Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Scenes from Silver Creek: The Hiram House

I think every town has, or should have, a haunted house. With Halloween approaching, it seemed fitting to tell you about Silver Creek’s.

It was called the Hiram House and, sadly, it is no longer there. With typical Silver Creekian respect for the past it was torn down to build a picture-framing store. There was a movement to save it, but it was so dilapidated that it was deemed a fire hazard and, in spite of some civic spirit, there was nobody willing to fund a restoration. And, really, no point. It was just a shell. A shell with an interesting history, and some weird architecture, but beyond hope really.

Hiram House was one of the first five buildings in Silver Creek. Part of the original Spanish land grant to a man named Israel Hiram who did some dubious service and was rewarded with a plot of land in an as-yet-unnamed part of what would be California.

Hiram brought up a fat wife and some skinny cows from Mexico and started a dairy. And he built a house. It was just a square of four rooms at first. But as the dairy grew, and his fortunes along with it, he added rooms and kids at regular intervals. Eventually it was two stories with porches all around and mismatched windows. Some tall and skinny. Some arched. Two in one room. Three in another. Nothing matched and yet it all seemed to fit somehow. As if their disunity was what united the whole.

But, as with all good ghost stories, there was a tragedy. In this case an influenza epidemic that wiped out the fat wife and the numerous children. Only tough old Israel was left. He lost interest in the cows and stopped building the house and grew old and died. End of story.

But Hiram House sat there while Silver Creek grew up around it. The building falling apart. The land that the dairy was on turned into subdivisions and fast-food joints. And the old building of adobe and pine settled into lumps and ruins; an anomaly in suburbia.

As a child I lived about four blocks from Hiram House and walked past it on my way to Our Lady of Angels or the library. My friend Sean, however, lived on the same street, Hiram Road (imaginatively enough) and could see the old place from his bedroom window.
Being imaginative kids we, of course, invested the place with all sorts of specters. Not content with old Israel wandering about the place mourning the loss of his family, we came up with everything this side of Anne Boleyn wandering the place “with her head tucked underneath her arm.”

But we didn’t really believe the place was haunted. Not really. Sort of.

It was a hot August night when Sean, his elder brother Nick, and I were walking home after a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. We were in high school and not afraid of anything. Certainly not walking past the Hiram House at 2 am.

We’d sort of run out of conversation by then and were just enjoying the warm night and good friends. I was walking in-between the brothers, holding Sean’s hand. Nick was whistling "The Time Warp" quietly. Then we walked past the overgrown lot where the Hiram House stood. And we saw the man.

He was pale and scrawny. Seemed to be covered in dust. And was illuminated perfectly by the blue light of the moon as he stood staring at the empty house. And I stopped. And I looked. And then we all looked. And then he turned from the house and stared at us. He opened his mouth, but no sound emerged. Sean, always a chicken, made a sound like a wounded spaniel and high-tailed it for home. Nick and I took off after him without thought.

And once in the safety of the Logan house, we said nothing. And we never did. Not to each other. Not to anyone else. We all three saw him and all three knew the others had seen, but it was never spoken.

About six years later Hiram House was torn down. The only reference we ever made to that night was that Sean always referred to “The Haunted Picture-Framer” as the business that moved in.


Duke said...

I love a good ghost story. Share more if you have them.

It seems most everyone has a few or at least a close relative who does. Ghost stories are the universal glue that crosses cultures and races. They exist everywhere humans exist. Wheher you believe in ghosts or not there is no denying they have impacted our society along with all others.

It's true every town has a 'haunted house'. In my town my mom lived in it. The place was built in 1892 and was very creepy with all the gables befitting a ghostly mansion. A huge place of 3 stories and a dark basement full of shadows.

Was it really haunted? Oh, the stories I could tell.

Kittie Howard said...

Now THAT was a super haunted house story. I don't know of anyone who's experienced better. And I certainly don't, thankyouverymuch.