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Zillowing Out

A $1 Million Haunted Elementary School To Fear

Image by Chris Thompson

When I was a senior in high school, I was invited to return to my elementary school. This was an embarrassing experience and probably I should have said no, but because it was "an honor" and because at that time I had no ability to separate things that other people were impressed by from things that I actually wanted to do, I went. It was awkward because I was forced to be confronted with aging, but also because I switched school districts in high school and now had to see people who I spent eight years of schooling with and then promptly forgot about entirely upon switching schools.

I lived in the same house, in the same room, from kindergarten until I graduated high school. This is rare, lucky. Because of this continuity throughout my childhood, it was easy to be aware of mortality. I have always been this way, I guess. I could remember how long the walk to the elementary school felt when I was small. But by the time I graduated high school, I never made that walk. I had a car! So in that way I avoided the reckoning of my aging somewhat.

Going back to the elementary school was upsetting. I felt old. The children were so small. My peers, who I had not seen in four years, were also older. One of them was the current quarterback for the high school we were all slated to go to, so the children were only really interested in him, which was fine because I was having a crisis. Where was time going? How did I feel like I had changed so much, but all the teachers still recognized me and knew how to interact with me? Had I not changed at all? Awful. I was happy to leave.

I have not been back into an elementary school since. I don't have kids. All my friends' kids are babies and I don't know why I would go to their school anyway. In fact, I hadn't even thought about the kind of one story, sprawling, elementary schools as physical buildings in years. The ones in my neighborhood now are not like this. I had, to be honest, kind of forgotten they exist until reader Ben sent me an email.

"Have you ever wondered what it would look like if some psycho half-assed turning an elementary school into a single-family home?" he wrote.

No, I had not! Why would I wonder that?! I hate even thinking about it! And yet, we all must journey into these halls of terror together, because of course Ben had included a link. What was I supposed to do? Not click on it?!

Ben found this week's house because his coworker Rusty is trying to buy a house with more acreage. "He shares Zillow links pretty much all day with me and our boss. He almost always includes a comment about what he likes and dislikes with the place, but this link came through without comment," Ben wrote. " I knew something was up as soon as I saw this one has 25,000 square feet."

This week's home is listed as six bedrooms, six baths, and 25,000 square feet. It is in Normandy, Tennessee, and worth (somehow) a million dollars. Terrifying. Here's what it looks like from the outside:

Screenshot: Zillow

Hm. OK. This does look like an elementary school. Certainly, it is living up to its promise. But there's no way someone wants to live inside an elementary school unless they are a cult leader in need of dozens of individual bedrooms. I guess that could be what's happening here. Let's be careful. Inside we go!

Screenshot: Zillow

All right. Hm. What we have here is clearly a school entryway that someone has staged very strangely to try and make it seem more like a home. But everything seems like it was purchased at a Cracker Barrel. What is this weird mirror frame? Why is this armoire painted like a circus for a baby's birthday? WHAT IS THAT FROG DOING!?! Is it supposed to take your coat? Why does it have such beefy thighs? What does the swole frog know!? What does it want?

The frog, at least, is interesting. It is a distraction from the fact that the actual entryway you would be purchasing sucks. The flooring is boring in the exact way that the Tuscan Kitchen trend of the early aughts was. The siding does not fit the vibe of the space at all. The doors are made for a million tiny hands to touch. Why not put in a real fucking door? It's not like this place is cheap!

I like the horror that this door to the right implies. We all know what's in there don't we? That's the "administrative office." I'd bet at least $40. In there we can go to see the nurse, but ALSO in there we can be sent to see the principal. Terrible vibes. Let's move on.

Screenshot: Zillow

Next we have ... whatever this is. It looks like maybe this was several classrooms at one point. One classroom? How big are classrooms? I can't remember. I do actually like how the lockers have been integrated into built in shelfs. It reminds me of that show where Ty Pennington would point out every single thing wrong with someone's house and then keep one sad little item to remind them of how much better everything is now. Except, this is not that much better really. It seems like ... a school with regular furniture. It has the same energy as a doctor's office.

In his email Ben warned me: "I hate so much about this place, especially the drop ceiling. I know it makes sense for a school, but it looks terrible in a home." I agree, Ben! He continued saying, "But then again, so does having a stage, an unsettling-looking pool, and a wholeass gym." A stage? An unsettling-looking pool? A wholeass gym? Jeez. Alright I guess we will get to that.

But first we must encounter the kitchen. Here it is:

Screenshot: Zillow

Hm. OK. There are certainly some benefits to having an industrial kitchen. I like that giant fridge. I also like the immense number of drawers, as I am a drawer person. I like that these two center islands seem to move. That's kind of exciting. But why isn't there any stable counter space. I'm sure that these moving counters lock in place, but I can't be expected to remember to do that. I won't! I'll slice my finger because the dang counter rolled away while I'm chopping! I do not need this.

There is not much else interesting in here. No point in commenting on whatever is happening with that terrible sign. Instead, let's venture through the doorway in front of us.

Screenshot: Zillow

OK. Here we are, I guess. This is a giant room. It reminds me of the circus/bowling/British home we saw a few months ago in that it also has a weird upper level loft that has no purpose and seems like it would be very, very loud. I would also like to discuss the glass bricks.

I am not 100 percent opposed to glass bricks as a concept. I think they are kind of fun and exciting. But is it illegal for children to see outdoors? Why can't there be normal windows?Why must the windows be so high? The light does seem to be nice, and I don't even mind the exposed industrial ceiling, but I like to see outside! Let me see the sky!

Let's go somewhere else.

Screenshot: Zillow

Nope! Absolutely not! I will not spend one moment more in this pediatric doctor's office that looks like it swallowed a gallon of twee and vomited it back out. No thank you. I do not want to play tic-tac-toe. I do not want to look in the mirror under that curtain and see a ghost. There have to be ghosts here. The only thing creepier than children is children who are twins! Surely some must be haunting this place. No. Moving on.

Screenshot: Zillow

Ah-ha!! Here is the pool Ben promised! Thank you, Ben! I hate it!

First off, and I do not know how many times I must go over this, having stagnant water inside without airflow is a very bad idea. This is how you get mosquitos. Could you open those windows? Yes. But it's not like Tennessee is a nice, moderate climate. It gets hot as hell in Tennessee! The part of the year you are going to most wish to be swimming, you would also need to have the windows open or else you create a greenhouse. Stupid!

I also do not like how blue this water is. Is it the pool that is blue? Then why is the rest of the pool white? Upsetting. Moving on!

Screenshot: Zillow

A question I had the whole time I was scrolling through these pictures was, "What are they going to do about the bathrooms?" School bathrooms, notoriously, are awful. They have those sinks that are always flooding and the paper towel dispensers that are always empty and the stalls that don't fit exactly right so you have to lift the door up to get the little lock to go into place. But this one looks like a normal bathroom.

That's suspicious to me. Is this just like the special teacher's bathroom? Hmm. This can't be right.

Screenshot: Zillow

Ah see this makes more sense. They've tried to spiff it up, but if you look to the right you can see that these glass bricks are, in fact, creating privacy for urinals. What a choice to use these stained glass stickers, to put an urn beneath it whose shape makes it look like a place to vomit. The weird bowl sink on the regular dresser is a style, I guess, but not one I would prefer to encounter ever again.

The vibes are getting worse. I am getting spooked. Let's try to find our way out of here.

Screenshot: Zillow

Oh that's not an exit. This is the gym. Here is the rope to remind me of my childhood failures. Here is the roof made of ... sawdust? Why does it look like that? That can't be how it was before? Is it ... insulation? It looks bad, that's for sure! While it does seem kind of convenient to have a gym in your house, this one is very big. Imagine how the noise would echo in this big empty room and scare your friends/cult members in the other parts of the house.

On the other hand, we could get one of those rainbow pieces of fabric and play that game where we all get inside of it and it makes a dome of beauty and tranquility. That would be really nice. The gym can stay.

Maybe these doors will lead us outside. In his email Ben said, "My least favorite part of this whole ... place might be just how many doors there are that open to the outside. I would immediately associate any random sound with someone trying to break in. I think I have maybe seen too many horror movies." But honestly, that seems right to me. There are SO MANY DOORS. I guess this is because of fire codes. But it seems very bad for a regular family home!

Screenshot: Zillow

At least out here there is a nice deck. This is clearly new, but it is nice. I like the shape of it and I like that it has shade. Now that we are back outside, I'm stunned that this place even exists.

I just. I do not understand how this situation happened. Why was this school abandoned? Why did someone try to renovate it instead of just tear it down? Why did they do such a bad job of renovating it? Ben's co-worker won't be buying this elementary school because his wife is a school teacher who "emphatically stated that she will not live somewhere that looks like where she works." Good for her! That seems like the best decision! Leave this place and never look back. That's what I'm going to try and do. If I can.

This week's house has been listed on Zillow for 445 days for a million dollars. If you buy this house, good luck.

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