Monday, April 18, 2011

Found in the Attic

The creepiest of things are the unknown. That's just what made Insidious such a scary movie. Accepting its funhouse camp, without gore this classic haunted house flick keeps you jumping at what you can't see, not what you can. And that is just what's so scary about my house.

A month or so ago I mentioned the leaky roof in my 200 year old rental trinity, and the fact that the attic door was ominously sealed shut behind the shower decades ago. Waiting for my landlord to coordinate with his roofers, some of the plaster has deteriorated and exposed the understide of the sloping roof.

While the hole doesn't look straight into the attic, its contents have worked their way down. Dozens of brochures for the Peirce College of Business and Shorthand have found their way into my bedroom. Every day another one of these damp cards drifts from the hole.

Originally I assumed these must have been from the 1960s, probably around the time the attic was sealed up. But the most recent one to land at my feet as I dressed this morning yielded a readable date, "Session begins September 21, 1891."

The address of the college is listed as 917-919 Chestnut Street, or the Philadelphia Record Building, which was razed around 1920 to make way for the Federal Reserve.

That's really old. But nothing in itself is creepy about an old college brochure. Nothing is creepy about someone stashing dozens of these brochures above my bedroom more than 100 years ago. What's creepy is knowing that they are still there.

What else is up there? Why were they left? Simple questions with simple answers I'm sure, but without someone to provide those answers, creepy.

Scary movies are scary because of the unknown, because of subtle clues that make your mind wander. Sometimes the most subtle and unassuming clues are the ones that cause your mind to wander the greatest distance.

I've thought of tossing a web cam up there with some glow sticks just so I can sleep easy. But part of me enjoys the unknown mystery of what could be.


  1. What a great find, do you have any other photos of Peirce? I work in the archive, would be interested in seeing any others you'd like to share.

    1. Hey Bart. I don't have any pictures from Peirce, just the brochures that fell out of the ceiling. I saved a stack of them, the ones that weren't too wet or moldy. I'd be happy to pass them on to you. Drop me an email at and I'll send them to you.