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Another Mystery House

April 21, 2011
Mystery House, 9×12, Gouache
My painting of the Williford House in Fairfield, Texas still draws comments from people who recognize it, and who have been intrigued by it for years.  Now comes a new mystery house.
There are several acres that sit in the middle of a huge suburban subdivision not far from my home.  It occupies a corner at two streets, with the back and one side facing partially wooded pasture.  From one street, all that is visible is an old barn, nestled in high weeds and trees, at the end of a long driveway that is blocked by a chained gate and a very large, very serious-looking No Trespassing sign.  The other street affords a view of several rooftops peeking over a low hill.  I’ve been curious about this place since spotting it entirely by accident a few months ago.
A while back, Nell and I drove by, and I was trying to decide whether to take a stroll over the hill to get a better look.  In the back of my mind was a misguided rationale that there weren’t any No Trespassing signs on this side of the property.  Not on this side of the hill, at least.  We were parked at the curb when three pre-teen boys came walking past from a nearby subdivision.  I stopped them and asked them if they knew anything about the place over the hill.  They immediately told me they were on their way to “the haunted house” themselves, and I could go with them if I wanted to.  It obviously wasn’t their first visit to the old place, since they led me to a previously unseen path through the weeds, and cautioned me which side of the path to walk on, to avoid sticker burrs.
We topped the low hill and I saw that there was a main house and two other structures that looked like old rooming houses or barracks.  They fronted onto what was once a dirt courtyard and circular drive that curved around a large planter with a tree in the middle of it.  Off to one side was the red caboose and an oldwindmill, and farther back was the old barn that was visible from the other street.  This place didn’t look like a farm, but rather more like some sort of compound, with the buildings all very close together.  Maybe it had once been a camp meeting ground.  Whatever it was, at one time, it may have been kind of impressive.
The three boys headed into the main house, and I turned my attention to taking photographs.  Even though I could hear the boys moving through the old house, calling out to each other, I still got a sort of eerie feeling.  Maybe because I was trespassing, there seemed an almost sinister air to the place.  It definitely appeared to be deserted.  But the small satellite dish that protruded from the eve of the house seemed odd.  I have at times in my life been a writer, a storyteller, and I do believe I could come up with a story for this place.
But Nell was waiting over the hill in the car, and I felt that I had overstayed my time in the old place, so I took a few more quick reference photos, and with the sounds of three boys exploring an old ‘haunted house’ fading behind me, I made my way back through the weeds, avoiding the sticker burrs.
This painting is from one of the photos I took that day.  I’m not sure if I’m finished with it, so I’ll post it for now, and look at it again in a week or so when I return from the Southeastern Plein Air Invitational in Gadsden, Alabama.  Maybe I’ll do little more research in the Collin County land records and see what I can find.
I love a painting with a story.
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