Saturday, September 6, 2014

Ghosts Of The Past

"Did you hear that?  She says and I swivel my head quickly to spy the middle aged Polynesian woman, her face stricken with fear.
Front of the Powell Home

Fali's eyes are transfixed on the dusty lines of the air vent that runs against the wall outside the bedroom where Josh and Susan Powell used sleep every night.  Until of course, Susan vanished without a trace in 2009, and Josh unceremoniously packed his bags and left.  Later, he would brutally kill his two young boys in a murderous house fire.

"Do you hear it?" Fali repeats her desperate question.  "No," I answer, "What did you hear?"  "Did you hear the crying?" she demands as she continues her gaze, uninterrupted at the air vent. "Sometimes it sounds like children crying," she describes the terrorizing sound to me, "sometimes it sounds like a moan, but a moan far far away.

Fali, her daughter Joanna and their family have lived in the home formerly owned by the Powell's for 2 months, and they say from the moment they turned the deadbolt, something just hasn't been right. That is why they moved out a couple of days ago.
Photographer Nick Steffens

Joanna is angry because she says, the property management company who  is renting the home out on behalf of the Powell trust, did not tell her about the tragic history of the home.  Joanna, whose family doesn't watch TV, says she hadn't even heard of the Powell's until neighbors filled her in a month ago.

The family has invited us into their lives and the home to do a story on their anger at the leasing company.  But it turns out their anger is eclipsed by their fear of this house.

In addition to the phantom cries of children Joanna says she found her toddler atempting to usher people away who don't exist, "no, no, go!" the little boy reportedly chirped to an empty wooden swing dangling motionless outside the Powell home.

Early one morning, as Joanna's nephew slept in the living room, the garage door came to life, rattling and groaning as it opened.  The nephew found himself standing in a dark garage, the door gaping open.

The day the family was told by neighbors of the history of the home they shared with the Powell's, they stood, huddled around a laptop, in the Powell's pre-fab kitchen tapping search words into Google.  They say every time they attempted to play an archived news story on Youtube of the mind boggling case of Susan and Josh Powell, the lights in the living room and kitchen would mysteriously shut down. After three attempts, and three blackouts, the family decided to stop tempting fate.

Powell Garage
As Joanna wrenched the key counterclockwise to let me in, I felt quick anticipation as I prepared to enter a home that has consumed literally hundreds of hours of my time over the last 6 years.

I can recall standing on the front stoop of this home in December of 2009, pondering why the glass window next to the door was broken, and calling my boss to tell him "I think something isn't right here."

What is most remarkable about being inside the Powell home, is how simply unremarkable it is.

It is clean, the carpet is relatively new, and the house has been redone inside since the Powell's lived here. There is no evidence that Susan and Josh ever even existed in this space.

The home doesn't feel like it was built with any particular passion, it is likely one of hundreds of houses, tossed on a slab of cement in the late 80's or early 90's in this part of West Valley City.  It is like one of a thousand Chrysler LeBaron's that rolled soullessly off of a Detroit assembly line around the same time this home was being propped up.

This house is empty, in more ways than one.   I suppose I expected to "feel" Susan's presence, or "sense" the supernatural from which Joanna and her mother were running away, when they packed their boxes, and loaded a moving van.  I didn't.  I was however feeling edgy, as though this is a place I shouldn't' be.  As if this nondescript place, in a sea of monotonous tract homes, should be treated with more respect than I was giving it.  As if this was a solemn shrine, encased, in drab vinyl siding from Sears.

I'm not inclined to believe in ghost stories, and I don't have a strong connection to the paranormal, but, for whatever reason, I believe that Joanna and her family have experienced "something" here, because it is clear, "something" did happen,but sadly, we may never know what.

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