Nobody remembers when the Monster House first appeared.
This area is real cowboy country when it comes to house building, so, on the face of it, that’s not so odd. A “For Sale” sign goes up on the side of the road one day and the next thing you know, a new house emerges among the pines. Even so, the locals usually notice something while work is in progress. That annoying cement lorry that blocked the road two mornings in a week or the hunky bricklayer on the scaffolding, stripped to the waist and whistling as he worked.
But then, the Monster House is not like any of the other homes around here. The very mention of it is enough to send shivers running down people’s spines. If you meet someone out walking, they’ll cast a quick glance over their shoulder before whispering: “Uff! The Monster House? It’s been there for years!”
Las Casas Espirales (“The Spiral Houses”) is in an area of forested hills to the south of Barcelona. The name of the development was probably conjured up by some witty municipal architect. The access roads are an endless succession of hairpin bends that snake in and out of the pine woods. When you come by car, you can forget the GPS. And, as a ball of string is not practical over such long distances, the best advice is to get someone to come and meet you.
As we said before, the origin of the Monster House is unclear. Like a huge fungal growth, it’s as if it sprouted overnight years ago and then just lingered on.
It’s bigger than most of the houses nearby. The roof is of dirty grey slate and the brickwork is a dull brown colour.
But the strangest thing about it is that it moves.
Most of the time it is as upright as any other property. But then one day, without warning, it suddenly appears tilted to one side. Usually to the left. If it only happened once, nobody would be that surprised. The land around here is notoriously unstable and cracked walls and swimming pools are not uncommon. No – what unsettles people is that the Monster House tilts over, but then mysteriously rights itself by the next morning.
The fact that you can never get a clear view of the place means you can never really what is going on. The roof is covered in a thick layer of dead vegetation and the grimy windows have an opaque look about them. “Zombie eyes”, the local teenagers call them.
Behind the perimeter fence is a three-metre-high jungle of nettles and brambles. Here families from the neighbouring houses throw rusty barbeques that have had their day, old tennis rackets and broken bicycle parts. Anywhere else this behaviour would be considered loutish, but they claim they’re just thinking of future generations. “A gold mine for archaeologists when the Monsters have moved on,” they say. “A catalogue of random items from the early 21st century!”
While the house is quite scary, its occupants – known locally as the Monster Family – are even more so. It is thought that there are three of them. Two men and a woman. Some people will tell you they have seen them out and about – in the dusty front yard or even on the road outside. These claims are taken about as seriously as if they were sightings of UFOs.
A casual passer-by would think that the place was abandoned. But – if you stay around long enough – you will realise that this is not the case.
The most obvious sign of life are the lights that go on in the upstairs rooms every evening. Another is that the two grime coated cars parked next to the house are used regularly. Nobody knows for sure where they go, but the fact is that one or other of them disappears from time to time. One particular neighbour, who keeps a check on the MOT stickers with his binoculars, says that they are always up to date.
The most logical conclusion would be that these people are just eccentric or exceptionally lazy. But the truth is that there’s something much darker going on.
The “episodes” – that’s what the neighbours have come to call them – take place about once a month. They always begin in the early evening.
The prelude is a flurry of curtains behind the windows on the main balcony. If you are positioned at the right angle, you may catch a glimpse of an arm or the back of the head of one of the occupants. As with the Yeti, nobody can say they have seen a whole body at once.
A little later the voices start. At first, they are quiet, almost conversational. Then, as the volume increases swear words are heard. “No, you bastard!” “Shut your fucking mouth!” These are accompanied by the dull thuds of furniture moving around. While they argue they seem to go from room to room, and it’s never possible to make out what they are saying. When things get really loud, one of them can be heard dashing around slamming windows shut, like a crazed sailor battening down the hatches in a storm.
The worst of the row rarely lasts more than half an hour or so…
…But then comes the worst part. As the noise dies down, one of the voices – always the same one – begins to sob. Rising and falling, this new sound – which eventually reaches a sorrowful high-pitched keening – goes on and on throughout the night. It’s so unnerving that most families in the vicinity have installed sound-proofed windows…
…And then – on these very same nights – the other thing happens…
…If you want to witness it you need to watch carefully and patiently. People say a moonlit sky is best. There also has to be silence, so you just have to hope that there are no barking dogs or passing cars (or, for that matter, that the people at number 23 are not having one of their Rumba parties).
But then – if the conditions are right – you will eventually hear a gravelly crunching sound and observe how the whole Monster House slowly and inexorably tilts and sinks three or four inches into the ground on one side.