Of all the stories Barnes has come across, his favorite is the story of the Middlebrook sisters, whose family bought the Stevens family farmhouse, and who lived in the house until their deaths. Here is the story in his words:
“At the end of the street, there’s Middlebrook Place, a group of townhouses, and that’s where Stevens family farmhouse was. It had been remodeled into a three-story gigantic Victorian farmhouse, and 3.5 acres had been bought by a doctor from Kansas City from an old Connecticut family called Middlebrook.
“He had tuberculosis, and when he died, his wife and family continued to live in the house. They called it Edgewood. They had no income left — women didn’t work in those days — and both sisters, Margerite and Cecilia, were members of the Dallas Women’s Forum, never got married, never had children. Margerite once had a secretarial job at the War Department in Washington, D.C., where she attended school in Georgetown University
“So they live in the house without any income, and by the time I move here in the 1950s, you could literally see through the roof because shingles were coming off. The entire 3.5 acres were a wilderness of unkempt trees. These two little ladies would dress in these long black Victorian dresses, and of course when the 1960s came around with “The Munsters” and “House on Haunted Hill” and “Psycho”, it looked like Walt Disney Studios had been sent out to create this.
“They started getting heckled a lot. Teenagers came around drinking beer and threw beer cans at the ladies and broke windows, and of course they couldn’t replace the windows. They would throw rocks at them and hit them with boards. The house had no electricity, no gas, and the windows were boarded up. The fire department came out at Halloween, and a gigantic fireman would stand on either side of them while they gave candy to trick-or-treaters. The police told them they should buy a gun, but they never did. Everyone remembers them as very sweet and cordial.
“The abuse was legendary. The police would arrest dozens every weekend who were harassing these two ladies, and it became a spectacle. People would drive from all over North Texas. They couldn’t leave the house together because the house would be attacked
“On day, Margerite went to the grocery store and broke her hip. Someone drove her home, and she laid down in front of fireplace where they slept and died. The police came to the house, and Cecilia said, ‘Do you have a search warrant or a warrant for arrest?’ They didn’t and had to leave. Cecilia lived for another year and a half until the house burned down one night, and Cecilia died in the fire. The fire department says it wasn’t set on purpose, though neighbors swore that’s what happened. They were in their 80s when they died, and they had one friend — a guy who lived a block away who was 13 at the time. He’s dead now. People showed up with metal detectors and shovels to look for the buried treasure. They found one surviving relative, the daughter of a brother, and she sold the land immediately.
“It’s this story about these sweet little ladies who lived the way they wanted to live and where they wanted to live, despite the cruel situation around them. I grew up here with stories about lions in the house and sightings of ghosts. Their story is my biggest book — 300 pages of documentation — and there’s a guy on a message board who wants to make a movie.”