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  • Writer's pictureArthur Bruso

Ghost Box

Updated: May 29, 2021

Oil painting of an old man holding a heart on wood in a printed ornate frame
"Ghost Box" (closed); oil on wood, archival mat board, rubber, pencil, acrylic paint, steel wire, varnish, brass plated hinges; 2.5"d x 4.25"w x 5"h

At the turning of the millennium, we purchased the house at 272 Fifth Street from the widow Maggie Olson. Maggie’s husband Charlie had died of a heart attack and she could no longer burden the work and expense of keeping the house. Her family had decided that she should give it up after forty years. The old woman didn’t want to move after living so long in one place; there were attachments and memories to living there. But, she did like us and decided that we would take good care of her house.

By July we had moved in and immediately began dismantling most of Charlie’s repairs and renovations. Charlie had a lean budget and a peasant’s eye for building. We tackled the bedroom first, in order to create a comfortable station for resting as we made the rest of the house our own. After about a week of sleeping on the floor in the parlor, while we got the bedroom fixed, I awoke early one morning as daylight was just making the ominous shapes of the towering, still packed, boxes visible. Either I fell back into a dream as I lay there, or I had some sort of vision, because I saw Charlie. He was crawling along a bright tunnel, which ended at the skylight at the top of the stairs. I had never seen Charlie, neither in a photograph nor in person, but I knew it was him without hesitation. After this experience, I began to see Charlie standing at the top of the stairs in a shaft of light that filtered down from the skylight. There was no pattern to his appearances. I would see him late at night or in the afternoon, but always in the same place under the skylight. He looked like a man of average height, in his sixties, balding, wearing slate grey work clothes. Often I would find myself compelled to climb to the top of the stairs and stand under the skylight and stare up into it. I wasn’t sure what drew me to do this, but this was when Charlie would give me his messages. He communicated to me that he did not like us in his house. As time went on and the renovations proceeded, he said that he did not like what we were doing to the house either. After a time, the location of his appearances changed to the turn of the stairs. He would come and go through a vortex that manifested there. This seemed to be a more permanent passage to the house than the skylight. After the opening of this fixed passageway, Charlie began attempts to drive us from his house by making working conditions difficult. Maggie and Charlie’s bedroom was to become my studio. When I was doing the work in that room, I would put tools on the ladder to use, only to find that they were returned into or near the toolbox when I climbed to the top of the it. Disagreements and bickering erupted about the renovation process, growing in intensity as the work proceeded. After a few years of manifesting and interfering Charlie disclosed to me that he was leaving and going to stay with Maggie. At first I thought this might be temporary, as he left once before, after he had divulged that he was going to find Maggie. In that instance he came back after a week. But, since Charlie announced his leaving, he has not reappeared nor do I feel his presence. The vortex at the turn in the stairs has closed and the bickering about the house eased off, as the renovations drew to a close. Now the house has been without Charlie for several years, allowing for Minnie to appear.

Ghost Box was first exhibited in the exhibition Apparition at Curious Matter.

This was the first exhibited piece of a new body of work. These box constructions mark a new direction in my art.

Interior of box with oil painting on left side and model of staircase on left side.
"Ghost Box" opened.

Side view of Ghost Box showing painting of a ladder.
"Ghost Box" side view.

Arthur Bruso © 2009

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