I began writing Cast Down; A New England Haunting several years ago, but the story itself has haunted me personally for most of my life. The tale is a fictional one but it’s based in reality and in memory of a time long in my past. The characters are loosely based upon people I knew, in the small New England town of my childhood. A town that left its mark on me. The following is an excerpt from the novel, available through Amazon in print and in electronic format.
The elderly woman sat in her wheelchair and stared out the window. The other senior residents gave her a wide berth each time they shuffled by. Her eyes were as wild as her unkempt hair – hair she refused to have brushed. Screeches would erupt from her should anyone even reach out in an attempt to simply touch her. The screeches would be accompanied by thrashing limbs and even spitting if anyone brave enough attempted to get a brush or comb through her twisted mane. So, with dirty, wild locks she sat and stared out her window for hours on end.
Occasionally, she would mumble to no one in particular. Her weary eyes were always set on the tree line and beyond, and she was regularly observed pointing at something out there visible only to her. At other times, she could be heard quietly laughing to herself, or even cursing and shaking her fist at the invisible foe she could not keep her eyes off of. In her calmer moments she would lovingly stroke a cat that was not actually in her lap.
Doris Barton had been a resident of the nursing home for just about a year. When she’d first arrived – delivered by a state social worker – she had reeked of cat excrement. The social worker, Ashley Kanton, guesstimated that Doris had been hoarding cats and their offspring for at least thirty years. Like most hoarders, cleanliness was not high on her priority list. Thus, the litter boxes were overflowing, and the clothes she had on were worn and soiled. Ashley made certain to note that ’Mrs. Barton’s hair is unkempt and a putrid stench can be smelled on her clothes and body’. The social worker also noted that Mrs. Barton ‘is completely incoherent and mutters relentlessly about the dark things that are driving her from her home’.
It was undetermined just how long Doris had been living in complete squalor, or when the madness had actually begun. Her husband had died, and her children were either in jail or out of state. None of them could be located.
Once admitted into the nursing home, the state quickly deemed the house she was removed from as ‘uninhabitable’. Local humane societies were contacted to capture the hundreds of feral cats that roamed the house and the acreage. The cats were collected, checked by a vet, and either placed for adoption at shelters or euthanized if found to be unhealthy. Lastly, an investigation into the issue of ownership of the property was begun with the goal being to liquidate to pay for her care.
Doris Barton never had any visitors. At least not the kind that anyone could see.