The summer of 1986 was for the most part pretty typical. I was ten years old at the time, so we were doing the things ten year old boys love to do like swimming, riding around on our bikes and playing little league games.
The area I grew up in was very rural; populated mostly by farmers and their kids. The nearest town was Deweese with a population of under 100 and while it didn’t offer much for kids to do, we usually didn’t have a hard time making our own fun.
One Friday, me and my friends Kevin, Mike and Scott decided to walk the train tracks that went out of town. Already familiar with what was down the tracks to the East, we decided to explore the western stretch.
The tracks leading west out of town were far more raw, as they cut through a tree-lined valley that extended for miles, with the trees forming a canopy that made it feel more like a tunnel than a path.
About two miles down the tracks, we came across an old, run down house about 100 feet from the tracks. There were no apparent roads leading to it, which led us to think it was probably just an old abandoned farmhouse. The house was badly in need of maintenance, with flaking paint and broken boards on the porch, however there was a strong feeling that someone still lived there and was probably not at home when we stumbled across it.
We entered the house and it was as run-down on the inside as it was outside. The furniture was very old, with rips and scratches. The air had the faint smell of smoke; not like cigarettes or cigars, but more like a fireplace though I didn’t see a fireplace or a fire-burning stove inside. The wallpaper was faded and peeling away from the plaster walls. Lots of knickknacks were on display on shelves and curio cabinets.
Being the mischievous boys that we were, Scott grabbed a vase from a shelf and smashed it on the floor. Nervous laughter erupted, followed by a brief pause before Mike and Kevin joined in on the juvenile vandalism. I’m stunned to see how freely my friends were destroying this stuff, so I panicked and ran from the house, thinking that somebody lives there or owns that stuff and I didn’t want to get into trouble. An hour later, I’ve arrived at home.
Saturday morning I woke up and enjoyed cartoons and cereal like I did every Saturday morning. However, I couldn’t shake the guilt of what my friends did to that house. After lunch, I reluctantly made my way back to the house and knocked on the door. A few moments passed before I saw an old woman come to the door.
“Hello there young man. Can I help you?”
I reply “Uh, yes ma’am. Me and my friends were here last night and they broke some of your things. I wanted to apologize.”
The old woman replied, “Yes I know. I caught the other three boys in the act. Anyway, it’s really not that important. It shows a lot of character that you came back to apologize. My name is Maggie. Would you like to come in and visit for a few minutes?”
I agreed and entered the house again. From what I could tell, the house had been cleaned up following our rampage. I even noticed the vase that Scott smashed sitting back where I’d seen it the night before. She must have had another one stashed away somewhere.
We sat in the living room and she asked me typical questions like my name, my interests, etc. A few minutes of banal pleasantries passed before she paused and said “Now where are my manners? Would you like some milk and cookies?” Naturally, I took her up on the offer.
As she left to go to the kitchen I realized that I had completely forgotten about my baseball game later that afternoon. Bolting from the chair, I tell the woman “I’m sorry, but I forgot I have a baseball game this afternoon and I’m going to be late. I’ll come back another day.”
Before she can protest, I’m already out the door and heading back home. Again, I found myself running away from the house for the second time in two days. I made it home just in time to leave for the baseball game, but we had to forfeit since my friends didn’t show up. They must have been grounded after getting caught by Maggie and she tattled to their parents about the vandalism.
After spending more time thinking about how I left the day before, I started to feel guilty for leaving the old woman so abruptly so I decided to unburden myself to my dad. I explained what we had done and how I’d gone back to apologize.
My dad looks at me with an unconvincing smirk. “Sure you did. You were in Crazy Maggie’s House. Except that about 40 years ago an angry mob barricaded her in that house, then burned it to the ground after the bodies of seven missing children were found buried on her property.”
My eyes open wide in a combination of terror and disbelief. Perhaps my Dad is just messing with me, but I still pled with him for about 20 minutes that I was telling the truth. Frustrated with my tenacity, Dad said “You can still see the graves where each body was discovered. Let’s go, I’ll show you.”
Reluctantly I agree and we arrive at the house roughly an hour later. To my surprise, it’s exactly as my dad said. The house was no longer there; only the foundation and the burned and rotted frame remained. Did I imagine the whole thing?
My dad told me about the history of the house and the tragic story of the grizzly murders. He beckons me back behind the house to point out where the bodies were discovered. We round the corner and he spends a few moments to inspect the area more closely.
“That’s odd,” my dad said, “I thought there were only seven murders, but I count ten graves here.”