside, the place was in better shape than he could have hoped for. Stripped bare, plain plaster walls showed dark, square outlines where pictures had once hung. The place was beyond dust—it was barren, dry, sterile.
Exploring the rest of the house, Robert jotted down what would be needed to restore the place.
After a couple of hours, he thought he had written down most of what he would need. While it might take a little longer than most jobs, he didn’t think it would take the twelve weeks he’d initially imagined. With luck it would be done by or before Halloween.
As Robert was writing a few final things down, his fiancee stood by him just inside the front door, continually looking around with a slightly puzzled expression. Asking her what was going on, she responded with a question. Why, in a house this old and uncared for... well, why were there no broken windows, no sign of entry. A place like this would be excellent shelter for transients, after all. Yet there was no sign whatsoever of anyone having been in the house since the last owner had died in the 1960s, and his estate hadn’t been able to sell it until now.
My cousin hadn’t thought about it, but now that his future bride mentioned it, the place did seem to be remarkably untouched.
The following Monday he returned with much of what would be needed for the job. This first day would consist of bringing supplies into the living room/entryway. From there, they would disperse things to the rest of the house. Over the next several weeks, while Robert was there every day, his father would come and go, providing some carpentry help. His fiancee would come to help clean, paint and install wallpaper. He had the plumber he routinely used in and out until late September updating the fixtures and pipes. This, along with an electrician who pulled out the old and installed the new wiring. By the first of October he was able to have electrical service restored so that now, with the shorter days, they could work longer hours.
Up until this point, nothing unusual had taken place, but suddenly things started to happen.
On a sunny day the second week of October, Robert was up on a ladder touching up the trim and molding when he heard from inside what sounded like a box of glass being dropped from a height and shattering into a million pieces. Nearly sliding down the ladder like an old-style fireman coming down a pole, he rushed into the house where his fiancee had been varnishing the railing of the stairs.
She was standing a few steps up, her attention divided between a spot further up the stars and another toward the back of the house and a narrow door that led down into a cellar.
Asking what had happened, it took a moment for the woman to answer. Pointing to the back of the house, she related the crashing noised seemed to have come from there, but then pointed up to the second story landing and said that just prior, she saw what appeared to be a human head, just floating in the dusty sunlight coming through a small window. They knew there was no one else in the house.
With his fiancee trailing him, Robert grabbed a powerful flashlight from his truck and went down the cellar steps. He had decided to put off doing the cellar until the end of the job.
Shining the light around, nothing looked out of place until the light came to rest on a large, heavy, dusty and stained cardboard box lying on its side and what looked like chunks of broken bottled around it. Stepping over to examine it, it did appear to have been a box of liquor bottles that had fallen and shattered, but it would have had to have been many, many years earlier from the way it looked.
Several days later, Robert was by himself doing some last finishing work here and there. The place was ready for some furniture, which always made any house more appealing to a buyer.
It was ten days until Halloween and the place was ready to list. Finishing up, Robert began making several trips in and out of the house to his truck with his gear and his tools. Coming from the kitchen with a last armload, he heard what sounded like a bottle rolling on the now varnished and polished wood floor in the living room.
But there was nothing there. As he stood there looking around, he glanced up the stairs to the second floor landing where, weeks earlier, his fiancee had seen a disembodied head floating in midair. There it was, floating five feet above the stairs, slowly descending toward him. It appeared to be a middle-aged man with a short, scruffy beard.
Goose bumps rising on his neck and stomach dropping, Robert turned and raced out with his things, nearly tripping going through the front door.
With a lot of money invested in the place, Robert couldn’t abandon his latest project. But it was late in the year and, being so isolated, he received a couple of inquiries but no serious offer until the spring of the following year. Then a small, private paranormal club, whose members, if not the idle rich, still had nothing better to keep themselves occupied with, bought the house for his minimum price.
He counted himself lucky on the sale, vowing never to flip any place like it again.
But what was the manifestation he and his fiancee had seen? Echoes of the bootlegging operation from the 1930s? He was wrong concerning his vow. He would once more encounter the supernatural, which I’ll relate next time, before returning again to the Valley of Shadows.
Have a ghost story to tell? Share it with Lawrence at fury_larry(at)yahoo.com.