When Aunt Janice and Uncle Gordon married and moved from Los Angeles to Tarzana, my grandmother and my family followed along. We lived a mile away, and my Aunt and Uncle's house was like a wonderland for kids. I spent nearly as much time there as I did at my own house.
The Big House, as my mom always called it, was on seven acres with a barn, horses and pasture, and lots of room to roam. And there was a haunted house next door, the Zimmerman place, which had stood empty for thirty years.
The rumors were that old man Zimmerman had gone crazy and used to ride his horse through the livingroom. No one over twelve ever confirmed that story, but we all believed it. The property was on a hill with a creek running through it and was massively overgown. A pack of wild afghan guard dogs seemed to be the only residents.
The large front gate was heavily chained and padlocked. We occasionally tried to enter the property through the densely wooded creekbed adjoining the two properties. But we always turned back at the sight of the dog pack, just on the other side of the property line.
One Halloween night, the gates stood open, and we worked up the nerve to creep down the driveway to see where it lead. I remember my mom and aunt were with us and just as scared as we were. Suddenly, moving lights shown through the trees. We ran for our lives only to realize later that the lights were from cars driving by on the street. We laughed ourselves silly, but we didn't go back in.
On another fall afternoon, we were surprised to see the front gates thrown open again and moving trucks heading up the driveway. We couldn't help but follow and shyly met the new neighbors, the McNatts. They had a son, Scott, around my age who quickly became one of our tribe. Now we had two big properties to roam.
Scott and I became great friends. Later, he joined our family obsession and bought a Model A, like the rest of us boys. He and his family went with us on our summer Model A trips.
Funny how one thing leads to another...
Scott was the best man at my wedding and is still one of my closest friends. And to think it all began with our endless fascination with the haunted house on the hill next door.