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!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Happy Walpurgis Night

I just wanted to wish you all a happy Walpurgis Night. Don't let the evil bastards and the restless dead get you . . .

I've been hoping to finish a few projects to post about, but I haven't managed that yet.

I've also been collecting unused building material to return, but there is a big pile of things which can't be returned for a variety of reasons (opened package, no receipt, can't remember where I bought it, etc). I'm going to take pictures and post them here and perhaps on eBay too. So far I have a few circuit breakers, lots of pvc & cpvc fittings, sink traps, accessories leftover from our stolen tools (table saw guide, battery charger, etc), and more. I'm not planning to ask much for this stuff. I just want it out of my house and don't want to throw it away. I hope to have it up by Friday this week. If you see something you want/like, let me know.

I've completed a few very small projects around the house, but nothing post worthy. Hopefully, I'll do something more interesting soon.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Home Improvement Monkeys Ride Again

They're back.

Or, they will be soon. When I origianlly posted this picture back in 2006 or 2007, I had several inquires about getting this on a t-shirt. I had a lot of trouble with getting images scanned, uploaded, etc to Cafe Press, so I've taken the means of production into my own hands to do it myself. I'm working-up this image to make a silkscreen print. I've never done this before, so I have no idea hard it will be to get this right. It's the friggin' story of my life.

Anyhow, if any of you wonderful readers out there are still interested, let me know. There is no better incentive than an audience. As soon as I have a working image, I'll post it here.


Friday, April 18, 2008

It Costs More Than Money

Amanda provided a link to this story in a comment to a post below. It's a great article. This segment of the article stuck with me:

How long did projects like re-caulking 733 window panes take?

“Years,” Mr. Giffels says. “This is where I’m glad I wrote the book 10 years later, it gave me a perspective of all the time it cost: All my vacation time, all my possible spare time, a number of years of my children’s growing up I gave to my children’s house. And once you get in it, you can’t get out, you can’t sell a house in that condition. When all of a sudden you realize what it is costing you in your life, it’s too late.” [Emphasis added by me]

First, Mr. Giffels is 100% right.

Second, whereas he loves the town in which he lives, I do not. This makes being trapped with my whore of an old house even more odious. Not only do I resent the amount of my life the house has stolen, I don't particularly like where it is: in a dry county without reliable internet service of any kind, little to no cell phone reception, and a shitty job market (even in the best of times). It might be an understatement to say that strategic planning was not one of our great strengths.

On the upside, I didn't have to refurbish 733 panes of glass. If I did, I think I would have shot myself a long time ago. Really, that much glass is hell. I'm just impressed that he finished.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

It Runs Downhill

These pictures are already a week out of date, but here is some of the drainage and landscaping work I've been doing. Prior to all my work, this area of our yard was a muddy mess every time it rained.

In the last couple of weeks, I've added the brick walk to the left, the French drain, and add a gravel walk to connect the path to the gravel driveway & parking area. This Tuesday I finished filling in the gravel. The next step is complete the rock lined flower beds and start filling them in with plants, mulch, and other goodies. We're also considering a pond.

We've had six months worth of rain in the last six weeks, so the new drainage has been given a good workout - it's worked great! Now, all I have to do is finish it.

I'll try to get more photos, diagrams, et cetera up by early next week.

If anyone wants the Saturn for parts, it's yours. Make me an offer. Seriously. If you jump it, you could probably get it to run well enough to get it on a trailer. I wouldn't drive it more than a few miles on the open road. It might make it. Or, it might not.

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Someone Is At The Door

I thought it was just me.

For the last year or so, I've had this reoccurring dream. I never remember the dream, but I will suddenly wake up in the middle of the night with my heart pounding. The last thing I remember before waking is the sound of someone violently pounding on a door's glass pane. The sound of their hand beating on the glass is very distinct, the tempo of the fist-falls are fast. Urgent.

I look at the clock. It's usually between three and three-thirty in the morning. Other times, I wake with no memory of anything at all, but it is at roughly the same time. 3:12 AM. 3:23 AM. 3:33 AM. Restless sleep and waking.

The house is invariably silent. Nothing stirs. I drift into a fit-full sleep.

I mention my insomnia to Scarlet. She jokes it's the Devil's Hour and tells me I ought to watch The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Thank you, but no.

A month or more ago, Scarlet was dreaming. Gideon was in the dream, and he suddenly turns to her and says, "There's someone at the door."

Scarlet wakes up. The house is silent. Then, someone starts beating on the Devil Queen's front door. It's loud and sharp. Scarlet is worried they'll break the glass they are beating so hard. The door rattles in its frame. It's urgent, insistent in a way that says something is wrong. Fire. Death. Disaster.

The house is quite. There are no footfalls on the porch. There is no sound of someone running away from the house on the gravel driveway. No one is there. Scarlet lays awake for a little and falls back to sleep.

Over breakfast Scarlet says, "I think we have another ghost. Have you heard the knocking on the front door?"

I tell her yes, but that I thought it was a dream. She tells me about her experience.

She sips her coffee. "How do you sleep here all the time?" she asks. "After a weekend here, I'm more tired than after a full week of work."

"You get use to it," I shrug, "but a lot of times I don't."

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Me? A Darwin Award? Never!

Even I am amazed by my total lack common sense and observational powers. For the last few days or so, I've been wondering why my arms have been so sore. I just couldn't figure out what I'd done to them.

Yesterday, the answer finally became obvious. They hurt because I've been shoveling gravel and ditch digging for an hour or two every couple of days after work. I figured this out because they started hurting while shoveling yet more gravel. Duh.

I have no idea how I managed to survive to adulthood.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fiddle While Rome Burns

As part of our on-going Fiddle While Rome Burns divertimentos, Scarlet and I abandoned the Devil Queen to its fate (which is saying something since most of the state has been experiencing 100 year floods with six months of rain in six weeks) and took a decadent three day excursion which included a seven course tasting menu with wine pairings at Ashley's at the Capitol Hotel, horse races, a spa, ducks, raw oysters, Guinness, scotch, a college reunion, shopping, and more.

And, if that weren't enough, we sandwiched all of this in between plant hauling, ditch digging, landscaping, gravel hauling, and house cleaning.

Work hard and play hard because life is short.

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Giving the People What They Want

Once upon a time, this blog had a Paypal donate button. And, one day, the button stopped working. I tried to fix it, got frustrated, took it down, and forgot to put it back up again. Years passed. Then I got this email:

"I use Mozilla Firefox and AdBlocker Plus, so if there are any ads on your site, I'm not seeing them so I can't click on them to generate ad revenue for you. So if you put up a paypal/donate button, I know I'd use it. There might be more people like me out there."

Well, what can I say? The people wanted it, so I had to do it.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Incremental Progress

While the end product may be less than overwhelming, some things are getting finished around the Devil Queen. My big projects for the week have mostly been landscaping.

Sorry, no pictures. Even with a flash, there isn't much to see at night in a thunderstorm. And, incase you've been lying in bed late into the night wondering about it, shoveling gravel is a lot more work than you might imagine. It's definitely worse than your average ditch digging or rock rolling.

I'm working on installing a small drain pipe under the walkway from the Devil Queen to the parking area. I've trenched and installed the drain, so now all I have to do is fill it in and complete the grave gravel path. I dumped six or seven wheelbarrows worth of gravel last night, but I figure I'm only 1/3 to 1/2 way finished. And, between other commitments and the weather, it may be Saturday or Sunday before I finish.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Weekend Update

Unless charging an obscene amount of money for plants and landscaping materials to your wife's credit card counts as working on the house, we didn't do anything on the Devil Queen this weekend.

Instead, we bought Gideon his first real bicycle and spent the afternoon at the park on Saturday. Sunday, we went sailing with his grandparents. And, I'm not even sorry.

Don't worry, the misery will continue this week.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Kind Words for a Twisted Soul

The beast has found me, and I have received his mark. And, I was so loved that I received it twice.

Really though, thank you for the kind words.
If I understand the law of the beast, I'm suppose to mark no less than ten of my most beloved as well, but I'm afraid that I'm going to give into some of my anarchist leanings and deviate from the rules. First, there are many of you which I do adore. I would refer you to The Petch House, This Old Crack House, Chicago Two-Flat, et al in my links sidebar. Two, I share my love with no demands of reciprocity. Honor others or none as you see fit because free will is a beautiful thing.

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For those of you who haven't been with us since the beginning, I've posted a short synopsis of the Devil Queen's Story at the top of the page. Hope it helps.

Now, if I could only reduce the font a little so it didn't fill the whole bloody screen when the page uploads.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Communication, Or Lack Thereof (An old post written in February)

[A photo of the morning after]

You know, if you tracked me down when I was 16, 18, or even 21 and asked me what I thought I might be doing when I was in my thirties, I doubt I would have said, "Standing shin deep in wet snow, at night, on a forested mountain top, in the middle of nowhere, trying to make a call on my cell phone." As I stared up into the hellish orange-pink glow of street and city lights on the snow clouds and tried to ignore the melted snow in my boots, I wonder what had I done that was so wrong that I'd ended up here.

And, why would I be doing this? One of the great perks to living in rural Arkansas is that a lot of the amenities really are not that great if they even exist at all. Over the last year or so, our phone line craps out after we have a lot of rain. Apparently, back to back snow storms with a thaw in between also has this effect. What is even worse is that I can hear everyone, but no one can hear me. It makes for a very frustrating and confusing conversation until I figure what is wrong.

I called the Century Tel, our phone company, on my cell phone a couple of days ago to complain about it. They said they'd send someone out to check on it. The next day the phone seems to work so I assume they've fixed it. Then, it snows again and the line craps out again. I try calling them from home this time.

Me: "I'm calling because I'm having trouble with my phone line."

Century Tel: "I'm sorry, I can barely hear you."

Me: "I KNOW YOU CAN'T HEAR ME, THAT IS WHY I AM CALLING. I CALLED A COUPLE OF DAYS AGO FOR THE SAME REASON. WHY IS IT NOT FIXED?" In case the all-caps didn't tip you off I was standing in the middle of my kitchen screaming. This was the only way the Century Tel girl could here me, though I suspect I sounded a little irate. Okay, more than a little probably.

Century Tel: "Oh. Oh. We'll have someone out tomorrow morning."

Really, it's unfair to be grumpy with the poor Century Tel girl on the phone. Actually, on the whole, everyone at Century Tel I've dealt with have been very polite and responsive. The problem is that our phone just doesn't work all that well.

According to the technicians who came in the morning, the problem is not with the Devil Queen's phone lines, the line from the Devil Queen to our service box, or even the line from the service box to the "pedestal" ("the green box in my front yard" is not the correct, technical term I'm told). It's the branch line from our "pedestal" to wherever in the seven hells the thing goes. This problem is being caused by moisture leaking into the line somewhere. The problem is that by the time the crew made it out, the phone line had started working of its own accord. And, to pin-point the problem area, they need the line to be crapped-up. So, my phone works for now, but the problem is still unresolved.

"Give us a call as soon as it starts acting up and we'll try to isolate the problem," the technician said.

So, poor Century Tel girl, when some deranged man calls up and starts screaming at you through a bad connection, remember that it's not you, it's the phone line. And, I'm sorry anyhow. If it's not snowing, I'll walk or drive out an try to call you on my cell phone.


A Penny for Your Thoughts or Things Fall Apart

"The Second Coming" by William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

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Home Improvement Quote of the Day

"At any point, I am one bad decision away from becoming a paraplegic when it comes to the house."

- John

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Digging For Fire

In an attempt to make my projects at the Devil Queen a little more interesting, I've decided to make them into competitive sports. Due to the peculiarities of my situation, most of what I do is solitary by nature. As such, I've found competing against extreme natural phenomenon quite invigoration. I highly recommend severe thunderstorms, they are very motivational.

This week's game was re-trenching the front patio drainage system. Actually, it's not a patio yet, but it will be soon. Hopefully.

When we had the site cleared with a bulldozer, they graded the ground in such a way that water drained away from the Devil Queen towards the retaining wall (or where the retaining wall will go). Then, the water would flow along the wall's base and into the woods away from the house. After last weekend's torrential rain, our rudimentary drainage system had silted up. Since they are forecasting another 2-3 inches of rain for the rest of the week, I thought it would be a good idea to clear out the silt.

The equipment for this game was pretty basic: shovel, work gloves, and a large, plastic trash-bag with holes poked in it for your arms and head. A hat is nice too. I know, quite the stylish ensemble, and cheap too! Now anyone can look crazy and homeless in their front yard for just dollars!

Anyhow, once you are fully equipped, start digging. And, since the dark, low clouds are already rolling in and the thunder is rumbling it the west, dig fast. Remember, you get bonus points for not being struck by lightning.

The ground was still sodden after last weeks deluge. This was a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it was much easier to get all the rocks out. On the other, the clay tended to stick to the shovel like a peanut butter sandwich does to the top of your mouth.

By the time the wind was picking up and the rain was streaming down over an hour later, I'd basically finished. At the shallow end, the trench was only a couple of inches deep, but, at the far end, it was at least a foot deep and nearly as wide. And, since it was roughly 80 feet long, I felt pretty good about my progress.

I finished just in time. The rain started coming in sideways and the sky glowed with a hint of tornadic green to the north. For some reason, I wondered what sailing an ocean-going sailboat through a storm like this would be like as I watched it from the front porch. This probably is a sure sign of a serious, degenerative mental illness. It's thoughts like these that make people cut a house in half and move them sixteen miles away to a mountain top.

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