“I was thirteen years old and had a crush on a house.”

March 2, 2010 at 8:41 am (Uncategorized)

 

   The broadcast from This American Life entitled the “House on Loon Lake” by  Ira Glass was a surprising treat to listen to.  The story reminded me of a Scooby Doo episode or a murder mystery.  It tells the entire tale Adam Beckman from his childhood to adulthood and his discovery of an abandoned house in the 1970’s.  He and his friends found has found it, and it seemed frozen in time jammed with letters, objects, food and clothing from fifty years ago.  The family living there seemed to have vanished within thin air.  This broadcast covers a young Adam and his friends finding clues all the way to when he becomes an adult and solves the mystery.  This broadcast was like a book you can’t put down.  It kept me so intrigued because Glass created a suspenseful and mysterious atmosphere.  He is constantly raising questions but never gives too much away at once.  In this broadcast, he completely follows his own advice.  It’s hard to describe without telling the story. 

       It starts off with Adam setting up the scenario; vacation in  late fall in Freedman, New Hampshire with his friends Kenny and Ian.  They are all very young; about twelve, and love to get into mischief.  They then see the house, and each of them take turns describing what they remember that day in their interviews.  It was gray, withered, dark, and bleak, and had a car with a tree growing out of it.  The suspense builds as Ian describes how he slipped through the window pain and saw a newspaper with a headline about Nazis. “That is all we needed,” he says.  Adam then sets the mood by saying “We’ve seen enough horror movies to know that joking around could get us in trouble.”  As they boys walk around in the dark,  they find all kinds of things, like a white rotting dress, 1935 coins, letters, a Hershey bottle, human feces and a doll with a burned head.  It was jammed to the brim with artifacts.    Listening to this, I felt like I was in a haunted house.   I was waiting for something to jump from the closet or the oven.   “There was something so creepy about it” David said, who is another friend came up with Adam the following summer.

         The broadcast continues reflecting on Adam and his friends’ growing obsession with the house; they would always come up with some wild reason why the family left with their young imaginations. Adam would not focus on school and instead would study the letters he found from the family. He visited the house four more times.  He became detached from his life, having nightmares of the family, the Nasons, in the walls watching him.  He and his friends also found an old Stop and Shop that the family used to run.  It too, looked like a preserved time capsule, with the candy still in the aisles.  When they asked the Freedman people about it, they all gave them the cold shoulder.  At this point, my imagination was going wild as well, and I could not wait to hear this mystery solved. 

           Adam, a couple years later, told his mom about the house, who was shocked when she finally saw it.  However, the mom got caught by townspeople trying to take a rotting crib from the house.  They were very angry and told her it was none of her business. Adam was embarrassed, and did not want to go back.  However,  he did return as an adult with Ian to find the house and the store completely gone.  Adam continued to have nightmares of the Masons attacking him for twenty years. 

         The second half of the broadcast tells of Adam’s journey of searching for the truth of the house.  He talks a slew of people who did not want anything to do with the Nasons.  It seems as though the Nasons were a “tough crowd,” because  no one wanted to talk about them, and all of the facts were behind closed doors. He finally finds Samantha Thurston, whose great-great grandparents were the ones who lived in the house.  After more interviews, they end up at the Nason’s old neighbors, who tell the truth.  They say that the Nasons were wonderful people, and all of their nine kids worked hard. The house was full of treasures because Mr. Nason was a packrat.  They had lived in the house until 1946, and then moved into the apartment above their store and used their old house for storage.  A huge legal battle between the kids took place for the house after the couple died, and it was auctioned off and the money was split after 11 years.  It was then burned to the ground as a practice fire for the firearms department.  The tragedy here is that the kids did not care about the treasures within the house; the letters, the clothing, the pictures; they simply abandoned all of it.  When asked about the precious things, one replied, “What precious things? The house was full of crap, and I mean crap!”    

        What makes this broadcast truly unique is because it is extremely personal.  The listener becomes aware of Adam’s obsession over the house and his wild imagination, and we get to see his transformation into a more mature adult.  We are taken on this journey with him in his quest to find the truth, only to find out that this tragedy of abandonment was created by the family.  We also see the transformation of Freedman from a relaxation spot to tourist attraction.  Glass does a fantastic job of combining personal commentary with vivid descriptions and suspense to keep the listener truly entertained.  For me, it had a different quality than most broadcasts.  It was like I was solving a mystery rather than being handed factual information to digest.

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