Mystery in a Picture

ImageAs a young child I lived in a giant house that was probably built in the turn of the century.  It had trap doors with wooden levers that opened the walls in between closets, French doors seemed to have been slapped in every entry way. It was beautiful.  There were about six different  revolving people living with us at a time due the size of the house and the fact that we were poor.  I loved that house but it frightened me too.  I had just been allowed by some foolish person to watch “The Exorcist” and was sure that our house was possessed.   The little girl that lived there with her mother and my bedrooms were up a long narrow stairway that ended with three doors; two bedrooms and the attic.  I hated being near the attic.  I was told to never go in there because it was dangerous so it was always tempting but also terrifying to sneak in.  My room was bright yellow and had a window seat that Imageoverlooked the side porch and garden.  So light and cheerful during the day. But at night the town lights did not hit the window so it was dark and full of shadows and I was sure I heard scratching and rustling coming from the attic.  I would sneak into the little girl across the halls bedroom, she was a year younger than me so not much for protection but her room faced town so all the lights came through making her room less scary. 


One day I overcame my fear of the attic, maybe Imagesomeone teased me, or maybe it was just curiosity on what was in there. My mom was not home a lot so it was easy to find time where I could break a “RULE”.  It was dark and musty, cobwebs and grime covered all of the trunks and boxes.  Everything was packed up and I knew if I opened the boxes that I would get caught, so I just wandered among them. Nothing was interesting. An old dressmakers mannequin and rows and rows of boxes.  I was getting ready to leave and I noticed something propped up against one of the trunks.  It was a picture.  I picked it up, it was thick card stock , not like any picture that I had seen.  There was a family, a man, woman, two small children, and the woman was holding a baby. They looked miserable, not a smile amongst them. The thing that struck me was the picture was not dusty.  I suddenly thought it was a trap set by my mom to see if I had obeyed her, and while I knew that the smart thing would have been to put it back. I couldn’t.  I took the picture and hid it in the cover of a book.  The picture scared me because they seemed so unhappy.  I didn’t learn until years later that in the late Image1800’s that it took so long for a photo to be taken that people could not hold a smile for that long.  I often would wonder what their lives were like, if the little girl went school, if the baby grew up to be a man, if they EVER smiled!!  So began my fascination with vintage pictures.  I also think that they can seem so ominous at times.  Mysterious. When we moved from that house (since we never stayed anywhere for longer than 6 months to a year) something compelled me to put the picture back where I found it.  I wonder if it is still there.

(PS I never did get possessed because I watched The Exorcist)




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