Moving into a new house can always be a big challenge. Whether it’s finding the right neighborhood, getting the best deal that you can, or just the act of packing everything you own up and adjusting to someplace new. It is probably safe to say that nobody likes the process of moving, but they do enjoy being someplace different and having a fresh start. There is something to be said for the feeling you get finally settling into an unfamiliar house and starting what is a new chapter in your life. It is usually a good thing and a happy event. But that is not always the case, and was very true for the house my family moved into a few years back.
Things started off great, as I had gotten what I consider to be my dream job in one of my favorite cities. My wife wasn’t thrilled with moving, since we have three young children, but it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up at the time. The company that hired me had given me a stipend to use while searching for a new place to live, and I spent the first two months looking for a house that I knew would be great to raise my family in. I found a good deal on an older colonial style house that had been recently renovated. It was in a good neighborhood, had terrific schools near it, and most importantly it was within our budget. Even my wife thought that it was perfect once I had shown her the photos and told her all about it.
The move itself went off without a hitch, much to our surprise. We signed all the paperwork, hired movers to pack up our things, and made the trip by car with little to no issues along the way. It was as if we had struck gold in terms of everything working out the way we wanted it to. Somehow we had managed to get a great deal on a huge, old house that was basically brand new thanks to all the work the previous owners had put into it. There was fresh paint, new carpet, and not a single problem with anything. Well, except for the smell.
It wasn’t the overbearing smell of new paint that was of concern, no, it was something much more unsettling. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was at first, but I knew that it wasn’t right. It was like a stale, decaying smell. You know when you’re driving down the road and you pass by a dead animal that has been sitting there for a while? And how that gross “dead” smell gets into the vents of the car and takes a few miles to completely get out? It was like that, but only never actually went away.
We opened up all of the windows and turned on a few of the fans we had, including the central air unit. For a few days, it seemed like it was helping, but the weather was getting worse and it was getting cold out. We had to shut the windows and turn the heater on at night, which only made the smell all the more vile and unbearable.
My family was getting tired of it, so it was left up to me to try and find out what the smell could be. I spent an entire Saturday looking through all the air vents around the house. I also pulled out all the cabinets and appliances in search of something that had recently died behind them. That turned up fruitless, however, and I was left with looking inside the walls for the source of the smell. I had to take a hammer to walls of our new home just to try and find out what the hell was causing it to smell like a morgue nearly all the time. But even than ended with nothing more than a bunch of holes that needed plastered back up.
To say that I was fed up at that point would have been a massive understatement. I couldn’t think of what else could be causing such a rancid odor and nobody that I could get in contact with seemed to have any idea either. But after digging around online for days, I found some articles about how new carpets can sometimes contain chemicals that when mixed poorly may cause unpleasant smells. I figured that this was the last thing that could be causing our house to stink so badly. That meant one bigger job of ripping up all the new carpet and replacing it with some that we bought ourselves. It was a large, costly job, but we had to do it at that point. The smell was causing our clothes to reek like death and my wife was going to take the kids to a hotel if this didn’t work.
Since we were new to the area, I didn’t know anyone that could come over and help me tear out the carpets, so it ended up taking me a couple of days to do the entire house on my own. I started on the first floor and worked my way up, until finally I had removed all but one room worth of it. That last room was a smaller bedroom that my middle daughter had claimed when we first moved in. I took all of her things into the hallway, and began removing the carpet section by section. That’s when things turned from inconvenient to just disturbing.
As I was pulling up sections of carpet in that room, the smell was getting worse and worse. I thought to myself that I must have found the source of the odor and that removing the carpet would finally solve the problem. But with each piece that I cut out and pulled up, the smell became more and more pungent. I almost couldn’t handle it, even with a painter’s mask on, and had to leave the room a few times during the process of removal. All that remained was one final patch, and when I pulled it back to reveal the floor, the realization that the smell was coming from a different source than I had thought finally sank in.
On the wooden floor that had been exposed was the outline of what seemed to be a body. It was almost as if someone had been laying there when they died and melted into the wood as they decomposed. I couldn’t tell you how long they had been there, but it was long enough to stain the floor as they rotted away. It was obvious that the smell was coming from that stain on the floor and I was stumped about what to do. So I just went outside, called my wife, and let her know what I had discovered. She was just as shocked as I was about what I had found.
We managed to get out of the mortgage after we discovered that the previous owners failed to mention to the realtor that their uncle had shot himself in that room while the rest of the family was spending the summer at their vacation home down in the Caribbean. They didn’t find him until they returned, and he had spent the hottest months of the year wasting away. He apparently had mental health issues, and the family all but ignored him. We figured that anyone who would be evil enough not to mention that sort of thing would be inconsiderate to those levels, as sad as it was.
Even stranger, however, is that after I pulled up the carpet and discovered his final resting place, the smell went away. The carpets were still all in the house when we came back to pack up our things, but yet it was like the smell had been washed away. The stain was still there, but somehow uncovering it seemed to “cure” the odor.
We eventually found another nice place in the same area that thankfully was free of any dead body stench. I always wondered, though, was someone or something trying to tell me to look under the carpets? Is that why the smell went away almost as soon as I discovered the source? I’ll probably never know, but I’ll always remember the brief time we lived in that rotten house.