The old house on the famous Christmas Place Hunting Club is affectionately known as the Witchs’ House. It is now dilapidated with the front and rear porches fallen in and the roof starting to go. We scare the kids and make jokes about it, but the real reason the old house is called that is a dark secret.
In 1996 we had owned the property for about a year and had spent a lot of time exploring the property and looking for old artifacts about the people that had lived there over the years. On one of these little expeditions, I got it in my head to crawl under the old house to look for antique bottles. Maybe I could find some old medicine bottles with writing on them or a half buried blue fruit jar. On a bright, sunny day I crawled under the house. I carefully crept along looking for any sign of glass and also looking for deer tracks after Dad had sworn he had seen a deer come out from under there. I found a few broken pieces of old bottles, a couple of jar lids, and a lot of old boards and trash. Nothing of value was under there as I moved toward the rear of the house.
As I moved toward the back of the house, I noticed a section of mortared bricks that barely stuck out of the ground. The section of brick was about 5 feet wide and ran back about eight feet and disappeared back into the ground as it went under the collapsed rear porch. I thought nothing of this as I finished looking around under the house and left empty handed from my bottle hunting expedition.
The section of brick kept coming up in my head the rest of the week. What was it for? Could it be a chimney, an old patio from a previous house or a floor for an old outside kitchen? Then it hit me and I knew what it was. A root cellar probably filled with old bottles!The next Saturday, I worked my way into the mess of old rotted boards that had been the rear porch. Looking out for snakes and spiders, I used a section of rebar to pry into the ground until I located the brick. I probed until I was sure it was as wide as I had originally thought and worked my way back to the end of it. The brick ended directly under the middle of the old porch. I marked this spot, cleared away the rotten boards and undergrowth and prepared to start digging.
Digging down I struck a metal covered wooden door that angled downward. An hour later it was cleared and I was ready to open the old door. I had been excited but now I was a little nervous. I went and found Hershel (my Dad) explained the situation and got him to bring a flashlight and come with me. We pried the old door up and swung it open on the rusty hinges.Flashlights on, we found a narrow set of steps leading down. Clearing spider webs and looking for rattlesnakes, we carefully followed the old brick steps down into the cellar. Eight steps down and we stood on a concrete floor. The light from the open door cast a little light in but our flashlights illuminated the interior clearly.
The room was about 15 feet wide and about 20 feet deep with smooth concrete walls. It was dry and musty inside, but the stale air had a faintly sickening, rotted smell that seemed to stick to your mouth and nose.
Not seeing any snakes near our feet and holding our noses, we moved further into the room. Our lights revealed 13 old wooden chairs lying around the room. The walls looked bare as we moved a few yards deeper and played our lights around. Then we were able to make out the rear of the room clearly. An altar stood in the rear, bare except for an old candle and a thick black book lying on it, but behind it was a terrifying sight. A large upside down crucifix had been painted on the wall in dark red paint. This was surrounded by strange writings that seemed to be mixed with Latin phrases, satanic symbols and crude drawings of horned beasts devouring people in gory detail. Much of what we saw was peeling or missing but, we could not believe the sick images as we started to slowly ease backwards. My light shone on the dust-covered floor and I realized that drawn there was a large dark red pentagram. My father whispered my name before I could speak. His light was shining on two sets of rusty manacles in the left wall. I think that we understood at the same time that the writings, symbols and drawings were all done in blood. We ran up the stairs and out into the fresh air. Dad leaned against the old porch stricken and pale, while I collapsed and gagged a few feet away.
A few minutes later I heard the heavy door slam and looked up to see my father busily shoveling dirt against it. He said “help me” and I started covering the door with dirt also.
After we were through, he said “Don’t ever tell anyone about what we saw”. We pulled the old porch boards over the spot and tried to make it appear as if we had not disturbed the area. We left and did not talk about it for a long time. Time moved on and we talked a couple of times and compared notes but never told anyone else about the cellar. We wondered several times about what was in that mysterious black book. A year later we spotted a man creeping around the house one night and ran him off. Checking the next day, we found where he had been digging against the old porch.
A few days later, my Dad had a bulldozer beside the house clearing the area and made sure he piled dirt on and up against the porch until we heard the cellar roof collapse over the old stairs, then he had the bulldozer continue to push up a bunch of logs, branches and dirt over what had been the porch. The cellar was sealed, and we hope it will stay that way.