This is a story passed between adult residents of Pasadena, CA. It refers to an actual house in the city that my informant has never seen, but has definitely heard of.
“This woman was convinced by a psychic or something that as long as she kept the…the construction on her house going, she’d be alright or something like that. So she would just do renovation after renovation, add on after add on, and it’s a very strange house in that like there’s stairways that lead up to blank walls that do nothing. They were built just to be built to keep the renovation alive, you know? There was construction until she died, and of extremely old age.”
My informant is a 44-year old massage therapist who lives in Pasadena, CA. He remembers first hearing this story from a neighbor 20 years ago, when he first moved to the city. It is often performed between neighbors on front lawns and at dinner parties. My informant enjoys telling it because, as he said, “It’s so like something you’d hear in a fairy story.” My informant is an avid fan of fantasy books and folk tales, and I imagine seeing the aesthetic and tropes of those worlds cross over with his own gives him a special thrill.
I believe this story vents two frustrations that residents of a place like Pasadena, California might have. For one, it is an almost comical criticism of psychics, and the way in which they can easily lead their customers into acting irrationally. Secondly, it is a harsh commentary on the frivolous spending of the upper class. Pasadena is an affluent neighborhood, and this story satirizes those people who can afford to spend their money on things like endless renovations. This story also has a spookiness to it reminiscent of suburban haunted house stories, and makes me wonder if well into middle age, people still have a desire for this kind of thrilling mystery.