“THAT” HOUSE ON CHURCH STREET

By Nowell Briscoe ( nowellbriscoe@bellsouth.net )

(Thank you Nowell for allowing us to use this wonderful article)

(Published  in the Walton Tribune-Monroe, GA)

(Republished with permission of the Walton Tribune - To see their website, please click HERE)

 

         As children, we were told stories about haunted houses and ghosts, which kept many of us up at night peering into those dark corners of our rooms while looking under the bed and in the closet making sure there were no “haint’s” or “spooks” ready to jump from a hidden spot and scare us silly.

          For years Monroe had its own version of a spooky, creepy haunted house located on Church Street, several blocks from town.  The house at 410 Church Street belonged to Spence Van Horne and his sister, Minnie Laura and for many of us it was as close to a genuine haunted house as anyone could imagine.

          Closed-up, desolate, scary, frightening, in disrepair and hauntingly lonely, the house was a white, two story colonial structure with tall columns stretching upwards to hold the roof which covered the porch.  The house sat on a large parcel of land between two streets. A smaller house in close proximity to the large one belonged to Spence’s brother, Jamie and wife Flora.  A white picket fence surrounded the entire property.  An old servant’s quarters stood between the two houses and later turned into a storage building. Every window on the big house and the storage house with the exception of the large ones dotted with stained glass, were covered by faded green shutters, tightly closed for so long it would be next to impossible to pry them open to let in the sunlight.  A once green louvered screened door concealed the front door also adorned in stained glass but seldom seen.  Adding to the mystery of the house were those large and very old boxwood bushes that could have hidden spooks or goblins with ease.

          The house originally belonged to Dr. James T. & Addie Spence Van Horne; Dr. Van Horne being one of Monroe’s early physicians.  The couple’s children were Minnie Laura, Spence and Jamie.  Dr. Van Horne practiced medicine in Monroe and in 1883 opened Van Horne Drug Store on Broad Street.  Jamie studied medicine under his father and obtained his pharmaceutical degree in Atlanta. In 1903 he joined his father in the drug business which was located several doors down from Mendel’s Grocery Store.

After the deaths of Dr. & Mrs. Van Horne, the big house was left to the children.  Jamie married Flora Quillan of Bishop, Ga. who taught school in Monroe.  After their marriage, they built a smaller home on the property while Spence and Minnie Laura occupied the big house.   After Dr. Van Horne’s death, Jamie continued operating the drug store, assisted by his brother, until age and declining health forced them to close the store in 1958, ending seventy-five years of service to the Monroe community.

It was back in the mid-fifties when I first began hearing those scary stories about “that house on Church Street”.  The tales abounded about how a crazy old lady and her deranged brother lived in that house and were never seen in public.  One story circulated about how a relative had died in the house and was never buried; the casket containing her body was still laid out in an upstairs bedroom.  Another story told of a painter hired to paint the house and was pushed to his death from the ladder he was on painting a second story window. His broken body mysteriously disappeared before a doctor or ambulance could be summoned. I can still see that ladder still leaning against the side of the house long after the painter died; it seemed like years before it was finally removed. Another story recalled was that of a baby being born dead in the house and the tiny body kept in a large jar of formaldehyde in the attic.  I can well recall the goose bumps I got one morning after arriving at school, hearing one of my third grade classmates tell of walking by the house as a skeletal hand reached out from the boxwoods grabbing his arm.  Stories about people opening the fence gate and walking to the front door never to be seen again coupled with sobs and moans emitting from behind the bricks in the basement area of the house added to the mystique.

With tales such as these floating about, it was no wonder those of us in grade school walking home from school wanted to get anywhere near ‘that’ house for fear of our lives, therefore crossing the street to the safety of the other sidewalk.

With Spence and his sister being the “reclusive sort” it only served to fuel stories about the house making what was said about it seem real.  Jamie and his wife were more outgoing.  Jamie had a small house in back of his home where he kept an arrowhead collection and other Indian artifacts.  Mrs. Van Horne loved flowers and had a large garden sharing her flowers with friends and neighbors.  Susan & Steve Brown can recall Jamie Van Horne opening up his museum to the grade school children, letting them come view the treasures he collected over a lifetime.

After the deaths of the Van Horne siblings, the house and property were sold.  When the house was opened for potential buyers, there were more curious folks than interested buyers who came to get a glimpse inside the big, dark mansion.  The house sold several times, with renovations and remodeling taking away some of the charm.  Now it is a venue for special events.  I wonder if any of the old stories from my youth were true and if ghosts from the past still float around, hoping at some point to again lay claim to a property they loved.  Does anyone hear strange sounds or voices coming from the house now when they walk by or go inside to attend an event?  If so, I would like to know so the tales I heard as a child might really be more than fabrications.