The first house that my parents bought was a three-bedroom ranch on Sarasota Drive in a still-growing neighborhood addition called Beverly Heights. Beverly Heights consisted of only two streets, Sarasota and Sunset Drives, and Alma Court, a cul-de-sac off of Sunset. Our new neighborhood was situated between the big city of Muncie and the tiny burg of Yorktown in east-central Indiana. The neighborhood was bordered by Highway 32 on the south, although only two houses on Sarasota actually abutted the highway. A church, a house, and a Marathon service station sat between the highway and the houses on Sunset Drive. The less-than-mighty White River bordered the addition to the north, a cornfield was to the west, and Nebo Road, a two-lane county road with a single-lane steel girder bridge that spanned the White River, marked the eastern edge. The year was 1968. I was five-years old.
I have a dim memory of the day when our family moved into our new home. A large sign marked the neighborhood’s entrance on Sarasota Drive. I asked my mom what the sign read. She told me, “It says ‘Welcome to Beverly Heights’. That’s the name of our new addition.” Being a child of the television era, I had visions that this was where the Beverly Hillbillies must live. I looked forward to the day when I would meet Jed Clampett and his lovely daughter Elly May.
At the time we moved in, the addition was still a few houses short of full capacity. The houses were mostly built in order from the southwest corner of the neighborhood at the highway and wound their way to the northeast corner near the steel bridge on Nebo Road. Our house was the latest one built on the south side of Sarasota with four empty lots between us and a duplex that sat right next to Nebo Road. The north side of the street was another set of four or five empty lots with two houses down near Nebo. The first one was a mirror image of the other duplex and also sat next to Nebo. The other house was a house like no other in the neighborhood. Or anywhere else, for that matter.
Even at the early age of five I recognized how odd this house looked. Whereas every other house in Beverly Heights looked like a traditional single-story ranch or two-story home, this ranch-style home stood out like a sore thumb. The exterior was all bright white stone with a contrasting black roof. The only other features were a dark red front door that was in the middle of the face of the house and what appeared to be space for a garage door on the house’s west end. There was no garage door, just the framing for one filled in with a solid wall. The most striking oddity of the house was that there were no windows. None, as in “zero”. Adding to the oddness was the lack of a lawn. Crushed white stone covered the smallish lawn space between the house and the street. Occasionally there would be a car parked in the driveway but no other signs that someone actually lived there. Oftentimes, while playing in the backyard and keeping an eye out for Jed and all his kin, I would steal a glance at the strange house and wonder what kind of people would live in such a strange place.
Over the next few years the open lots between our house and Nebo Road would be filled with new homes and families. All of them were ordinary-looking homes for homes built during that time. None of them were the cookie cutter homes that would become the standard a few decades later and none of them were oddities like the house-with-no-windows. Along with the new families came kids that were around the same age as me. With these new kids came new questions about the strange house.
Later on came the rumor that would prove to be too big to be ignored.