This post is part one of a short work of fiction called A Christmas Ghost Story. A college history professor moves his family into an old Victorian house. He fails to research the home’s dark past.
History of the house leading to A Christmas Ghost Story
Mysterious events started to happen not long after the Collins family moved into the ancient two-story Victorian house located at 3122 N. Monroe Street. The old Victorian, built sometime in the late 1800s by one of the leading citizens in Tecumseh, Andrew D. Vanderburgh. Nobody knew what the D stood for in Mr. Vanderburgh’s name, but the citizens of the growing Indiana town speculated it stood for “damned” based on the man’s nature.
Rumors went around that he wasn’t born but emerged full-grown from the pits of Hell.
Andrew Vanderburgh developed a ruthlessness in his business dealings at a young age. He had a reputation for putting an end to strikes at the family-owned glass factory with a fist of iron. All it took was one call to a certain agency in Chicago, and they would show up with a gang of armed thugs.
The strike would be over in days due to the numerous cases of bloodshed and broken bones. He built the opulent house on Monroe Street when he was in his fifties, planning to fill it with a wife and children. This dream never came to fruition. Andrew D. Vanderburgh died a lonely man at the age of ninety. People in the town thought Andrew’s dealings with strikers was what brought on the Vanderburg.
The story would have ended there, but Andrew had a nephew.
Edgar inherited the glass factory, the Victorian, and the ruthless gene. His dealings with factory employees mirrored Andrew’s. The stock market crash in 1929 left Edgar penniless. A tremendous struggle to gain back the family fortune took its toll on him. He blew his brains out in the attic when the glass factory doors closed in 1930.
Edgar had a son named Howard.
He enlisted in the Army the day after Pearl Harbor and returned to Tecumseh, a decorated war hero. The solution he came up with to put an end to the Vanderburgh’s economic hardship centered around turning the basement of the old Victorian into a speakeasy. Bootleg whiskey proved to be a lucrative business in Tecumseh even after prohibition ended. Howard was found dead in the basement with an empty bottle of bathroom gin close at hand in 1951. The Chicago thugs he dealt with blew his brains out when Edgar tried to stiff them on a rotgut whiskey shipment.
Edward was next in line to inherit the eyesore.
The grand idea he had about bringing the glass factory back to life had one faulty mistake. He borrowed a large amount of money from the same shady characters his father knew. The same Chicago thugs Edgar dealt with shot and killed Edward inside the house on 3122 N, Monroe Street. His daughter Susan resided in the family homestead until she died of old age in 1982.
The property passed out of family hands and became rental units in 1986. (A Christmas Ghost Story)
The renters complained about strange noises at night., and the police were often called due to unexplained sounds of gunshots and screams. When Richard Collins bought the property, most people in Tecumseh chalked it up to an example of upper-class arrogance. They wondered why a smart guy like a college professor would put money into a house infested with the Vanderburgh curse.
Of course, Richard Collins didn’t know anything about the Vanderburgh curse and the Victorian’s mysterious past.
Still, he should have since he moved to Tecumseh to teach history over at the local university. He entertained some sort of romantic notion about restoring the old Victorian into a form of its past glory. Richard did his doctorate thesis on the Industrial Revolution in small-town America. The idea of owning a home that belonged to one of the original robber barons intrigued him. In the back of his mind existed speculation he might turn over a piece of hidden history during renovations on the old place, which would serve as inspiration for a new book.
The rest of the family didn’t share his enthusiasm.
Beth Collins argued against the idea from the beginning. Her mind couldn’t get past the picture of living in the middle of a construction zone to appreciate the historical significance of the property. Their children, Margo and Bradley, hated the idea of moving to a rural area like Tecumseh. They wanted to stay in Chicago with their friends. They didn’t care if this new teaching position was a golden opportunity for Richard. The smaller university was his one chance to make tenure.
Fortunately for Richard, Beth fell in love with the house as soon as the realtor turned the key in the lock.
She loved the high ceilings and the ornamental woodwork. What sold her on the place were the oak fireplaces located in the living room and study. Her mind’s eye could picture what they would look like when they were restored. It didn’t take a big stretch of the imagination to see the rooms painted in deep earth tones with firelight reflecting off the walls’ surfaces. Her couch and love seat would look perfect in the study. She’d need to get new stuff to go in the more formal living room area.
She wouldn’t carpet the hardwood floors. Once they were refinished, she’d get oriental rugs to go with the elegant fixtures in the rooms. The kitchen needed updating, the apartments on the second and third floors needed to be opened up, but even with all of those repairs, she couldn’t wait to move into the old Victorian. Edward knew with all the updating she planned; it would cost him a pretty penny. He had a book on Ulysses S. Grant coming out in the fall. The sales from that would pay for most of the renovations. Now all he had to do was convince the kids.
Richard would have had an easier time with the kids if he’d told them upfront about the haunted house.(A Christmas Ghost Story)
Later, Richard would take full blame for the misunderstanding because he’d failed to do his research. He’d noticed children in the current cohort had a lot more say in family matters than any previous generation of humanity. It was a new reality of life Mr. Collins found hard to accept. This alarming trend pointed toward the decline in American civilization. When things settled down, he planned to write a book on the subject.
Bradley fell to the floor, kicking and screaming when he heard the news. The boy threatened to go on a hunger strike if they forced him to move to a geeky place like Tecumseh, Indiana. If they forced him to change schools, he promised to get a gun and shoot up the place.
Their sixteen-year-old daughter had about the same reaction, but only she added a twist. Margo threatened to move in with her boyfriend and turn to a life of drug abuse if they made her relocate. It would be their fault if she ended up dead in a gutter with a drug overdose. Beth wanted to reconsider, but Richard said they had to stick to their guns. On July 21, 2010, the Collins family climbed into the family car and drove to Tecumseh, Indiana.
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures, click here.
Be sure to follow Molly on Twitter!