Stories of the Past

This appeared as a news story in 1882 from the Detroit Free Press. Written in the style of the times, it offers an unusual take on neighborhood life.

Why They Moved.

Detroit has a genuine haunted house.

Not one of the sacred servant girl, bugaboo kind, but one that is haunted by an unwelcomeStories of the past presence and unearthly noises. The writer has no doubt that nine-tenths of those who read this article will exclaim “Pooh!” at the first line, and so would he, a few hours ago, to any haunted house story that was ever written. But he had an occasion yesterday to investigate a reputed case, and no one, had they accompanied him, would have had the slightest doubt remaining. To them who desire to investigate for themselves, he will give the address of entire reputable witnesses; not one only, but a dozen or more.

On S. street there was erected four years ago a neat, pretty, six room cottage, with a grass plat and shade trees in front, and a large, airy yard in the rear. Before the house was finished it became known that it was for rent, and there were plenty of would-be-tenants. A young married couple, with a baby and nurse girl, were the accepted ones. They remained there precisely six days, going away one morning very early and unexpectedly. There was some wonderment expressed, but another family moved in a day or two afterwards, and nothing more was thought of the occurrence in the neighborhood. The new tenants were a middle-aged widow and four grown up children – two sturdy young mechanics and two misses of perhaps fifteen and seventeen years of age.

This family remained in the pretty cottage nearly two weeks, and then quickly departed. To a young lady in the neighborhood, whose acquaintance she had formed during the fortnight, and into whose home she ran at the last moment to say “goodbye,” the youngest daughter said, in reply to an inquiry as to the cause of their leaving: “Mother says she would not live their if the owner would give her the house and lot,” but offered no explanation of the words.

From that day to this the house has been vacant most of the time. Every few days a van of furniture has come up the street, and the articles been carried into that house. For a day or two workmen would be shifting from room to room, putting down carpets and arranging household goods, and the van would reappear in the morning, the furniture would be reloaded and driven off, and the owner would once again tack up the “To Rent” sign.

Of course such frequent occurrences have not passed unnoted, and of late there has been considerable comment thereon, so much so that the house had but few tenants in the past year.

About two weeks ago a Free Press reporter noticed that the home was once more inhabited, and remarked to a German grocer, whose store is nearly opposite:

“Schneider, I see you have some new customers.”

“Yes, py golly, but I don’t drust dhem for notinks.”

“Why so?”

“Pecause dhey sthay long enough. Puddy soon, dhey’ll move right away quick oudt.”

“What’s the reason no one stays in that house?

“How de deuce do I know about dhat!” exclaimed the grocer, testily, as he walked into his store, leaving the reporter on the sidewalk.

Yesterday as the reporter came in sight of the house, there was the same spectacle of workmen piling furniture upon a van. A gentlemanly looking man was superintending the ___, and the reporter was determined to interview him if he got shot for it.

“Is this house to rent?” he inquired of the retiring tenant.

“I presume so.”

“How much per month?”

“Better ask the owner.”

“Have you any objections to telling me how much you have paid, and if you are moving away because your landlord has raised the rent?”

“You had better ask your questions of the landlord. The fact is, I haven’t lived here a month.” Then in a low tone, as if only intended for the ears of his wife, who was standing by his side, “Nor I wouldn’t for a hundred dollars a month.”

“Why are you moving away?”

“Because I do not care to remain.”

“What’s the reason?”

“That’s my business, sir.”

“Pardon me, but for four years I have seen people moving into and out of this house, none of them remaining long enough to get acquainted with their neighbors, and I would like to know the reason. Is the house haunted?”

“Yes, sir, it is.”

“By what?”
“The most unearthly noises man ever listened to. Money would not hire me to remain here.”

“Cannot you ascertain the source of the noises?”
“Oh, yes! In that house there is a boy who is learning to play the accordion, and on the other side there lives a young girl with a very shrill voice, who boasts that she can sing two tones higher than ever Parepa Rosa could, and I am satisfied she doesn’t lie about it. Yes, sir, the house is to rent.”

-Detroit Free Press

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