Thursday, September 8, 2011

That Time I Answered a 'For Rent' Ad for a Haunted Bungalow in a Cult Compound

[Wanted: A renter for a bungalow on a century-old estate. Must be cult and ghost hunter friendly.]

The Boyfriend has a weird sense of what constitutes entertainment.

I say this because a month ago, he decided I should pose as an interested party in the rental of a bungalow on a dilapidated estate in the hills of our hometown. Before I remembered that The Boyfriend takes open houses very seriously, I thought he was joking.

He then informed me that he had contacted the real estate agent and set up a viewing.

It got worse, because the heiress - who, in a Grey Gardens-like twist, still lives in the salmon-pink manor at the center of the property - wanted to show us the bungalow herself.

I can't even afford this bungalow, I complained. This is really disingenuous!

Shut up, The Boyfriend said. This is going to epic!

And so we went.

As it turns out, the estate is located smack dab at the zenith of The Land That Time Fucking Forgot (capitalized for super extra emphasis). I'm pretty sure we drove The Boyfriend's sports car through a rift in the space-time continuum and into the lair of a voodoo priestess (or maybe I've just been watching too much True Blood), because suddenly there were houses on stilts and pottery hanging from trees and peacock feathers tied to gateposts.

Apparently, the entire neighborhood is exempt from the architectural approval procedures and housing standards administered to the rest of the community. And we all know what happens when there are no laws: everyone abandons broken-down fuel trucks in fields and installs mailboxes on abandoned lots, right?

[Apparently, time also forgot this truck.]

So, why is this gated neighborhood a lawless parcel of insanity, you ask? Well, because the neighborhood is on a giant landslide and is therefore gliding into the ocean at a rate of several feet per year. So everyone that could move to a house that wasn't on a giant slip-'n-slide did so; the rest became ungovernable hermits.

Hence, I was now trapped in a car with The Boyfriend, navigating a 20-mile-long driveway in the middle of a forest of pepper trees and 12-foot-tall desert agave plants. And I'm not really happy about it.

After driving for what seemed to be an hour, we reach a huge peacock-blue gate topped with barbed wire and security cameras.

Wait, I say. I'm supposed to pretend to want to rent a there?!

The Boyfriend excitedly confirms this as the gate rolls open and then falls off its track.

I figure this is probably a good thing, because it will be harder for the crazy people that live here to lock us inside if the gate is malfunctioning.

The heiress comes to greet us, and The Boyfriend quickly launches into a discussion about the history of the estate. I'm peering through a vine-covered gate at a contorted Greek statue when I hear the heiress respond to one of The Boyfriend's ten thousand questions.

Oh the barbed wire and cameras? We have those because the house is haunted.

Excuse me, what?!
I whirl around. This is just too fucking awesome.

Well, everybody just says it's haunted, she clarifies. We have the security system in place because people try to get in to see the ghosts.

Of course. You live in a gated estate in the middle of an already-gated community to keep out ghost hunters. Why am I not surprised?

She leads us around the outskirts of the estate's inner-sanctum - the main house, which, ridiculously, is also gated. Now I'm certain this heiress is hiding something - probably pirate gold or the preserved head of Joaquin Carrillo Murrieta in a jar of gin.

I mean, I wouldn't be surprised.

She leads us to one of the property's 11 bungalows, which were built in the decades following the construction of the main house nearly a century ago.

Everything is a cheery pink and covered in vines. There are lemon trees, an abandoned chicken coop, benches constructed from scalloped tile and gardens in every nook and cranny. And wedged in every enclave is a Greek goddess, crumbling ceramic bird bath or a screeching live peacock.

[Ghosts need seating too, yo.]

I'm beginning to think we somehow ended up in the ruins at Delphi instead of modern-day California.

My assumption is proved correct a few minutes later when a tattooed Canadian artist - who is in the process of moving out of bungalow I am supposedly considering - asks us, offhandedly, if we've been up to the temple yet.

The...temple? I ask.

Yes, he says. It's at the very top of the estate.

Well, color me intrigued. The heiress leads The Boyfriend and I to the base of giant stairway and points. It's up there, she says.

We are left to stumble up 200 crumbling steps. Sure enough, at the top of the hill, there is a smattering of Ionic columns (of course) and some sort of alter, which looks ripe for goat sacrifices.

[My potential neighbors are probably planning on sacrificing goats up here on the full moon.]

Oh, fantastic.

None of this is helped by the fact that all the bungalows on the estate are occupied solely by artists and hippies.

Wouldn't you love to live here?! The Boyfriend exclaims. It's amazing!

I turn to look at him. You know what? I'm pretty sure this compound is home to a cult.

He doesn't seem convinced.

No really, I continue. The cult of Aphrodite or something. They probably run around naked on the full moon.
[Ye ole goat sacrifice alter?]

He is glaring angrily at me now.

Hey, if moved here, I would not accept any Kool-aid from my neighbors.

The Boyfriend throws up his hands in defeat and starts walking down the stairs.

As it turned out, however, the haunted bungalow in the cult compound was a sweet deal. We were halfway out of The Land That Time Fucking Forgot when we spotted an overgrown road that made up for its lack of pavement in a whole lot of creeptastic ambiance.

Want to walk around? The Boyfriend asks.

Umm, no? I say. But somehow I end up following him.

We turn the corner and find this:

[I'm no architect, but I'm fairly certain houses are not supposed to be balanced on a pile of 2 x 4s.]

As we're trying to figure out why someone would take the time to dig their own house out of the ground, The Boyfriend and I continue down the road.

Maybe they're making a moat, I say. That's probably an effective method of keeping the cult members out.

We both stop dead.

What. The. Fuck. Is. That? The Boyfriend asks.

[Is that a wall...made out of ceramic heads?]

You know what? I think I prefer the haunted bungalow.

P.S. If I mysteriously disappear from the Internet, assume the voodoo priestess who lives in the house full of clay sculptures turned me into a zombie. Because that happens, you know.