Ray's (a.k.a. "The Scary House")

There once was an old man named Ray Johnson. Ray was an inventive engineer that helped orchestrate the atomic bombing runs on Japan in World War 2. Consequently, he went a little "crazy." In the 1960's, he retired to the Keys with his wife and built a solid, poured-concrete fortress of a house on a nice oceanfront property in Lower Matecumbe. As the years marched on, Ray slipped further and further into his madness. He stopped throwing things away, filling his house from wall to wall and floor to ceiling in every room with an unimaginable amount of junk, knick-knacks, clothes, newspapers, and anything else that came into his possession. Eventually his wife passed away, sadly, leaving Ray a little bit less well-off than he was before. He allowed another woman, hereafter known as "the crazy lady," to rent a room in his large house. Ray spent his days collecting more trash and hosting weekly garage sales on his property, attracting many locals to browse his vast fortune of worthless items--all of which were laughably overpriced (think $800 for a broken table lamp).

Fast forward to present day, and Ray finally decides it's time to sell his property and move into something more cozy for a lonely old man than his concrete bunker. Unfortunately, Ray wasn't too keen on housekeeping, especially given his obsession with being a packrat. Here's Ray's house:

Isn't it fantastic? Off to the far left, it's possible to see a small aluminum structure on the side of the house. This was one of Ray's very own feats of engineering. Without enough storage space inside, he decided to build himself a nice shed in which to store things from dive gear, to a frightening-looking table straight out of a 1930's medical horror movie, to another wing of his vast library. Sadly, these pictures are all after Ray had moved out and taken his stuff with him. All in all, it took 7 40-foot dumpsters for Ray to get rid of all his stuff, and the Salvation Army filled 5 full-length trucks with his possessions, including over 2,000 items of clothing on hangers alone. Afterwards, Ray left some things even he considered "junk," which filled another 2 dumpsters. All this in a ~3,000ft² house. It's hard to imagine, but someday I'll try to get some video footage of his house before it was cleared out online here. It even shows the medical table with a human-shaped lump under a sheet covered in rust/bloodstains. Noone was brave enough to peek underneath, since we don't know if his wife was ever buried (she might even be under the house somewhere).

Without further ado, here's the storage shed:

You can see, Ray nailed up some boards and couldn't be bothered for "structural integrity," opting instead to support the roof with loose planks, pipes, and jacks. This was one of the first things to come down.

Apparently, Ray also decided to install a staircase to the upper decks of his house (or perhaps it was destroyed in a hurricane and he didn't want to deal with shady contractors). At any rate, the side of the house shows a wooden staircase he made, complete with uneven and random pieces of wood and an unstable pipe railing. Only the best! The pool is empty, because a leak developed near the drain, so Ray "fixed it" by pouring a bag of concrete inside, effectively destroying his pool in the process. Also, off to the left is Ray's garden of old-toilet-planters. Basically, he had half a dozen or so broken toilets sitting in his yard, which he had planted various flowers in.

The back of Ray's house shows off the spectacular view of the ocean he does have, ignoring the Ray-Installed™ pipe railing (don't lean on it).

Inside the house, things were dreary and depressing. Before all his things were cleaned out, in his bed was a doll dressed in his wife's clothing, tucked into bed. All of her belongings remained where they were when she died, including several mannequin heads for wigs. The only decent shot I have now is of the crazy lady's room:

As you can see, there are no light fixtures whatsoever in crazy lady's room. This is because she "hated light." During one of the inspection visits, when they went to check out her room for its size, she stood out at the edge of the dock, staring back hatefully. All the fixtures in her bathroom also had either broken or removed lightbulbs to perpetuate the depressing darkness. On one occasion, she ran out after my Dad's business partner screaming, "I'll claw your fucking eyes out!" for no apparent reason. Thus, she became crazy lady.

I've moderately poked a bit of fun at old Ray, but he was rather crafty. When his dock was blown away in one of the more recent hurricanes (Floyd? Lloyd? Whatever), he set about rebuilding it himself, not to be bothered with the Village and its slow permitting or the Army Corps of Engineers approving it for environmental friendliness. Here you can see Ray installed his very own boat hoist, to prevent any watercraft from growing unsightly grass on its hull from extended stays in the water.

Alas, when Sean and I tried to lift a paddle boat, one of those support pipes wobbled off its stand and came within a foot or so of braining me. Additionally, there's no latch to keep the lift "up" once you have winded it up (it's being manually held up in the picture).

A shot of Ray's house from the dock:

A shot of Ray's dock from the Turtle Beach House:

Note that all these pictures were taken at low tide, and this part of the Keys is very, very flat. This means that when the tide goes out, it REALLY goes out, and you can literally walk for miles in some areas before the water gets too deep.

Ray's view:

Nigger-ducks on the dock (not a racist joke, that's actually what local captains call them):

Here, an indigenous horseshoe crab attacks Sean:

Upon successfully repelling the invader, the horseshoe crab celebrates:

For those of you with little imagination to see what Ray's House can become, here's an architect's rendering of what it will look once remodeled. From the front:

..and the back:

Looks pretty great after all, doesn't it? Problem is, it was so horrifying in its original form, I doubt I'll ever rest easy while staying there. When clearing out all the trash inside, they actually found a room noone knew about that was obscured by junk. What was inside, you ask? About a dozen and a half rusty lawnmowers. There will also always be an untouched area of beach on the northeast corner, which is where Ray buried his many pets over the years. We know this because there's a huge concrete slab poured over each grave. It isn't known whether it's a huge block of concrete acting as a tomb, or merely a slab covering a shallow grave, but given the circumstances of the rest of this place, Pet Cemetary isn't something anyone wants to relive.