Category Archives: Rob Horne

The Crazy Lady’s House

The crazy lady’s house; that’s what they all used to call it. I can still hear the voices of the neighbourhood kids chanting outside, “Cray-zee lay-dee, cray-zee lay-dee, come outside and plaaaay.”
+++++The house was old, built when the 19th century was about turning into the 20th, perched right on the edge of the woods at the end of a long dirt track. The place looks derelict now – the windows boarded up, roof slates missing and the undergrowth a long way towards claiming back the land it was built on. The entire town was dying; the factories had closed as the work had moved to the Far East and with no work there was no money and no reason to be here. People had tried to sell their homes, first setting an attractive price and hoping, then slowly the price dropped as their desperation went up. They eventually departed; abandoning everything, all they left behind was one more empty pile of bricks and mortar amidst the growing desolation.
+++++There weren’t many people left around here who remembered the crazy lady; those that did recalled a small woman, somewhere between forty and fiftyish maybe, wild, dirty; she used to go into town now and again with a plastic carrier bag stuffed with cash. She’d stare and stare into the shop windows like they were alien worlds seen through a telescope. Maybe she’d go in and buy something – a TV, a toaster, a sewing machine – all useless to her in a house without electricity. A very few old-timers had a vague recollection she maybe had a son, although the boy had never been seen or heard. The story as I heard it was that an escaped prisoner on the run had hidden in the deep woods. Finding the house – which even back then probably looked in a bad state – he broke in looking for food, money, who knows; but all he found was the crazy lady. He raped her; the man must’ve been blind or stupid in my opinion but he surely did rape her and 9 months later she produced a baby boy as a reminder of that nightmare. She didn’t go to hospital; she delivered the baby all on her own, cutting the umbilical cord with a rusty pair of pliers she must’ve found lying in the muck.
+++++Everyone avoided the crazy lady’s house even more after that. It was said screams and howls could be heard coming from inside, in the voice of a tortured child whose soul was on fire. Children would chant outside, dare each other to knock on the door, but not many would accept that challenge. Those same children worked their painful way to adulthood and the fear of the place always stayed with them. The woods grew thicker and the house became hidden from view. Out of sight, out of mind; just a lingering uneasiness with no easily identifiable cause. Things stayed that way for a long time.
+++++It was nearly 5 years ago when the first people went missing in the area. At first nothing was noticed; they were strangers, just passing through, nobody knew they were here in the first place so nobody looked here. Then a couple of local girls disappeared. They were best friends; one was 16 and the other 17. Not a great deal of attention was paid to the parents the first couple of days; maybe they’d run away together to escape the harsh boredom of their lives or stolen a car and crashed it somewhere, or one was pregnant so the other had taken her to get an abortion, or any other of a hundred reasons why teenage girls go missing. Days dragged into weeks and still no sign. No one had seen them, no one reported a vehicle stolen; hospitals were checked without any success. The police went door to door but not to the door of the crazy lady’s house. The townsfolk volunteered to search the woods and you could see them that Sunday, old and young alike, spread a few yards apart from each other walking slowly in an undulating line like a hesitant but inexorable wave never quite breaking on the beach. Nothing was ever found.
+++++It was several months before it happened again. A young boy and girl, both only 8 years old, went off to play a game in the woods. They never came back. This time the police were a lot quicker in responding and searches with dogs were organised. There was even a helicopter flying over back and forth, back and forth, infrared camera scanning the ground below. Again, nothing, except fear and horror and sympathy for the families and a forlorn hope the children had not suffered.
+++++Those few people still left around here made urgent plans to move away. Children were told never to go out alone. The gentle walk to the school and back turned into a fraught two minute ride in the car. One time a gang of out-of-town vigilantes turned up, although all they did was drive around and look threateningly at anyone they came across. People were frightened. When Mrs Ford didn’t return from walking her dog one evening it took only a couple of hours before the whole town were running scared. This time more police than had ever been seen before descended; they brought with them forensic experts and criminal profilers and all the other human paraphernalia of a major investigation. They even came to the crazy lady’s house, busted down the door. A huge pile of mouldering junk mail greeted them; spiders had spun and spread their webs across the ceiling and down the walls; the place stank of decay and death and dampness and the corrupt air of the place whistled down their throats to sit immovably toad-like deep in their lungs. Nothing was found but I don’t think they looked very hard; deep inside there might’ve been a noise: a muffled footstep, a creaking of wooden stairs.
+++++They’ve all long gone now; this town is nothing more than ghosts haunting dead things. Not that I care as they never did a thing for me. Or for mother. All they ever did was call her names. But I cared for her. When she died 5 years ago she had had such a lonely life, so I found her some new friends. We all live happily together in the cellar. Mother now has nine friends to keep her company down here; they sit together all day and all night around the big old oak table. They never say anything of course, although they permanently grin through tattered skin facing mother at the head of the table.