Winter is cruel. This week it is taunting us. There is some warmth outside, some sunlight, some reminder that soon it will be summer once again. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that this time last week I was frantically texting my sister every hour to see if she was freezing. The stress levels in my body were so high I didn’t sleep for more than two hours straight a night until her power was fully back on and her rooms toasty. We operate, in a moment of crisis, in an adrenaline-fueled fugue state, a kind of impulse-driven ranking of what is important and how we can accomplish it. It’s strange to be in that state and also a thousand miles away from the actual crisis, still locked in your apartment. Where does that energy go? I know I wrote a blog post about the crisis, but to be honest I have no idea what it says. I know I did a tweet about mutual aid and Venmo’d too much money to organizations on the ground. But mostly I looked at my phone, and I shook with something that was fear then and is anger now.
I cannot believe that after all of the stress of the last year, and all of the truly fucking awful things that have happened there are new terrors to be found. I spent this weekend reporting a story for this site. It was a blessing in disguise. I think if I had spent more than 10 minutes not actively doing something, I would have crumbled like a sand castle. All of this is to say that I haven’t spent that much time on Zillow the past two weeks. My notifications say +99 as they always do, so I am left to assume I have 10,000 new houses to sift through in the coming days.
In the past, I’ve avoided writing these columns about a house that I find through a viral tweet. I have my pride, don’t I? I want to find the house that will bring you joy through my terrible push alerts and broken brain. There was the New Jersey Christmas house that so many of you sent me in emails that I thought for sure you had all already seen it and did not need my commentary. But I had a bad two weeks! And the viral house du jour is honestly worth it. It is art. It is terrifying. It is exactly the kind of house that I knew you, my dear Zillowing Out readers, would be absolutely overjoyed to see.
This week’s house was found by Amanda Deibert, television and comic book writer. I reached out to Deibert via Twitter DM and asked her how she found this magical and mysterious house, and here’s what she told me:
“I came across the listing because I am in some groups on Facebook that show strange listings… usually it is like odd layouts or weird carpet everywhere. So I knew something would be up with it, but I had the same ‘oh okay it’s a little messy that’s not so—OH MY LIVING NIGHTMARE’ reaction that everyone else had.”
Which is really as good a teaser as any. Let’s jump in, shall we?
This house is located in South Lake Tahoe, California. I know that Lake Tahoe is very pretty because for a very long time I thought the NHL outdoor game was going to be played on the actual lake and was very excited about this (it was not). On the map it appears to be very close to the Nevada/California border as well as the lake and some ski slopes, so we’ve got some prime real estate right here. The house is $650,000, but had five bedrooms and three baths, which my biased city-dweller view of real estate leads me to believe is a reasonable price.
The outside has some vertical wood paneling, and for some reason looks like the back of a house even though it is the front. The front door is arms’ length from the garage door and both are made of wood, that is different from the beige paneling but, you know, we all make decisions in our life. There are some stairs on the front of the house that make it seem like this is an apartment. It kind of is; it’s a duplex. The description tells us that upstairs there are three bedrooms and two baths and downstairs there are two bedrooms and one bath. OK. And to the left there is a pile of tires! Wow! Should we go inside? Do you want to?
We start off downstairs, in a room where a lot of decisions have been made and none of them are good. We have a tile wall, a green carpet, accented ceiling beams that look like piped cake frosting, a wall of tiny circle mirrors with rays around them, lime green curtains, and a purple couch. There are also a lot of piles of things. This is not a great vibe to start on, but somehow it gets worse when you see another angle of the room and realize there is a sliding glass door to the garage? Who … who wants this?
The kitchen is also full of choices: The tile is fine, but there is a separate, different tile on the wall? Also, a very large mirror above the kitchen table. The fridge door opens away from the stove which is theoretically a small qualm to have, but imagine what a pain in the ass that would be day in and day out. Someone has tacked up tin foil behind the stove. There is one boob light on the ceiling and another light that is missing its boob covering. Both terrible in their own ways.
The bathroom is fine. It’s terrible but not in an interesting way, and the same is true for the bedroom. The garage has some clutter in it, but it also has a washer and dryer and something I grew up calling a “fun fridge,” which is a bonus fridge in the garage perfect for keeping beer and popsicles. This seems fairly normal, doesn’t it? I’m suspicious. Let’s go back through the garage and outside and up the stairs and into the apartment there so we can see if … oh holy shit no.
No, no, no, no, no. No, thank you! We should run. We should turn around right now. This cannot be good. But we will persevere. We will be brave.
Here there are too many mannequins all wearing what appear to be pageant dresses. One is standing with her heel against the wall in a sequin mermaid fit with a blue skirt. One is lounging on a chaise adjusting the glittery single strap of her purple evening gown. Behind her three fake but too realistic women stand against the wall in floor length gowns. There is something about the way these mannequins are standing, that their shoulders are hunched forward, that their hands seem so loose, that makes them even more unsettling than a regular mannequin. The ones behind purple dress look genuinely annoyed, like they cannot stand in this terrible room any longer. The one in the shimmery cool gradient dress to their right, her stance wide, her arm stiff, looks like she is holding back what appears to be a Christmas tree topper from engaging in some kind of fight. In the corner, two very similarly looking mannequins wear nude-colored, shimmery dresses with a boat neck and big earrings, and stand with their hands on their hips like they are watching the groom at their high school best friend’s wedding make an annoying joke at the reception. Behind them is the window to the kitchen.
But wait. There’s more!!!
There are more angles. They are all terrifying. Here is a shy girl in a silver top and coral skirt, looking like she saw a lizard. A curly-haired model in a teal skirt and scarf seems to be perched next to the refrigerator, her arm extended like she’s hiding a cigarette from someone cooking in the kitchen. Underneath her hand is a ceramic rooster. There is an awful, terrifying head of a mannequin peeking out from behind the bridesmaid sisters from under the counter and I hate it so much we cannot dwell on this any longer.
The kitchen is fine. The appliances are outdated and the tile is a little boring, but the windows are nice. Look out there. There are some trees and no haunting mannequins. Wow, how beautiful. Wish we were out there instead, but no. There is no door out of the kitchen, we must meet the rest of the gals. They are so happy we are finally here.
Here is a gal looking up at the sky, her hand cupped as if she just took it down from shielding her eyes from the sun. Here is a woman in the corner by what appears to be a stack of bed frames, lifting her dress just a little so she can say “excuse me,” and leave an impolite conversation. By the wall is a statue (not a mannequin) of a saint maybe?
Through an open door I can see a mannequin in a suit jacket and also a mannequin on the floor that vaguely reminds me of the hair girl from The Ring and we absolutely must get out of this room.
Whew, OK, let’s take a minute in the bathroom to take a deep breath. In and out. In and out. It’s awful in here too, really. Why is there a cherub floating above the bath? Why is there a fake sculptural version of Botticelli’s Venus, but wearing a crown? Why is there a golden pumpkin? I hate it here so much. Might as well go to the bedroom.
Ack! Here there is a mannequin who is wearing a pink, long-sleeve gown and is very angry that we are late for curfew. This is enough, don’t you think?
Back through the living room we go! Get down the stairs and down the very long driveway. Hurry up, don’t look back! Let’s get out of here! No amount of renovation can save the vibes in that space, haunted as it is with an army of pageant mannequins who certainly come to life at night, their hands waving gently, their shoulders back and down, adjusting the sashes, planning to ruin your life.
This week’s house has been listed on Zillow for eight days. If you buy this house, I am really worried for you safety and also fear you.