We lived on property near the north west corner of Shea and Scottsdale, back when gray-green waves of virgin desert roiled towards Scottsdale Road, chasing the road all the way to Cave Creek, a town fifteen miles further north. Just two houses sat on the lot. Ours was long and flat, built of block and as inspired as a public restroom along the highway. The other house belonged to a teacher from my grade school, Mrs. Zeeveld. Somehow I once made it into her house; she was an old lady with a big, black beehive, and her floors were cold bare concrete, shiny and cool as a morgue.
“The Shea house” as we called it, was the house my parents bought what seemed like only days before they decided to divorce. Wanting more property for more horses, they sold the house near Cheney and Mockingbird for peanuts—if you live in Arizona, you know that’s the scariest part of this story. A long, curving driveway led off Shea Boulevard, through the sandy acreage dotted with spindly creosote and around to the front of the house.
The house was separated from the road by a big fenced lot where where the horses lolled about slow and dark as rain clouds. Acres of desert lingered outside our windows. My father kept the house after the divorce; my half brother and half sister lived there for a while. It was a lonely house. My father papered the bathrooms with foil wallpaper, painted his bedroom harvest gold, moved a wall. But it always seemed empty and inhospitable, like we were squatters in an abandoned building about to be chased out. Perhaps it was the goat people.
My brother and his girlfriend, Lori, stepped out one night, and saw the shadow of a person propped up against the back of Lori’s jeep, a horned head nosing around in the back seats. Lori screamed; the creature turned on its heals, hooves rather, and ran for the desert, kicking up gravel as it went. My brother and Lori jumped in the jeep and made chase. The creature disappeared into the brush beyond the headlights. They never caught up.
I come from a family with active imaginations, a.k.a. skilled liars, so who knows. I do know that the house was creepy, had “bad vibes” in the parlance of the time, bad “ju-ju” in our parlance. Intense whispering hissed through the windows late at night. I would lie in bed at night, the sound of claws snagging through the carpet under my bed keeping me awake, and when I would call the dog to confirm it was just the dog, he would come running in from another room.
One day in the eighties, long after we had moved out, I drove down Shea and saw the desert scraped bare and raw, the house propped up on blocks like Frankenstein prostrate on the lab table. The land was being developed (it’s now a shopping center), and the owners decided the house was worth moving—the ugly, nondescript, creepy house. I wondered what they saw in it to go to so much trouble. I wondered where it went, if it took its urgent whispers and chill hostility and hoofed beings with it. Perhaps the goat people still live there, peaking into the fancy shops and restaurants late at night, hooves clicking through empty parking lots in pursuit of stray cats, dark forms asleep in Mescal Park.
Happy Halloween, Dear Reader.