Tuesday, May 18, 2010

THE WITCHES' HOUSE


Actually, I'd never heard of this place until I was about 21 or so; I didn't grow up in that neighborhood. Still, everyone's had such a place in their childhoods, and when a couple of younger friends asked me if I wanted to see the Witches' House, I figured, why not?


We drove west on Ninth Street, 'til we got to the intersection with Osborn Avenue. Tex pointed out the driver's side window, and said, "That's it!" I looked, and saw a small, dark brick house, almost obscured by a willow tree that kept the place in shadow, day and night. There was an old garage next to the house, and what looked like a birdbath-the grass was tended, but the place still looked almost forgotten.


As we drove slowly past, Lisa told me the story...it seemed there were three old women, sisters, who lived in the house, with a servant who functioned as butler, gardener, and chauffeur. They were supposedly wealthy, but eccentric to the point of madness. If you drove by their house at night, and honked your horn, she said, the "witches" and their chauffeur would come tearing out of their house, pile into the old black Packard they kept garaged there, and chase the offending car. I asked Lisa if she'd ever seen them do this...with a toss of her 17 year-old head, she said that she hadn't but her brother swore it was true.


Later, a lady friend of mine told me the whole story. The sisters were the Elkes, who had grown up in the house. They owned a gift shop downtown, kept cats, and kept pretty much to themselves.


Thirty-some years later, a thousand miles from there, I still picture those tired pairs of eyes, looking out through shuttered blinds, wishing that all those unthinking children would just go away, and leave them alone.


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