Stale Air

You know that old adage, that every (New England) town has a haunted house? Well, in my case, that turned out to be true.

There is something strange about this old farmhouse located on a heavily traveled town highway near Chittenden County. As far as first impressions go, the strange feeling can start from your first glance. In a world where we expect things to fall into man-made symmetry, this house was built differently.

The house is shaped like a V, with the point lining up with the curve formed by the road it sits on. The house has two front doors each at the point of the V, so a first assumption is that it may have been a duplex at some point (a fate that isn’t so uncommon with old Vermont houses). But once inside, you realize the house is a single residence, it was never divided into 2 properties, adding a little confusion at this unusual architectural feature.

To add a little more contemplation, the house’s rambling layout may have you a bit disoriented. The lack of hallways in the house means you enter into other rooms from other rooms, some rooms have four entrances and others only have one. Most of the windows are boarded up – sealing the inside like a tomb. Small slits of sunlight occasionally works their way in through slits in the wood, or bullet holes that had been shot in the planks.

The silence that hangs over the inside of this property is heavy and deep, and makes an amiable companion for the somber darkness – its ghosts falling through the songs of the house as their desires come undone. The only sounds you can hear are the weight of your feet making the wooden floorboards groan, or the occasional crunch of broken glass under your shoes. Most of the furniture has been removed, but various items still remain. There is a room filled with rusting bed frames and another with wooden cribs. A walk down a hallway near the front door revealed a strange discovery, the basement door had been nailed shut with railroad spikes pounded into the frame with a sledgehammer. But that’s not where this story ends. As a matter of fact, given the number of stories about this small farmhouse, it may just be this town’s most haunted house.

While there are no records of murders or tragedies within its crumbling plaster walls, there are a surprising number of terrifying stories that are told about it. But with no traceable origins, these stories are shrouded in mystery.

The Facts.

The house was built by Ethan Austin, son of one of the first settlers, David Austin. He purchased the farm when he married Clarissa Hill, and constructed the farmhouse in 1840. Later, in the 1860′s this farm was occupied by his daughter, Mrs. G. W. Crown. It has since then changed hands quite a few times, until finally transferring it to the caprices of nature. The builders decided to incorporate the property’s position on a sharp turn in the road into the design of the house – and built the unique V-shape structure that stands today, in a style known as a “Flat Iron House” – which essentially joined two buildings end to end at a 30-degree angle.  The foundation is stone with a post and beam wall structure, outfitted with Asphalt Shingle.

The farm was once large enough to hold 2 barns. Today one of these barns has crumbled away into nothing but a memory, only the half shell of a cinder block wall is barely visible through a large patch of weeds that is growing around it. The other barn sits directly across from the house, but is in terrible shape. The wooden structure is warping and slowly caving into the backside, where there is large hole in the roof. Inside the barn, underneath all the collapsing beams and crumbling roof (not a safe place to walk) are some great old antiques of yesteryear. An old tube radio, hand carved cribs, period farming equipment – all which will be lost when the barn decides to tumble. The farm has since dwindled in size as urban encroachment began making its way up the hill, bringing trailers, late century ranch houses and new cookie cutter developments of 2 car garages and pastoral named side streets.

The farmhouse and the small few acres that have survived are a melancholic enclave of what once was. Now, this is where urban myth began to manipulate the missing information. A few local residents told me that they recalled the farm being defunct as late as the 80s but the house was still an active residence until the early 90s, when it was abandoned and has remained that way ever since. However, these suggestions were only speculation – the answers are unclear. Perhaps the house was too outdated and was in need of modernization, a bill the owners couldn’t afford. Maybe it was Chittenden County’s infamous property taxes that drove them to leave. If so, then why didn’t they sell it?

Later, more information would come to light. As told by a friend, he reported that someone had recently talked to him who knew the current owner of the house, who is still alive. He speculates that a divorce was the eventual reason for its abandonment. Further tax complications would make selling the property difficult. But what seems to be more puzzling than the house’s demise, are all of the strange stories that circulate around it.

Tales of Suburban Youth

The most famous legend to come out of the dark enclaves of this house involve a classic scenario in American folklore. As the story goes, on one particular night in the 1970s, a man, for reasons unknown, shot and killed his wife and infant son. Only after a fleeting moment of clarity, he shot himself as well. However, this story is vague, and the father’s motives remain unclear. One more elaborated version of the story includes he was fighting secret wars, battling phenomenal amounts of stress and depression, which created a temporary moment of insanity. Other versions state he found out his wife was having an affair with a neighboring farmhand. Furious, he killed her. When he realized his son had been a witness, he killed him too. I asked the historical society about these stories but they assured me that no murders have ever been recorded at that house. They had never even heard of the story until I brought it up. But earlier, when I had stopped and talked to a neighbor after taking some photographs, he seemed to take a different side, and told me he swears a family was killed inside years ago. Then he stopped and corrected himself. “Well, maybe not killed, but I swear someone died in there anyways”. A strange footnote to all of this is that in the dark corners of the living room, only unveiled by the beam of a flashlight, is a dated family portrait, a small bullet hole making cracks in the glass.

Hangman

Another story I’ve heard tells of another death inside this house. Supposedly, a lonely man once lived there who had no friends, no family and was overwhelmed by his despairs. Seeing no other way out, he hung himself from a rafter in the attic. His lonely spirit is now said to haunt the attic and the second floor, his sadness living on amid the crumbling plaster walls and dusty floors. If this is true, this may account for all of the unsettling feelings of heavy sadness felt in the upper floors. I could not verify this story either. But years ago, I remember talking to one local teen who was dared to enter the house by a group of his friends. “Everything was alright until I got upstairs” he said. “Then I started to get really uncomfortable, my legs were shaking. I wanted to leave”. I asked him if he knew any of the stories about the house, and he said he didn’t. Admittedly, I felt a little unnerved upstairs as well. Was it the watchful ghost of  the gentleman that hung himself? Or was it just the creepy ambiance of an old house?

Phantom Lights

Passersby have reported to see what looks like “lantern lights” bobbing up and down through the attic windows when driving by the house late at night, but as far as I know, no one has stopped to investigate.

Camera Troubles

There is an area of the kitchen that just doesn’t like to be photographed, and I’m not quite sure why. I’ve been back to this house with several different cameras in an attempt to photograph the kitchen, but all of my photos would inexplicably come out blurry, even if they are completely still and resting on a tripod or counter top. But if I turn around and aim it towards the living room, the picture will come out without any interference. This to me is probably the strangest feature of this house – I have no explanation why.

Rushed Departure

Last summer I brought a friend of mine to the house with the intention of taking a few pictures, I didn’t plan on staying long. She had no prior knowledge of the house or it’s lore, and was eager to join. That was, until she went upstairs. For no reason, this once calm person suddenly became paralyzed with anxiety. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “I’m not sure, I just don’t like it up here…it just feels really weird” she said. I could tell her own words confused her, like she had no idea what to make of these new feelings. Eventually she had to wait outside. “I can’t do it…go ahead and take your pictures, I’ll just be at the back door. I’m sorry, but I can’t”. She never came back inside, and she told me she was never going too. The few times I attempted to talk to her about it, she refuses to go into detail. I suppose I don’t blame her.

Footsteps

On one occasion, I had brought 2 friends with me on a sunny spring afternoon to visit the property. Once again, we found ourselves upstairs, me playing with the ISO settings on my camera. As I was trying to ready my camera for a picture, I heard a noise that I dreaded hearing; the sound of footsteps inside the house. I immediately tensed, my other friends noticing my reaction and did the same. We listened intently, I could feel my heart in my throat. The footsteps were heavy, like a man’s, and sounded like it was a possibility this intruder was wearing heavy boots that clomped harshly on the wooden floors. As I listened more carefully, I came to a puzzling and startling conclusion; the footsteps were coming from upstairs. That was impossible. We would have heard anyone climb the wooden stairs, we were in the room directly off them. And yet, here we were, listening to those dreadful footsteps coming from the room next door. It sounded like whoever, or whatever, was in that room was pacing back and forth continuously. As we waited, it didn’t seem like whatever it was going to leave the room. And then, as suddenly as they started, they stopped, vanishing into the dusty atmosphere of the shadowy house. We waited for several minutes, listening for them to start back up. They didn’t. And we hastily left. To this day, none of us have no idea what we heard.

Final Thoughts

Whatever inspired all of these stories is a mystery to me. As a kid, I remember hearing them being told, and as I grew older, I continued that time-honored ritual. So what exactly is at work here? The product of over active youthful imaginations that burned these tales into legend? Or do these stories have a shred of truth to them that is still waiting to be uncovered? Maybe the only ones that truly know are the ancient Maples that cast their shadows upon the house.

An interesting footnote to this story is that the current owner of the house confessed to me that the house is in fact haunted. However, the stories I had written about made him scratch his head in confusion – he had never heard of before. Strange things have happened inside he said, but nothing like what I had reported. But the owner didn’t want to elaborate any further. He gave me the gist that the house was kind of a burden to him.

Maybe its the real estate that adds to its creepiness. It was built over a swamp. It’s dank stone basement flooded pretty frequently. A talk with an employee of the local town water district verified that, as he told me he’s been to that place quite a few times, and had some complaints about the shoddy electric work, among other things.

This house, with its rural setting and creepy atmosphere is the perfect breeding ground for urban legends. It’s sort of a comforting thought in my mind, that such mysterious places still exist. As the community develops and evolves around the house, it’s always enjoyable to hear that these legends are still told, and the house still stands to mystify the next generation of curiosity seekers – daring to show you a world that is familiar and yet, completely foreign.

The Photos

These photos were taken variously throughout the years, from when I was a bullet proof teenager looking for a thrill, until a few years recently. Some of these may not be my best work, so excuse the quality. But – I’ve added them to tell the story of the house and its atmosphere. Until I find my way back to re-photograph it that is…

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The rotting ceiling of this room was patchworked with old Vermont newspapers, most with dates from the 1940s.

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0 Replies to “Stale Air”

    1. Thanks for the kind words. This old house has always fascinated me, it’s just a strange house. I heard stories about it all the time as I grew up in town, it’s sort of an unofficial local landmark. What makes it more interesting is that all of these stories seem to just be urban legends, none of them can honestly be confirmed, and just when you think you’ve heard them all, another one comes around that brings you back to where you started again. I bet if you were to go inside and think positively about it, or maybe with no prior knowledge of it’s sinister lore, than maybe you will have a more pleasant experience. But then again, over the summer I brought a friend to this house and I told her absolutely nothing about it, other then I just wanted to stop and get a few pictures. She became so frightened just being inside that she had to wait outside for me. She said she wasn’t sure why, but she’d never set foot inside that house again. I guess it’s really an individualistic thing. As to how I find these places, let’s just say that I’m obsessed with urban exploring haha. I always am looking for a new place to explore. A lot of them I find myself, and others I stumble upon online, or a friend will tell me that he/she saw a place and they give me directions. It helps to live in a town with a few abandoned buildings within miles of my house, it made this hobby an easy one to start as I grew into it. Trespassing is always a risk…sadly. I’ve been caught a few times, but I’ve managed to talk my way out of any charges. I guess the “trick” (if there really is one) is to be discrete, respectful and not to draw attention to yourself. And of course, a little luck helps as well.

  1. I love this old house I know I already left a comment but I just finished reading, I think sometime if a story is told enough, the energy will materialize, to match the story. If you go back though the house imaging good family boding and love I bet it would tell a whole new story. It’s all about what you are looking for, remember is was someone’s house, and houses usually harbor a lot of good memories too.

  2. Another excellent post…I find your blog totally fascinating and I am slowly working through your posts…this is a subject which fascinates me greatly. I understand perfectly about your friend becoming suddenly anxious and uncomfortable. Several years ago a good friend of mine worked for the railways and his job was to install signal equipment in offices. They were based in the city of York (which is very old and full of spooky ‘goings on’ anyway – in 2002 the International Ghost Research Foundation declared York to be ‘Europe’s most haunted city’). One Sunday he was working alone in a newly refurnished building – which was a very old converted town house. As I was in the area that day I decided to pop in and pay him a visit – maybe go for lunch. Anyway he showed me around the building and in the attic there were 3 rooms all with closed doors. We went in the first and admired the view over York but upon entering the second room I because very uneasy and (almost) frightened – I don’t scare easily – I think I once mentioned that I had spent the night alone in a ‘haunted house’ – but this was very oppressive and I had to leave immediately. We didn’t go into the third room. Several weeks later my friend rang me and he had been speaking to the nightwatchman one evening who told him a man who had lived in the house previously had hung himself from the bannister – and sure enough one of the slats on the bannister was missing – maybe it was broken when he was cut down. We’ll never know. I don’t know if the tale is true or not as we couldn’t discover anything much about it – but there definitely was ‘something ‘ in that room that I didn’t like – and I knew nothing before hand about the suicide.

    1. Thanks for sharing, I love when people share their interesting stories. I don’t think I recall you mentioning you spending the night in a haunted house, but I’ll go back through my comments and check. Old properties that are in the process of renovating often have good stories attached. You have me curious as to what was in that third room haha, that’s quite the creepy story. It reminds me of another story I know of, which I haven’t written down yet. In my hometown, someone had bought a Victorian house and began to restore it. As they were removing some old wallpaper, they noticed that behind several layers of the stuff, there was a hidden door. When they opened it, they found themselves standing inside a small windowless room with only a wooden desk, oil lamp and old chalkboard in the corner. They said it was pretty creepy and got a lot of “bad feelings” from the place.

  3. The best part of growing up in VT was exploring and finding old abandoned buildings and imagining what they must have been like before they were abandoned. (I grew up in Barre near a lot of old quarries) I love your blog because it lets me keep exploring even though I’ve moved out of state. Keep up the awesome work!

    1. I’d have to agree with you completely, one of my favorite things about Vermont is that there are so many intriguing places to explore that are also diverse. Houses, hotels, abandoned quarries, disused roadways – you name it, everything has a story to tell. Thanks for the kind words! I’m happy you enjoy my blog.

  4. Chad, I remember that house well and adventure we had going in there. It was creepy and I love your blog on it. Made me go back and look at my pictures too. Thanks….

    1. That was a fun day, one I look back on fondly. I was looking through my pictures as well actually. Do you remember that area of the kitchen I told you about that couldn’t be photographed? I still have all my failed attempts at taking a picture of it lol

  5. I Have Read Every Blog On This Site And I Enjoyed Them All. I Am Very Interested In The Paranormal And Old Abandobed Buildings,Artifacts Etc… I Am Alwayd Happy WhenI See A New Blog You Have Posted! You Do An Excellent Job Telling The Story In A Manner That Is Extremely Intriguing! Keep Up The Good Work And I Will Be Anxiously Awaiting Future Blogs! 🙂

  6. I am familiar with this house too, in a way. Just its existence as an abandoned property though. Have been by it many times through out the years. I do think an old farmer lived their for quite a while. Family probably moved away, etc, Maybe he was a bit of a hermit, as they sometimes become. If he was estranged from his family this would explain the items left behind, if no one wanted to claim the property. Maybe it was rented out for a while , too. We’ve had people leave behind all sorts of things from our rentals, pictures, etc. , that you think they would take.
    The footsteps upstairs could def. be someone connected with the property, who was so attached in some way, that they have become “a guardian” for what ever reason. If they truly loved the place while on earth, or, had unfinished business They may just be waiting for acknowledgement that it is okay to leave, too.

    Unfortunately, there is always the possibility of an unfriendly presence, that is trying to claim that spot for reasons unknown to us humans, too!

    1. That’s really fascinating to think about; some sort of manifestation of the property’s past that have remained inside. Perhaps trapped in their own sense of time, or on their own free will. Maybe they were truly happy and had the choice of hanging around for a while, or maybe they do hold a grudge and never realize that their thirst for blood will never be quenched. Or perhaps there are some sort of underground energy lines that converge on the property, multiplied by a low water table? What makes this so interesting to me is that there is an infinite amount of possibilities and circumstances that can create a haunting or type of atmosphere. I actually did hear from someone that the house was a rental property in the 90s, and the renters were considered to be sketchy, distant and were said to live in their own squalor. Who knows! maybe the house was actually condemned by the town? I know it has foundation issues and asbestos shingles, which today wouldn’t be tolerated. In the end, it all just adds to the numerous layers of ghosts that wait in the shadows offering their remedies.

  7. I would like to add the following information to this Stale House. It was built in 1830 according to The State of Vermont Division for Historic Preservation. It is located on the Westford Road in Milton. The Common Name is listed as a “Flat Iron House”. The foundation is stone. Wall structure is Post & Beam. The wall covering is Asphalt Shingle. There is 2 1/2 stories. This structure is essentially two buildings joined end to end at a 30 degree angle. Two doorways joined with a flush pilaster architrave are located at the outer joint of the angle. The cornice is continuous around the two halves and is ornamented with mutules. It terminates with a plain return in each gable end, both of which also have glazed fanlights.

    What is significant is that this house was built by Ethan Austin, son of one of the first settlers, David Austin. He located up this farm when he married Clarissa Hill. In the 1860’s this farm was occupied by Mrs. G. W. Crown, his daughter. The building is unique, situated at and conforming to the Westford Road.

    Does any know if there are any other Flat Iron Houses in Vermont?

    1. Thanks Lydia! This was one of my first explores as a kid. One that wasn’t the creamery anyways haha, so this was sort of exotic and exciting. Especially because of it’s “Haunted House” reputation. I remember being in awe when the older kids would tell me spooky stories about this place. I wonder if local kids still tell urban legends or not? It seems to be a fading thing.

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