Before Disney World and its magic kingdom, there was the gray-weathered clapboarded two-room building hidden away near an abandoned anthracite coal mine in Pennsylvania. The dilapidated structure surround by coal debris seemed to have been ever-present as long I could remember. I once peeked inside the place early on through dust-encrusted windows when my nine-year-old friends dared me. One room looked like it was used to service mining-related equipment, while the second room was empty space and was probably used for storage. Unoccupied and coal-dust grime made the place look lifeless and creepy.
Even as an adult today, I could not recall how the old building became occupied by the old man and woman who took over the place. They just showed up and became squatters. As a kid, I remember being warned to stay away from the place. There were rumors of their checkered past, unexplained mysteries and stories of two people on the run for speculated reasons. No one seemed to know how they got their food or money or where they came from. I wondered who even owns the building? Who would ever give them permission to occupy the place?
One day, by happenchance I met the old man walking along a dirt road. My first instinct was to run! He beckoned me with an offer. He’d give me a quarter if I would walk to the next town about two miles away and buy him a can of Prince Albert tobacco in the can. I reluctantly accepted the deal.
Hours later I returned. When I approached the place, I had a game-plan. I’d place the can of tobacco and his change (less 25 cents) at the front entrance, yell out and run! As I slipped the tobacco near the door I heard footsteps.
As I turned to run, I bumped into the old man walking back from his outhouse. He smiled, still his yellowy teeth frightened me. “Did ya get the tobacco?” was all he said.
I stuttered back then. I couldn’t get any words out of my mouth.
“Come in the house.” The old man turned away and headed for the front door.
My feet would not move. I envisioned being sacrificed on some demon-worship altar like I saw in the movie serials...
(To Be Continued in my next blog)