History has a way of ingraining itself into a home, telling its story through the creaky floorboards of a well-traveled hallway, or gaudy wallpaper left behind by the previous owner.
Sometimes, history can leave a much greater impact, especially when the past intertwines with the future, manifesting in the form of a haunted house. Bobbie Prestes documents these explorations on her TikTok account, Oddities on Elm Street, found at @odditiesonelmstreet.
Amassing over 300,000 followers with millions of views, Oddities on Elm Street has left the internet both frightened and fascinated by her 1848 home, which her family purchased in 1938, becoming the fourth generation to inherit the property.
Ironically, and fittingly, the street name that Prestes’ home is located on is Elm Street, sharing its namesake with the famous horror film “Nightmare on Elm Street” — a 1980s slasher film about a serial killer’s spirit that murders people in their dreams.
A Dark Past
Located in the idyllic American village of Cannonsburg, Prestes’ home is surrounded by houses and stores that resemble a movie set, providing an aesthetically pleasing small-town charm that many yearn for. However, viewers soon learn that the neighborhood surrounding Prestes’ haunted abode is much more historically menacing and mysterious than it appears.
In a short TikTok video series titled “The Village,” Prestes discusses how white settlers colonized the area after they discovered a Native American trail and then murdered all the tribes that once resided there. The house just happens to be on part of that stolen land.
Prestes also talks about an incident involving a misfired 1885 Independence Day cannonball that left a young man dead. She went on to provide insight on how the town effectively covered this death: hiding the cannon and destroying all related documents.
Hidden Rooms and Curious Theories
Despite growing up in the old home, @odditiesonelmstreet recently discovered a hidden room located in the basement that was intentionally covered by a cement wall. TikTok viewers wondered if the room was part of the Underground Railroad, a network of tunnels that helped free enslaved individuals from the antebellum South.
Upon further research, Prestes determined that this theory would not have made sense geographically. She also found some clues — a blue candle, a letter cut in half and an eerie, ripped-up Victorian photograph — that hint at the actual purpose of the hidden space. Her two main theories are equally unnerving and bring up questions about her own family’s history.
The first is a generational rumor about an alleged “Aunt Selma.” Prestes stated in a TikTok from 2021 that Aunt Selma “struggled with mental illness and was kept in the basement” and was possibly hidden away in a “disappointment room,” a space where families in the past would hide relatives with physical or mental disabilities from the public.
In the video, Prestes discusses how this unnerving tale was told to her as a child with the hopes that it would keep her away from the basement. She recalls the tale, stating, “The story was that Aunt Selma was down in that room, waiting on shackles and chains for us to come down the stairs.”
Disturbing enough as is, what Prestes discovers puts the sinister tale in the realm of possibility. The story may be a myth, but after further research, Prestes discovered that someone by the name of Selma is on her family tree; strangely, there are no records of her. One begins to wonder, is the lack of records due to her hidden identity?
Prestes’ second theory is what she believes to be more plausible. The hidden room was likely used for dangerous black magic, perhaps indicated by other occult items scattered throughout the house, including a goat dagger and a Victorian Bible with a dead animal pressed in between the pages.
One curious thing @odditiesonelmstreet discovered was a vintage Ouija board in the drywall of her bedroom closet, along with pictures bundled with the board. Was someone trying to summon the people from the pictures? There were rumors of an upside-down pentacle that was discovered in the basement when the family first moved in, which they allegedly painted over.
Considering the aforementioned half-burnt candle as well as the letter and ripped-up photograph, it is quite possible that the space was being used for a dangerous ritual. The room also shows signs of smoke stains, as if someone had been ritualistically burning something in the space.
Perhaps adding to this second theory is the Victorians’ fascination with the occult. The rise of modern scientific practices led to phenomena like mesmerism, spiritualism and an obsession with contacting the deceased. Maybe something went very wrong in the basement room, and it was sealed to protect the inhabitants from the dangerous forces within. But, as the saying goes, “If you play with fire, you are going to get burned.”
Society’s Fascination with What Scares Us
Why is TikTok so intrigued by the strange occurrences of the Oddities of Elm Street? Science backs up humanity’s love for all things odd. According to psychologist Robi Ludwig, “There’s also a hormonal component when it comes to fear and enjoyment. The hormonal reaction we get when we are exposed to a threat or crisis can motivate this love of being scared. The moment we feel threatened, we feel increasingly more strong and powerful physically, and more intuitive emotionally.”
For adrenaline junkies, chasing a rush is enjoyable, and being drawn to this type of reaction is part of being human. Being scared is part of our nature, and some choose to embrace this, whether it be through the blank expression of Michael Myer’s murder mask or a haunted house attraction.
One of the most famous quotes by Franklin D. Roosevelt states, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” But, as demonstrated by the Oddities on Elm Street TikTok page, one can begin to question if fear is something tangible, spawning from decades of mysteries and secrets.