rot spray © Laura Kicey
When I heard in December that she had passed away, I was saddened to hear it, knowing I would never be able to meet and speak to a woman who had made such an impression on me, and really also my work. I had been closely following her life by way of stories passed on to me by locals I knew who had met her, random commenters here and on flickr, and through occasional news items on her. She always seemed such an immortal character, who had seen and experienced it all and carried on no matter what.
on the fence © Laura Kicey
It felt like the next logical step after her passing would be for me to revisit her property - nearly 3 years since my last visit - and document it before it was either razed or severely vandalized. I had always seen it in winter in past, so what struck me first was how the property was transformed by the flowering trees and lush ivy that covered just about everything, never had it seemed so very alive.
the uneasy chair © Laura Kicey
While being able to walk around freely I did discover some signs I had never seen before, I was surprised by how much of what I was familiar with was now completely obscured by the ivy and what wasn't covered with ivy was now significantly faded. In a strange way, it felt to me like the anxieties and accusations that once consumed her life and thoughts had peacefully ebbed away at the end. I was surprised to see that the site was almost completely undisturbed, though a few signs she had once had propped up were now missing.
reclaimed © Laura Kicey
lawless © Laura Kicey
fear to tread © Laura Kicey
vandlisom © Laura Kicey
snow white © Laura Kicey
When Goldberg and I first pulled up behind the main house, I immediately noticed her pile of rusted vehicles, the front cabin of a tractor trailer, a small car, and several tractors. Around each of the tractor tires, she had painted permutations of the word 'vandalism/vandalisem/vandlisom'. In the backseat of the car and the trunk/hatchback area there were cushions, pillows and tattered blankets, covered with mouse droppings, where it appeared she may have slept. I suspect that during the two years she was living in her treehouse, she may have slept in the car on especially cold nights so that she could remain close by and ever-vigilant.
back seat bed © Laura Kicey
dos equis © Laura Kicey
pledged © Laura Kicey
The one door that appeared as though it would lead into the house was marked with "REWARD FUND PLEDGED" and a tiny illegible metal sign. None of the doors allowed us entry, but I think it was for the best. Having lived a long time without electricity and running water, I imagined the smell would have been fairly intense and there were not many windows to let in any light either. Sitting on the front porch among the piles of mail, coffee cups, and tiny cartons of 1% milk, there were many plastic buckets that smelled as though they were used as makeshift commodes, and a wooden stick that was clearly used to mix the ubiquitous red paint.
messages © Laura Kicey
By the front door on the porch there was a tiny hand written sign that said LEAVE MESSAGE CAN'T HEAR KNOCKING ON DOOR. On the wall on other side of the door, the ever-disturbing message scrawled in huge letters "PREMEDITATED MURDER HELP". It was quite affecting to finally see it up close, as never before.
dormer © Laura Kicey
XX © Laura Kicey
wind man © Laura Kicey
tree house © Laura Kicey
collapse © Laura Kicey
It appeared as though the bend in the road where PennDOT once attempted to take down Violet's tree to widen the road, had finally taken its vehicular toll on her property- something had hit the corner of her garage with quite a bit of force. What remained was a pile of cinderblocks, each of which bore fragments of words I had photographed long ago.
writer's blocks © Laura Kicey
The backside of the same building which I had never seen, had a narrative that did not appear anywhere else on her property, where she seems to declare a betrayal by her husband:
MY HUSBAND JACK HOBAUGH AND LEONA OGDEN HIS ? Live at
Walnut St. xxxx DOES A BOARDER REMODEL A HOUSE, GIVE TAXT SERVICE, PAY NORTON's xxxx
UTILITIES, CLEANING AND AMUSEMENT FEE PLUS $30.00/WEEK JUDGE DOWLING CONDONES
persecutes prostitutes © Laura Kicey
The third side of this same building appeared to have at one time had a word painted on each individual cinderblock, but was now faded beyond legibility.
quieted © Laura Kicey
The wall facing the road was essentially unchanged, listing items for sale and reward amounts for different crimes with a bit of graffiti that had been there for years.
I had been concerned that we would be harassed or chased off, but there was only one guy who slowed as he drove by us while we standing on the street looking at the buildings and he shouted "It's really something, isn't it?!!" And it was.
All the buildings seemed like they were on the verge of being completely swallowed by all the thick ivy. Recalling how panicked and alarmed I felt the first time I saw this place, it did my heart good to see quince and magnolia growing over Violet's 'grave'. May she rest in peace.
magnolia © Laura Kicey
The light of God surrounds me. The love of God enfolds me. The power of God protects me. Where I am God is. That's my prayer.
-Violet Hobaugh, from one of her past interviews