11: The Hidden Room

11: The Hidden Room

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Dreams and the Unexplainable

The Hidden Room

A house is made with walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ever since I was a small girl, I’ve been fascinated with houses. I used to dream about what my house would be like when I grew up. I loved decorating my dollhouses. Even when playing the game Clue, I planned my dream floor plan — the library, the conservatory, the billiard room, the lounge. I watched the Saturday afternoon mystery movies and was enthralled by the hidden staircases and secret rooms behind bookcases. I didn’t always remember the plots or whether or not the butler did it, but I always remembered those rooms.

When I bought my first home, it was significantly larger than any of my previous dwellings. The first few nights after getting the keys to my new kingdom, I was there all alone. I walked around what then seemed like a vast empty space. Not yet used to the layout, I got a little lost a couple of times.

Each night, I settled down on my temporary mattress, exhausted from the work of painting and cleaning. I fell into dream-filled slumbers. One dream in particular kept repeating.

I was wandering through the house, and I came upon a hidden room. Sometimes, it was like an abandoned attic filled with various objects. Other times, it was just an empty space. But, either way, the new room was a welcome surprise.

I’d experienced a couple of the standard recurring dreams in my life, and they were easily traceable to my daytime experiences. At university, I often dreamed about a surprise test or not being able to find my classroom. When I started a new job, I often dreamed of repeatedly doing the tasks I had learned during that day or of being late for work. So I just chalked up this new recurring dream of a hidden room to the stress and excitement of moving into my new home and being unfamiliar with the floor plan.

Not long after, the moving and decorating complete, I settled down into the routine of daily living. The house didn’t seem so vast once it was filled with all my belongings, and I certainly didn’t get lost anymore. Yet every now and then, I still experienced the hidden-room dream.

A dozen years after moving in, it was time to replace the tiled roof. That spring, the roofers came and began the task of removing the old and laying down the new. One day, when the basic framework was in place, but before the insulation and tiles were installed, the lead roofer casually said to me, “That room sealed off behind your bedroom — do you want me to insulate that?”

I smirked at him, thinking he was in cahoots with my spouse, teasing me about my secret-room fascination.

“You know about that room, right?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said, sarcastically. “I’m going to make that into the library.”

“Okay, so you want me to insulate it then?” he pressed.

At this point, I was thinking he was taking the joke too far. So to end it, I said, “Well, show me the space so I can decide.”

I walked out onto the balcony off the master bedroom, climbed up his ladder, and looked where he pointed. And, sure enough, behind the wall that our headboard sat against was a fully contained 8x12 room. It was unfinished and completely empty, but it was there nonetheless — a bona fide secret room.

My jaw dropped, and I just stared. When the shock wore off, I asked if he could make a small entrance to the area.

And that is how I came to have a small, cozy library years after I moved into my house.

I do miss those hidden-room dreams, though.

~Donna L. Roberts

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