Earlier this month, a listing for a house in the town of Cayce, just outside of Columbia, South Carolina, captured the Internet’s collective imagination due to the — uh, unconventional nature of the Zillow listing which stated that the upstairs apartment could not be shown “under any circumstances,” alluding to a mystery tenant who did not pay rent and would not be vacating once the home sold. This, paired with photos which made it seem as if the dilapidated property had clearly seen better days, led many to speculate that there was almost definitely a serial killer living upstairs who would probably use your skin for lamps if you bought the place.
But as it turns out, that couldn’t have been further from the truth, because the Raleigh News & Observer was able to track down the mystery tenant, who has been revealed to be 70-year-old Columbia native Randall McKissick, a divorced father of two and artist who has had his work displayed all over the world, from billboards in Times Square to galleries in Paris. Sadly, McKissick has since fallen on hard times, and has lived in the apartment — owned by his childhood friend Michael Schumpert — for the past 10 years or so.
McKissick began his career as an illustrator, and one of his original pieces still hangs in the Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta. However due to the rise of computer-generated graphics in the ’80s, McKissick found it increasingly difficult to find work as an illustrator and turned to painting to make a living. He rented a studio overlooking the Congaree River but eventually, he could no longer afford the rent and was evicted around the same time his marriage came to an end. Since then, he has been in the Cayce apartment, where he lives alone with his three cats. McKissick suffers from anxiety, which makes it often difficult for him to leave the home.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck last December when McKissick’s old friend Schumpert was involved in a bad car accident in which he suffered a broken back. While Schumpert remains bedridden and his wife disabled, the couple’s adult sons have been maintaining the property, but now they can no longer afford to do so.
Michael Jr. tried to rent out the bottom floor of the Michaelmas Avenue house, but it needs extensive repair the family can’t afford. “It just wasn’t happening,” he said. It was Michael Jr. who wrote the ad to sell the house. The one that went viral.
“We don’t really have much choice but to sell the house; my parents need to sell it,” he said. “But it’s been in the family for so long, we don’t really want to. And we want Randy to be able to stay there.”
He has since taken down the ad, and the house is off the market. What’s the next step? “I don’t know.”
McKissick’s daughter, Amber Albert, is trying to find someplace for her father to live with his cats, although money is also an issue for her family. But if any good can come from going viral for what was initially the wrong reason, it’s that McKissick’s story is finally being told and will hopefully lead to a solution to his situation. You can read his entire fascinating profile here.
(Via Raleigh News & Observer)