How to Find a Real Haunted House

Upon Leaving WasagaThere are haunted house attractions around Halloween. There are old houses which people claim to be haunted and run tours in them. But, how do you find a real haunted house?

Start by just searching online for local ghost hunters, paranormal researchers, paranormal societies, and anyone offering tours of your city or town. You might find a local ghost walk or haunted tour, if your town or city is big enough to have some tourist businesses.

The local museum and library will also know about houses in your area which have a history of ghosts and hauntings.

Look for online networks with people who photograph old houses, haunted houses or historical places. You can find a haunted house by networking with other people who are exploring, looking for the same things you are. (Urban exploration is a good way to find abandoned and/ or real haunted houses).

How to Stay in a Haunted House

First, decide if you really do want to do this. If you tend to easily freak yourself out, this probably isn’t a good idea for you. It’s too easy to convince yourself there is a ghost, either because you want there to be ghost or you just enjoy scaring yourself in some way.

Don’t go alone. For one thing, you will appreciate having a witness if you do find ghosts or something haunted. It’s also great to have a second opinion about everything you see. Not everything is a ghost just because you don’t know how to explain it.

Bring all the gear you need to navigate around. If you go at night, traditional but less sensible, bring a flash light.

Don’t forget to enjoy yourself.

You may get a spooky feeling, but isn’t that what you were looking for? Don’t forget the objective. If you’re frightened, calm down. Become more analytical than emotional. Think of yourself as a scientist.

Keep notes about what you see, feel and hear. Take along a digital camera.

Make plans for doing something afterwards. Get a coffee along the way home. Give yourself a time and place to wind down.

How do Places Become Haunted?

There are places you would expect to draw ghosts, or keep them. Places like hotels, hospitals and prisons, where tragedies, dramas and big, life changing events and crowds of people hustling and bustling through – those are the places you would think to find a few ghosts haunting the building and the grounds.

Yet, some common, every day and random places can be haunted, or have people who have seen something, felt something or reacted to something.

People leave an impact on a place, even long after they are gone and no one quite remembers what happened or who it happened to any more. That energy sticks to a place. Like walking into a room when people have been arguing, you can feel the charged atmosphere and the sudden drop when things go silent.

I think this is what haunts a place, the charge of energy and the sudden drop. It’s as if all that energies charged up, was never grounded or allowed to ease off and dissipate Instead it was frozen in place, as it waiting for something else to happen to let it release the charge.

Each place has it’s own story and it’s own mood. Just as no two people are the same, no two haunted places will be quite the same either. If you find a place you think is haunted find out what you can of the history of the place and it’s people. Don’t let what you discover bias you as you explore, however. You might only find just what you expect to find that way and completely miss something really unexpected and unusual.

Links to Get Started With

 

old house

Why I Like the Old Houses

I was asked to write why I like documenting the old, abandoned houses. I had different ideas in mind right away but none really fit. Since then other elements have come along and I’ve tried to build the full picture. Part of it the loneliness of the old place and yet their strength in standing, enduring.

Today, while watching a documentary about the geography under the Great Lakes I had another idea:

I like the old houses because they show our own history, the impact we have had on the land and at the same time the old places erode and become part of the physical geography, just another bump on the land of rocks, earth and water.

More About Storybook Houses

Storybook Houses in Wikipedia.

A Storybook House refers to an architectural style popularized in the 1920s in England and America.

The storybook style is a nod toward Hollywood design technically called Provincial Revivalism and more commonly called Fairy Tale or Hansel and Gretel. A primary example can be found in the 1927 Montclair, Oakland firehouse, and in a more traditional English cottage-style in the 1930 Montclair branch library. Idora Park in north Oakland, California is a four square block storybook architecture development begun in 1927 on the grounds of the old amusement park.

The primary architects that worked in this style are: Harry Oliver, W.R. Yelland, W.W. Dixon and Carr Jones among many other local architects.
Oliver is noted for his Spadena House in Beverly Hills, and the Tam O’Shanter Inn in Los Feliz (Los Angeles).

Yelland is noted for his (Thornburg) Normandy Village and Tupper & Reed Music Store, both located in Berkeley, California. Yelland designed homes in Oakland, Piedmont, Berkeley, San Leandro, Hayward, Woodland, Modesto, Clarksburg, Sacramento, Kensington and San Francisco, California.

W.W. Dixon noted for his work with developer R.C. Hillen in creating the Dixon & Hillen catalog of homes. Dixon is noted for Stonehenge & Stoneleigh villages in Alameda as well as Picardy Drive in Oakland, California.

Carr Jones is noted for the (il Posinto Restaurant) post office in Lafayette, California. He designed and built one-of-a-kind homes in Oakland, Berkeley and Piedmont, California.

Resources:

Storybookers: A fan site for the storybook homes. Best source for information.

Storybook Homes – Homes designed in the storybook theme by Samuel and Tina Hackwell. See their group on Flickr: Storybook Homes and Gardens.

Salon: Ticky-Tacky Houses from ‘The Painter of Light’. – The links to the village sites are not working, at least not tonight.

Hendrick’s Architecture: Fun Architecture: The Storybook Style in Disneyland

Hendrick’s Architecture: Storybook Style: Hansel and Gretel Cottage

Flickr: Houses as in Fairytales International photos.
Flickr: Storybook Ranch Houses – Ranch homes from the postwar era – that are classified as Storybook Ranch houses. Ranches with Hansel & Gretel bric-a-brac.
Flickr: Storybook Suburban Architecture – The houses with a mid-century ranch structure, but adorned in quaintness and Olde Worlde pastiche.
Flickr: Whimsical Architecture
Flickr: Cottage in the Woods
Flickr: Arquitectura Fantastica Mundial
Flickr: Fantasy Vintage Home – Illustrations.

Screen captures from Fiddlers Green, a well done post about storybook houses.

From Storybookers:

COMMON FEATURES OF STORYBOOK ARCHITECTURE

Some of the terms used below are a bit technical; an illustrated glossary of terms related to storybook architecture will be added to this page in the near future.

CONSTRUCTION: Predominately stucco (often roughly troweled), frequently with half-timbering (often curved); use of rubble stone, crazed brick, and clinker brick are common; all-stone, all-brick, and all-wood construction are sometimes used. Turrets with conical roofs are a common feature, as are faux dovecotes.

WALLS: Often sloped or curving; almost never square or rectangular; wing walls are not uncommon.

ROOFLINES: Always curved in some way—swaybacked, sagged, concave, undulating or sharply pointed; never flat and seemingly never of the straight- and equal-sided triangular form; gables are usually jerkinhead or very sharply pointed; eaves are often rolled; use of catslides is common.

ROOFING MATERIALS: Most often wooden shingles, wooden shakes, or slate laid down in a seawave or other intentionally irregular pattern; though the original materials have frequently been replaced over time, the irregular pattern is sometimes imitated in the more modern material.

DOORS: Round-topped or batten (occasionally both), often with a peek-a-boo; doors are frequently set in an arched doorway lined with stone; when turret is present, the building’s front door typically opens into this.

WINDOWS: Sometimes wood-framed but often steel-framed (presumably to more closely resemble medieval windows); on older homes, the glass (unless replaced) is leaded or wavy; figural insets of stained glass are not uncommon.

CHIMNEYS: Chimneys are seldom regular in appearance; most feature a combination of stucco and seemingly haphazardly-placed stone or brick.

IRONWORK: Wrought iron door hinges, handles, knockers, and locksets are common, as are other wrought iron embellishments.

OTHER: Most storybook structures are fairly small, though many make use of deceptive perspective to trick the eye into perceiving them as being larger than they really are; larger storybooks are often constructed to appear as though built up gradually over time, one addition at a time. All (or nearly all) are based upon a fanciful interpretation of medieval European homes; a number of the true masterworks have been artificially and intentionally aged, lending them the appearance of structures built centuries in the past.

LOCATION: As befits their faux-rural heritage, many storybook homes are surrounded by trees and shrubbery; as most were constructed in the 1920s and 1930s, the greenery can conceal these structures from the casual observer.

Storybook Home Style

SIGNATURE STYLE: Carr Jones
Taking whimsy seriously
SF Gate:Builder Carr Jones put Arts and Crafts style into the storybooks

Dave Weinstein, Saturday, September 13, 2003

The style is called Storybook, Fairy Tale, Disneyland or Hansel & Gretel, and the adjective most often applied to it is “whimsical.” In Hollywood, where the style developed, its earliest exponents were often motion picture set designers – experts in faux everything.

But Carr Jones, one of the great Storybook builders of the Bay Area, took his work very seriously. Both his architecture, and people who know him, suggest that Jones (1885-1965) was faux nothing.

“He was his houses,” says Lana Kacsmaryk, Jones’ daughter-in-law.

“He was just pragmatic and practical,” says Ruth Scott, who lives in Mill Valley in the last home Jones designed. Jones was no stage designer, she says, but was rooted in the 19th century Arts and Crafts tradition with its emphasis on honest craftsmanship and natural materials.

“I call my house a peasant house,” she says.

Jones homes may have turrets and spiral staircases, arched doorways and swooping rooflines. But they are also fire resistant and livable, she says, and filled with modern touches like radiant floor heating and walls of windows.

Unlike some Storybook builders, whose fairy-tale features were add-ons to standard plans, Jones crafted his homes the way a medieval craftsman would have, often living on site along with his craftsmen and working alongside them.

Jones studied engineering, not architecture. He did his own designs and contracting and much of the handiwork. His work indicates how much personality and seriousness a builder could bring to a style, even one as seemingly hokey as “Storybook.”

Storybook homes differ from their more sedate “period revival” cousins by striving even further to evoke medieval or rural Europe. Instead of relatively restrained Cotswold cottages or Mediterranean villas, we have homes that evoke Ruritania or the Brothers Grimm.

On a typical Jones house you’ll see brick outside and in, curves and random patterns. Roofs sway as though weighed down by thatch, and shingles splash across like waves. Homes are often L-shaped or U-shaped, and the ends of the wings often curve. One wing of the house often faces the courtyard with a California Mission-type arcade.

Inside you will find a two-story living room with an immense fireplace and a spiral staircase leading to a balcony, floors of randomly arranged terra cotta and tile, and built-in, hand-carved cabinetry. Walls are thick – 16 inches or more – and often curved.

Jones never left California, friends say. He got his ideas from National Geographic and Architectural Digest.

Many of his materials were scrounged. Used bricks were plentiful and cheap after the 1906 quake and he used recycled timbers and phone poles, refrigerator tubing for radiant heat, and disassembled old stoves to create built-in kitchen islands.

One sure Jones touch is a pyramid-shaped gable end filled with glass and decorated with curved beams – like half timbering with glass between the timbers, instead of mud mixed with thatch. The effect is medieval, modern and startling, and brings in a lot of light.

Montgomery, who has filled his Piedmont home with antique American furniture, art and an HO train set, enjoys the view he gets from the Chippendale armchair near the fireplace – through a curving corridor and several arched doorways to the dining room beyond. He loves the rhythms provided by the curves, the light and the home’s emotional warmth.

He also loves surprising Jones fans – they often ring the bell and ask to look – by taking them around back to an 800-square-foot mother-in-law cottage Jones added to the property in 1954. It’s got bracketed doors, a medieval chandelier – and a wall of glass facing a canyon and a low-pitched shed roof. It’s vintage mid-century modern.

“He wasn’t as traditional as you think,” Montgomery says.

Another surprisingly modern Jones house was built in Pleasant Hill in 1948, a rambling ranch with curved brick walls and a sod roof. It was demolished in 1996.

No one knows how many structures Jones built. Some publications say about a dozen, others 50.

Twenty-seven buildings built or substantially remodeled by Jones can be readily documented. There are undoubtedly more. At least 24 are extant. Almost all are houses.

At least five are in Berkeley, six in Oakland, three in Piedmont (counting the mother-in-law cottage), six in Contra Costa County (at least one demolished), three in Marin, one in Palo Alto, and one in Cucamonga in the Southern California desert.

Some, like the restaurant Postino in Lafayette, have become local landmarks.

But many are hard to see, hidden by walls or foliage.

Jones himself never made much of a mark as a Bay Area personage, though his homes attracted attention and followers. He never craved fame, Scott says. “He was a content man within himself.”

Nor did he crave or gain wealth. “He was a working man and he was not in it for financial reasons,” she says. He never sought jobs. Clients came to him after seeing one of his houses.

Friends describe him as mild, soft-spoken, a man who listened more than talked. When he talked, Scott says, “it was about architecture – and how you did things.”

Jones was a strong man of average build, but very short – as are his doors.

Jones loved to invent – he developed a form of adobe that could withstand rain without being plastered, Scott says – and loved building. But he wasn’t ambitious, she says.

“Somebody said to me, ÔCarr Jones would never have worked a day in his life if he didn’t have to eat,’ ” she says.

But he was an elegant man with fine manners, Kacsmaryk says, and attentive to the details of daily living. “You wouldn’t set a milk carton on his table,” she says.

Jones, who was born in Watsonville and raised in Monterey, moved with his family to Berkeley and received a degree in mechanical engineering from UC Berkeley in 1911. Some accounts say he studied with Maybeck but Scott says it isn’t so.

But he undoubtedly knew the great Arts and Crafts style architect. Two of Jones’ earliest buildings are in the Berkeley hills north of campus where Maybeck lived and did much of his building.

The homes, built in 1914 and 1916, before the Storybook style took hold, are Craftsman in tone along the lines of Maybeck, mixing wooden board-and- batten siding with brown shingles and complete with Swiss chalet balconies. By the mid-1920s Jones was building in his mature style.

One Carr Jones owner in the Berkeley hills describes how his home was built,

with information gleaned from neighbors who watched: Jones and his wife and a crew of six or seven workers moved onto the site, built a brick wall, then started on the house. Five years later it was done.

Jones also turned a flatbed truck into a mobile home for himself, complete with a ladder leading to a sleeping porch on its roof, Scott says.

Jones, who was twice married and raised a stepson, built a sod-roofed home for himself and family in Orinda in 1948. In 1954, Scott says, he was “discovered” by Mrs. Fulton of Fulton Shipyards in Antioch.

Jones found himself remodeling many buildings at the shipyard and at her home, and living in a home she owned not far away – and remodeling that. He worked for Fulton until he died.

By the 1960s Jones was suffering from severe arthritis. He was ill when Ruth Scott and her husband, Alan, sought his services in 1964. They knew his work because Alan Scott’s aunt lived in a Jones house in Walnut Grove.

“He liked us because we wanted to do the work ourselves,” Ruth says. Jones visited the site, a hillside in Mill Valley, and drew up a plan. The work was done by the Scotts and their children, a small crew, and by Doug Allinger, Jones’ stepson.

Though Allinger, a mason, had absorbed Jones’ style and ethos, he had never worked with him. The Scotts’ home was his first Carr Jones-style building. He has since built several, including some that are well known in Contra Costa County.

Jones died of cancer in October 1965, the day they started work, Scott says.

Living in a Carr Jones home has challenges as well as charms – though Montgomery, a tall man, says, “In the years I’ve lived here I’ve only knocked my head once.”

“You need a repair, you have to call in a craftsman,” another owner says. Her husband adds: “It’s like living in a museum – which I suppose wouldn’t be to everybody’s taste.”

In Belvedere, the locally landmarked Audrey Jones Beck Cottage from 1930 is coming onto the market and preservationists worry that the buyer may tear it down. The hidden, hillside site offers gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The city’s preservation ordinance could delay demolition for only 90 days, and Roger Felton, a member of the Belvedere Historic Preservation Committee and a neighbor of the house, hopes a buyer comes forward who loves Carr Jones.

Most people who live in his homes stay there awhile and care for them, Scott says. “People do get possessed with Carr Jones houses.”

Carr Jones
(1885-1965)

Style: Storybook, Fairy Tale, Hansel & Gretel. Jones developed an idiosyncratic version of this already idiosyncratic style based in the Arts and Crafts tradition. He used brick and other natural and recycled materials to craft homes that recall peasant farmhouses blended with California missions.

Active: Jones built from 1914 to the early ’60s primarily throughout the East Bay.

Known for: fine brickwork, swooping roofs, turrets and arched doorways, balconies and glass-filled gable windows.

Other practitioners: William R. Yelland created Normandy Village on Spruce Street near the UC Berkeley campus and other Storybook monuments. Storybook building can be found in any town that had much construction in the 1920s. Normandy Gardens on Picardy Drive in Oakland is a superb example of a Storybook subdivision by architect Walter Dixon.

Haunted or Not?

This  was posted on Facebook as a Halloween thing, something meant to be spooky, creepy, etc. I never see the old houses that way. To me they look sad, lost, a little mysterious and a stepping stone to our history, our identity. I feel bad for the houses when people think they are haunted or creepy. It’s like someone seeing your Grandmother and thinking she is ugly. I guess I do give the houses feelings, even though they are not living things, exactly. People name boats, give them a personality why don’t more houses and cars get names too? What would you name this house, in the picture above? What would you name your own home, whether it’s a house or part of a building that you live in?