Neighborhood Mystery

I had dinner with my friend Aaron last night. Aaron is as calm as I am neurotic. He’s like an iceberg- steady, composed and easygoing- so basically we’re complete opposites which is why our relationship works. Also- we both like to look at hot men and we regularly attend Nearly Naked Theatre together (which is sometimes ALL Naked Theatre and we drink wine or beer and admire the actors’ “talents”).

Anyway, after dinner we drove around for a bit since it was such a nice evening, and THEN I TOTALLY CREEPED AARON OUT UNINTENIONALLY.

Let me back up.

Yesterday morning a live feed on the news said human remains were found five minutes from my house. As I was watching the video, I heard loud helicopters circling overhead. My dogs seemed annoyed by the noise; I was completely intrigued. Glued to the screen, I saw a townhouse with a charred, caved in roof.

I gasped.

A few months ago Mark and I had been walking the dogs and we stopped in front of that very house. It seemed like a normal home from the front, but then Mark pointed out that it looked like Godzilla had taken a chomp out of the top of the house. When I saw the gaping hole in the roof I felt a coldness run through me. It’s hard to explain- it’s like my body went numb and I felt rooted to the sidewalk. That moment made quite the impression on me.

So when I saw that exact house on my live feed, the news anchors saying they’d found remains inside of it, I was immediately bathed in curiosity.

The fire had happened at least a few months ago and the house had been sitting wounded and caved in ALL that time?! And no one searched it after the fire was out to see if anyone had been inside? What?

The big mystery everyone online was asking was: “Who died? Where did the remains come from?”

My writer’s mind quickly revved into high gear- I had to know. I typed the address of the house into a search site and two owners came up. One was around 93 years old. Could it be her? Maybe she wasn’t able to get out in time? I googled her name. Her obituary said she passed away in 2016. Hmmm…

In the meantime, someone on the live feed said the house had burned down in March of 2017. WHAT?!?!?! It had been sitting like that for almost two years?!?! Well, if it was 2017 then it wasn’t the nice old lady I had just googled. I turned to the other name- it was man, aged early sixties.

THIS IS THE FREAKY PART…

The man’s name came up on a missing person’s site: “Details of Disappearance: Last seen in the vicinity of Phoenix, Arizona in March 2017. He disappeared on the same day his home caught fire, and has never been heard from again. Few details are available in this case.”

WTF?

Soooooo… this poor man had burned in his home and had been laying in there for TWO YEARS and no one connected his disappearance with the fire!?!? I know in my head burial isn’t important to the dead, but it made me really sad to think of the man all deceased and lonely in there for so long. I thought back to that night I’d stood in front of the house and had the coldness go through my body. Wasn’t that around the time Bob the Viking had started showing up? Maybe the man in the burned house had come home with me? Maybe he wanted to be near a warm fireplace and play with my ceiling fan.

Back to Aaron. After we ate dinner last night I was telling him about the house and how I felt sorry for the dearly departed person or persons (the news never specified how many bodies- just “human remains”). I told Aaron I assumed the remains were the man who owned the house who had gone missing the same day as the fire.

Aaron started getting a bit weirded out and he’s like, “Why are you so obsessed with this- it’s creepy! And it happened so close to where you live!”

We were driving south as we chatted and I THOUGHT I said to Aaron that I was going to swing by the charred abandoned house because I just wanted to stand in front of it again and I THOUGHT Aaron said from the passenger seat, “Ok, sure, that’s fine,” but when I got close to the street it was on, and there were police vans and reporters and caution tape everywhere Aaron got really jumpy.

I drive a small car that I named The Banana and I sort of misjudged where some of the caution tape was hanging and I started going under it. There was a news crew behind us and three neighbors standing on the sidewalk and the neighbors started waving at me like DON’T DRIVE IN THERE and I’m like I KNOW, DUH so I backed up, away from the caution tape and then the neighbors thought I was going to back over THEM so they were all freaked out and Aaron was getting upset because the house looked really scary and cops and medical examiners and detectives were milling about all over.

So I pulled forward and the nose of The Banana was pretty close to being under the caution tape again so I backed up and then pulled forward and backed up again, over and over, trying to get myself in a position to turn around. And, mortified, Aaron was all, “EVERYONE IS STARING AT US!”

I finally maneuvered off the street and we drove away and Aaron said he didn’t know we were going to the “creepy house” and then in a high-pitched, agitated voice he said, “WHY DID YOU WANT TO GO THERE? SOMEONE DIED IN THERE! What is WRONG with you?!?!”

When I brought him back to his car we hugged good-bye and he shook his head at me and said, “Well, it was a spooky and bizarre night. Thanks for that… I guess.”

When I woke up this morning I saw that Aaron had texted me around midnight. He’d sent me a link to a news article about the house fire from March 2017! It said:

“Just before 1:00pm firefighters responded to the home. The fire was moving quickly up to the attic and within minutes after crews arrived on the scene, the fire burnt through the roof and caused it to partially collapse.”

And the kicker:

Firefighters did not locate any victims inside the home.”

A small video accompanied the article, the house engulfed in smoke, water and foam everywhere. The news anchor said:

Thankfully nobody was home at the time.”

So… Did the authorities not do a good job of searching the home for victims of the fire? Or was the owner not really there? In which case, where IS the owner who is still missing? And if the remains are not him then who are they and where did they come from?

I messaged Aaron back and he responded, “I couldn’t sleep last night at first thanks to all the creepy thoughts.” Then he sent me this (because now he’s all super invested in my obsession, like the good friend he is):

“You want to know something crazy? If you go to the Maricopa County Assessor’s maps website and punch in the house’s address and turn on the aerials layer you can see a pickup truck in the driveway for the whole time after the house burned! If you switch between different years (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019) you see the same truck. You would think the HOA would complain about a vehicle sitting there for so long!”

Which begs the obvious question: Why would the HOA or the city be ok with letting a house sit abandoned, burned and its roof caved in for so long? Not to mention the fact that no one ever bothered to look inside for the AWOL owner? Wouldn’t the cops have impounded the truck and searched it for clues when the owner was reported as a missing person? Or did the truck even belong to the owner? Was there someone else living in the house at the time? And how did the fire start?

So many questions and no answers and all the while I keep thinking about the poor person or persons they found inside. My heart hurts for them. They were only discovered because someone bought the property in January and the new owners were getting ready to renovate the house and… SURPRISE! Your new property comes with a bonus ghost or two!

But one of the biggest questions was brought up by a commenter named Cherry on the live feed:

“I get notices from my HOA all the time whenever I have one damned weed pop up in my front yard and this mother f’ing HOA up in that other hood don’t care ‘bout a half-assed torched house sittin’ in their community?! That’s just whack.”

I agree, Cherry, I agree.

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