The Devil Queen

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

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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!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Breeze In My Bedroom

Here is the corner in question from the previous post. You can't tell in the picture, but the spider webs were flapping.

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A couple of weeks ago, we had a very windy night. I was getting ready for bed when I noticed a spider web fluttering in the wind high up in the corner of the bedroom. That is right, the wind was fluttering something inside the house.

I'd originally planned to caulk, spray foam, et cetera the corners of the room before the appraisal, but we ran out of time. As always. And, even though we had insulation blown into the walls, this corner apparently did not receive the treatment. My guess is that the void between the wall studs is less than 16 inches wide, maybe as little 10 inches or so, and the insulation guy missed it. There are no exterior cracks in the corner. So, this probably means that even though Kenny blocked off the bottom of the wall voids before the insulation blowing, it probably isn't air-tight, and, when the wind blows hard enough, it funnels up from the crawlspace, up the wall, and out through the crack (If you want an explanation of Devil Queen air-flow, see this post). That would also explain why this room and only this room smells a little musty and funky when the weather warms up. Nothing says home like warm crawlspace funk with a touch of musty-in-the-walls.

Here is a half-ass diagram of the funky wind-chimney in the corner.

As you might imagine, plugging these cracks has moved near the top of my priority list.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In Passing

The last few days we've had the kind of weather that really makes me appreciate why every room in the Devil Queen originally had a wood burning stove or fireplace. Actually got iced in for a while today, so I'm running a little behind on house work and posts on house work.

Lee, I asked my dad about the carving around the dining room window. He wasn't familiar with them, but, if you can tell us what it says, we might be able to help.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008


I was reading the comments on the previous post this morning. Not that I'm not glad to hear from Sandy, but this comment from Lee caught my attention:

"I started reading your blog when I found out your fam used to own my house. This post is soooo true.

we are on year 13 of a damn bathroom renovation. Everytime we save enough $$$$ to finish the thing, a water pipe breaks/radiator explodes/roof leaks and ruins another room. stupid house. I will die here

My first thought was, "we owned your house?" WTF? The one in Kewanee? The natural detective that I am, I thought, "Well, if they've been reading the blog since they discovered that, maybe they left a comment on the originial post? That would make sense, right?" So, I backtrack to the post on our family's old home in Kenwanee, Illinois, and found this comment:

I live here! 423 S. Tremont

I was researching past owners Wilsey (the builder) & John Chisnall.

no, you can't buy it. lol. We bought it in 1993 and have spent the last 14 years working on it. one word. duplex. what were they thinking!

Lots of charm still remained. including the massive oak trim that was refurbished by previous owners. I would love to talk abt the house. We are avid historians and enjoy the search.

sorry to ramble, but my gosh what was the luck of that?


ps. can i get a copy of that picture? I have a few, but none head on. also, ask your family whose name is carved into the dining room window, there are different stories abt it."

I am still stunned.

First, let me apologize to Lee for not having seen this sooner. While I periodically look through old posts to see if there are new comments, I don't do it very often. And, if the posts are more than a month or two old, I my miss any and all new comments. Please, don't think that I've been ignoring you all of this time. This has made my day!

Second, let me answer your posts:

1) Really, since I already have three houses, I really don't need a fourth one. It's a good thing that you are not interested in selling it. Actually, would you like to buy one of ours?

2) I'd love to talk about the house too. Please email me at: thedevilqueen(at)hotmail(dot)com. I'd be more than happy to try to answer whatever questions you might have. Unfortunately, everyone in my family who lived in the house has died. However, my dad visited the house as a child and has all the family history, photos, etc.

3) Yes, you may have a copy of the picture. I'd tell you to email me your address, but I already have it, right? Let me warn you, I'm a little (notoriously) slow about getting around to things I mean to do (ask my wife). It may take me a little to get around to sending it, but I'll see I can't get if I can get it out sooner rather than later.

4) Also, I have a hand drawn floor plan of the house my Uncle Chuck did for me. The floor plan would be what the house looked like in the 1930's - 1950's. I know that we have at least one photo of my uncle Chuck in his Army uniform in front of the house in 1942 or 1943. There may be some more incidental photos of the house, but I'll have to get with my dad about that. I'll send whatever I can find.

5) I know nothing about a name carved in the window, but I'm very curious. I'll see if my dad knows.

I checked your blogger profile, but I didn't see any pictures of the house online. Did I miss them? If there are not any online, I'd love to see some pictures of what you've done with the house. I look forward to hearing more from you. Sorry it took so long for us to get together on this.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Preserving the Preservation Experience" - FYI

Just in case you haven't picked up the February 2008 issue of Victorian Homes Magazine, I thought I'd let you know that quite a few of my favorite houseblogs are featured in this issue. Yes, that would also include The Devil Queen. I'd link to the story, but they don't appear to have an online edition of it. Sorry.

There is no need to fret, it is a very nice article. It is nothing like the infamous Wall Street Journal article of last year; no orgies with a bottle of Jack and a chainsaw.

The superstar of the article is Mindy over at Fixer-Upper. Kristin at 1902 Victorian gets a good bit of copy too. Other favorites mentioned are: The Petch House, This Old Crack House, Casa Decrepit, This Decrepit Victorian, and Victorian Restoration.

If you haven't seen the article yet, swing by your local big-box bookstore and find a copy. I don't care what anyone says, there is something really gratifying about appearing in old-fashioned print.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It's A Disaster

[I found this draft post today; it was supposed to have gone up a couple of weeks ago, so sorry if it's dated. It should have gone just before or after this one.]

See, it’s not just me who’s become disillusioned with the whole process.

The problem with spending a lot of time navel-gazing about your house, your life, and your universe, is that eventually you start thinking that everything relates to you. I know, very narcissistic. Song lyrics are the worst. What started as a midnight raid on the last of the Christmas Krumkake with a glass of milk ends up with you cackling like the Mad Hatter in with a mouth full of cookies because you have found the theme song to your home improvement efforts:

"It's a disaster
It's an incredible mess
But it's all we've got now
Yeah it's all we got
Howling with laughter, panic
alarm, and distress
But it's all we've got now
Yeah it's all we got"

Fortunately (?), no one was home at the time.

While I'm on the topic of the many moods of home improvement, I can’t help but wonder if there is a cyclic timeline/pattern that all home improvement projects move through. Something like this maybe?

Year 1: Euphoria of acquiring said house and beginning work with naïve gusto.

Year 2: Saddled with the realization that this is going to be much harder than you anticipated, you still manage to dig-in and keep working hard. On the upside, if you haven’t accidentally killed yourself, your skill level should be steadily improving at this point. It’s definitely a small bonus, no?

Year 3: You can feel the cosmic screws tightening on you. You work harder out of a sense of desperation and secretly begin wondering if this really was such a good idea.

Year 4: You are so fucked and you know it. You might manage one last desperate push to end it all, but chances are you fail. If you have any luck, the house is mortgaged and you have enough money to make your monthly payment. If not, foreclosure might be a blessing.

Year 5: If you’ve made it this far, you’ve abandoned belief in lists, plans, budgets, or organized progress at any strategic level. To save you sanity, you’ve come to embrace the beauty of tactical victories. If you can make yourself tackle one tiny project at a time ad infinitum, you may finish. Self-medication or prescription drugs may be necessary to maintain you calm.

Year 6: You list the house for sale whether it’s finish or not. Or, you resign yourself to the fact that you are work not on a home but a mausoleum. The house will never be finished and you will die here. And, you are okay with this.

Year 7: Success is not an option. You move on with your life. Hopefully this involves a substantial inheritance, winning the lottery, and a book or movie deal. Bugger the house.

Some of you have been at this old house, DIY thing a lot longer than me. What do you think? Does this sound right to you?

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Sharing a Bed With the Restless Dead?

Is your house haunted? Two things (see below and this) I've seen recently have me thinking about this today. I think I may have already asked this once upon a time, but I thought I'd ask since I can't remember. Too many fumes I guess.

Is your house haunted?
No, I don't believe in crap like that.
Maybe, but I can't prove it.
Not sure, but I'm beginning to think so.
Yes, I live in the Shining. Please send a priest.
Free polls from

As you long-time readers know, we definately believe the Devil Queen is haunted by it's builder, Mr. Boswell, and some of his family, so I'm voting "yes." If your house is haunted, I'd love to hear about it. Stories, links to blog posts, et cetera. Thanks!

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Monolith That Towers Over Me

Bigger is not always better. And, it doesn’t matter how you use. If you can’t get the damn thing through the doorway, it’s no use to you at all. Trimming it with a chain saw just doesn’t seem right. Power tools are just not the cure-all you’d like them to be.

Here is our beautiful beast.

It takes three grown men to move it and it won’t fit through one interior doorway in the house. It’s two inches too much, so it has to go. Anyone want an armoire? Come with $800 and a truck and it is yours. We’ll even help you load it.

Otherwise, it’s going to the antique store in Atkins, forever. Once it’s gone, we can refinish the hall floor too. I hope.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Good Tidings

Nothing says "Merry Christmas" like personalized cards.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

A Rock To Wind A String Around

Here is one of the main reasons why decrapification has been such a life-sucking ordeal.

That is right. That is a rock wrapped in string because everybody wants a rock to wrap a piece of string around. And, I’ve had it for about 10 years because I’m hopelessly sentimental. A good-looking woman gave this to me in college and I’ve had it ever since. If I still have this, a rock given as a joke, imagine what else I am hanging on to after 30 some-odd years.

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Another Hand-Job

That’s pretty well what you’re reduced to when there isn’t enough room for the usual acrobatics. God, it sucks. Mercifully, this little postage stamp of hell, our pantry, is substantially smaller than the laundry room. Think 15 square feet vs. 40 or 50 square feet. I don’t think I could stand spending that much time on my knees again.

Here’s our usual floor drill:

1) Patch holes
2) Wood putty
3) Scrape and sand smooth
4) Sweep, vacuum, tack cloth clean
5) Stain
6) Seal with oil based polyurethane (repeat 3 to 5 times as needed)

I’m thinking about starting next week. It’s as good of a time for a hand-job as any, isn’t it?

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Modus Operandi

A Happy New Year to you all.

I know I’ve been away for a while, but no shabby apologies or promises of future fidelity. We both know better than to believe that now, don’t we?

As you have probably anticipated, we here at the Devil Queen have been thoroughly entertained with the end of year holiday season. Christmas was a success. Without hyperbole, I can confidently state that it was so good that Gideon nearly peed himself Christmas morning.

New Year’s Eve was uncommonly good too. The last several years, even predating the Devil Queen, were relentlessly circling down a death-spiral. Every New Year’s Eve, we’d hope for a better year to come only watch that year become even worse than its predecessor. There seemed to be no end to funerals, financial troubles, and perfidious ankle-biters. And, strangely enough, I find this year may be no different in some regards, but I’m without my black uniform of dread and woe. So, what is different?

I think attitude is great part of it. I know most people relegate their introspective navel-gazing for the run up to New Year’s Day, but I had an early start this year, think early November. Ever the man of extremes, I’ve given myself a pretty hard ride. After years of trying variations of the same thing, I finally came to the belated conclusion that my modus operandi was not working. In fact, it was eating me alive.

I’m not sure if there is a good way to parse this beast out into its base parts. My drive to finish the Devil Queen at a racecar’s pace had burned me up and out. I’d been reduced to an ill-tempered, high-functioning zombie. My tires had long since blown, but I was spinning the rims as fast as I could. They bit deeper into the road until the car ground to halt. No amount of swearing and wicked mojo could get it moving. The time for something new had come and gone, but, miraculously, it was still waiting for me.

Then an email from the good folks at requesting our New Year Resolutions made me do some thinking. My first thought was, “HA! Resolution? Easy! Finish the Devil Queen!”

Then, I spent a couple of days thinking about what it would actually take to accomplish this feat. An easy, pleasurable frolic with sunshine, butterflies, and woodland nymphs with a little, “refinishing floors, painting a few rooms, and landscaping,” on the side soon became a bleak, five-page list of winter without end. Every room needs something. The flight back from the sweet fantasyland of denial did not end with a smooth landing. Hell, the plane didn’t even crash in the right country. My remains were fished from the forest’s canopy and crammed into an oversized picnic basket.

A generous estimate is that it would take the better part of 2008 to “finish” the Devil Queen.

Instead of the usual gnashing of teeth, the whining, and general woe-is-me carrying on that I usually do because I want it done NOW, I decided that something else was in order. Angst had not finished the house nor made the process move any faster. Instead, it had made me very tired and unhappy. So, bugger the Devil Queen. Finishing the house would no longer by my number-one preoccupation. Instead of complaining about how I didn’t have time for this, that, or the other because I “need to work on the house,” I will now do what I want, when I want without guilt. Then I’ll see about working in some home improvement time. Since I haven’t done much of anything except fret about the house for the last few months, maybe more will actually get done this way, right?

This has been my circuitous way of saying my resolution 2008 is to have some fun and to try finishing the Devil Queen with out being evil. Getting a convertible would be nice too.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

A Note From A Concerned Reader




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