So every neighborhood has one. A house. No. THE house. The one the kids cross the street to avoid. The one nobody has the nerve to go to the door. The one targeted for dares. People talk. Not just kids, but grown ups.
You know the ones.
The shell-shocked vet.
The mad scientist.
The child molester.
Heck, one of my best friends growing up boasted a street with both a child molester AND a vet that practiced voodoo magic... or so the tales we whispered said. Neither case confirmed, but one trip to the voodoo vets door (on a Halloween dare) achieved nothing but a miniature Hersheys.
But then neither of these HOUSES was so dilapidated that there was external evidence that say, a grown-up might join the worry. I mean there were houses like that... but those houses tended to sit quietly... most of the time. Those houses, I suspect, often contained shut-ins. People too poor or sickly to maintain the place. People with no family to help them out. Crazy people.
My street has such a house.
When we bought eleven years ago it looked over grown. Badly. But because of the overgrowth it was hard to see that the siding badly needed painting, and brick being brick, more of it appeared sturdy, than horrible. And it's down the street far enough that the numbers have gotten into the 1600s... (ours is in the 1400s), so we didn't think much of it.
Our house gave me my first shot of 'spooky' that first summer we lived here. There was a young couple living next door. Nice people with rhyming names. They had kids, and any of you who has ever moved with small kids will remember that OTHER families with kids are like magnets. Those are the people you meet first—looking for playmates, references, resources, friendship...
So we used to visit with this family often. There is a field at the end of the block we played in sometimes, and heck, their house was right on the way, so why not?
And they (he) told us the tale of the Crazy Lady. The neglected house, though we'd never seen anybody in it, held an old woman and a VERY old woman. Neither of whom left much. The old woman suffered from paranoia and delusions, and had just come over to our friends' house and dug up a string of shiplights that had lined their driveway. She insisted they were using them to spy on her.
Not long after this, we began to see some sitings of this woman. She would yell at us from her porch to stop harassing her. Harass, defined here as walking on the sidewalk past her house. We began to use the other side of the street.
And then she disappeared for a while...
This was a nice experience some of the time. I was canvassing my own neighborhood and met some of my neighbors, one of which was the woman who lived on the OTHER side of the Crazy Lady. This woman and I didn't agree on the presidential vote, but she pointed out to me she was a by-the-person voter—she WOULD be voting to re-elect the democratic mayor. Because HE was the one who had finally helped with the Crazy Lady. She'd called social services. She'd called the police. Nobody would help. FINALLY, she contacted the mayor and he got the right people there.
The Crazy Lady had been threatening her. What's more, she seemed to be a danger to herself. A clean-up crew came and cleaned up the most extreme case of hoarding I think I will ever see. It took one of those HUGE bins brought to her driveway.
I learned that over the years cash had been sent to help those ladies and they'd wrapped it in newspaper and stacked it in the corners. This was discovered partway through cleaning, but they suspect they threw away thousands that they thought was just garbage. I heard rumors of dead cats, but I have no clue if that's true. That dumpster, though, was FULL of trash.
After that someone came to check regularly. The old old lady died, leaving just the paranoid schizophrenic, living alone. Somewhere in there I had my only conversation with the woman. She strayed up the street and I was worried for her safety. I stopped her and asked if I could help her. I managed to get her to head back home and think it was her neighbor I asked to call the social service person.
Since then, there have been meal deliveries and someone checking. A trustee? But whoever was doing the arranging dropped the ball somewhere last fall. I don't know how, but these are the events as I understand them (and as they were learned by anyone I know)
Two weeks ago the mailman knocked and asked the neighbor if she'd seen the woman, as she'd stopped taking in her mail. No. Not for quite a while.
Apparently if it has been a while, the postal service notifies the police.
So the police came Wednesday and tried to knock.
Then they came and asked my exercise buddy if she had anything to break into a house.
We've been joking about this. Who can ask that question? Only a police officer.
I told her she should have said, “just a second while I fetch my burglary kit.'
But they borrowed some tools and apparently succeeded in breaking in.
The woman was dead in her bathroom.
Had apparently BEEN dead in her bathroom for at least a month.
We learned the meal company had not delivered since October. OCTOBER? How did her trustee not notice there were no meal bills? But it was the second food company. It had been a Schwann truck until the woman assaulted the delivery driver. So maybe he thought something like that had happened (but wouldn't he check?)
This is the stuff nightmares are made of.
And it leaves such mixed emotions. I know her immediate neighbors have a lot of relief, and who can blame them? She seriously threatened them more than once. But I just am SO SAD. I am very sad for her death alone and unnoticed. But more than that, I am sad at her life alone and uncared for.
What have we come to that somebody can so badly fall through the cracks? There was a time of insane asylums and much of it was awful, but there are people who really need to be institutionalized. Had this woman had daily monitoring of her medication and attention to her care, I really believe her life might not have been so tragic.