NARRATOR – JON GRILZ:
In 1716, sailmaker Thomas Wood built a home in Marblehead that subsequently became known as the Old Spite House. It’s still standing, perfectly preserved after 300 years. When you first gaze at it straight on, nothing immediately catches your eye. Then you notice the left side of the house, how it juts out from the main home like a ramshackle silo. It’s as if half the house is reaching out towards you, searching for you.
The left half is ten feet wide and there stories high with a slanted roof. No one alive knows why the strange ten foot wide addition was constructed. Some say it was a dispute between Thomas Wood and his brother William, who hated each other so much they agreed to occupy opposite parts of the connected homes, vowing never to speak again.
But the dead know the details.
The dead know so many secrets, and at night when the tide rolls against the Marblehead shore, the dead whisper their secrets, soft as water gliding over Ocean-worn pebbles.
[Music fades out]
The dead whisper that the old New England spite-house expansion was space for a future wife that Thomas yearned for named Agnes. She was a tavern server who worked the inn at the top of the hill. Every night, Thomas Wood gazed up from his bedroom window, searching for Agnes’ silhouette sliding over the Inn’s candlelit windows.
He had plans drawn up to make his home more open and inviting, a whole wing devoted to his future bride. Thomas spent much of his free time laboring over these plans, but never once did he stop to ask Agnes if she were interested in being a part of them.
His brother William, however, had a different approach.
[Scratching noise intensifies]
William spent time at the Inn and eventually proposed to Agnes and asked her to move in with him.
There was already considerable tension between the Wood brothers. After their father died, William Wood received a large inheritance that allowed him to build a superior home, twice the size of Thomas’ and closer to beautiful Gas House Beach. This undoubtedly was another reason Thomas planned his expansion. He wanted to compete with his richer brother, spiteful about what little inheritance he’d been left.
When Agnes agreed to marry William, Thomas’ spite was cemented. Shortly after their wedding, a mysterious fire burned most of William’s home to ash. Worse, Agnes was hurt by the fire, lungs damaged from smoke inhalation. William begged Thomas for sanctuary, for a comfortable place where Agnes could rest and heal. Thomas refused.
“I will not share my home with either of you.”
Instead, he aborted his plans for an expansion and hastily set out constructing the diminutive spite-house addition. The workers were often confused and construction took longer than anticipated. Meanwhile, Agnes’ condition worsened as William rented her a room at the drafty Inn where she used to work. By the time the spite house was completed, Agnes was near death. She died exactly one week after she and William moved in.
After her funeral, William vowed never to leave the strange, small addition to Thomas’ home. He became a recluse, holed up inside the tight confines of his disproportioned bedroom. Thomas would wait by the door to try and catch him leaving, offer him food through the door, even beg for forgiveness eventually. William remained eerily silent and never-present.
[Light tide continues]
After weeks of not seeing his brother, Thomas grew concerned, but the doors between their adjoining home remained locked and there had been no sign of William.
“Just scratch at the walls when you need me, William. Just scratch against the wood that separates us when you’re ready to talk.”
[Silence — wind howls]
William finally answered.
[With deep, horrid echo] “I will scratch when I am ready for you.”
[Lonely music resumes]
It was the last thing Thomas heard his brother say. He’d wait up at night, listening for the scratching, but the scratching never came. He would prop himself up by the locked entrance to his brother’s split-home, hoping to catch him sneaking out for food or water, but he’d end up with nothing but a stiff back the following morning.
[Footsteps on wood]
Thomas knew William was still inside the spite-house. Sometimes he woke to light rustling, sudden movement, soft footsteps from the other side of his wall. But never any scratching. Never anything beyond the slightest reminders that his brother occupied the confined half of this strange, split home. Soon he couldn’t sleep. He’d stay up all night, counting the number of times William must have moved, waiting for the sound of scratching.
He’d hear the house settle and hope it was William, finally ready to face him again. He’d listen to the window shades blast against the frame from the angry tide-wind and he’d wonder — when will William come? When will he let me know he’s returned? His mind withered from lack of sleep and he became crazed, a local legend, the feeble, broken man in a crooked house the neighbors warned each other about in hushed whispers and solemn nods.
Finally, Thomas died in 1775 and was buried on the hill where the tavern once stood. His heart stopped but his frazzled, divided mind remained briefly active, still in the process of slipping away completely as he was laid to rest. He regained a small sense of the man he once was in those last moments and quietly prepared himself for rest, for judgement, for eternal slumber. He began the slow fade into black.
And that’s when William finally returned.
[Long, intense scratching noises]
That’s when William finally started scratching his long, brittle fingers down the length of Thomas’ casket. And there would be no rest, no eternal slumber for spiteful old Thomas Wood.
[Scratching increases in intensity and number]
Greater Boston is written and produced by Alexander Danner and Jeff Van Dreason.
The Old New England Spite House of Marblehead Mass. was written and produced by Jeff Van Dreason.
This episode was narrated by special guest Jon Grilz, creator of creepy-as-hell Small Town Horror.
“Haul Away Joe” and “Hurdy Gurdy Drones” recorded by Adrienne Howard, Dirk Tiede, and Emily Peterson
Piano and some sound effects by Dave Fernandez.
Now some more creepy hijinks to celebrate Halloween.
First and foremost, if you enjoy omnipresent melancholy dread (and who doesn’t?), then you owe it to yourself to check out Small Town Horror. It’s a fantastic series, and we were delighted to have Jon guest in this episode.
Next, Lane Lloyd’s Sable is an ongoing series of linked stories of the horrible. I’ve actually woken my wife up at night because I couldn’t help reacting vocally to things I’d heard in Sable.
Archive 81 and The Deep Vault are a pair of subterranean explorations, full of demons, mutants, unspeakable gods, and ill-prepared explorers with no idea what they’ve signed up for.
And finally, The No Sleep Podcast is a long running audio fiction series, with all kinds of tales of the creepy and frightening, by an assortment of writers.
So if you’re looking for more shows this Halloween to give you frights and scares and occasional nausea, there’s a great list to get you started.
- House fire
- Psychological Horror