This Old House Editor, Scott Omelianuk with a reciprocating saw and some pumpkins sitting outside his front stoop
Photo: Michael Smith
Letter from This Old House , October, 2009

"Yikes," my wife said when she saw the pumpkin-carving photo we took for Letter From This Old House. "Scary."

I chuckled.

"No," she said, "I mean, truly scary. You look like a homicidal maniac. Like you're in a horror movie."

Not exactly the effect I was going for. But truth be told, she might have a point. At least sometimes I feel like I'm in a horror movie. My particular film, though, isn't so much The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as it is The Legend of Hell House. Take, for example, this scene, which transpired late last Wednesday night:

We click off the TV to turn in. On the way out of the living room, my wife points at the ceiling and says, Hey! Do you see that crack? I say, Hmm. I didn't notice that before. My wife says, Is it okay? I say, Sure—it's just a little crack. We climb the stairs, hit the hay, and before long I am having that recurring nightmare about my contractor when…


I am awake and out of bed and racing down the stairs into a cloud of dust, the noise still echoing. The ceiling is on the floor. Chunks of plaster are on the carpet, the sofa, the TV, everywhere. Just like that, after 130 years of being up, it came down.

Why does a ceiling just fall down? You could blame age. After all, it's been fighting gravity for 13 (thirteen!) decades. It's seen 520 seasons of temperature change. It's suffered a leaky radiator. And it's endured plenty of vibration from the construction we recently finished in the rooms above and below.

Yet somehow I can't help feeling it's a little more personal than that.

To me, it's one more example of the house slipping on its hockey mask and playing Jason while I fill the role of doomed camper. To be honest, I really wonder if the place isn't cursed. And if it is, I wonder if you know how to remove it. Please? If you've got a solution to offer, send me a note at

Meanwhile, I've got something to offer you—a great story. If you don't have to worry about the ceiling but still have a hankering for home improvement, 100 DIY Upgrades for Under $100 is for you. It's so packed with ideas that, I think, it's worth the price of the issue all by itself.

P.S. Here's something else scary: TOH TV starts a new season this month, and this one marks its…30th! Frightening how fast time slips away, especially because it seems like it all started just a little while ago. Of course, a lot has changed since 1979. For one, TOH master carpenter Norm Abram and the rest of the crew had a lot less gray back then (and I actually had hair). But one thing about TOH has remained constant: the quality instruction, information, and inspiration it continues to bring to viewers who are passionate about their houses. Go to This Old House TV to find out when the new season airs in your area.
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