What’s it like to live in a house that replicates Norman Bates’ scary home in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”?
Milton Babb, a local history buff and the owner of the Lee Street landmark best known as the Germany House, explained how he adjusted to taking up residence in the aged manse and how he came to appreciate the “Spook House” style.
“The place was not really a fascination for me until 1966,” Babb said. “My best friend at Bowie Elementary School was Kirk Hale. Kirk and I went to see ‘The Ghost and Mr. Chicken’ at the Texan Theater. The movie starred Don Knotts as a reporter who spent the night at a supposedly haunted house referred to in the movie as the Simmons mansion.
“When the movie was over, Kirk was excitedly telling me that there was a house that looked like the Simmons mansion right here in Greenville and we talked his mother into driving us by to see it. Lo and behold, it was my Aunt Sybil Germany’s house! What an uncanny coincidence!
“The architecture of the house is known as Second Empire, characterized most directly by the Mansard roof and the heavy brackets under the eaves. This is the style of house that was used in ‘Psycho’ as the Bates’ ominous mansion. Charles Addams featured a structure of this same type in his original cartoons, and ‘The Addams Family’ TV show was based on Addams’ darkly comic works. This architectural style has become the de facto ‘Spook House’ structure in popular culture.”
J.P. and Polly Tolbert Germany married and moved into their new home at 3403 Lee Street on Christmas Day, 1886. The Germanys’ great, great nephew Milton Babb purchased the property in 1998 and wrote the history that garnered his home’s historic designation as a Recorded Texas Historical Landmark in 1999.
“When I was growing up, my great aunt Sybil lived in the home,” Babb said. “After Sybil’s brother Frank Germany married Mable Babb in 1927, the couple lived in the house for the first years of their marriage. Mable was my grandfather’s sister and ran the Cinderella Shop in downtown Greenville for 50 years. She started the business in 1931 as a hat shop and eventually expanded to contain a full line of women’s clothing.”
After the Germany family occupied the Lee Street residence for 90 years, the place was sold in 1977. When he acquired the property 21 years later, Babb faced the downright frightening prospect of restoring the decaying vintage family place.
“The front door wouldn’t open, and there was a huge hole in the kitchen floor,” Babb said. “The foundation had to be repaired. Two giant skids were put under the house and it was lifted three feet in the air. Then the foundation crew put a two-foot concrete perimeter foundation under the house, and it was lowered back into place. This little project cost more than …….