Written by Jonathan Wojcik
The Spooky Iowa Farmhouse!
"So much, we left our faces!"
Margret and I have only just returned from a nearly month-long visit with her family in Iowa, and before we left, they treated us to a two-day cave tour. It was actually my first-ever opportunity to visit a real cave at all, and I wanted to live in every single one them as strongly as I'd always guessed. It even rained during the latter half, the only thing that could have made the experience more magical for me without encountering a race of albino mole-people.
Most of my cave pictures are too dark to share, but the most website-worthy part of the excursion actually happened closer to the surface, when Margret's parents decided we should stop at a decomposing, abandoned farmhouse and trespass for a while, which tells you everything you need to know about how cool they are.
Decrepit, abandoned buildings are by far one of my favorite places to be after the icy embrace of the underdark, and this was one of the decrepitest I'd ever been persuaded to break into. If the perscription bottles were any indication, it had stood empty since at least 1985, but must have seen remarkably minimal human activity in the nearly thirty years since.
We saw no graffiti, no evidence of vandalism, no signs of squatting, and an enormous wealth of fascinating objects that logically should have disappeared over a decade ago. Fascinating, sometimes disturbing objects.
One of the first photo-worthy surprises was waiting for me in some sort of walk-in closet at the back of a cobweb-choked bathroom, under the beautiful ceiling you see here. The wood floor had been rained on long enough to be little more than mush, but I was able to safely lean in and snatch at least a semi-readable shot of the closet's occupant:
I'm pretty sure this is the skull and spine of a raccoon, though it's amazing just how tangled it was in this old tree stand, which I suppose it curled tightly around as it left our world behind. To the lower left, you can see some sort of cryptic idol that may have served an unknown ritualistic purpose.
Beyond the bathroom was a master bedroom, and lying smack in the middle of the relatively untouched mattress was this exquisitely nightmarish family photo I sorely regret leaving behind. I mean, look at it. Look at the guy. You know the one. That one. I wonder if any of these people are still alive? For that matter, I wonder how many were alive when it was taken. While this regrettably won't be greeting my own houseguests in the forseeable future, you can at least enjoy my highest resolution photo of it here.
Our next stop was the basement, where we stirred more tantalizing mysteries from their fitful sleep. The basement was packed with old junk, most of it long beautified by layers of rust. I wish I could have taken all this crumbling metal with me. I've loved the look and feel of rust since childhood. It just feels nice, you know? Nice under the old gangly green fingers.
In the back of the basement was a small side room thickly littered with old jars. It was difficult to walk in, and I didn't risk it for long, but Margret held out longer, and her incredible, confounding discovery is already visible in this photo, towards the right of the second shelf from the floor; something tiny and pinkish, poking out of something shiny in the bottom of a jar. What is it?
Is that a baby? Why is a baby in a jar? Why is it dressed in tinfoil??
Why is a baby in a jar, dressed in tinfoil, accompanied by such a nonsensical collection of junk?!
We've got two pieces to a flashlight, a picture frame hanger, a wingnut, a screwdriver, and a single nickel. Why were these specific things together? Is this some kind of devil magic? Is the soul of a real baby bound to these objects? There's no way we're ever going to know, but after the photograph, I put everything right back in its jar where it belongs - even the little pile of dirt that I'm going to pretend isn't likely to be a baby's ashes, not that it stopped us from taking the whole thing back with us, grudge curses be damned.
I do realize there are many people who would find that nothing short of appalling, but old properties like these are being sold off and bulldozed as we speak, especially in Iowa, where they're cleared to make way for more corn, a vegetable only Satan truly enjoys. None of this stuff is hanging around for future archeologists for long. It's someone else's trash. Why doesn't it deserve a new home, where it might be appreciated for another lifetime?
Also, I'm thirty and I buy pokemon toys. You expect me to have standards?
Believe it or not, a haunted child effigy, though my personal favorite artifact, was still only building up to a more dramatic find in the rotten husk of an old barn, and an actually appropriate thing to find in such a place.
See it, yet? Something died here, a very long time ago, and something fairly large, at that! The bones were clearly Bovine in origin, and surprisingly, all but the skull turned out to be missing once we dug up the rest.
You didn't think we wouldn't do that, did you?
Say hello to our new cow, which rode in the trunk of our car all the way from Iowa to Central Florida. I don't know about you, but most people we're acquainted with can find a million and one uses for animal bones, which nearly always include just sort of having and admiring them forever because bones are gorgeous and awesome. Again, there are people who regard this as strangely "disrespectful," but somehow, I don't think this cow really cares anymore about where its osseous tissue has gone off to, and if it did, its withered skin-phantom is more likely to go after the guy who kept its skull and just take his bones. Otherwise, it's more than welcome to slither our way and ask for the rest politely. We would have snacks and tea ready and everything.
We tried not to spend too much time at the farmhouse before continuing our road trip, so chances are good that we still left behind many fascinating secrets for future visitors to marvel over, at least until this beloved family home is swallowed once and for all by the hideous tendrils of Zea mays.
Hell, I took that photo of the jar room without even noticing our priceless plastic voodoo-baby. There could be amazing new secrets already staring us in the face, if we would only think to look.
I can only hope that one day, just maybe, I can leave behind a legacy just as intrigueing to the next weirdo stumbling in from some irradiated wasteland.