I like watching videos of abandoned houses on YouTube. There’s something very sad about an old house filled with possessions that were left behind. Each story is an intriguing mystery. As if a family just suddenly disappeared into thin air. All these beloved items still as they left them. As if to say, I will be back soon. So many stories with unknown endings. No one ever leaves a note to let the world what happened. In one, a family was in a car crash. Someone was killed. There are pictures of children. Their names are on their bedroom doors. No one knows what happened to them. No next of kin ever came forward or claimed the property. In another, a child went missing, then the whole family up and left. Disturbing photographs, newspaper clippings and lots of reel to reel tapes were found. There’s the story of a man who lived alone for years and was buried in his front yard. You can see the makeshift casket protruding from the ground. In yet another house, they discovered a secret child’s bedroom in the attic. In the oppressive heat with no windows. On her door she had scrawled: “I love mom.”
There’s always the story of grandma and grandpa dying in the home. Beautiful vintage keepsakes everywhere. No one claims any of it. It’s as if these things are waiting for their owner to return; to pick them up, use them and love them again. Instead, some of these houses are torn down along with the possessions.
There’s a sense of disrespect, violation even, when someone goes through a vacant house. They touch stuff. Read letters that were not meant for the eyes of others. Those who make vidoes give us a little more than a glimpse into the life of people we have never met. There was a home that had Bibles everywhere. Another had a picture of pope John Paul on the wall and three rosary beads dangling from a shelf. The camera guy called them: religious people.
I was raised Catholic. My father almost never went to church with us. One day he brought home an old painting of the Madonna and Child. He hung it up in our living room. We also had a picture of the Last Supper which my dad received when his mother died. My sister’s boyfriend at the time stopped by our house one day, looked at these paintings and told my sister we were too religious for him. Can we really judge people by their possessions?
Years ago I worked for a company that seals up foreclosed properties. My job was to clean out these houses. Everything had to be dragged to the curb for the garbage man. We boarded up the windows, changed the locks and mowed the grass. Often times nearly everything was left behind. Bedrooms were filled with clothes and toys. Kitchens were well stocked. These families were evicted, forced out and fast. No doubt their lives went on and they bought and collected more stuff.
There was one video of a house that was frozen in a time capsule. Everything they left behind was from a certain era. So much antiques. These once prized possessions and family heirlooms are now decaying and covered with mold. Some are damaged from debris when the roof collapsed. Vandals will always come and steal things. But in the end, none of it means anything to anyone. It’s just stuff. Curiosity seekers will sneak in and trample over everything. Some tear out walls to get to the copper pipes for scrapping. It reminds me of what the Bible says about earthly possessions:
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.” (Matthew 6:19)
If I ever have to leave suddenly, I’ll be sure to leave you a note.