Woman falls to death through rotten floorboards into 48ft well under home

Originally published at: Woman falls to death through rotten floorboards into 48ft well under home | Boing Boing


An ancient termite knocked on wood,
tasted it, and thought it good;
and that is why your cousin May
fell through the parlor floor today

– Ogden Nash


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Many years ago, I was apartment hunting in Paris and I looked at a ground-floor apartment in a street in a very old part of town. The street dated from 1550; if I had to guess, I’d say that the building was a bit later, maybe 18th-century. In the middle of the rather lugubrious living room was something shrouded by a large tablecloth.

“And that’s the table, I guess,” I said.

“No, that’s the well,” said the person who was showing me the place. They removed the tablecloth to reveal a sheet of plywood balanced on top of something that looked very much like a stereotypical well (minus the little roof and pulley arrangement). It even had a bucket, and you could just see the glimmer of water a very long way down.

“You’ll never run out of water.”

“Yeah, right.”

I didn’t take the place. Part of it was the thought of traffic noise on the narrow cobbled street outside. Part of it was the general gloom. And part of it was my absolute certainty that sooner or later Lovecraftian frog people were going to come crawling up out of the well into the living room, and it would take more than a bit of plywood and a tablecloth to stop them eating me in my sleep.

I haven’t actually heard of this happening to anyone, of course, but I imagine the French do their best to keep that kind of stuff quiet.


If one is going to have Lovecraftian monsters (I’d go more generic here given the unfortunate ethnic slur linked to the amphibious terminology and the fine people of France), one would ideally like to have Lovecraftian monsters who know how to make a passable croissant. Your standard New England monstrosity can barely prepare a lobster roll, poor dears.


You would have them make SNACKS out of their FRIENDS and RELATIVES?

What kind of monster ARE you?


My host was now leading the way down cellar to his actual studio, and I braced myself for some hellish effects among the unfinished canvases. As we reached the bottom of the damp stairs he turned his flashlight to a corner of the large open space at hand, revealing the circular brick curb of what was evidently a great well in the earthen floor. We walked nearer, and I saw that it must be five feet across, with walls a good foot thick and some six inches above the ground level—solid work of the seventeenth century, or I was much mistaken. That, Pickman said, was the kind of thing he had been talking about—an aperture of the network of tunnels that used to undermine the hill. I noticed idly that it did not seem to be bricked up, and that a heavy disc of wood formed the apparent cover. Thinking of the things this well must have been connected with if Pickman’s wild hints had not been mere rhetoric, I shivered slightly; then turned to follow him up a step and through a narrow door into a room of fair size, provided with a wooden floor and furnished as a studio. An acetylene gas outfit gave the light necessary for work.

From Pickman’s Model by H.P. Lovecraft


Yeah, this freaks me out. Some wells may not be the traditional waist-high stone circle like you see in movies and cartoons, they can just be a hole in the ground, covered with dead leaves.

So you’re out walking along and suddenly you just disappear.


Kinda reminds me of the plot of Dolores Claiborne.
That was an outside well, apologies for the spoiler.

Still, quite a bloody tragic end. (Not the book). :cry:

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In my 100-year-old home there’s a “drain” in the basement where if you drop a stone in it you don’t hear the plop for a couple of seconds. I knocked around the edges of it to make sure the ancient rat slab was sound, then covered it with a 200 pound steel grate.

So now it’s a safe place?


Well (no pun intended), this is nightmare fuel - very much one of my deep, dark (again, no pun intended) fears going back to childhood - a hole opening up in the earth and just pulling me down into chasms from which I can never escape.

Best case scenario, tbh.

Yeah, if they’re disused, they’re almost certainly not that - either they’re so old any wall they once had fell apart long ago, or they’re more modern and never had one to begin with because the water was being mechanically pumped out (and now the pump’s gone). Then you have all the areas with historical mining leaving behind tunnels with weak spots above them and openings that got sealed up, but the covering material degraded over time…
It’s very disturbing.


Yes, “Pickman’s Model” is one of my favorite of Lovecraft’s Mythos stories:

More ghouls than frog-monsters, but the setting seems right.

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This was my childhood in WV. We used to explore abamdoned mines, up until a big chunk of roof fell in while we were there and scared the stupid out of us. Never went back, but yeah, those things are still out there.


That spot is about three minutes walk from where I am right now :slight_smile:


Then you have places like Cornwall (UK), where the history of mining goes back to the Bronze Age and towns ended up subsequently being built over mines that people didn’t know existed. It seems with some regularity parts of people’s gardens (or houses) end up disappearing into the earth…


At least they’re not on fire…


That’s when you go from “this is scary” to “this is uncanny and surreal.”


Is this sort of casualty where phrases like “rotten luck” came from?

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