Habitat Horror: The House That Landlord Built

We moved in.

The rented log cabin home was near the mother-lode mining town of Ione, California. At the time we didn’t realize that the landlord was somewhat insane, had built the home and outbuilding mostly by himself and didn’t believe in that whole ‘building compliance’ thing. The place sucked electricity like a monster. I later imagined Dear Disgruntled Landlord one day perhaps storming county offices with an arsenal of weapons, in a protest of those silly building permit regulations.

Located on a gravel road off a secondary highway, the acreage was gorgeous and isolated. Deer and turkey roamed our yard. A pair of hawks circled the stream near our deck and nested nearby. A pair of geese inhabited the pond by the driveway. One day while on a walk I noticed a white bobcat casually crossing the road behind me. It didn’t seem to be interested in me, only seemingly intent upon crossing the narrow road and getting back into cover.

We discovered we’d inherited a group of semi-feral cats. The unfinished, unsealed basement allowed creatures easy access to stairs that led to a bedroom – thus contributing to both the tame inside and wild outside cacophony of Strange And Mysterious Noises At Night (SAMNANs).

notorious, allegedly haunted prison was located nearby. I happened to drive past it almost daily.The Romanesque Revival architecture was impressive. Locals referred to it simply as ‘the prison’. Hmm … it didn’t look like any active prison I’d ever seen. Wait, it was an empty prison. Sort of. My mind was imprinted with a vague concept of prison: scary places that scary people often broke out of. In reality I apparently needed to be worried about spirits and infamous ghosts-on-the-run instead. This added fuel to the fire of my occasional solitary nights listening to SAMNANs in The House That Landlord Built.

It was a sparkling November night. The woodstove was burning. Candles were lit. The cabernet sauvignon rocked. Against starlight and moonlight felines climbed the framed glass panes around the A-frame’s cathedral ceiling. There were shadows on the deck … wildlife making hand puppets or paw puppets no doubt! Well, it took more to scare this camper – such as Jehovah’s Witnesses wielding pamphlets.

I awoke in bed at 3 AM to the sounds of cats running, fighting and mating in the stairwell. Growls and howls morphed into a scratchy humanistic voice which got louder and closer, emanating from the other side of the bedroom door. “The papers are signed…do the work…the papers are signed…do the work!” I couldn’t get my mind around it. I must have passed out.

“Did you hear that brouhaha last night?” I asked Significant Other.


“Some weird-ass voice on the stairwell, talking about legal papers and work of some kind.”

“Oh! Was Landlord bothering us again? He shows up and he wants me to fix his house! This place is f*cked up. He’s insane.”

“Yeah. It’s funny, it didn’t look f*cked up when we first saw it. But we’re not exactly engineers. One word: Disclosure Statement!”

“Two words! And that’s for homeowners, not renters.”
“Oh, yeah, right.”

We moved out.