LANGLEY — The brown house on First Street is a sidewalk sideshow, even for Langley.
The windows are dark. Giant metal crows tower over a front yard of foliage and small boulders. A brown banner reads “RESIST” in white letters.
Makes you wonder about the goths who must live there.
It’s not like you could go knock on the door to find out — because there’s no front door.
What’s up with that?
Wonder no more.
The woman of the foreboding house is a bubbly 74-year-old with curly silver hair and bright red glasses.
Sharen Heath is the curator of the crows.
“I tried having the showpiece house when we first moved here,” Heath said. “There wasn’t as much satisfaction in that.”
She and her husband, Simon Frazer, moved to Whidbey Island 20 years ago and built a big house on the waterfront, where the crows were backyard art. The couple put the crows in the front yard when they later moved down the street to this smaller Craftsman home near the downtown square.
“It’s an upside-down, backwards house,” Heath said.
“Frank Lloyd Wright said a house should contain some mystery to it. The front entrance is in the back.”
Getting there entails walking up side steps and navigating a tall, paneled gate to a long side path and deck.
“Wait until you see the inside,” Heath said.
Move over, Alfred Hitchcock. Inside are about 200 crows and ravens in various forms on walls, tables and shelves.
Crows live in a group called a murder. A group of ravens is called a congress or unkindness. In her house, it’s an artsy hoard.
“I’m a thrift-store slut,” Heath said. “I don’t know when to stop. I’m a clutterer and it gives me some feeling of security and comfort.”
She also collects non-bird things. She has hundreds of books, enamel pieces and red-and-black plaid buffalo items.
She said the bird bent started with a purchase at a fundraiser of an acrylic painting of crows by Laura Hudson, the daughter of Georgia Gerber, whose works include the famous bronze Rachel the Pig at Seattle’s Pike Place Market. The artist duo live in Clinton. Who knew?
Heath bought the painting at a Langley fundraiser and found herself craving more crows.
“You have one piece of crow artwork, then you get a second piece and by the third piece you’re down the dark hole of a collection,” she said. “Once you start with a crow collection, they find you. For instance, at Good Cheer (Thrift Store) there was a pillow with a crow. It might as well have screamed ‘Sharen.’”
The yard crows were handmade by Tim Leonard, a Whidbey artist known for neon signs around Langley and metal fabrications.
“I made several more, but nothing like she has. I thought about going into production but I didn’t want to take away the soul of it all,” Leonard said.
Langley is a haven for interesting characters as well as crows. Like the rabbits, they hang around the streets, mingling with tourists.
Heath likes the anthropomorphic aspect of crows.
“They walk like human beings. They don’t hop like other birds. They put right foot, then left foot, then right foot. They’re just human beings in crow costumes,” she said.
Sometimes the birds get a dinner invite. “I feed them dry dog kibble. It’s good for them and high in protein and fats.”
It’s also what she feeds the trio of energetic terrier-mix dogs that scurry about.
She and Simon previously lived in Laguna Beach, California. A newspaper story led them to visit here 20 years ago.
“I opened the L.A. Times travel section and there was this full page article about Langley on Whidbey Island,” she said.
Like the crows, the town spoke to her.
“Langley is a quirky, funky, frayed-at-the-edges oddball kind of community,” she said. “It’s why I love Langley.”
She runs the Facebook page “I Love Langley.” It’s an independent venture, not connected with town promotions. The page has 4,818 followers. The population of Langley is 1,127.
Heath’s neighbor of six years, Shirley Jantz,, a reiki healer, often sees people stop by and point at the crow house.
Is she embarrassed by living next to the “crazy crow lady?” (Those are Heath’s words.)
“Not at all,” Jantz said. “I talk to them, and all the other birds.”
Heath said most people tell her they like her house — to her face, at least.
“If somebody thought this was really wacko, they’re really not going to say anything, are they?” Heath said.