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It was April or May 2009. My friend (let's call him Vinnie) was in from out-of-town and we decided to drink at about noon. We went to a party store and bought some 40s and just walked around town brown-bagging it. We got a call from another friend (Justin) that he and his girlfriend (Kim) were going to drop by. By now, it was the early afternoon and we made it back to my place.
I had mentioned to Vinnie that the house next door was condemned; it had a bright pink sign on the front door with CONDEMNED written on it because the garage behind the house was collapsing. I had never seen anyone go in or out of the house in the two years I had been living next door to it. I had just assumed it was abandoned or got foreclosed upon.
As kids, we'd always love exploring the woods and looking for random things. It only seemed fitting that we go into the house and have a look around. We were pretty drunk at this point and just thought, 'fuck it, let's do this.' We went in behind the house, through the partially collapsing garage. The door that went from the garage to the house was locked, but after a while we were able to force it open. To our immediate right was the basement, so we decided to go down there first. We were amazed by the amount of stuff down there; there were so many tools and hardware supplies. In the back of the basement, in its own room, was a large train track set-up. It was creepy.
While we were in the basement, we got a call from Justin and Kim saying that they had arrived at my house. We came back out through the garage again and I grabbed my Nikon. Kim and Justin were pretty pumped about going in and what we discovered, so we went back in and showed them the basement. After looking around, we went back upstairs to the kitchen. Again, there was a lot of stuff in there. A table in the corner of the room was full of bottles and cans, which we planned on taking after looking around the rest of the house (there is a ten-cent deposit for cans here).
We took some time poking around the kitchen, too. It, of course, smelled bad in there, but it wasn't overwhelming. The smell was just that of a musty house. I made the mistake of looking in the refrigerator and the smell of THAT overwhelmed me from the rotting food whose smell was being contained until I opened it.
There was a door that separated the kitchen from the living room and I was the first to open it. It was a swinging door and when I opened it I caught a glance of a figure sitting in a chair facing away from me. All I knew is that someone was in the house and we were trespassing. I quickly turned around and while walking towards the back door, I told my friends in a whisper, "Shit, there's somebody here," and we all ran out. We went into my backyard and I told them that I saw someone sitting in a chair in the living room.
My friend Vinnie, who was most likely more drunk than I was, said, "Fuck it, man. He has no more of a right to be there than us. It's probably a junkie." I was not as excited to go back into confront a squatting junkie, but I was convinced when Justin informed me that he was most likely high as fuck and wouldn't be able to do shit. We ended up going back in through the back again, but more quietly this time. When we made it to the kitchen, Vinnie was the first, this time, to open the door to the living room. The rest of us stood back and watched him watch the figure in the chair.
Vinnie swung the door shut, looked at us, and said, "That's a dead body." We all looked at him in shock, but it was obvious that he was serious. We all trickled into the living room and gathered around the body. His skin was black (even though we found out later he was white) and was sitting in a chair facing the front of the house. It was obvious that he had been there for a while. The smell near the body was almost unbearable; we needed to cover our mouths and noses with our shirts like respirators. This made Vinnie and I sober up really quick. There was a complete silence between our group of four while we observed the body. Nobody said a word.
I can't really tell you what happened next, as it gets kind of foggy from there. The effect of seeing a dead body is a kind of surreal experience. We looked around the rest of the house, upstairs and in other rooms on the ground floor, and eventually found a journal next to the body. We flipped through the journal and every day he listed what he ate, the temperature, and how much money he made in returning cans that day (which I found strange, considering there was at least $50 worth of cans sitting around in the house).
I took some more pictures of the house and of the body (although, at the time, Vinnie was very opposed to doing this) and we left to go to the bar. At some point, Kim left and it was just us three, but I remember her taking in the experience quite well and was not as disturbed by it as much as other girls would have been (some people don't even want to hear the story, let alone see the pictures).
We went to the bar that night, sat in the back, and just quietly talked about what had happened. After the bar, drunk again, Justin and I went back in the house to check it out one more time. I took more pictures and Vinnie and Justin left for the night. I told my roommates about it and one of them told his girlfriend. She was so disturbed she said she refused to come over until the body was gone. She said if I didn't call the cops, then she would.
The next morning, hung over, I decided that I better call the police. I called my friends to let them know and they made me hold off on doing it until they came over. I waited and called an anonymous tip line when they arrived.
When I called the tip line, I simply said that I found a dead body. The operator seemed frazzled and told me to hold the line. She told me multiple times not to hang up. I held the line and we were put on with a detective for our city. I explained what happened and what the address was. He asked me my name, but I told him he had to be fucking insane if he thought I would be giving my name to him.
Right after hanging up, we all went to the front porch to wait for the cops to come. Not even a full minute after hanging up the phone, I saw a cop car round the corner with its lights on. We were really surprised by the response time, but it ended up driving by the house. A few minutes later, a few cop cars rolled up and asked us if we had seen anyone in or out of the house lately. I told him that I saw nobody near the house in the last two years I had been living there.
The police went in for a while and a white van showed up. Eventually, some girls that lived across the street came over wondering what was going on. The police said they found a body and we, of course, acted shocked. They took out the body covered on a stretcher (they must have had a hell of a time prying him from the chair) and also took out a gun that was in the house (the gun was an old-style rifle that had been leaning against a wall in the living room). I talked to one of the cops and he said that the guy's family would have them check up on the guy from time to time to make sure he was doing alright (apparently, he wanted nothing to do with his family) but they stopped doing so. He just wanted to be left alone.
The only thing that we took from the house was the journal he kept. There is a bunch of nice handwriting in it with addresses and such. The first entry was on January 21, stating that the notebook was found in a dumpster. There is also an entry talking about when the power was turned out and notes to buy oil (there were a bunch of oil-burning lamps in the house). The last entry in the journal, May 3, says, "Sick - very flu 4 cans. Sick as heck flu can't eat." It is eerie. The date matched up with the most current newspaper he had in a pile in the living room.
We decided not to take anything else, out of respect for him and his family. I know that certain things were worth a lot of money, but I'm not about to be the type of person that loots a dead guy's house. I figured that the family would come and get the stuff, but they never did. The house ended up being sold and I saw the people who bought it bring out boxes filled with sheet music, toy trains, etc. The house has since been fixed up and it's being rented out. I could find no information on either the house or the guy who died, even over a year later.
I am posting this just to share my experience. This happened in 2009, but I am just now deciding to share it with everyone. I am not trying to make jokes or act like it is a funny story. This guy died alone in his house and was found by strangers over a year after his death. Make jokes if you want, but this guy was alone and obviously had some problems.