Bats, Ghosts and Good Times

By: Mary Butler , Contributing Writer
In: Old Houses, Old House Musings, In The News, Old House History

I’m a city girl for the most part and never realized the beauty (and usefulness) of bats until my husband pointed out their merits during a camping trip at Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona. As we sat outside our tent enjoying the warm evening, dozens of bats darted through the darkness, feeding on insects.

A bat. Photo courtesy of the Organization for Bat Conservation

A bat. Photo courtesy of the Organization for Bat Conservation

I remembered this experience as I read about a 220-year-old house in Danielsville, Wis., that has been overtaken by bats — and their excrement. Bats eat half their body weight in insects every day. That’s good for campers, but not so great for the Strickland House, the oldest residence in Madison County, which was the county’s first government building and former Chamber of Commerce office. About 5 inches of bat guano covers the stairs, according to a Sept. 3 story in the Athens-Banner Herald. Officials, who are in the process of hiring an exterminator, say the historic home’s chimney has become a hotel for as many as 600 bats.

“Bats are very territorial,” County Commissioner John Pethel told the paper. “That’s their house. You get them out of one area, they’ll find another way in.” Yikes. Maybe it’s time to buy a bat house for the yard.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Speaking of old home pests, Examiner.com reports that the ghost of Academy Award-winning actress Mary Astor — or some other spirit — is haunting her Hollywood mansion. Horror Happenings Examiner, Charles F. Rosenay a.k.a. “Cryptmaster Chiller Chucky,” says Astor’s 1925 three-story Spanish-Moorish home — which in more recent times was rented by goth rocker Marilyn Manson — is downright spooky, inside and out. In fact, professional ghost hunter Richard Senate, author of “Ghoststalker’s Guide to Haunted California” was called in by the home’s current residents to investigate such oddities as “the sound of what was described as ‘dropping marbles’ or beads from a broken necklace.” Senate confirmed the home is haunted and Rosenay declared in his column, “The place might make a good episode of ‘Ghost Hunters’ but it’s not a place for normal people to live.”  I guess that’s too bad for the home’s current residents.

A Different Kind of Old House Spirit

Also in old house news this week, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel covered the happy story of an 1840s-era home in Cedarburg, Wis., that has served as the site of one family’s gatherings for 125 years.  Gerhard and Maria Wegmann bought the home and surrounding 80 acres in 1884. Now surrounded by a subdivision of homes, the historic home sits on one-acre. But it remains in the family, owned by Kim Wegmann, 48, the fourth generation to call it home, according the newspaper.

Members of the family travel from all over the country to the home each summer for a Labor day reunion.

“It’s so much more than an old house,” Margaret Moorhead, the unofficial Wegmann family historian, told the newspaper. “It’s because of the family closeness that the house is that special.”