Transcript-Interrogation of Ernest Preston

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Transcript-Interrogation of Ernest Preston

Interrogating Officer: Sgt. Eric Renfield

Location: 229 Baylor Ave.-Home of Ernest Preston

Date: 11/3/2012

Time: 10:45 AM

Renfield: Thank you for meeting with me, Mr. Preston.

Preston: My pleasure. You said on the phone that you have a local history question.

Renfield: Yes. The staff at the Historical Society said that you are the expert on local matters. Do you mind if I record our conversation?

Preston: Oh, that's fine. I've always had an interest in history, and since I retired a few years ago, I've really been able to learn a great deal about our town.

Renfield: Have you lived in Haven Park long?

Preston: All my life, born and raised. What were you curious about, Detective?

Renfield: I was interested in the history of a specific house.

Preston: Ah, 6336 Mallum Ave., right?

Renfield: How did you know I was going to ask about that particular house?

Preston: Every now and then, someone comes to me and asks about a specific house's history. Every time, it's either their own house or it's the house at 6336 Mallum Ave.

Renfield: Why is that?

Preston: Because 6336 Mallum Ave. is the haunted house of Haven Park.

Renfield: You believe it's haunted?

Preston: It's hard to argue with evidence.

Renfield: You mean the string of tragedies that have occurred there?

Preston: Yes, nowadays, the recent events of that house have led people to believe that it's haunted, but that belief is fairly old. It's not just today's kids that tell stories about 6336 Mallum. The town of Haven Park has a bit of an obsession with that house. It has a rather nefarious history and origin.

Renfield: Can you tell me how the rumors started?

Preston: Well for that we have to go back quite a ways. Haven Park was originally settled in the early 1700's by a collection of mostly northern Europeans, English, Dutch, Swedish and a few assorted others. Among those settlers, there was a man named Gaius Ranier, a bit of a cryptic man and probably not his real name. Ranier was a preacher, a reverend, and a rather brutal one at that.

Renfield: What does this have to do with the house?

Preston: History goes back before the thing itself, Detective. I'm getting to the house. Ranier's first order of business when he arrived here was to set up a church to save the souls of the new immigrants. Now, Ranier had some, shall we say, antiquated beliefs. Specifically, he believed that all sin came from women.

Renfield: Why is that?

Preston: Because Eve got Adam to eat the apple, or because some woman slighted him in the past, or maybe he was a repressed homosexual. I don't speculate. I just learn as many facts as I can. Some of his old sermons are still available at the library. They're not exactly subtle in their misogyny.

Renfield: So Ranier hated women.

Preston: That's right. He also became a prominent member of the local government at the time. He served a position similar to a judge, but he was also the jury. For nearly three decades, the reverend put to death any woman who committed any infraction that offended Ranier's overly prudish sensibilities, no matter how small. He put women to death for stealing, murder, adultery, things he called perverted acts, even a few cases of cursing. Over three decades, he ordered dozens of women to be executed. He personally paid to erect gallows that could hang six at a time, and he turned the hangings into a public spectacle to make an example of the condemned women. Additionally, at each execution, Ranier would personally go into the gathered crowd and pick out six pre-pubescent girls to stand behind the condemned women on the gallows for a front row seat to the hangings. He called making them watch godly measures against the greatest threat to the community: blasphemy. Anyway, guess where the gallows were built.

Renfield: 6336 Mallum.

Preston: Bingo, but the story goes on. Ranier was in his seventies when he sentenced a woman named Maryann Hemmings to death for what he called delusions. Hemmings may have had some sort of mental disorder, or perhaps she was simply fed up with Ranier. She declared to the town that the good reverend had been sent by the devil, hence her death sentence. At any rate, the night before she was to be executed, she escaped from the jail and murdered Ranier with an axe. When the sun came up on the day Maryann Hemmings was to be hanged, she was found deconstructing the gallows with that same axe.

Renfield: I assume she was arrested again?

Preston: No, but not for a lack of trying. The women of the community, who uniformly hated and feared Ranier, defended her against any aggression as she took the gallows down singlehandedly. When she was done destroying, Maryann began building.

Renfield: Building?

Preston: Maryann built a house out of the wood from Ranier's gallows.

Renfield: 6336 Mallum Avenue.

Preston: That's right.

Renfield: I'm sure it's been ripped down and rebuilt since then.

Preston: It's been renovated and added to, sure, but never torn down. Several of the rooms on the first floor are all from Maryann's original house. A second story with bedrooms was added in the early 1800s, and an additional room, a kitchen I think, was added just after the Civil War. One of the owners added a basement, actually an expansion of the original root cellar, in the nineteen seventies, but none of the string of owners elected to tear down the original house. I'm sure it was expensive, but, for example, the basement was built under the existing frame. In fact, the original frame of the house is almost certainly the same wood that hung women under the orders of Gaius Ranier.

Renfield: And people believed that the house was haunted back then?

Preston: Not at first. It all started when Maryann Hemmings went missing, vanished off the face of the Earth. That's when the rumors started that Ranier still haunted his own gallows.

Renfield: And the disasters continued?

Preston: To this very day.

Renfield: Have you ever been contacted by a man named Jonathan Ludarac?

Preston: I have. He asked about the house as well. I told him exactly what I've told you.

Renfield: Thank you for your time, Mr. Preston.

Preston: Teaching people about history is always my pleasure, Detective.

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