A.J. Walker


The House On Seventh Street

Upside Down Chair
#MidWeekFlash 202 - 02.06.21

The House On Seventh Street

It’s funny the things that haunted you as a child that you forget once life gets in the way. For me it was the House on Seventh Street where we regularly dared each other to go into on the way home from school, at weekends or during holidays. It was a typical house for the town, nothing stood out about it other than the vastly overgrown garden. To us kids this meant it was either vacant & haunted, or had some old weirdo living in it.

There were stories of course: it’s what kids do. A child’s head is a factory for grand imaginings. It’s a shame we grow out of it. The worlds we create as a child are never less than interesting. When we grow up the removal of our childhood imagination and wonder kills every thing. This regression to the mean kills our hope and dreams too. Perhaps when we realise there are no monsters under the bed or bogey men hiding in the closet we have to accept the flip side: there’s no magic here either.

Some of these long forgotten memories are coming back to me in this instant. It was the smell in the basement at my aunt’s house: a combination of damp and cat piss. I’m right back in the infamous House on Seventh Avenue. I haven’t thought about it for thirty years, but in my head I’m right there now.

One summer evening our young gang agreed to go into the House together. I found myself leading the group up the path and as the door closed behind me I heard the others run away. I was never sure whether that had been a plan or if they’d all become scared. Either way I was alone.

In my head I’d done the difficult part by passing the threshold. I was in: I was going to investigate. I’d have a story to tell not just from my imagination, but from an adventure that no one else had the guts to do. And that’s how I found the room. Only about three metres square with the one door I’d walked in through and no windows despite being on the ground floor. The whole house had smelled of damp but it was much stronger here because of the lack of ventilation. Worse than the smell of damp was the pervading odour of cat piss. The whole concoction made my eyes water. In the low light that made it through the doorway I could make out a dark grey raggedy cat, which periodically hissed at nothing in particular. But the thing that haunted my dreams for several years afterward, and became part of the school folklore on the House on Seventh Street, was the single wooden chair. It was nothing out of the ordinary; a slatted back chair as seen in many in a house. But what made this chair unusual - unique even - was that it was suspended upside down in the centre of the room. Suspended with nothing holding it up. Fully 18 inches off the ground. It looked like it had been overturned and then stuck like a film frame that had stuttered to a stop.

Once I got my composure I took my time walking around the room. I looked for wires or poles holding it up. There were none. I touched the chair to make sure it was real and not a projection. It was. I even approached the cat until it hissed aggressively to make it clear that any touch would have consequences. The room made me feel incredibly uncomfortable and I knew I had to leave. The house had given me something. Something I could use with my friends. But it would haunt me too.

The story got embellished - of course it did. But the chair and the cat were as real as my overdraft and hypertension is now. Other people told it too in their own way. None of my gang ever tried to repeat the visit. It was later said that someone had hung themselves in that room and that was the chair that had spilled over. There was nothing to support that, but the story stuck for years: to me it felt plausible – likely even. But I’d eventually forgotten all about it until my aunt’s house. I decided I’d google it later. We didn’t have that in our day. Stories were simply told to each other, embellished and passed on. These days there would be blogs.