“Well, the house was built in 1868, shortly after the end of the Civil War. Built by the Bellomi family who were owners of a grain mill in nearby Jamestown, NY. Jamestown was at that time a large milling community in Western NY. The Bellomi family wanted a quiet area to live, somewhere outside the hustle and bustle of Jamestown. So they built this lovely estate in quiet Kiantone, NY, a home they eventually called ‘Bella Vista’ or ‘beautiful view’ as a celebration of their business success.”
The realtor was quite the talker. Jim Haggerty fit the classic mold of a real estate agent. Anxious to show off the good features of any house he was marketing.
The out of town buyer walked causally down the gravel driveway as he scanned the property. Thomas Edwards was a skilled business man and deal maker. The house was in need of work, a lot of work. But the list price for the house was appealing and Edwards was convinced that he could get a further price concession when closing the deal. But could he turn the house into a profitable bed and breakfast business?
“So why is the house vacant?” An obvious question.
Haggerty cleared his throat before answering. “Well, we just have not been able to find the right buyer so far. Jeromy Bellomi, the 4th generational owner of the estate, runs a business in California and can no longer live here. He is anxious to sell and I have been asked to move the process along.”
Edwards nodded. A non-answer from Haggerty. Was something else a factor in the house being vacant? He wondered.
“Well, Mr. Haggerty, I would really like to see the interior. But that is not possible today. I have other business to attend to in Jamestown but I will be staying in the area for a few days. Could I have an inside tour tomorrow evening?”
“Yes, is that a problem?”
“Um, well, no. But we may have to do it by flashlight. The house currently has no electric power.”
Edwards eyes rolled. Issue #1. What state are the utilities in??
“OK. I understand. I will try to meet up with you by 4:00 PM tomorrow so that hopefully most of the tour can be done in daylight.”
“Sounds like a plan. I will see you then Mr. Edwards.”
The two men shook hands and parted ways as the last rays of daylight started to fade. Edwards looked at his road map inside his 2015 Buick before starting his rental car. Kiantone, NY was a sleepy little hamlet of less than 500 people just outside Jamestown. The entire “downtown area” consisted of a convenience store, a mom and pop diner, a family garage business and a small gas station. Could this area attract enough interest to support a B&B? Some doubts still were present in his mind. But the selling price still intrigued him enough to continue his investigation of this opportunity.
The Buick drove quietly down what was main street in Kiantone and in a short period of time, Edwards was turning into the small parking lot of the “Big M” convenience store. He thought he would take a moment to talk to a few of the residents to get their take on the vacant Bella Vista property. Call in “local research” if you will…..
The old man behind the counter of the convenience store looked at the middle aged business man with suspicion. “You’re not local are you?” asked the man as he reached into the cash register for change.
Edwards paused for a second before replying. “No, I am in town from Atlanta. On business.”
The old man laughed. “On business in Kiantone? What are you interested in? Possibly buying the whole town? It will cost you less than the cigarettes and beer you are buying…”
“Stop that Herman.” An old lady came around from the back of the store counter and started to chastise the old man. “No need to make fun of our town.”
Maude Appleton was Herman Appleton’s wife and partner in the “Big M Convenience Store”. She was obviously defensive of her hometown.
“Not making fun of glorious Kiantone Maude. Just stating the obvious.”
Maude grunted as she turned to Edwards. “Ignore him. He can be a real asshole at times. So why are you in town Mr., Mr.….”
“Edwards. Thomas Edwards. Well, I am in the area looking at potential business deals. And one of the potential deals I am looking at is possibly purchasing the Bella Vista estate.”
Herman Appleton grinned as he replied to the middle aged businessman. “Well, Mr. Edwards, you must have balls if you are considering doing that.”
“Herman !! Watch your language. This man is a guest.”
“Sorry. No offense Mr. Edwards. Just trying to be transparent.”
“No offense taken, Mr. Appleton. But why do you say that?”
Herman Appleton rubbed the light grey beard on his chin before replying. “Because that estate is haunted Mr. Edwards. None of us locals will go near it. It has had a bad feeling to it ever since the Bellomi murder more than 20 years ago. Even Jeromy Bellomi, the current owner, won’t stay there. It was his father you know who was killed in the parlor in a most mysterious way back in 1993.”
“Oh please Herman. Stop with that haunted house crap. No one believes it.” Maude Appleton was clearly irritated at her husband.
Edwards took all of the conversation in as dollar signs flashed before his eyes. Marketing Bella Vista as a “haunted B&B” might work. He could attract clientele with dares of spending a night in a truly haunted estate. Estates across the United States had successfully pulled off the same scheme and made good money at it. Whether the house was truly haunted or not didn’t matter. All that mattered was convincing people that it was haunted and that staying there could be a thrill. Cha ching. Cha ching. Edwards could see the money coming in.
Edwards smiled as he picked up his cigarettes and beer from the counter before starting to walk out of the store. Herman Appleton just shook his head as he shouted to Edwards. “Just stay away from that place Mr. Edwards. It’s not worth it….”
Haggerty and Edwards meet the next day on the gravel driveway of the Bella Vista estate as planned. Haggerty smiled as he opened the large oak door to the house, explaining to Edwards that he would be “impressed and enthralled” by the interior of the stately home. The oak door creaked as it opened, signs that no one had been inside for quite some time. Haggerty turned on a handheld floodlight to give the interior some lighting as the two men entered.
Edwards was impressed as he took in the home’s ambiance from the central foyer. Tall, vaulted ceilings gave the house a prestigious appearance and elegant oak trim railings accented a circular staircase.
Edwards tried not to show enthusiasm for the home out of concern that it could harm his bargaining position for the estate. Nevertheless, he couldn’t help but say “beautiful accents” as he ran his hand over the smooth oak handrail on the staircase.
“Yes, it’s really one of a kind Mr. Edwards.”
Inside the living room of the house, Edwards found white bed sheets covering most of the furniture in the room. He looked under the bed sheets when Haggerty said that all items in the house would be part of the purchase. The period furniture could add to his marketing plans. Yes, there was potential with this house.
The next room, the parlor of the house, was clearly the heart of this home. Oak bookcases lined two of the walls of the room with classic books filling most of the available shelf area. It was possible that some of these books could have real value to book collecting enthusiasts. Edwards wondered if Jeromy Bellomi might have overlooked that fact. A fireplace was featured on the south wall of the room with elegant stained glass windows from the 1800’s on each side of the hearth. Pictures and mounted exhibits finished off the appearance of the room.
Edwards walked causally over to the wall which had multiple paintings and some glass exhibits. He didn’t want to show enthusiasm as he continued to appraise the estate’s contents.
“Um, what are these?” asked the middle aged businessman as he pointed to several glass exhibits.
“Antonio Bellomi, the original owner, was an avid entomological collector.”
“He was an enthusiastic collector of insects, bugs if you will. His interest was strongest with spiders. The glass cases you see mounted on the wall contain his collection of North American tarantulas.”
Edwards shook his head as he panned across the wall. Antonio Bellomi must have been a nut. Who the hell would spend a large segment of his life gathering up the dead body of spiders to mount them on a wall?
Edwards attention then moved to some large paintings just off to the side of the glass collections. One of the paintings was particularly disturbing: a picture of a gigantic North American “Black Widow” Tarantula with its signature red “hourglass” marking on its body. Generally considered to be one of the most venomous spiders in the world, the Black Widow can inflict a painful bite which can be fatal, especially to the young and elderly.
“Ug !! That scares the shit out of me.”
Haggerty smiled. “Yes, the Black Widow spider. They were Antonio Bellomi’s favorite. He once had 10-20 in this house.”
“I hope they are all gone,” sighed the middle aged businessman. “I don’t want any of those in this house.”
As Haggerty laughed, the beam from his floodlight suddenly went out. “Ah shit. The bulb just blew out. We might have to do the rest of the tour by candlelight. There is an old candelabra on the piano.”
Jim Haggerty pulled a lighter from his coat pocket and lit the three candles located on the antique Reed & Barton Renaissance candelabra sitting on top of the piano. As he did so, something caught the corner of his eye. He stepped back in fear as he realized that immediately to his left was a large 8 foot tarantula looking at him. Where had this vile creature come from?
Thomas Edwards was totally unaware of the presence of the enormous Black Widow. He only saw the large arachnid when he finally turned his head to see what was disturbing Haggerty so much. He immediately uttered a cry of terror.
“Holy shit !! Where did that come from?”
The giant sized spider moved toward the two men with menacing intent. Haggerty and Edwards quickly moved behind the piano, seeking cover from the creature. But the large spider continued to move in.
The two men ran from the piano to the opposite end of the room as the spider closed in. In doing so, Jim Haggerty collided with the piano frame and knocked the lit candelabra onto the floor. The dried out rug and adjacent curtain immediately burst into flames. The fire seemed to distract the spider and this provided the opportunity the two men needed to flee the room. Darting past the giant arachnid, the men rushed to the front hallway and out the main door of the house. The arachnid’s size prevented the creature from following. Soon it was engulfed in the rapidly spreading flames.
In a matter of minutes, the old Bellomi estate was consumed in the inferno. What took more than a year to construct in 1867 was destroyed in less than one hour. The men looked on in amazement.
Epilogue: An investigation into the Bellomi estate fire ruled it suspicious and the insurance company for the home refused to pay for the filed claim. Haggerty and Edwards, however, were not charged with arson when the investigation of the fire found no presence of a chemical accelerant in the debris.
In the end, neither man wanted to talk about what had happened, convinced that no one would believe their tale of a giant Black Widow spider living inside the old home. Perhaps some stories are just never meant to be told.
Author’s Bio: Tom Schmidt is a Chemical Engineer working in medical diagnostics in upstate New York. He enjoys creative writing and has been published on www.short-story.me, www.fatherstars.com, www.short-humour.org.uk, and overmydeadbody.com in the past. Tom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.