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A three-story white renovated 19th century farmhouse sits on over 100 acres of rolling hills in Geauga County, Ohio. When you walk into the entry way of the farmhouse, you will see around six pairs of assorted snow boots to the left, a closet on the right, and a small bathroom straight ahead. Walk a few more feet and you will turn left into a small kitchen with deep white sinks. After walking through the kitchen you will enter the dining room with a large Amish style table with not chairs, but benches lined on each side, a bedroom straight ahead, and a narrow set of wooden stairs which lead to three additional bedrooms and another bathroom. My favorite room, the glassed in porch (sun room), complete with a porch swing, is to the right, and faces the front of the house. A large piano and fireplace decorate the living room and assorted bookshelves with a hodgepodge of books line various walls. Murder mysteries, gardening books, World War 1 books, and even a three ring binder with the history of the farmhouse typed on around 40 pages all contribute to the quaint, cozy place.

The last two Christmases my husband, boys, and I spent a week in the Farmhouse, just a few miles from where my inlaws live. We rented the house, and my inlaws came over to eat, play games, eat, open presents, watch movies, and eat some more. My husband grew up amongst the Amish, so he is used to the horses and buggies and Pennsylvania Dutch. I, on the other hand, along with my boys, remain fascinated. When my youngest son was around three, he would yell out, “Look! Cowboys!” whenever he saw Amish men. Over the years our interest in the Amish people and their lifestyle hasn’t waned. The farmhouse is maintained by an Amish family across the road and they have checked in with us periodically during our stays. The first time they came to the door, I was so startled, and when my sister in law asked who it was, I just motioned for her to come quickly. She scurried over, opened the door, laughed at me, and Fanny and Jeremiah stomped snow off their boots on the entry way rug and said they needed to get something out of the basement. The door to the basement is on the left side of the kitchen. After disappearing for a few minutes, they trudged back up the creaky stairs with a few gallons of Neapolitan ice cream. “Thank you! Enjoy your stay!” They smiled and left.

It was then that I noticed the sign.  It was handwritten in black sharpie on a piece of white printer paper and taped to the door to the basement. “Don’t go downstairs, private.”

David, my oldest son, and I saw it at the same time. His eyes widened, and I knew what he was thinking.

“You want to go down there, mom, don’t you?”

“Yes. Do you?”  

“Yes, can we?”

“I don’t know. We may get in trouble.”

“What do you think is down there?”

“I don’t know. Ice cream, for sure. But I don’t know what else.”

“Can we see?”

We discussed the ramifications. What if there were people actually living down there? Now that we thought about it, we had been hearing strange sounds in the Farmhouse. Some scuffling around and it sounded like it was coming from downstairs. Hmmmm.... What if there were dead bodies? What if what we found scared us forever?  Or maybe there was nothing but freezers of ice cream. But if that was the case, why the sign? Maybe the Amish family were ice cream addicts and just needed a place for their stash and didn't want anyone else eating it. Or, maybe there was a whole new world down there.

Maybe… Maybe…Maybe…

We wanted to check it out when no one else was around because certainly others would disapprove of our plan. We made an appointment to meet in the kitchen one night after every one else went to bed. Except that particularly night we fell asleep early. We tried a few more times, but our plans were halted by nosy family members. We left the Farmhouse that year with no answers.

As the following year passed, maybe once a month I thought of the Farmhouse. I smiled at the fun memories we had there. But then that nagging question appeared, what is in that basement?

I thought David had forgotten about it, but one night in June, as he was getting ready for  bed, he asked, “What do you think is in the basement in that Amish house? Want to see next time we go?”

At the Farmhouse last Christmas, the sign was still there, black letters formed into words: “Don’t go downstairs; private.” The sign looked more intense, more pronounced that year. Was it the same sign? Or did someone rewrite it? David and my discussion continued. Should we check it out or not? We debated. We planned. But we never actually followed through. Something kept coming up. 

A few days ago mom-in-law called and asked about our Christmas plans. There’s a really good chance this will be our third annual year at the Amish farmhouse.  When I told the boys, David smiled and his eyes twinkled.

“Mom, do you think…?” he trailed off, but raised an eyebrow. 


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