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Mystery is underrated, and understanding is overrated (Larry McMurtry)


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In El Paso Texas, where I grew up, we used to hear stories about this one supposedly haunted old house that was perched on the edge of a road which curved through the rocky, desolate Franklin Mountains...

below, the infamous "haunted" Texas house that sits perched on the edge of a winding, desolate mountain road:


Our parents used to drive us up there for a thrill when were were kids. My Sis, Bro, cousins and I would all pile into the backseat and cling to each other in breathless anticipation as the car wound up and around the mountain, drawing ever nearer to the dark dead-end of the road, which dropped off sharply down the face of the mountain. At the end of that road, clinging to the mountainside, rose The House. My Dad would inevitably feign a breakdown right in front of the house, and we fell for it every time. We'd sit squealing in delighted terror as my Dad attempted to start the "stalled" car, while acting like he was seeing things moving toward us from the haunted house. Many times I remember seeing candlelight moving from window to window behind tattered curtains, as if someone or something was moving restlessly in the dark house, watching us. He'd always get it started "just in time"... and would speed off down the mountain, feeling like we'd just outrun spooks from a horror movie.

We were never really sure what exactly "haunted" the house- it was a mystery. Some said that in early years, a Satanic cult occupied the house and held rituals inside, rituals which invoked demonic forces which never quite left the house. The neighbors complained of hearing strange chanting from inside the house late at night, and many claimed to have seen robed figures.

In later years, it was said that the place was home to a evil, wrinkled old crone who practiced the black arts. The rumor was that many kids would try the old ding-dong-ditch routine at the house, and a few of the unlucky ones weren't fast enough to escape ended up being grabbed and dragged into the house by the old witch, never to be seen again...

I had one brave (dumb??) teenage cousin who actually tried this! It was on Halloween; we parked down the street because we didn't dare go closer, and my cousin walked the rest of the way to the house. A minute later, she came flying back down the steep road and jumped into the car... babbling the whole time about a scary looking old woman. She said that as she stood on the front step trying to work up the nerve to ring the bell, the door flew open and the "witch" grabbed her wrist and tried to pull her inside. She wrenched free and ran for her life. She was very shaken up, and even showed us long, red scratches on her arm from the "witch". We all teased her about it for years, and thought she probably just made it up to scare us. To this day, over 15 years later, she still swears that she wasn't making it up... but who knows? Either way, the experience just added to my sense of awe and fear toward the place.

Years later, when I was in my early twenties, they were doing some excavation in the area, up the mountain, slightly behind and to the right from where the house is, when they found a mass grave of bodies on the mountainside. As soon as we heard about it on the news, we drove up there out of morbid curiosity. I remember seeing the yellow crime scene tape around the area, and watching them carry body bag after body bag down from the mountain. They never really determined where the bodies came from, but being such an old and historically rich area, they could have been from anywhere. The popular legend was that they were the bodies of the missing children grabbed by the witch, or sacrificial victims of the "Devil worshippers" that used to live in the house. But this was all speculation. The stories about the house were quite old, my parents were told about them when they were young kids. The house had been there countless years. It was even abandoned for quite a few years, fueling the whole haunted rumor.

Who knows what the real truth is? All I know is that is was a very creepy place back then. The house is still standing; it has since been taken over by someone who has fixed it up quite a lot. It doesn't look nearly as scary as it used to. But I will always remember it the way it used to be when I was a kid- looming, dark, and menacing, and feature of many a childhood nightmare.

Photographs & article by Heather Shade. All Rights Reserved.




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