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!

Monday, April 30, 2007

Double Bagged

[The Devil Queen, Summer 2003]

Too be honest, I'm way too tired to maintain that up-beat, morosely fatalistic facade to which you've become accustom. I shit you not, I actually have two bags under each eye this morning.

I have no pictures or engrossing tales for you today. In short, we worked on the Devil Queen all weekend. Friends and family helped us too. We burned through several gallons of paint and don't have a finished room to show for it. Beadboard is beautiful, but it takes three times as long to paint than any smooth surface. And, while I toil at work today, Fidge and Liz are returning to paint some more, and Kenny and his small crew should begin work on the hall and the rest of their impossible-to-accomplish-in-one-week to-do list.

If I'm lucky, I'll be able to take a few days off of work to work on the Queen too because the end is nigh.

Hopefully, I'll a little more for you Tuesday and Wednesday. After that, don't be surprised if you don't hear from me for a week or more.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Home Improvement Blue Balls

Sometimes there just isn’t a climax.

I finished painting the hall ceiling last night and installed the three light fixtures. Woohoo.

[In case you're wondering about the decidedly non-Victorian lights, there will be a post devoted entirely to them soon.]

I was expecting an immense sense of accomplishment, but I felt like I'd eaten ash. Maybe it's because the crown still needs to be stained? Maybe it's because I need to scrape the excess paint of the transoms? Or, maybe I need to paint the doors and install the cherry flooring? Whatever it is, I just can't get excited. As I polished off a midnight snack, I even indulged in some photo therapy. How is this for an extreme before photo?

This is our hall rolling across Crow Mountain three-some-odd-years ago. The hall has definitely come a long way since then, but . . . I don't know. Maybe I just need some sleep?

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The Road To Hell

The road to hell is usually paved with good intentions. In our case, it's paved with around 250 Coffeyville bricks.

Of course our path isn't finished yet, so it will probably take at least that many more to connect the parking area to the front steps.

Somewhere in the Ur-days of this blog, I had a rather extensive post about these bricks. I'm too lazy to find the post so I can link to it, so let me make a brief recap and leave it at that. These bricks are very hard, solid, and heavy because they are made from fired slate. This is far superior to fired clay bricks. They were made in Coffeyville, Kansas, some time in the first couple decades of the 20th Century. They were used to enclose the Devil Queen's crawlspace and replaced a skirt of older, locally-made, clay bricks. And, when we were preparing to move the Devil Queen, every asshole in Russellville with a pickup truck tried to steal them.

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Let the Sunshine In

Earlier this week, Cat left this comment:

"Someday I (and perhaps other readers) would relish photos of the interior of the house taken during the daylight hours. The perpetually black vista of your windows is perhaps an apt reflection of your outlook on the place, but someday, someway, that sun must filter inside."

Cat, here it is.

I know this probably has more to do with my less than perfect photography skills, but I can't help but notice the light makes everything else seem so black.

Maybe I just have a bad attitude?

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Paint Progress

First, many thanks to Fidge and Liz for painting the hell out of the foyer and hallway. Incredibly enough, they are actually planning to come back next week to do some more. Sure, it might not look like much of a difference in these photos, but they made a lot of progress. All the walls and wainscoting lack is for me to cut in the blue around the trim and crown molding in the foyer. Instead of doing that last night, I put a coat of paint on the ceiling. Tonight, I hope to follow up with some caulking, touch up painting, and light fixtures. Tomorrow, I hope to finish do the afore mentioned cutting-in of blue. Aside from the doors and that pesky floor, the foyer and hall should be finished.

For those of you who care and keep up with such things, I am officially sick of not only caulking but painting as well. Too bad I have three rooms, one hall, and a ceiling to finish. And some exterior touch up, trim, and detailing after that.

Did I mention I was sick of painting?

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bringing Out the Big Guns

I spent last evening tending to my sick wife, so I didn't do anything around the Devil Queen. However, Kenny and Burt should be out sometime this week to knock out the hall floor and a few other big items on our to-do list. Once the hall floor is in, I can rent a sander and finish not only the hall floor, but Gideon's room too. And, if I'm feeling ambitious, I could knock out the living room too. Fever dreams, I know.

My mother-in-law and her friend Liz are coming over to paint today while I'm at work. I can't decide if they are just that generous, or our situation is looking so hopeless that they feel bad for us. Probably, it is a healthy combination of both. In any case, I'm grateful.

And, this weekend, I'm going to see if I can recruit some more help too. I think my mom and my in-laws may come. In any case, I hope we knock some things out soon because time is running out.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

It's All About the Pain

You haven't really worked on your house until you have a giant, bloody hole in the middle of your palm. My wife, burdened by her morbid sense of duty, refused to be out done by me. Even though she is sick with the crud I had a couple weeks ago and looks genuinely pitiful, she refused repeated suggestions that she rest. Instead she gulped back copious amounts of over-the-counter cold medicine and struggled on with a paint brush locked in her white-knuckled grasp.

The worst part is the house looks even worse than when we began. That isn't to say that we didn't make progress, but we tore the house to pieces in doing so. Boxes, trash, displaced furnishings, dirty laundry, toys, tools, and God knows what else are everywhere. It's depressing to say the least. And, to add insult, we didn't finish nearly as much as we needed even with my mother-in-law pitching in for six hours Sunday. Our progress is probably comparable to half a dozen poor-bastards trying to row an oil tanker to Nigeria. You row all day, feel like shit, and really aren’t going anywhere.

Anyhow, there was some progress. I'd tell you all about the brick walkway I started with around 300 bricks, twelve wheelbarrows of sand and broken hoe, but I forgot to take a picture, so why bother?

Speaking of things I forgot to take pictures of, there is the half-way finished paint job in the foyer and the three half primed doors (looking nice if I do say so).

So, here is the one meaningful picture of progress that I did take this weekend.

The living room built-in is roughly 75% complete. I love the browns, and I swear I could smell chocolate when I opened the cans. Unless Lowe's has started scenting their paints, I assume there is a psychosomatic explanation for this. In any case, I've officially added these two colors to my list of Paints I'd Like to Eat.

We were pretty excited about the built-in so we decided to start painting the walls too. You know, we wanted to see the full chromatic effect of it all. Unfortunately, it was not pretty. If a very small person took a discrete dump in a gallon of Pepto Bristol and gave it a good whirl with a drill attachment paint mixer, this is the color "red" you'd have.

The origin of this paint is an utter mystery to us. That's right, we got so far ahead of ourselves at some point a year or more ago that we can not account for the color. We don't even know if this is the color we meant to buy. If it was, no one is claiming it now. So, back once more to Lowe's I guess. This time we hope to come home with something a lot more like alizarin crimson.
If I'm not a complete slouch, I may get you all some more pictures soon. Hell, tomorrow even.

As a side note, I would like to thank Chris for reminding me what sensible folks do with their weekends: have a tasty breakfast and leave the house to have fun. As one of those working-overtime-and-putting-in-three-hours-a-night-on-the-house crowd, I'd like to confirm that you are living the dream Chris. I hope to join your crowd in late May or June.
And, as a small token to my commitment to a life outside of scraping paint or plumbing, I finally planted our tomato patch and did some oil paintings this weekend. About bloody time, I know.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Two Tactical Victories

The weekend was a whirlwind.

We went to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, for a wedding on April 14th, the 95 Anniversary of the Sinking of the Titanic. A nice wedding, but was that the most auspicious day for one?

Sunday, our third and newest car broke down. It's still in the shop. That pretty well ruined most of the day. The funniest part is everytime we tell someone that our car broke down they say, "So the Saturn finally went. You sure got some good use out of it though." The look of incredulity is priceless when we tell them, "No. Actually, the Saturn is the only car that is still running. The new one broke down."

Our crisp, smoking broken-down-asses were pulled out of the fire by the immense kindness of two friends of ours. They not only picked us up off the side of the road, but loaned my wife their car until hers is out of the shop. Incase anyone is wondering, we are in the process of constructing a shrine for their perpetual worship. I mean, I'm so grateful that I'd willingly commit multiple felonies at their request. Thank you!

Then, I took Gideon to the doctor to have his allergies checked et cetera. And, best yet, I got to do all of this with a cold which my wife has now caught. Really, the cold is my fault. Last week, I worked myself too hard and slept too little. By Thursday night, I'd pretty well wrecked myself. Friday was spent fielding a lot of questions about why I looked dead.

By the time Sunday night was crashing to an end, I was very weary. And, it wasn't just the cold, the stress, and the 750+ miles on the road catching up with me.

It's amazing what spending a few days away from the Devil Queen can do for you. It takes very little time to get use to things like a clean house, real furniture, and the utter absence of construction sites and tools. You suddenly remember what it is like to live in a normal house, under normal conditions.

And then, you come home. There you are, sitting on top of a five gallon bucket of primer by the light of a bare, 60 watt bulb thinking, "There were trenches at the Somme that looked better than this, why the fuck are you living here?"

I was demoralized. In that brief absence I'd lost my sense of direction and purpose, but, after a night's sleep and a lot of coffee, I managed to regroup. While I should have massed my forces right away and stormed the hall, I decided to start off with two small, carefully chosen battles, skirmishes really.

I needed a taste of victory and a small dose of closure. Besides, it needed to be done anyhow.

The first battle started when I noticed I'd nearly fallen into an ambush. The house took advantage of my preoccupation. Last night, I had a sudden epiphany and spotted the trap. "Damn it man, the porch is painted! Clean off all the stupid tarps and rubbish, and quit stumbling over it every day." I decided that was a wonderful idea, particularly since the cat had deposited something small, dead, and wonderfully ripe by the front door. The way the porch was collecting flies and bad karma was appalling. I could feel it closing in upon my soul.

So, I sprang into action, and, while I was at it, I wired up the porch light.

The house wasn't expecting this little assault, she hardly put up a fight. I followed up with trying to finish off Pee-Wee's Playhouse's rim lock.

She tried to rally her forces, but she was still off balance. With the last minute substitution of a different set of knobs, this little piece of work fell together nicely. Now, all I have to do is chisel out a place for the lock-catch and it's finished. Even so, this is the first door in the whole bloody house with real, working, "finished" hardware. Not even the front door can boast this.

Emboldened, I descended upon the hall, a never-ending war of attrition. I'm moving forward, but who ever put the 100,000 staples in the foyer wall should have their private parts stomped. Considerer yourself warned.

I'm going to try to smuggle out one last post today. Then, I'll have to slip back into radio silence for Friday, Saturday, and, maybe Sunday. The enemy is always watching.
Run silent, run deep. Then, blow the bastards out of the water, right?

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What Is Wrong With These Pictures?

The full story should follow soon.

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Purging the Back Log

Here are a couple of photos from two weeks ago. Life got in the way, and I forgot to post them. Not too gripping. First, the door jamb I "tweeked" with a hammer and chisel for about an hour. The weird part was the door fit with room to spare before we painted everything. After we painted it? Not even close to fitting, and the paint alone can not account for the difference. It's like the whole world swelled.

And here we have some quarter round I mitered with one of those $14 plastic miter sets you can get a Lowe's or Walmart. Not bad for $14.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Monolith That Towers Over Me

How is this for stupid? I've been putting this scraping project off because of fear, fear of falling off the scaffold and breaking something. Something not as in an arm or my face, but a window or the water-feeds to the clawfoot tub because that equals extra expense and delay. Anything else can heal if you don't die, right?
Anyhow, once I finish the painting the the idiot hallway, I'll be tearing into this project.
Sorry the posts died last week. I got knocked down over the weekend by misfortune, moderate illness, sick cars, and lots of . . . well, I don't know what. About half of it sucked and the rest was pretty good, I think.
Anyhow, more later in the week if I can take some pictures. A few things will only make sense if you can SEE what they are and what happened.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Binding the Beast, Demonology Part II

I gambled it all last night, and I hooked up the washing machine. David, you're right. I do love the little beast, but I have to admit that I haven't washed anything in it.

In hindsight, I feel like a retard which really isn't all that unusual. The way that I obsessed about hooking up the beast, the anxiety I wallowed in, and the loathing I felt are absurd. But, I can only say that because the damn thing seems to work. Remember that "simple" hooking up the bathroom sink job we did for Christmas? I do. It was not pretty. Why should this be any different?

I read the instructions about a dozen times before I even touched the thing. I connected the water lines, flushed the lines, connected them to the washer, set up the drain pipe and leveled the beast. Leveling it was actually the hardest part. It alone probably accounted for fifty percent of the time I spent on this project. So far, so good.

Then I plugged it in, flipped the breaker on line, set it on "delicates," and pushed start. I was so nervous that my stomach vaguely entertained the ultimate drama, puking.

No, I didn't load it with clothes or soap the first time out. Cleaning up water is bad enough. Soapy water all over the wood floors? No thank you. And, over the next thirty minutes, I anxiously watched it whirl and slosh its way through the cycle. Everything seems to work just fine, a sure sign something must be terribly wrong. Then, it was over. No puddles, geysers, fires, explosions, or malicious supernatural phenomenon.


And, this morning as I got ready for work, I checked it again. Still no laundry room disasters.

Tonight, I'm going to go crazy with it. The question I must now wrestle with is, "whites or colored?"

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Full Frontal and More

The weather finally cleared off yesterday. Here are a couple more pictures of the Devil Queen's new colors.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Tight Spots

Why do I like petite brunettes so much? Because they can go places that most people can't . . .

like the top of living room built-ins without tearing off all the crown molding.

A special thanks to Ms. Scarlet for doing all the dirty work in the living room last weekend.

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In case you’re looking for some motivation to tackle your next big project, here is a little something for you. According to something I recently read (sorry, forgot where), demons like to haunt dirty, rundown and preferably abandoned homes. Tearing out that shag carpet and repainting the bedroom might be more than aesthetically pleasing, it might be a form of exorcism as well. There is nothing more satisfying that killing two birds with one stone, right?

Here at the Devil Queen, we have a new addition to our un-holy menagerie. A couple weeks ago it took up permanent residence in our laundry room. The light bulb burned out at roughly the same time and I just haven't worked up enough nerve to venture back there to replace it. In fact, I try not go back there at all. Why? What is so terrifying that even I refuse to tread there? This.

Can you see the little bastard mocking me from just inside the doorway? Don't be fooled, it may look exactly like a brand new, front loading washing machine, but it's not! It is a large, well formed plumbing demon.

Late at night I can hear it whispering to me. "John, you know you want to wash your socks. I could do such a good job if you'd just give me a chance. Just connect me to the waterlines, plug me in, and give me a spin. John? Are you listening John? I'm so lonely back here. John…" It just goes on and on for hours. I can't hardly stand it.

And the worst part is that I really want to hook it up now, but I'm spooked. I'm not sure if my mojo is strong enough to even attempt a simple plumbing job like this. Why the fear, the shame, the torment? Experience has proven to me that plumbing, no matter how simple it may appear, is actually simple. Plumbing is the Devil, and I'm not sure if I'm in good enough with the Good Lord to put my everlasting soul in peril. I doubt.

Ready or not, I have a feeling that this fallen angel will have to be wrestled with sooner rather than later. I guess I better see if I can find some holy water and a few good stakes on the way home tonight.

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The Fear

The last couple of days I've had this little bit of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas playing on repeat in my head.

"'I hate to say this,' said my attorney as we sat down at the Merry-Go-Round Bar on the second balcony, 'but this place is getting to me. I think I'm getting the Fear.'"

Yes, the Fear. Now I know what he means.

It really hit a crescendo this morning in the shower. No particular reason, I guess it was just time. Nothing like a jolt of panic before heading into the office, something to keep you sharp and twitchy before that first pot of coffee.

The problem is that despite my best efforts to synchronize the universe with my goals and needs, people keeping demonstrating a disturbing disregard for what I wan them to do. Some have even had the audacity to state that I am not the center of three-dimensional reality as we know it, which is rude to say the least. I've tried to be nice about it (not really), but that whole story of the God of Wrath and the Flood has been rather resonant with me. Consider yourself warned.

So, what's wadded up my delicate, little crack? Well, a these time honored holidays have been a little inconvenient (are chocolate extruding rodents that miraculous?), but scheduling a wedding three weeks before our bank (yet another nasty hot-bed of dissension) deadline? Intolerable and unforgivable! So, of course we're going to Oklahoma for the weekend.

Really, it (hopefully) won't be so bad. I don't think anyone in attendance will be out on parole, so that will be nice. But, I can still feel it coming, the giant crunch at the end of star's life. The time when its energy is nearly spent and it collapses in on its core and then explodes. Who knows what will emerge fiery hot and rough hewed from the wreckage?

In any case, I have a feeling that I will be burning through the last of my vacation time at work before the end is reached. Until I drive a couple projects down to the ground and cut their throat like a sacrificial bull, I'm not going feel good about things. I need some closure.

In the meantime, I toil. Here is my most recent work.

Tonight I have to stop to buy more white paint so I can finish these bloody ceilings. I'm praying that two coats are all they'll need.

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Why Wash the Walls?

Just in case anyone was wondering why we scrub all of our walls before we paint them, here is a picture for you. This is the wash water after my wife scrubbed half of one wall in the living room. I don't know what people have been doing in the Devil Queen for the last 100+ years, but every bit of it was nasty.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

At the End of the Day

A very busy weekend to be sure. Easter was . . . let's just say that I've decided to call it "colorful." Why? Well, the location of the Easter Egg Hunt was determined by the conditions on someone's parole. Really, something about crossing county lines or something. Gotta love the in-laws that your in-laws don't really want to see.

But the weekend was colorful in other ways too.

Okay, sure. Most of that is white primer, so that isn't exactly colorful. But, it will be soon I hope. And, did I mention that I finished scraping down the living room and hall ceiling?
So much to do, so little time . . .

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Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

This picture is from last week, or the week before. I forget which. It's definately better than old crusty green paint.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Whatever Gets You Through the Night . . .

Is all right.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

The Sands of Time

The passage of time has taken on the grim visage of Chinese water torture, each minute another drop pounding away on my brow. I believe we have 35 days to "finish," and I think we can pull it off with a little help from our friends. I won't kid you or myself, it's not going to be pretty.

The grueling schedule I've been keeping at the day job should be winding down this week. I think I'll celebrate by taking some vacation time to work myself half to death on the Devil Queen.

I didn't think to take any pictures over the weekend, so the following is a sketch of post and pictures yet to come.

The weekend was a mixed bag of success and disappointment. The washing machine is almost installed. The light fixture for hall bath was a disaster - it disintegrated while being installed through no fault of our own, but that is another story. In short, I will be taking it back to Lowe's with my receipt this week. Friday night I lost it. I stayed up until 3 AM scraping paint, hanging the laundry room door (I had to "trim" the jamb with some vigorous chiseling & what not), painting doors, and cleaning house.

I also got to try out my new miter box & hand saw. I love it. Now, I sit on the couch obsessing about scribing, mitering, and coping my trim.

Tonight, after work, I plan to slip into semi-psychotic state and go nuts on the Devil Queen like Cuchullainn in one of his battle-frenzies. I hope to finish the living room ceiling, do some paint prep, finish painting Gideon's closet door, mount the lockset on the laundry room door, finish the quarter-round trim in the laundry room, and prepare to scrape the hall ceiling. That ought to be enough for tonight, right?

Anyhow, enough for now. Hopefully, more tomorrow.


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