Old homes tell stories. Even if the walls can’t talk, the creaking floorboards and clattering pipes get the point across. Our house was built in 1802 — over the years, it’s collected a fair share of funny fables.The stories begin as soon as you enter through the “Indian door.” This traditional feature was constructed with two layers of wide oak planks, cross-hatched for added protection from enemy arrows. Though we should probably call it the “Native American door,” a politically correct rewording wouldn’t quite capture the paranoia of the time. “Our poor neighbor Nathaniel was in his kitchen eating a johnnycake,” the conversation may have gone, “when an Indian arrow pierced their single panel door and landed in his buttock! If only they had doubled-up those panels!”
The perpetual fear of arrow attacks must have led the occupants of our house to drink because next to the original hearth is a small built-in storage area colloquially called the “Parson’s cupboard.” Rumor has it, when a member of the clergy popped in for a quick chat (or exorcism), the sneaky owners would hide their booze in this concealed cupboard. Once the Parson departed, it quickly devolved into a scene from MTV’s Spring Break. (Well, not quite. Instead of watching Eric Nies dance on a speaker shirtless, the family huddled by the fire, discussing a nearby typhus epidemic.)
Speaking of sickness, our house has a curiously morbid feature called a “coffin door.” Apparently, the bodies of the dead were once prepared and packed inside one’s house, so an extra-wide side door was installed in order to move the coffins outside. If you’ve ever got a coffin stuck in a door frame, trust me, it’s no fun. Besides, it’s more eco-friendly to be cremated — you’ll easily fit through any door, saving the need for additional renovations.
Sadly, most visitors to our house tend to only notice the beautiful red oak floors or the original hand-hewn beams. Don’t get me wrong, those are impressive and all, just not as fun to tell as stories.
Images: Johnny Williams