The Devil Queen

How my wife and I sold our souls to the Queen Anne Victorian we tried to save.

My Photo
Location: Crow Mountain, Arkansas, United States

Synopsis: This is a cautionary tale. A seriously disturbed couple find the charming, old ruin of a Queen Anne Victorian in Russellville, Arkansas, and buy it for $1.00. They tore the roof off, cut it in half, and had it moved to some land they owned sixteen miles away because they didn't know any better. Since then, they have hired and fired contractors, had all of their tools stolen, re-wired, re-plumbed, insulated, and essentially rebuilt the entire house. Their only problem is that after four years it still isn't finished. Now they are tired, broke, and wonder what in the hell it is they've done to themselves. And, it's haunted.
(Last updated on April 3, 2008)

Press: Russellville Courier Article - December 2003, HGTV website article, AP story - October 2006, and Victorian Homes Magazine - February 2008 (link coming soon).
Art: From time to time, I receive requests for my art. If you would like to look at more of my art, go to The Failed Artist. If you would like to buy my art, email me. I am more than happy to answer any questions you might have. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Restless Dead

On a cold winter day last year, we drove up to the Devil Queen to work on the plumbing with Charlie. When we arrived, Charlie’s battered pickup truck was already parked in the drive. We went into the Queen to look for him. A moment later his head popped out from under the house.

“Hey! I think y’all have got haints in this house,” he said.

“Haints? Why do you say that?” I asked.

“Well,” he said, “I was down here working on the plumbing, and I heard someone walking up and down the hallway. I thought it was y’all, but, when I came out to say
hello there was no one was here but me.”


* * *

Not too long after we’d moved into the Queen, Scarlet, Gideon, and I went out one weekend to run some errands. When we got home, I unlocked the front door and carried a couple sacks of groceries back to the kitchen. By the time I made it to the kitchen, I heard a small person’s footsteps running down the back porch, into the house, and down the main hall. This freaked me out because I thought Gideon has somehow made it onto the back porch. This porch is 5 to 7 feet off the ground and still doesn’t have railings yet, so I was terrified he’d fall off it (and wondering how the hell he’d managed to unlock it).
I dropped the groceries and ran back to the hall. The back door was closed and locked. I went out side and saw Scarlet and Gideon playing together in the sand pile. They’d been outside the entire time.

* * *

Two weeks ago, I was waiting for my wife to home from work. Monday nights, she has to work extremely late. Gideon was asleep, and I was watching Conan O’Brian. The door to the hall was shut. I had the TV turned down pretty low so it wouldn’t wake up Gideon. Around midnight, I heard a door open and close very quietly. I thought, “Wow, Scarlet’s home!” I heard light footsteps pad down the hall and turn into the master bedroom.

“Weird,” I thought. “Surely she saw the light or heard the TV. She must know that I’m in here. Maybe she needed to use the bathroom?” So, I waited. Five or ten minutes later I went to check on her. She wasn’t home. There was just a sleeping baby and I.

* * *

There have been other odd happenings too. People have heard a piano being played (we don’t have one). We’ve also heard a baby crying; when we’ve gone to check on Gideon, he was sound asleep. Sometimes were hear it when he's spending the night at his grandparents.

Sure, it’s nothing like Poltergeists, but it does make for an interesting home life. And, in case you might be wondering, these have been witnessed by people other than us too: workers, family, and friends. If this is too improbable, “impossible,” or unpalatable for you, that is okay; no hard feelings among friends.

Happy Halloween.


Well, I’ve been tagged by Maryam at My Marrakesh. Since I am now “it,” I am supposed to reveal nine weird things about me. After reading Maryam’s list of nine, I am feeling rather vanilla; physical deformities and neurosis are rather blasé. Now, my wife could give you all something to think about (not that we’re competing, but comparisons are inevitable).

It wasn’t easy coming up with nine things (that I would publicly disclose), but, after some soul searching and consultation with my wife, here is my list:

1) I was born with sixth finger on each hand. The medical term for this is polydactyl or hexadactyl depending on what you read. One had no bone; the doctors tied a string around it to cut off the circulation. It shriveled up, died, and more or less fell off. The second one had a rudimentary bone but was in no way functional. It was surgically removed. I have the photos and scars to prove it.

2) My name legal name is essentially a made up name. In theory I’m the fourth John Ahlen. The first one, my great-grandfather, was an immigrant from Sweden. If I remember the story correctly, his name last name was Oskarson since his father was named Oskar. I’m not sure what the Swedish version of William was, but that seems to have been his first name. However, when he came to America, he changed his name to William Ahlen. As I understand it, in Sweden, Ahlen is pronounced something like “Olen” (long “o”). However, the pronunciation he used (and passed on to the rest of us) is “Allen.” Apparently, Ahlen is also a German last name and they pronounce it “Allen” too. Sometime around World War One, when all things German became un-patriotic in America, my great-grandfather started going by the name John. We’re guessing that William sounded a little too much like Wilhelm (as in Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany). He named his second son, my grandfather, John Ahlen II. My father is the third and I’m the fourth according to our birth certificates. However, my grandfather is really the first, my dad the second, and I’m the third. And, we all should be Oskarsons too.

3) Since the age of two or three, I’ve had a life long fascination with all things German and the Second World War in particular. I can offer no explanation as to why.

4) I have a bastard accent. Granted, the only people that would probably notice are other Americans. In the South, it’s still pretty obvious to the locals that “you ain’t from ‘round here, are ya?” but they usual can’t tell exactly where it is that I am from. In the North, people tell me that I sound Southern; really, I don’t unless you mean that I talk slower and use “Southernisms” like “puttin’ things up” the occasional “y’all” and “fixin’ to do something.”

5) This quirk didn’t develop until later in life, but, when under intense emotional duress, I bake (there is a post here somewhere about this). After the birth of my son (a horrible experience, the doctor’s nearly managed to kill both my wife and son; fuck-wits), I went home and baked a Key Lime Pie, a Tequila Cake, and two loaves of bread. My mother-in-law was staying with us to help take care of everyone; I didn’t learn this until after the fact, but she was seriously concerned about my mental health.

6) I once bought a house for $1, cut it in half, and moved it sixteen miles with no real master plan for what would happen next.

7) I can turn myself “invisible” in plain sight. I have walked through a crowd of people (all of them knew me on a first name basis), and not one person noticed me leave the room (some of them even stepped aside to make room for me). This is not an uncommon occurrence.

8) I once pretended to be a deaf, mute, German exchange student to avoid an awkward social situation; it worked.

9) Women (and some men) covet my hands. This ranges from, “God, I wish my hands and/or nails looked as good as yours,” to “You’re not really my type, but I’d over look it for your hands.”

Anyhow, I'm not sure what kind of insights you may have gleaned from all of that, but I’d love to hear about some of your peccadilloes and idiosyncrasies.

Ass Backwards

Why do something right, when you can do it backwards? Easy, it’s twice the work and three times as aggravating. On the upside, we now have two working toilets. That has to count for something, right?

Here it is as of last night. You might not be able to tell, but the only part of the bathroom that has been fully painted is directly behind the toilet. That means we’ll have to cover everything with drop cloths and tape off this section of the room when we prep, sand, and paint the rest of the walls while maneuvering a ladder around the toilet.

So, if I’m anticipating this to be such a bugger, why did I set things up this way?

1) We needed an extra bath for our party.
2) We needed a bathroom that we could easily access without waking up our son during
nap time.
3) We’ll need this bathroom for Thanksgiving, lots of family will be in attendence.

The one disappointment was the top of the toilet tank won’t go on all of the way. It’s lacking around half an inch, mostly on the left side. This is a bit of a mystery to us. Sure, we put a layer of siding on the wall, but there were two layers of paneling here originally and we used the same rough-in as they originally had. I’m guess the difference is in the styling of the tank lid, and our new one just happens to take up more room. Until we fix this by notching out a section of siding (hopefully in a way that doesn’t scream “LOOK AT ME.”), we’ll have to hold off on mounting the sink. This is particularly annoying because we have all the parts to install it now. Bugger.

And, even though I keep talking about this like I did all the work, it was my wife that actually made it actually work. I was in a hurry so I screwed up in two ways. First, I forgot the plumber’s silicon tape when I connected the feed line to the cut-off valve. Of course, when I turned it on, I had a nice leak. So, Scarlet fixed that. Then, I didn’t get the toilet tank mounted tight enough. When I test flushed it … well, water went everywhere. Once again, enter Scarlet. She held the screw in place while I tightened the nuts up again.

Remember: fast is slow, slow is fast.

Have I mentioned that I hate plumbing?

Anyhow, now that this little project is semi-finished, I’m back to working on the laundry room. Then, in theory, we’ll have three working toilets and clean clothes.

And, here is a photo of this bathroom when we bought the Devil Queen all those years ago.

Lovely, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Getting in the Mood

Halloween is one of my two favorite holidays (the 4th of July is the other). Unfortunately, it has been years since I’ve done much of anything to celebrate. This year we’re hoping to make up for all those uneventful Halloweens past.

As a general rule, we’re trying to keep the party relaxed, low key in a lot of ways. The basics are:

1) Costumes are required. If you show up without one, you’ll be subjected to whatever “punishment” the costumed guests require in order to enter.
2) We’re providing lots of liquor.
3) There will be a bonfire.
4) There will be music.
5) There will be some fireworks (we found some leftovers from the 4th while cleaning up over the weekend).

As for decorating, we aren’t doing much. Most of my wife’s co-workers refer to the Devil Queen as “that scary crack house,” so how much more decorating do we need? However, if the weather gods would like to provide us with a thick fog, that would awesome.

To add to the ambiance, we’re replacing all the light bulbs with low-watt, colored bulbs; think Edgar Allen Poe’s Masque of the Red Death. I’m also building a voodoo alter (sort of). Our skull arrived yesterday (“John, unless you’re going start reciting Shakespeare, would you please quit messing with that!”), so now all we need to do is find the shrunken head. Yes, my wife has one.

I have a World War I era photo album full of pictures from the Western Front. I picked it up at an antique shop years ago; there are some battlefield photos (skeletons churned up by the constant artillery fire), that I thought fit the occasion (creepy death). I’m considering copying one and projecting it onto a wall with a colored tint (red, blue, or green?) to add to the macabre atmosphere.

As for the menu, it will be limited and rather ordinary in many regards. No “special” Halloween food per se, but the presentation may make up for that. Descriptions can go a long way; instead saying “we’re having brats,” substitute “roast flesh.” It certainly sounds quite different, no? Right now I’m trying to figure out some sort of arrangement where it looks like you’re fishing them out of an animal’s body cavity, but I haven’t worked that one out yet.

We have some other ideas that we’re working on: dry ice, games of divination, and the like. I guess we’ll see what happens.

And, hopefully, we’ll have another working bathroom finished in time for the party. Currently, I am one caulk job and two coats of paint away from installing a sink and toilet in the hall bathroom. The question is: will I make it in time? Wish me luck.

Oh, one further note on the ambiance. The Devil Queen is haunted. Really. More on that later.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


You won’t believe how long I’ve spent trying to craft a coherent post. I’ve officially given up. In short:

1) I was up until midnight priming the hall bathroom.
2) I slept for 4 ½ hours before I got up to get ready for work.
3) My wife went to work at 12 PM Monday but didn’t make it home until 8 AM today.
4) Since she wasn’t home, I dozed for two hours until my son woke up and I could take him to his grandmothers.
5) Because of #4 I didn’t make it to work until 10:45 AM. Work starts at 8 AM.
6) We got our doorknobs and locksets from the Door Knob Discount Center; they look fabulous. Now, all I need to do is install them.
7) I’m buying a heat gun whether my wife wants me to or not.

More later. Maybe I’ll be coherent tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Coffee Snorting Good

For those of you who may not have come across The Emery Restoration, I’d recommend that you read this post. It is easily the funniest thing I’ve read today.


It’s funny how a seemingly innocuous task can snowball into something much larger in a matter of minutes.

Silly me, I thought finding the light fixture we’re planning to install over the bathroom sink would be relatively straight forward. Eight hours later the entire front bedroom (our de facto storage room) had been completely reorganized, eight bags of trash were stacked at the curb, and an entire wood pile was moved, resorted, and restacked. And, yes, we did find the light. We also found three light fixtures that we didn’t know we had (we didn’t buy or salvage them – where did they come from?!) and a door. I know it seems improbable that you could actually loose a door; most people satisfy themselves by misplacing hammers or screw drives but not us. We think big.

Anyhow, the whole process is yet another classic example of how you don’t always end up doing what you planned, but you can still legitimately call it progress.

And, according to our most recent poll numbers, only 11% of our readership has been permanently scarred by our Devil Queen experience. Fortunately, I don’t think those numbers are high enough for anyone to credibly blame us for the alleged slow down in the housing market.

So, if any of you are new readers with an unconsummated love for old, decrepit houses, proceed at your own risk. You may never be the same again.

On the upside, one person claimed that we actually inspired them to start their own houseblog. That has to balance out our karma in some fashion, no?

There probably isn’t a real correlation, but I have to wonder: does it mean that five people have to be turned-off from the DIY old home experience to produce one new houseblogger?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Chewy and Steven

You know who you are and so do we. Your phone number and address (along with our address book) have been devoured by our storage room. Consider this your official invitation to our Halloween party. Call or email and we’ll even send you a proper invitation.

Have We Ruined Homeownership For You?

First, I’m sorry for the dearth of posts regarding actual progress on the Devil Queen. There has been some made (painting the bathrooms), but there isn’t much to look at yet. Our Zombie Black-Ops is moving along slowly. That should be no surprise, what are zombies if not slow? However, once their mission has been accomplished and all danger has passed, you’ll get some pictures.

Ms. Scarlet and I were talking about our Halloween party last night, and she said, “It’s too bad none of the housebloggers live closer, you could invite them.”

“That would be pretty cool. I know one lives in Little Rock and there are two more in Fayetteville I think.”

[For any of you housebloggers interested, you are invited to experience the evil of the Devil Queen first hand.]

“What happened to that guy living in Australia,” Scarlet asked.

“They moved back to the US. I think they moved to Detroit.”

“I always liked his comments, they made me laugh,” Scarlet said. “I think we actually scared him away from home ownership. I feel kind of bad about that.”

“He hasn’t posted in a while. They just bought a house, but I don’t think it needs too much work. You know, stuff like paint. It’s definitely not an old fixer upper.”

“Do you think we’ve scare off anyone else?”

“I don’t know,” I said “We should ask.”

So, in an effort to satisfy our curiosity, here is our poll (a tip of the hat to Greg at The Petch House for introducing me to Pollhost).

Has reading The Devil Queen deterred you from buying an old home?
Yes. This blog gives me nightmares.
Yes. You have shattered all of my illusions about home ownership. If I live anywhere, it will be in a cave.
Yes. I will rent for the rest of my life.
Yes, I will never buy an old house. A new house? Maybe.
Neutral. I have a mind of my own, you can't influence me.
No. You give me hope. There is no way my house could ever be as bad a yours.
No. I'm into S&M and you make me want it even more.
No. I'm deranged. It sounds like fun to me.
Free polls from

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Delusions of Grandeur

We’ve been agonizing over what we plan to do with the Devil Queen’s main hall. It has beadboard wainscoting running down the full length of it. We’re going to lay brand new cherry flooring for its full length, and we keep thinking that we’d like to strip, stain, and shellac or varnish all of the wood work. However, the more we consider the particulars of this project, the more we keep thinking that painting the woodwork may be the best choice.

The wainscoting has had a rough life. The back three feet of the hall was partitioned off in the 1950’s or 1960’s to make a weird closet/mudroom (with the return air vent included). We tore this out. We ran out of salvaged beadboard for our repairs, so we had to use new beadboard. The front end of the hall was drenched over a period of 20-some-odd years since no one bothered to repair the hole in the roof. Most of the beadboard, part of the wall, mud sill, and floor joists were ruined. Once again, we had to use new beadboard to make repairs.

We had a professional painter Kenney recommended come out and give us his opinion on our wainscoting. His verdict was it was possible that we could stain the new wood to match the old if we were planning to use a dark stain. However, he said that no matter how close we got it that there would probably still be a slight difference in coloring. Also, the old wood has suffered from decades of abuse, and he wasn’t sure how good it would look after it was stripped and stained. In purely practical terms, he said that stripping it, priming it, and painting it would be a lot easier and cheaper that the staining approach. However, as dumb-asses who cut a house in half and moved it on a whim, “practical” isn’t always our first choice.

We’re considering doing a side by side test with stain on some old and new wainscoting and then deciding on our course of action.

My wife and I spent some time talking about this over a glass of wine, and it occurred to me that part of my indecision stems from the fact that there are two visions of the Devil Queen competing for space in my mind.

The first version bares little to no semblance to reality aside from the basic floor plan. The interior is filled with elaborate and expensive stain-grade detailing. The interior walls look like they are plaster (I have no idea why), there are fireplaces, tin ceilings, and lots of crown molding. I think this version of the Queen formed itself in those first days so long ago when we had more time to daydream about her.

The second version of the Queen was formed by the grim reality of things once we’d dug into our work. This Devil Queen is still grand in her own way. Once we restore all of the original gingerbread trim to its original glory, she will be an undeniably beautiful Queen Anne Victorian. However, particularly once you’ve had a full interior tour, you will see that she is more of a cottage or solidly middle class house than a mansion. Sure, compared to today’s paltry building standards, she is a grand old dame, but, in her own time, she was a more modest affair.

Somewhere during the conversation, I had an epiphany. The truth is that while the Queen is a wonderful house that was worth saving, she isn’t our dream house. She possesses a number of features that you’d find in our dream home, but she is not it. I think my wife had already come to this conclusion some time ago, but hadn’t quite made the connection yet.

So, what does all this mean? It probably means that the hall’s wainscoting and some of the other wood work will be painted and not stained. It means that this house, for all of our time and trouble will not be our last house by any stretch. And, it means I will quit trying to stuff her old frame into the stiff corset of High Victorian style and let her be what she originally was in all her glory.

Yet Another Accolade

It seems that I can now add yet another title to my long list of accolades: Dark Harbinger of Depressing Old Home Stories.

I’m sure that you’ll be thrilled to know that I have one old home story that is even more depressing than this selection. As soon as I find the photos, I’ll have to share. What can I say? I’m evil. I can’t help but share with you all. And, I like immortalizing the dumb-asses and fuck-wits that rape and murder these old homes; may their infamy live forever.

Yet Another

Yet another Devil Queen t-shirt at (or use the link on the top of the left sidebar).

Monday, October 16, 2006

Destroying Old Homes Like Sherman

I found these pictures in a local history book (History of the River Valley or something of the sort).

Here is a picture of the home of Lawrence Russell, son of Dr. Russell (the name sake of Russellville, Arkansas).

Here is a picture of Russellville’s founding father, Dr. Russell.

The Devil Queen (at her original location) and Lawrence Russell's house were only two blocks apart from one another. Both survive the Fire of 1906. What else do these two houses have in common? To the best of my knowledge, neither can be found in Russellville. If I were a bit more diligent, I’d have a picture of what lovely piece of “progress” has replaced Lawrence Russell’s house. Why preserve the past when you can have a real tin building for less?

And, in case you're wondering, Dr. Russell's house, the first in Russellville, was demolished too (in 1970's or 1980's I believe). Why? Because we value history.

Three Doors and Some Beadboard

Do you need any?

We have two “normal” solid wood, four panel doors (with jambs & fixed transoms), one midget door (28” x 68”?), and a pile of old, salvage tongue in groove beadboard (3/4” thick, roughly 3” to 3 ¼” wide, and 18” to 5’ long). We don’t need it but we need the space. If any of you housebloggers are interested in our “treasures,” let us know. I can post pictures if you'd like.

Wood Putty?

One of the advantages to living in your evil, decrepit house as you work on it is that you are forced to spend a lot time thinking about future projects. Just sitting in my living room lawn chair confronts me with this to-do list:

1) I really need to scrape down and paint the ceiling.
2) There are several holes in the wall that need to be patched.
3) The whole room needs to be painted.
4) We need to re-hang the window trim.
5) The transom needs to be fixed.
6) The floor needs to be refinished.

Item six was on my mind yesterday. The living room floor boards are 5 inch wide planks of tongue in groove (heart of?) pine. The outer two feet or so next to the walls are painted/stained a dark brown color. And, there are a lot of wide cracks between the floor boards. Not wide enough for you to look into the crawlspace, but given a little encouragement, it could happen. What I find weird about these cracks is that someone filled them with what appears to be really ancient window glazing compound. I’ve even compared some glazing that flaked off the front door to it, and it looks identical to white junk between my floor boards. Anyone else ever seen something like this before?

Since I plan to fill these cracks with good (NOT ELMERS) wood putty, I’ll have to scrape all this crap out. On the upside, they only puttied the floor where they stained it. The middle of the room (presumably hidden under a rug) is just as naked as the day they installed it in 1890.

Another weird bit of trivia about the wood floors in our living room and dining room is that the floors have gotten smoother and taken on a hint of shine since we moved in to the Queen. Apparently, just walking on it has buffed it up a little. It’s pretty cool.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Baron for a Night

Since it is Friday the 13th, it seems fitting to reveal my final decision on a Halloween costume. I know that the suspense has been keeping you up at night for weeks now. Right.

Anyhow, while I was toiling away and raising my army of home improvement zombies from the grave (mail order ones are of inferior quality and tend to mold enroute), I stumbled across the perfect Halloween costume idea: I will be Baron Samedi, a Voodoo Loa. My wife thinks this costume is perfect for me; I’ll leave it to you to figure out the how and why of that.

We’re not going to do much in the way of decorating aside from some freakish jack o’ lanterns; with all the nails we have laying around, I’m thinking my magnum opus will a Pin-Head jack o’ lantern. Most normal folks are scared of the Queen as it is, so why clutter her genuinely evil look? One thing I am considering is changing out all the light bulbs with colored ones to go for a Masque of the Red Death look, every room a different color until you die or find the Long Island Ice Tea (your choice).

On a different note, I’m still thinking about Saving Places. Since my wife and I are going to be horribly busy for the next 6 months or more, its launch date (if we go down that road) wouldn’t be for at least a year or so. More regarding that later.

Old House Attention Deficit Disorder

My wife and I had a conversation this week about the Devil Queen. We both agreed that we were tired of working the Devil Queen and that we’d rather be work on another house. Not any house in particular, just not this one. Somehow, this seems sick. Are we suffering from a rare pathogen or mental illness?

A symptom of the illness manifests itself as an uncontrollable need to look at other people’s homes. And, worse yet, we take pictures so we can, um, enjoy them in the privacy of our home.

This home is in Dardanelle.

Lithium or institutionalizing? Is there hope for us?!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

To Serve and Obey

It is official; the laundry room’s never-ending paint job will be finished this weekend. So, after weeks of unfulfilled prognostication, why will this weekend be any different? My wife told me that I needed to “knock it out” this weekend because she wants a working laundry room. If she says it will be so, it will be (baring death, dismemberment, or serious illness).

Don't feel sorry for me. I'm glad to have an excuse to finish it. And, since she really wants it done, she can run interference for me so I can work in undisturbed seclusion. I get more done if I'm hermetically sealed.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Home Improvement Zombies

We had a surprisingly good weekend. Did we work much on the Devil Queen? Of course not! Maybe that is why the weekend was so nice? But, as Monday succinctly proved, our bon vivant existence could not last. Now, we’re looking down the long, black barrel of the week. The weekend seems so far away.

Since we’re too tired, too demoralized, and too busy to work on the Queen, we’ve given up on all pretense of being good, God-fearing folk. Between the decadent three hour dinners and the next bottle of wine, we’ve managed to work in enough time to raise a few zombies from the grave and set them to work on the Devil Queen. Sure, it sounds like a lot of work, but it’s surprising how much easier raising the dead is than scraping paint or refinishing a floor. To be honest, I don’t know why more people are not doing it. And, the whole flesh/brain eating thing is pure bullshit, just one more urban legend.

Besides, zombies are very low maintenance. If you take proper care of them (keep them dry and store in a cool dark place), they’ll easily last until their arms fall off. The “stench of an open grave” thing is a myth too. Sure they have an “earthy” odor, but it’s not too bad if you rub them with vanilla or a nice cocoa scented body lotion every couple of days. Remember, a well cared for zombie is a happy zombie.

The only complication with this plan is my wife’s zombie phobia. Since she’s been working such ungodly hours at the newspaper the last few weeks, I’ve been able to work the zombies for few extra hours a day, but I haven’t had much luck getting her out of the house on the weekends. I’ve had to make up some pretty lame excuses for the sudden progress being made on the Queen. I’m not sure what it says about my wife that she is okay with flying monkeys working on the house. Nothing is ever easy and it seldom makes sense even when it does work. I mean, what kind of marriage do you have if you are reduced to sneaking around behind your partner's back? It is just sad what this damn house has reduced us to.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Three Years Later

It’s been about three years since we moved the Devil Queen (or is getting closer to four?). Since that time, we’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on the old whore. She has a new roof, new foundation, new porches, two additions, new & repaired siding, new wiring, new plumbing, insulation, central heat & air, and a working kitchen.

And, the question that everyone has is, “You don’t actually live there, do you?

If you could see the horror when we say "Yes," it would almost make you laugh.


The more things change…

Anyhow, I found this little gem of knowledge over at Enon Hall and thought I’d share it with you all:

“Finally I decided that if I should miss [with the hammer] and whack the floor, a 16 oz. divit is much better than a 20 oz. divit. I don't do that too often anymore, but it does happen. But I'm ready when it does. I keep a bottle of water and a paper towel nearby and immediately put a pretty wet paper towel on the dent. Within a minute or two the wood has swelled and the crescent shaped indentation that brands you as an amateur is gone. A quick sanding and there's no evidence at all.”

I wish someone had told me this earlier; life is hard for us amateurs.

As for the weekend, I’m going to try to squeeze in 8-10 hours of work on the laundry room. I am confident in my ability to disappoint on a regular basis, so no matter how bad it goes I should be prepared. See, getting through the day is all about finding the silver lining.


Thursday, October 05, 2006


I had night of fitful sleep and unpleasant dreams; it leaves me with a feeling of apprehension and doom. For once, I don’t think it is the Queen that I’m worried about.

My sole feat of home improvement prowess this week has been ordering three door knobs and locks for the three doors on the back porch. I have also requested (and paid) for them to all be identically keyed. I’d post a picture of them, but the website has one of those goofy copyright image blocks. Instead, you’ll have to click here to look at them.

They are understated by Queen Anne Victorian standards, but it really suits the Queen. She has a lot less lace than some of her bigger, fancier, and better-breed sisters. The price wasn’t bad either. I got all three with the custom keying for less than a single ideal, dream knob from Signature Hardware or something of the like.

Spending $300 with out getting to paw the merchandise makes me a little nervous, but my mom ordered some hardware from these folks a couple months ago and said their stuff is good quality, so I’m hoping things go well.

In the mean time, I’ll ponder my nightmare prophesied doom.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Woods Are Alive With the Sound of Gunfire…

… because we only live in the nicest places. Fall is here and everyone with high power rifle is blazing away in their backyard to prepare for beer deer camp. I can’t help but wonder if I need to buy my family hunter-orange vests and flak jackets.

In three or four weeks, our bulldozer guru will be out to level out the three random mounds of excavated dirt pilled up in the yard; they look like burial mounds for the midget kings of old, overgrown with lush forests of ragweed and poison ivy. Maybe we should have him build an earth berm around the Queen instead of leveling it? You know, our very own personal Maginot Line to stop stray 30.06 rounds.

On the other hand, that approach didn’t really work for the French. Learning a lesson from history, maybe we just need to park a tank in the front yard; that ought to make a statement (besides “Crazy, psychotic people live here”).

Monday, October 02, 2006

Thanks and I Need a Car

First, thanks to everyone who left comments regarding Saving Places. My wife and I are mulling over your advice/questions, and we will be posting soon.

Second, my Saturn lost second gear Friday. If my prior experience with this phenomenon holds true, I will be lucky to get another 10,000 miles before the next gear goes. Since the Saturn has 262,000 miles at this point (the current transmission has 210,000 +/-), I don't see much point in pouring more money into it.

So, if any of you have something like a 1990 VW Fox with 150,000 miles that still runs for about $1500, let me know.

Joining the Club

I am very excited to announce that we’ve officially joined the Old House with Mice Club! Now, our membership to this illustrious club shouldn’t be a complete surprise. As you long time readers will recall, we had a floater in our toilet this summer, so we knew these little bastards we creeping through the Queen. Since we’ve sealed the Devil Queen up (relatively speaking), the rat snake that used to live under hot-tub hasn’t been able to move in this fall to regulate our rodent population.

Saturday night my wife and I were sitting in the living room watching TV when I saw a dark something dart across the floor. I hopped up and ran over to where I’d seen it. This startled my wife. She jumped and asked, “What is it?!”

“I think I saw a mouse.”

On cue, the mouse darted out from behind her acoustic guitar, ran under the living room door and back down the main hall. It was gone before I could get the door open.

“Holy shit, that mouse was HUGE! Are you sure that wasn’t a rat?”

“I don’t think so, I think it was a mouse, but it was a big one,” I said.

I haven’t figured out where the little bastard is hiding, but we have a great solution to the problem. We’re going to retrieve Thera, our cat, from my in-laws (he’s been with them since we moved out of our old house) and turn him loose in the Devil Queen. He’s spent all summer perfecting his hunting techniques on lizards, so he should be ready to terrorize rodent flesh.

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