A “Do It Yourself” Haunted House Ordered from Sears in the 1920s is Still Standing

Haunted houses exist in a variety of forms and sizes. But one of the most intriguing is this specimen from New Mexico, which has been standing since the 1920s. It appears to be ordinary.

The fact is that it was built from a “Do It Yourself” kit.

The Ayers family owns the house near Estancia, New Mexico, and they ceased utilizing it roughly two decades ago. Fred Ayers, a lawyer, was the first to post it.

While animals graze on the grounds, the abandoned property has drawn notice for its unsettling characteristics.

Catalog image and floorplan of Sears Magnolia kit house.

For years, stories have circulated that the souls of prior occupants have not entirely left the dilapidated house. A nearby homeowner claimed to see “ghosts standing at the window,” according to a KSN broadcast this month. The lack of a door makes the gloomy inside much more evident.

These qualities, together with the approaching Halloween holiday, most likely contribute to the house’s scary reputation.

It appears to attract intruders rather than the undead. Visitors come from all over New Mexico to get a photo of this local legend who came out of a flat pack.

A long abandoned farm house in rural Nova Scotia.

The most remarkable aspect of the property is that it stands at all. The product was undeniably dependable, but with today’s slew of construction laws, the thought of a self-assembly house seems rather scary in terms of health and safety.

Sears, Roebuck & Co. was a major provider of DIY houses. Between 1908 and 1940, they sold around 75,000 of them. The Ayers property is said to be one of their ranges.

“Over that time, Sears created 447 distinct dwelling types, from the complex multistory Ivanhoe, with its magnificent French doors and art glass windows, to the smaller Goldenrod, which functioned as a charming, three-room and no-bath cottage for summer tourists,” according to the Sears Archive.

1922 Sears Modern Homes Catalog

Customers might even submit their ideas to Sears in quest of their dream home. In this day and age of home design, the concept of a consumer having “complete creative freedom” rather than professionals telling them what to install is appealing.

Houses might be ordered by mail and delivered by train. Craftsmen may be hired to put them up, but clients were free to do it themselves. Buyers could enjoy modern conveniences like electricity and central heating after their new home was put together.

Sears was also astute enough to provide three levels of house, depending on the customer’s budget. “Honor Bilt” represented the top of the market. According to the Archive, “attractive cypress siding and cedar shingles decorated most Honor Bilt exteriors.”

Modern reproduction of a Sears Hillrose at the Farm at Prophetstown in Battle Ground, Indiana.

The “Standard Built” versions were simple and appropriate for folks who did not need to wear warm sweater throughout the day. Meanwhile, the “Simplex Sectional,” well-titled and simplistic, addressed the demands of the summer cottage set.

Individual residences have been given names such as “The Castleton” (varying from $934 to over $2,000), “The Hathaway” ($1,196 to $1,970), and the more modest “Rosita” ($314 – $875).

While the origins of the eerie Ayers home are unknown, there are tell-tale indications to look for when determining if a house was manufactured by Sears, Roebuck & Co.

The Arts & Crafts Society’s website developed a simple guide to recognizing a Sears house in 2007. Look for “stamped lumber on exposed beams/joists/rafters in the basement, crawl area, or attic” and “unique column arrangement on the front porch and five-piece eave brackets.”

Locals have been making fun of Sears’ impending bankruptcy by comparing the run-down Ayers store to the failing business. Despite this, the public has trust in kit construction. Quite a fact, quite literally.

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