There are haunted houses and then there are houses that are haunting.
The sinister looking McCanless-Busby-Thompson mansion in Salisbury is among the latter, with a title to match: “The house that disappeared.”
“You can walk or drive by and not even know it’s there,” said a 2016 article in the Salisbury Post. “It’s especially dangerous and should be avoided in the back.”
Karen Hobson of Salisbury says every bit of that is true. The McCanless-Busby-Thompson House is a danger, and it was “erased” by its own landscaping, she said. What a forest of bamboo and wisteria didn’t cover, vines grew over and gripped tightly, including the doors.
“The yard had become so overgrown that (the house) vanished over time,” said Hobson, who is head of the Historic Salisbury Foundation. “People forgot it was there in the late ’80s and ’90s. Even the neighbors forgot it. Nobody remembered and it didn’t exist.”
The Historic Salisbury Foundation finalized a deal Sept. 26 to buy the 95-year-old home for an undisclosed price. Two more days and the city was set to discuss tearing it down for being a threat to the community.
News of the purchase is perfectly timed for Halloween, which celebrates the nation’s haunted houses. However, the McCanless-Busby-Thompson House won’t be open for visits during the foundation’s annual historic home tour this Saturday and Sunday.
“I know people are curious about it, but it’s not a house for the faint of heart,” Hobson said.
That’s because a large tree burst through the back of the house during a 1989 storm (as in the movie “Poltergeist”), and the damage has festered for nearly three decades. At least 40 percent of the sprawling home is unfit for human habitation and could collapse at any minute, she said.
Step in the wrong room and you might not leave.
The 60 percent that’s still standing is everything haunted house aficionados could want: elaborate woodwork, fancy mantles, a curved staircase, moldings, parquet floors and paneling. One fireplace has a Spanish tile design.
Work has started to clear the veil of overgrowth, and it has exposed intricately patterned brickwork on the facade. The wisteria and vines were so thick that they had to be pulled off by attaching them to cars.
A plan is in place to stabilize what remains of the house. Then, it will be sold with protective covenants added. The goal, Hobson said, is to preserve the look of the home and to keep it a single-family dwelling.
As for an honest-to-goodness ghost story, Hobson said neighbors haven’t shared one.
However, one thing does stick out: The man who built the 3,500-square-foot home, Charles McCanless, lived there only six years before he sold it. Nobody knows why he wanted to leave.
And the man who bought it from him died after living there only five years.
Kind of spooky.
Salisbury home tour
The Historic Salisbury Foundation OctoberTour is Oct. 14 and 15, and allows visitors to step inside 10 of Salisbury’s finest private homes and two of the area’s notable landmarks.
When: Saturday – 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m., with wine/beer tasting 5-7 p.m. on the Hall House Lawn. Sunday – noon-5:30 p.m.
Details: Advance tickets $25 via www.octobertour.com/. Tickets the day of the tour $30.