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.
12 thoughts on “Inhospitable Goat People: A Vintage Scottsdale Ghost Story”
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Thanks for writing this. I also lived near Scottsdale & Shea and remember the desert and creosote vividly. Mrs. Zeeveld was my teacher, I adored her.
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Thanks for reading, Judi. I never had Mrs. Zeeveld as a teacher, but I did have Mrs. Drinkwater in 2nd grade, Herb Drinkwater’s wife. She was like an angel from heaven, so smart and so beautiful. It’s wonderful to have someone read a post who has shared memories. How did you find the page?
>> How did you find the page?
I googled “Zeeveld Scottsdale” and your article came up in the middle of the page.
I remember she was a great teacher and very kind, but I can’t remember clearly what she looked like; I only remember that she often wore a big silver Navajo squash-blossom necklace. I was hoping google would locate a photo to jog my memory, but no luck.
I never had Mrs. Drinkwater… I did have Mrs. Elmer (the AZ Highways’ photographers’ wife) for kindergarten, though. She was super nice, too, and gave us bluebird-of-happiness pins on our birthdays. It’s amazing how a little thing like that can mean so much to a 5-year-old.
Thanks again for writing the article, it really brought the feel of the desert back to me.
I also had Mrs. Elmer for Kindergaraten. I didn’t know she was married to the AZ Highways photographer. What year did you graduate high school?
1983, from Chaparral. You?
1987, from Chaparral. Consider following the blog (upper right corner on home page) or on Facebook at A Word, Please. Arizona stories are woven throughout.
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“I drove down Shea and saw the desert scraped bare and raw…”
I’m from AZ and THAT was the scariest part of this story!
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That part was scary for me, too.