Thursday, March 3, 2011
When Home is... an Old House
First, apologies for making the article about our house history so hard to read! The pages are now posted here as J-Pegs.
But the subject of today's post is about someone else's house history; of something left behind. This is the story about an Edwardian terrace, on Sydney’s Lower North Shore, facing out to the harbour. It’s about a photo that was found behind an old fireplace in one of the bedrooms. Only the corner of the photo was sticking out, slid up between the cast iron fire surround and the mantle. The owner noticed it while cleaning one day and thinking it was a piece of cardboard or rubbish, she pulled it out.
She found herself holding a black and white portrait of two women, dressed formally, in a garden. The women looked similar – perhaps sisters – and were standing close together, nearly touching. They were both wearing long, plaid skirts and had 1920s hairstyles. Feeling sure those sisters had once lived in the house, the owner also felt sure that the photo belonged there, hidden away back in its hiding place.
Not long after, the family noticed by the landing, at the top of the staircase, an outline on the wall of more stairs going up to the attic. An attic that no longer existed, had never been lined and an impression of a staircase leading to nowhere.
The family dog refused to walk on the landing, next to this outline of stairs and opposite the bedroom door where the picture had been discovered. He would shake as he walked passed and if his ball ended up in that space he would cry and not move to collect it.
Years passed and the woman never mentioned her find to her family. They moved and rented the house out for a year before it sold. At the end of the lease, the tenants were glad to leave complaining of being woken by footsteps on the landing every morning at 2.20am. Thinking it was their children, they would get up to investigate but there was never anyone to be seen.
Was it one of the sisters? What was their story? Did they have a falling out? Was there a betrayal? The possibilities are endless, aren’t they?
After hearing about the footsteps, the owner went back to the house for a final look before the sale went through. The photo was still there, the corner still sticking out, and she was left with the very strong feeling that this was the place the photo belonged and should always stay.
I wonder if it’s still there today?
Article originally appeared in the (sydney)magazine Thursday, February 24 2011 and is republished with permission from the (sydney)magazine