I love the locations where it appears the previous occupant just got up one day and never came back. There’s a special mystique to these places – feelings of fascination, mystery, fear and intrigue mixed with a sense of intrusion. And so it was with this house.
I’d driven past this place a hundred times and had always planned to visit but never quite got around to it. Hidden in plain sight in the Adelaide Hills – the kind of place where it’s hard to go unseen by the local population. A miserable winter’s Sunday afternoon provided an opportunity and I finally made my way inside. After fighting through thick vegetation to a rear entrance I stepped inside and into a time capsule.
Cupboards overflowed with 1960s magazines. Kitchen cupboards were still stocked with jars of food. A bed was left unmade, a pair of slippers still at the bedside. Antique crockery and silverware gathered dust in display cabinets. Photos and personal effects lay scattered in various rooms. Shooting trophies from the early 1900s left to rot alongside rifle stocks and cardboard targets. But it was the lounge room which held the biggest surprise. Amongst the peeling wallpaper, orange vinyl couch and faux stone fireplace stood a Christmas tree, it’s tinsel and decorations still in place. A calendar in an adjacent room declared the date as December 1981.
I still don’t know exactly what happened here to bring about abandoning a home and a family history for 30 years. I’ve been told varying stories relating to family grief and despair but have yet to prove any one story as being true. I do know that the house was originally a shop before becoming a residence in the 1940s. The circumstances leading to its abandonment are a mystery.
Alas, I am not the only one to have found my way inside. And once word gets out, it is inevitable that a more rapid deterioration takes place as those with an agenda different to mine steal, vandalise and destroy. I’ve made several visits back to the house over the past two years and am saddened to find it ruthlessly picked to pieces. Gone are the antiques, the framed photographs, the old timber meat safe, the oldest magazines and most of the personal effects. The kitchen floor has collapsed into the cellar, with the other floors soon to follow.
Of the many abandoned houses I have been inside this one was special – a chance to spend some time with the ghosts of Christmas past. I will always wonder what happened that Christmas of 1981 and I am grateful to have found it when I did – when it was untouched and pristine awaiting the return of its owner.