By Joann M. Ringelstetter
“Whenever I walk to Suffern along the Erie track
I go by a poor old farmhouse with its shingles broken and black.
I suppose I’ve passed it a hundred times, but I always stop for a minute
And look at the house, the tragic house, the house with nobody in it.”
When I was young, I came across this poem by Joyce Kilmer and it touched my heart in a way I couldn’t explain at the time. A couple years later, our family moved to a small crossroads town and when we had a couple of hours between farm chores, we would walk to the river with our cane poles to fish.
On the way to the river, just past the crossroads, was an old ramshackle house that was the home of the village hermit. And there was no question about it, at least in our minds – the house was haunted – by the living AND the dead! We would always hurry past the house, as if the hermit would put a curse on us if we looked. And yet, we couldn’t help but look, if only for a second.
In our travels along the backroads in every state we wander, we come across abandoned houses, farms, businesses, schools, and churches. And we wonder what they were like when they were still lived in and used on a regular basis. We often get excited when we stumble upon a “haunted house”. We mean no disrespect by calling them haunted. It’s just that we’re sure the spirits of the folks who once inhabited them are still there – in the creaky wooden floors, the sagging doors and broken windows, and the architectural features and craftsmanship.
“So whenever I go to Suffern along the Erie track
I never go by the empty house without stopping and looking back,
Yet it hurts me to look at the crumbling roof and the shutters fallen apart,
For I can’t help thinking the poor old house is a house with a broken heart.”
(“The House With Nobody In It” by Joyce Kilmer)