Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Haunted House for Sale. Any Takers?

Would you live in a haunted house? It's a relevant question, and not just because we're in October, the month of all things spooky and ghoulish. The question is relevant because the house where one of the most famous murders in East Texas took place went up for sale recently.

Built in 1989, the house is almost six thousand square feet and sits on on twelve acres of land. Four bedrooms, five bathrooms, and a garage that weighs in at over one thousand square feet. (A big garage is handy for parking and storage. And in this case, it plays an important role in the story.)

Nice digs, all in all. In a prime location just outside of Carthage, which was voted the "nicest town in Texas" not all that long ago. And yours for a mere $699,000.

Ghost included.

Or maybe not. 

You decide.

The murder in question is that of Marjorie Nugent. You might've heard of her, or perhaps of her killer, Bernie Tiede. Or maybe you've seen the 2012 movie BERNIE that starred Jack Black as Bernie and Shirley MacLaine as Mrs. Nugent. Matthew McConaughey played Danny Buck Davidson, our local District attorney. A good flick. But just in case you didn't see the movie or hear about the murder, I'll give you a quick rundown.

By all accounts, Marjorie Nugent was an unpleasant woman who had few friends and whose relationships with her family were strained. Kind, gentle Bernie Tiede (who has a beautiful singing voice and is beloved by many in the community) befriended her after her wealthy husband passed on.

To make a long story short, Bernie quit his job at a local funeral home and became Mrs. Nugent's companion; she gave him power of attorney over her assets and he spent freely, but mostly on other people; her idiosyncrasies and rudeness annoyed him mightily and one day he shot her in the back out in that great big garage.

There you have it. A good old murder out in the garage where the blood can be washed away, as if nothing ever happened. But after the murder, the plot thickens. You see, Bernie had access to a small airplane and knew how to fly it. He could've taken her body up in the plane and dumped it over an isolated forest for the hogs, or even dropped it into a lake where chances were slim that it would be found. But instead, Bernie stuffed Mrs. Nugent's body in her spare freezer (kept in the garage) and there it remained. While Bernie continued to spend and lie about why Mrs. Nugent never answered the phone.

For nine months.

Until Nugent's financial planner convinced the local authorities that something bad might've happened to her.

Seems it did.

They loaded the freezer onto a flatbed truck, plugged it into a generator, and took her to Dallas to be thawed and autopsied. Which wasn't really necessary because Bernie confessed. To the shooting and to keeping her in the freezer. Many of the locals wanted Bernie to go free and even offered to post bail for him, but Danny Buck Davidson got a jury down in San Augustine to convict Bernie, and he's spending time in the state penitentiary.

Now for the question of haunting. What exactly makes a house haunted? Houses have lives, they have character. But do they have memories? I think they do, perhaps only as an echo of the lives lived, and perhaps lost, there. If a violent act that results in death is a prerequisite to haunting, the Nugent house surely qualifies. If the 'mean old woman' syndrome is necessary, Mrs. Nugent ticks that box. Someone lives in the house now and I'm not sure why they're selling. Could it be because Marjorie Nugent's unhappy spirit still roams the place, opening a door here, bringing a chill breeze there?
If you had the $699,000 price tag, would you live in a house where someone was murdered? Where their body remained for almost a year after they were killed? Or would you pass on by, leaving the house and its memories (and perhaps its ghost), for someone else to deal with?

(For more on the movie BERNIE, see this earlier blog post.)

photo credit: Hourman via photopin cc
photo credit: Leshaines123 via photopin cc