A Damp Tragedy

My wife and I bought our house a couple of months ago. We were so happy to find the place; it was in the perfect neighborhood, it was the perfect size, it got the perfect amount of natural light in the mornings and evenings. We were even more excited when we saw the price tag was about $10,000 under what we had planned to spend. We got the property assessed (nothing wrong there), applied for a mortgage, and signed the papers just a couple of weeks after seeing it for the first time. It moved so quickly we couldn’t help but think, this was meant to be.

Things went awry just a couple of days after we moved in. That’s when we got sick.

It started with my wife. We were moving some winter supplies into the home’s basement when she started to cough. We didn’t think anything of it – she was due for her annual cold, anyway, and a cough is never really something to worry about. Then, a few hours later, the cough had progressed into a painful wheezing. She got a runny nose, her eyes started to itch, and her throat become sore. No problem, we thought.

Her condition worsened for weeks, but she insisted on continuing to help me move into the house. We spent hours in the basement trying to find the perfect spot for all our things, trying to find the silver lining in this cloud of sickness. Her cold had turned into a fever, and she got bloody noses daily.

Around a month after the move, my wife started to forget things. It started with simple misplacements; she’d set down her car keys, then fly into a frenzy when she couldn’t find them hours later. She started to have more difficulty breathing, and she couldn’t concentrate on a project for more than a few minutes. That’s when we realized: something was wrong with the house.

I remembered that her sickness had started in the basement, so that’s where I started my search. I pawed my way through our possessions, tossing aside Christmas stockings and snow boots, until I found an untouched corner. In that corner, just on the wall, it looked as though somebody had tried to patch a hole. That’s odd, I thought. I decided to see what was there. I grabbed a sledgehammer and started whacking away.

After a few hits, the patched wood gave in and the hammer slid through. A horrible, pungent smell, like rotting vegetables, hit me. I tore the wood away and discovered the source of my wife’s illness: stachybotrys chartum, or black mold.

We’ve since hired a professional mold removing service, and my wife’s condition has begun to improve. Still, the experience has left a stain on our happy new home. The next time we move, this will be the first thing we look for. Sometimes, the terror in the basement is very real – even if it doesn’t have sharp claws and glowing eyes.