When Kevin Burns moved to California, he was excited about a new adventure. He couldn’t wait to embrace life in the Sunshine State. It would mean regularly hanging out on the beach, surfing the waves, and making new friends and neighbors. He was looking forward to a fresh start; however, things would not end up going entirely to plan, and he would soon learn that even the towns that seemed perfect on the outside have their secrets.
Not long after settling into his new neighborhood, Burns came across something a little strange. There was an older woman who owned a house across the street from him, but instead of living inside the house, she lived in her car. He couldn’t understand why she would do this when her house was right there. It wouldn’t be long before Burns would get to the bottom of this puzzle, but what he found out was shocking.
When Kevin Burns first arrived at his house in California, he was convinced that the house across the street was abandoned. It wasn’t until about a year later that he realized that this elderly woman was living in her car right in front of it. He had not yet spoken to her but decided that she probably wanted to be left alone. Burns could not help but wonder about this woman; he wanted an explanation for her behavior. He spoke to some of his other neighbors about it, who told him that this woman named Ruth owned the house she slept in front of, but she would never step foot inside it.
Burns wasn’t at all satisfied with this explanation; he decided that something needed to be done. One day he approached her to ask her if she needed anything at all. Little did he know that he would not only become her friend as a result but also her hero.
One morning, after an unusually cold night, Burns headed over to Ruth’s car. She was awake and seemed more than happy to engage in conversation with him. This would be the start of a lovely friendship. From that day on, Burns would regularly stop by the car for a chat. He began to learn more about this strange woman.
As they chatted, Ruth became more and more open about her life and told him about her daily routine. She awoke each morning, headed to the local gym, and used their shower. As a result of her situation, she ate exclusively fast food. After dinner, she would fall asleep in the car in front of her house. Ruth did not explain why she had been sleeping in the car, and Burns didn’t want to overstep the mark, but he knew that something wasn’t right.
One morning, Burns decided to get a closer look at Ruth’s house. What he discovered shocked him. He found many broken windows, boards, blinds, and a lot of mold. It was as if the house had not been lived in for years. It was a total wreck. Burns wondered whether what Ruth needed was some help in restoring her home.
The more closely he examined the house, the more he discovered, and he soon concluded that this house had not been lived in for a very long time. He wondered whether perhaps wildlife had taken over the home. When Burns discovered the truth behind it all, it broke his heart.
It was a day like any other; Kevin Burns was on his way over to Ruth’s car to have their daily chat. However, when he arrived, he found his friend in tears. When Burns asked her what was wrong, Ruth couldn’t answer. She was frantically looking for something among the many plastic bags that she had in her car. Whatever it was she was looking for, the search seemed utterly futile.
Ruth explained to Kevin that she had lost something very important to her. She told him that when she had first moved into the car, she had gathered up everything valuable to her and packed it all into plastic bags. She realized that she must have left this item inside the house, but she had no intention of ever stepping foot back inside.
Burns tried asking Ruth what it was that she had lost, but Ruth couldn’t seem to find the words to tell him. She appeared utterly heartbroken. All she could manage was to say, “In the house” over and over again while she pointed at her neglected home.
All of a sudden, Ruth had an idea: “Maybe you can go inside and get it,” she said. Despite still not knowing what it was, he would be looking for, Burns agreed to this. Little did he know what he was about to discover.
After Burns agreed, Ruth was finally able to find the words to tell him that she was crying because she had lost a picture of her parents. She believed that the last time she had seen this photograph was inside the house, in one of the bedrooms. Burns approached the house feeling confident that he would be able to find it. The task would turn out to be one of the most difficult in his life.
As Kevin Burns approached the front door of the house, he started to understand why it was that Ruth had abandoned her home. There was a cracked window next to the front door, so he could just about see inside. And what he saw didn’t look at all good. He couldn’t see much since there was a complete lack of light, but what he did get a glimpse of didn’t look good.
The home seemed to be in complete disrepair, and it looked as though animals might well have taken over. As he moved closer to the house, he started to smell something foul emanating from inside the house. He was finally close enough to the house to understand why Ruth was not able to live there anymore. The conditions were appalling. There was a huge hole in the roof, and pieces of it were all over the floor of the house and in the yard.
Kevin took one last breath of fresh air before reluctantly stepping inside the house. When Kevin opened the front door of the house, a mountain of rubbish came pouring out onto the front lawn. There was so much of it that Kevin had to quickly jump out of the way. The smell that came with it was so awful that it made Kevin gag.
At this point, he contemplated turning back, but he couldn’t let Ruth down. The house was completely uninhabitable. Everywhere he looked, he was confronted by piles and piles of rubbish. It covered the entire floor. Burns was struggling to breathe due to the stench, and his eyes even started watering. The task of finding the photograph, which he thought would be easy, now seemed nearly impossible. He had been in the house for less than five minutes, but already he had to run outside to prevent himself from throwing up.
He walked back over to Ruth and told her that he would return to find the photograph after a quick breather. Kevin realized how huge a task he had on his hands. It would require gloves and a mask, and he would need to take the day off work. At this point, most people would have given up and refused to go back inside, but not Kevin. He was someone who stuck to his promises. He also wanted to find out exactly what had happened for the house to be in this mess. He would soon learn the truth.
Kitted out with gloves and a heavy-duty mask, Burns returned to the house to finish the task he had started. With the appropriate equipment, he would be able to take time to find the photograph.
Each room that Burns entered was worse than the last. The kitchen was filled with piles of trash, rotten food, and dirty dishes. He couldn’t see the floor amid all of the rubbish. It was clear that Ruth had not stepped foot inside the house for months.
Burns’ mission wasn’t going too well. He couldn’t see any photographs that were worth picking up. Where could Ruth have left it? When he reached the living room, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
The living room was the worst in the house, no question. Everywhere Burns looked, there were piled-up bags of trash, papers, and other strange items. It made total sense now why Ruth lived in her car. Looking around at the chaos, Kevin feared it would take him hours to find this photo of hers.
Over three hours passed, and he hadn’t even come close to finding it. During that time, he couldn’t help but wonder how Ruth had even managed to accumulate this much trash; it was quite impressive, really. After hours of searching, Kevin came across an old box. It was like a little treasure chest, thankfully containing exactly what he needed.
Kevin had come across Ruth’s treasured box of memorabilia. Inside the box was not only the missing photo but also some sentimental items, including a diploma and a trophy. The photo in question was very old, faded, showing Ruth’s parents as young lovers.
While this box of goodies was interesting, Kevin was more drawn to an old bookcase that stood in the living room behind the old bookcase. Burns noticed a crack. Upon examining this more closely, he discovered, to his delight, that there was a gaping hole in the wall, which was a doorway to a hidden room. His curiosity got the better of him, and he pushed the shelves aside to get a closer look.
What he found was shocking. As Burns entered the secret room, his mind raced with questions. Was this the only hidden room, or were there others? Were there more secrets that Ruth had been keeping? Burns had to know more, so he entered the secret room.
When Burns stepped inside, he realized he was in what had previously been a bedroom. He started to have some much darker thoughts. Had someone been held hostage in this room, perhaps Ruth? There were cobwebs everywhere; it was as if he had entered into a horror movie. One thing Burns did notice was that, while it was covered head to toe in dust and cobwebs, there was a lot less trash in this room. Despite this, the room still smelled awful; the stale air almost suffocated Burns even through his mask.
Burns inspected the dust-covered photographs and then looked above him. What he saw was completely horrifying. A thick layer of mold covered the bedroom ceiling. It had grown so thick that the paint had flaked off and fallen onto the floor below it. Burns quickly evacuated the room, knowing that it wouldn’t be good for him to ingest the air.
While there was still more of the house to explore, Burns felt that he needed to get out of the house as soon as possible. He had completed the mission of finding the photograph, so his job was done. When Burns returned to Ruth, he confronted her about what he had just seen; he had to say something. He told Ruth that her house had become a death trap. She responded by saying, “I had no idea it had gotten so bad.” Ruth agreed to call a specialist and have the house professionally cleaned.
However, Burns and Ruth’s story was not over yet. The worst was yet to come, and Ruth would soon need her neighbor more than ever.
Burns decided against telling Ruth that he had discovered the secret room; he wanted to wait until the specialists arrived. Ruth had enough on her plate already. After taking a look inside, the specialist told Kevin and Ruth that the house was a hazard to the neighbors. The expert said that it was the worst case of mold he had ever seen, even suggesting that the house be demolished. It was clear that this needed to happen, and it did, but in the most dramatic way possible.
The specialist explained to Ruth and Kevin that the mold was so dire that they wouldn’t be able to touch it; that’s how dangerous it was. Worse still, they explained that even the most advanced mold removal techniques wouldn’t be able to prevent this mold from spreading further. Still, there was only one thing for it: they would have to get the fire department involved. Why firefighters, you might ask? They needed firefighters to set the house on fire.
The experts said that the best way to deal with this situation was to burn the entire house to the ground. The challenge for the firefighters was to control the fire so that it would not spread beyond the house itself. Before they could set the house on fire, they needed to remove the objects that could catch on fire and become hazardous. The cleaning crew did this with the help of Burns. Most things were covered in mold and had to be taken to the dump. Ruth couldn’t hold on to anything in the house; this was probably a good thing considering her hoarding tendencies.
On the day the house was due to be burnt down, the crew went inside to check it over one last time. Ruth seemed to be surprisingly calm. While Ruth was sad that the home she had called her own for decades was about to be destroyed, she felt that it was time to move on. This was an opportunity for her to start fresh and kick her terrible hoarding habit. Ruth now had the comfort of her new friend, Kevin Burns, to help her along the way.
Ruth said a tearful goodbye to her home as the firefighters prepared to burn it down once and for all. As she walked away from her property for the last time, she decided now was the time to reveal to Burns the truth behind the secret room he had discovered.
Ruth had everything she would ever need inside her car, all thanks to Burns. As the fire started and the house began to burn, Ruth explained the sad truth about the bedroom that Burns had seen, tears streaming down her face. She explained that room was where my husband passed away. I didn’t have the heart to go in there after he was gone.
Upon hearing the story, Burns’ heart went out to his new friend, and for a split second, he considered whether Ruth could quickly head back into the house to say a final goodbye to the room. The moment had most definitely passed; the house was already starting to collapse. The firefighters had to stand by for a total of 24 hours to ensure that neither the fire nor the embers spread to other houses or any nearby trees.
As all of this played out, Burns wondered what Ruth’s next move would be. As the decades had passed following the untimely death of her husband, Ruth had turned to hoarding to distract her. This was caused by the anxiety she suffered after losing the love of her life. With all of the items she had hoarded gone, she had the opportunity to start over. Ruth felt that she was far too old to start a new life. Where would she go? What would she do? Would she live out the rest of her days in her car?
Burns had a better idea. With the help of his friends, he found a nearby community for senior citizens where she could go and get the help that she needed. The community was more than happy to accommodate Ruth.
She was still suffering immensely from the death of her husband, but up until this point, there hadn’t been anyone with whom she could have talked about it. This was about to change, however. There were plenty of people living in the community who could help her deal with her grief properly.