The Mystery of the Mid Century Modern Home: 17iPads, One Starbucks Latte and a Ghost

Helvetica typeface, 1957

“The 17 iPads that were tossed in the pool and ruined? They can be replaced. It’s the chain smoking that’s a problem.”

George sat back in one of the vintage chairs out on the porch of his clients’ $26 million Los Angeles 1956 estate Mid Century Modern home two-story home, puffing on a Cuban cigar. He surveyed the glittering city of Angels, got up and started walking around the guitar-shaped pool created by a Hollywood star back in the day.

“The way I see it – the ghost themselves are an asset,” he said, tapping his ashes into the pool. “I’ve sold more than one property that was haunted. Just not a Mid Century Modern one. There are some people who seek them out. The idea that chairs mysteriously move or levitate intrigues them. My problem is the smoke.”

He continued talking to Sister Barbara, who came in on the red eye last night. A housekeeper in a crisp black and white uniform swung by the patio with a cup of hot coffee and cookies. George called Sister Barbara yesterday morning, pleading with her to come out and talk to the ghosts in this property now on the market. Apparently the iPads – mysteriously tossed into the pool – were the last straw.

“My team cannot sell a house that’s got the smell of smoke,” he said, pacing manically puffing on his cigar, and now sipping on a Starbucks latte. “I’m aware the smoke from these ghosts is vintage. It’s not real.

“But I just can’t risk them lighting up during the house walk through prior closing. They could screw up everything.”

Sister Barbara just nodded, saying “I see” every once in a while. What did this guy in a custom-sewn suit expect her to do?  Wave a magic wand? Do a novena on the spot to get rid of these ghosts?

Sister Barbara herself got up, started walking around the pool, dipped her own sandals playfully into the heated pool. The warm water felt heavenly. She just wanted to don a swimsuit and dive in. Not talk about ghosts.

“Sir, could you please sit down for a minute?” she said, setting down her coffee on the patio table. “Your ghosts – who exist their own time warp, if you will – will not respond to anything I do. I’m not a ghost buster. I’m just a nun who accidentally got on NPR after helping out a young couple with spirits in their contemporary architecture home. The news about that got out.  I don’t solicit business. I just answer calls at the convent.

“My intuition tells me these ghosts will only stop smoking when something else starts.”

“The sellers need to bury a St. Joseph statue? They’ve done that.”

“No, that’s fine. This couple need to baptize their two children immediately and start them in CCD at their local parish.”

George looked at her, stubbed out his cigar. “Lady, you are kidding me? I don’t proselytize to my clients. You will need to tell them this strange advice. They’re Buddhists. They’re in the middle of a divorce.”

Sister got up.

“Not my job,” she said, huffily. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll take a dip in your client’s pool,” she said.

Fully clothed, she leaped into the water as a pelican landed on the pool ledge. “Good luck with your ghosts.”

Mid Century Moderne round up: Disney World and More

Butterfly House, 1957

Here’s this week’s round-up of Mid Century Modern homes and related news around the country.

 

The Mid Century Moderne Weekly: A Round Up

1955 home, Michigan City, Indiana

This is a weekly round-up of all things Mid Century Modern in the news. Houses that have been renovated, demolished. Interesting news about furnishings, the real deal or reproductions. Occasionally related articles that I’ve written (I specialize in writing about historic preservation and architecture).

Here’s the first round-up of news in no particular order:

That’s it. Let me know what you think in the comments.

The Mystery of the Haunted Mid Century Modern Home: It’s Not a Big Deal

1955 cigarette ad

Apple and Forest Graham were the least likely couple on earth to call an exorcist.

Born in the late 80s, they never attended church ever. They were baptized, their parents had been Catholic at one point. They think, but they’re not sure. Both Apple and Forest never even really read the Bible – Forest didn’t know that Sampson and Delilah was a Biblical story – he thought it originated in Hollywood.

But these two knew a thing or two about the Exorcist. They had seen the original 1970s movie at college and then the remake.

These two became convinced they needed an exorcist soon after they moved into their suburban Mid-Century Modern home. They were so excited to be owners of this 1955 International Style house – a unique residence in a sea of ranch homes.

But the ranch homes were slowly disappearing as the McMansions encroached. In fact, two weeks after the Grahams moved in, demolition began on a ranch house next door.

They could hear the jack hammers and the rumble of the backward bobbling bobcats as they unpacked their boxes.

Nearly immediately they noticed cigarette smoke in their home. It was as if someone were in their home lighting up. It would suddenly start, stop with no trace of a smell. Nearly every day that happened. Sometime was distinctly pipe smoke – that was most often in the garage, sometimes in the living room or even the carport. The cigarette smoke tended to be in the guest room, kitchen, master bedroom and the basement.

The sudden cigarette smoke was at first annoying. They told construction workers not to smoke near their home. They complied.

It was clear that the construction workers were not the problem when the smoke continued late at night and on weekends.

When Apple shared the odd incidents with a friend at work. “Maybe you have a couple of chain-smoking ghosts in your home, “ she laughed. “You might need to call an exorcist.”

Apple froze and immediately texted her her husband at work, “Our house is HAUNTED!”

She was hysterical. Forest had to call her and calm her down. “Our house is not haunted,” he said encouragingly. “It’s not that old. Ghosts only haunt Victorians and older houses. It’s not a big deal.”

Yet it became clear these chain-smoking ghosts were a big deal. The cigarette and pipe smoking needed to stop immediately. The Grahams were trying to have a baby and second-hand smoke – even of the ghostly variety – was not helping their plans.

So Apple called the local Catholic Church for an exorcist. She left a voicemail. She instantly felt silly. Who would believe her?

But an hour later, a nun in a veil and a habit rang the doorbell.

“You called,” she said calmly when Apple answered the door. “I’m not an exorcist, but i think I can help.”

End of Part One

(Part Two will appear in two weeks. )