The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Presence

There's an odd house on the corner of Snell Street in Amherst, near where the rail trail starts (or ends, depending on which way you're going.) The oddness of it didn't occur to me until I'd gone past it many times, in that curious way we sometimes have of not seeing something clearly until we've seen it repeatedly. Then one day it struck me how strange these bushes are.

They are just common bushes of the sort that appear in front of homes everywhere, but look how large the roots are and how they seem to almost recoil from the street, as if frightened of the sidewalk.

What a unusual place, I thought, and decided to check out the old house that lay hidden behind those unsightly bushes. There was a blind, badly cracked driveway leading into it, also overgrown with wild plants.

The first impression I had of the eerily abandoned house was that no one had been here for at least a few months. The new phone books typically come out in March, and someone had foolishly left one by the backdoor where the elements had reduced it to a soggy mush. Obviously this is not a place often visited, except by clueless phone book delivery workers.

How strange to see this old house, in the Valley's most expensive real estate market, uninhabited, not for sale and falling into ruin. What is it about this house that keeps people away? There is not even any sign that the homeless come here looking for shelter. Even the front walk has been completely sealed off by plants that have combined to form a natural wall as if to say STAY AWAY!

I'm not a superstitious person. I'm skeptical of the existence of ghosts. But there is something about this house. I catch myself glancing repeatedly at the dark windows, is that a shadow I saw moving? Is someone inside? Is something there? What mysteries lie behind that dark door?

Perhaps I am merely letting my imagination run away with me. Perhaps not. We grow wise in the ways of science, but there is a realm we do not know. Perhaps we cannot know.

I saw nothing supernatural. No apparition appeared to me. I have no ghost story to tell. But I felt something. Not something with characteristics that I can describe. Just something.

A presence.

There was a sign on the door. I approached to read it.

Under normal circumstances, such a sign would be merely a dare to we citizen-journalists, but somehow that day I didn't feel so much in an investigative mood. I decided to obey the sign and leave the premises immediately. Very immediately, and walking at a very fast pace. In fact when I reached the sidewalk on the other side of those creepy bushes, I realized I was sweating profusely although there was a cool breeze.

I'm sure there is an interesting story behind that house, but let another tell it. I shall not go there again.

Speaking of weirdness, remember this picture I took last week of odd cloud formations over Northampton?

Well, Amherst College student William Donnell took an even more compelling picture of the strange phenomenon in nearby Southampton.

There is a name that weathermen have for that kind of cloud formation (actually there is a name for every type of cloud formation.) Can anyone tell us what it is?


Bill Dusty said...


It looks like that "Posted" sign indicates that the house is a property of Amherst College (bottom of sign). I can't quite make out the writing, though.

Mary E.Carey said...

Can I have passed by that scary vegetation and never noticed it? I MUST have, since I'm on the trail several days a week --and yet I've never noticed all these spooky things. You've done it again! That area of Snell Street has a very rich history. In a little house somewhere around where you took these great photos, I visited Gil Roberts, who toured the world playing banjo with Louis Armstrong and lived to be 100 and something. Love the cloud photos too!