The "Monkey" Dresser

After my uncle's funeral in 1990, family and friends all gathered together at our "homeplace," for the last time. It was a bitter-sweet afternoon, and we often found ourselves laughing and crying at the same time as we shared memories and funny stories about my uncle. We also talked about our love for the house and the land, and while the decision hadn't officially been made at that point, we all pretty well knew that the old ways were coming to an end, and that our homeplace would be sold out of the family. Our ties to the place were so strong, and many of us had lived there at one point or another. It had been in the family for over 100 years, and the uncle who had just died had been born in the house, and had lived there all of his life.

As I sat talking with one of my cousins, the conversation turned to all of the unique things in the house, including the large, dark piece of furniture in one of the bedrooms. It was a dresser, of sorts, with a tall, central mirror flanked by wooden side pieces. At the top of each piece was a round, carved shape that had reminded one of the older cousins of a monkey's face when she was a child. From that point on--for about 40 years, I suppose--it had been known as the "monkey dresser."

I'd never liked it. It was just too tall (about 7 feet) and too strange-looking. The two "monkey faces" gave me the creeps, and I wondered where on earth it had come from, who made it--and why? There were so many beautiful old antiques in the home, but this dresser was just plain ugly!

My cousin said that she'd never liked it, either--but for reasons that went beyond its mere appearance.... One night as she was sleeping in that bedroom, she woke up, at some point, with the feeling that she was being "watched." When she opened her eyes, the dresser appeared to be right in front of her face--looming over her! As she startled more fully awake, the dresser, of course, was where it should have been, all the way across the large bedroom on the opposite wall.

She went back to sleep, but awoke later with the same sensation of being watched. As she told me about this, she held her hand out--just about six inches from her face--to show how close the dresser had appeared to be to her. Her rational mind wouldn't allow her to become but so scared--after all, furniture just doesn't move around like this--but she was still really uncomfortable about the feeling of being watched, and about the dresser's apparent proximity, even though it was on the other side of the large room.

She told one of her sisters about this experience, and was surprised to hear that this happened to her each time she slept in the room with the monkey dresser! Her sister said that it had also snapped one of its drawers at her one time (a small compartment that had a hinged lid) when her back was turned.

I listened to this story with a mixture of skepticism and amusement, and after discussing other things for a while, my cousin and I went back downstairs to join the rest of the family. We walked out onto the front porch, and we went over to my mom. "Hey," I said. "Have you ever heard about what the monkey dresser does?"

Without missing a beat, my mom shocked both of us by saying, "Well, all I know is that when I've slept in that room, it's been right here--right in my face--when I wake up!"

When the inevitable came, and the house was sold, and all of the furniture was either acquired by family members or sold at an auction, no one chose to get the monkey dresser. It was bought by an antique dealer, and we later heard that it had been purchased by a couple from South Carolina.

I hope it's behaving itself in its new home!

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