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Beneath the Branches: Nostalgia and Nightmares in The Empty Lot Next Door

Updated: 20 hours ago

The Empty Lot Next Door

Did the sketch of the treehouse in the book, The Empty Lot Next Door resemble the real treehouse in the empty lot? The treehouse didn’t resemble the sketch, crafted by the Indian artist to whom I tried to explain. His rendition was idealistic, spooky, somehow fitting the mood of our tales even though it didn't mirror reality. It was good. So, I accepted it.

Our treehouse was a stage, sitting sturdy and flat on the ground, bordered by the towering bark of the old oak tree. Not a sanctuary amidst leaves and branches but rather a grounded platform. Only a single 4x4 board, weathered yet firm, bridged between two limbs above. From it, a rope dangled, swinging freely in the idle breeze. We used it, to swing, to imagine. Ricky used it for his stories, his illusions.

Neighborhood children, eyes wide with wonder, sat at the base, enveloped in Ricky's tales of magical adventures with his unseen companion, Griffin. His words, a mixture of ghastly stories and fanciful journeys, stirred visions that rivaled the tales of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn in youthful hearts and minds.

That tree, and the treehouse, seated in the vacant lot, was a canvas for memories, some warm and cherished, others like a chill wind that whispered of darker times. My childhood navigated through its branches, the echoes of laughter and shrieks of fright entwining permanently within its ancient branches, both beautiful and haunting at the same time.


To ensure readers grasp the full context and significance of this article, it’s crucial to have familiarity with Arthur Mills’ award-winning memoir The Empty Lot Next Door, inspired by actual ghostly events in Austin, TX. The book provides essential background information, and without it, the nuances and depth of this article might not be fully appreciated. Therefore, reading The Empty Lot Next Door is highly recommended for a more enriched and coherent understanding of this article’s content and implications.

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