Sunday, July 6, 2008

Dead Baby Dumbo

I know I've posted about elephants who paint before, but THIS elephant painted an elephant. I was always under the impression that humans are superior to every other life form (in our own opinion) because we are able to use tools and possess self awareness. (I might have made that up, but nevertheless, it is the impression I was under.) This elephant and his self portrait really astounded me.

He also reminded me of a real estate client I used to have. He had an adorable Cape Cod style house on a couple of acres in a highly sought after area of town. He was a "for sale by owner"and it was priced right and I couldn't believe it wasn't selling.

I began stalking them and soon got the listing. As I toured the home for the first time, I walked into their family room and froze in my tracks.


We all know that I'm animal-sensitive. We all know that I get a little weird about guns and killing things. Therefore, I'm afraid you will think I am exaggerating when I tell you that he had dead, stuffed animals that would rival any museum's collection.

From what I remember (because the "Room of Death", as I came to call it, has thankfully blurred a little from my memory), the list included: a lion head, a rhino head, a wildebeest head, a flock of assorted birds, a full bobcat, a zebra skin rug, tiger skin on the wall, a full sized monkey (think Rafiki in the lion king), a coffee table made of elephant legs, two elephant leg side tables, an elephant head over the couch and his crowning achievement...a full sized, complete baby elephant.

He explained that he was a big game hunter and that he had paid to go on hunts and Africa and have his "trophies" stuffed and shipped home.

"Is this legal?" I asked, unable to conceal my astonishment.

"Yes it is, perfectly so", he insisted smugly.

"It's legal to hunt baby elephants?"

"It's mother was the trophy", he said, nodding to the coffee table. "She was pregnant and that was the fetus", he claimed, nodding to the fully developed, absolutely darling little elephant.

"How do potential buyers react when they see this?" I asked, with a sinking feeling in my stomach.

Looking annoyed, he answered, "Like everyone else, they're surprised and curious. It has nothing to do with the house though, none of it is staying, it shouldn't matter."

Always the optimist, I entered into a listing agreement and a formal relationship with The Room of Death and it's keeper.

I brought my office through for a tour during our weekly caravan of new listings and cringed when the first person walked into the family room and exclaimed, "Oh wow." Everyone filed in and stood there in shock, then the questions started. Incredulity, then anger, then sadness followed. The rest of the tour was plagued with "Poor Dumbo" remarks and disbelief that anyone could relax in that room.

I came to learn for myself how hard it was to relax in that room. It was the room in the house that had the television in it and was attached to the kitchen. I spent many open houses trying hard to avoid that room when I was alone, certain that the sad herd of dead animals were staring at me with their mournful glass eyes as I refilled my water glass.

Buyers generally followed the same cycle of disbelief/anger/sadness and were completely distracted from the house. One woman burst into tears upon seeing the baby elephant. One guy said that he couldn't imagine doing business with someone like this. Several felt he should be reported to someone, somewhere. Other realtors hated showing the house. I tried warning people, getting it over with first, saving it for last, reminders that it would all be gone, and more advertising. A couple of people were more curious/amazed than outraged, but everyone was distracted and had a tough time moving on from The Room of Death.

Finally, I told the wife that it was a problem (Yes, he had a wife. AND kids. Can you imagine watching cartoons with Rafiki standing in the corner? Opening Christmas gifts with Dead Baby Dumbo watching??) and she told me to take it up with him, but that it probably wouldn't go well.

So I told him that it was a distraction and that the sheer abundance of stuff in the room made it look small, dark and cluttered and that perhaps we should consider moving everything but the tv and the couch into storage, until his new home was built.

He was instantly annoyed and insisted that no, he wasn't going to and it wasn't a big deal.

I explained that people were unable to remember anything about the house other than the Room of Death, that people were crying, and refusing to allow their kids to enter the room.

He said that was ridiculous and that he wasn't putting tens of thousands of dollars worth of stuff into storage and that it had to remain in air conditioning.

I told him about nearby air conditioned storage and that his house was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and had to be sold, and offered to reimburse the cost of storage out of my commission.

No, he insisted. His stuff could not be handled unnecessarily.

I believe I even proposed draping some of the larger pieces with sheets and at this point he was just angry and not budging on how much this should just not matter. But it did. As construction on their new home began to finish up, they reduced the price. Great home, great deal, great location, great market, plenty of showings...but no offers and too much feedback re: The Room of Death.

Finally, the listing contract expired and I wasn't surprised, or even that upset, when they decided to go with another agent. They moved into their new home two weeks later, taking the Room of Death with them. Two days later, the first couple who saw the home vacant purchased it. The listing agent, who had barely gotten around to listing it on MLS little less advertising it, had both sides of the deal and made $40,000 worth of commission, and was praised by the owners for being such a great salesperson.

So the moral of the story is not to display dead Disney characters in a home that you're trying to sell and/or that it can really suck to be a real estate agent sometimes.

Here's a link of a photo of an elephant skin. It's an odd picture that I bookmarked a while ago, that will probably never fit into a post better than this one, so there you go.

Here are some links of how elephants mourn and honor the bones of other elephants who have died.

Here is a National Geographic video of elephants mourning their matriarch.

and just because this hasn't gotten depressing enough (I didn't mean for it to go this way, I swear I didn't), here is a video of an elephant encountering the bones of an old friend.

Poor elephants.



Kira said...

Ew, ew, and ew. I hope someone kills him and mounts him on the wall.

How totally creepy.

Mitch said...

That is sickening! Seriously? He ripped the elephant's fetus out of her and thought that was OK? Really? I'm horrified and don't blame people for being creeped out. Poor babies. And poor you for having to sit in that room!

AFRo said...

The real prize was its mother?!? What kind of sicko freak does that?

Melodie said...

That is just horrible! What an idiot that guy was! People get told by realtors all the time to remove personal items so that their potential buyers can picture themselves and their belongings in the house, and this guy thought that having all of those dead animals in that room wasn't keeping people from buying? Stupid, stupid man.

Anonymous said...

You may want to read, "When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals", if you haven't already. It reinforced my belief that animals experience many of the same emotions that we do as humans. Although, it did send me into a brief tailspin of wondering how I was going to save and protect every living creature!

Martina said...

long time lurker, first time poster: all i can say is *wow* - that's unbelievable...people are just dh quotes (he's in sales too) the more people i work with the more i like my dog (or cat, in our case)...ugh.

Caren said...

Wow! What a weirdo. And I thought the house we looked at with the two full reach-in fridges and 15 seat bar in the basement was odd.

Jenn said...

Pardon me, but that's one sick bastard.

The Menagerie Momma said...

I want to barf after reading that. Can you even imagine being MARRIED to that man?! Yuck! The kids are doomed.

I know this is not on topic but Ashley, I visit another blog that you might find entertaining

It's one of the more interesting blogs I read every day (besides yours of course). Since you are an animal lover you might enjoy it.
Just FYI.

Anonymous said...

Wha???? Okay, that's just terrible...