Welcome back to Lilith, a tale I’ll share a few chapters at a time until her story is complete. If you’re new to the blog, Lilith is a great place to start (you don’t need any background information to enjoy this account of demonic possession) but do go back to January 7th’s entry and begin with chapters 1-3.
Several readers have asked how many chapters there are in Lilith’s complete story. And the answer is… I don’t know yet. Her story had so much to it than I realized. When we began I estimated 13 chapters, but here we are on Chapter 17… Her tale continues to unfold surely it’ll have to end at some point. For now, all I can say is that the wallpaper came down last week… this week we meet the ghost hunters.
Here we go.
The stress of their situation took its toll. Laura began losing weight and Michael appeared to gain every ounce she lost. Jack insisted upon sleeping in their bedroom each night while Lilith flat out refused to do the same. She barely left the basement save for going to school or using the restroom. Rosemary and Carrie were watchful, quiet, secretive. Laura suspected they knew more about the strangeness in the home than they were willing to share but she didn’t have the energy to drag it out of them. Michael finally got a hold of Kim who admitted to knowing that there had indeed been a death in the house, though she claimed not to know any of the details. Her excuse for not telling the Arnolds about the home’s macabre history was that the seller could have accused her of killing the sale of the house if they’d pulled out as a result. She might have been sued.
Laura brought Lilith back to the pediatrician and got the name of yet another therapist. The results were the same. Lilith changed back into her old self when she was in the presence of other adults. Laura could only say so much about her daughter’s behavior without looking like she was suffering from Munchausen by proxy. Michael spoke with a friend back home who’d suggested they have the house tested for high electromagnetic fields. Apparently, when elevated they could cause hallucinations, hearing disembodied voices, even the feeling of being watched. Convinced this must be the key to escaping the strangeness in the home, Laura and Michael convinced themselves that these wonky electromagnetic fields must be the cause of all their problems. They spent two blissful days believing the theory until the test results came back showing that the readings on their property were on the low end of normal.
Laura still held onto a glimmer of hope that a ghost hunting team might come to their rescue. Of the three inquiries she’d sent, she received back two responses. The first came from a man named Nick Sayre. He claimed to be the lead investigator of the Metrowest Ghost Hunting Society. In his email Mr. Sayre suggested that their eldest daughter had been dabbling in the occult. He was insistent that he come to their home immediately with his own “talking board” and a professional Tarot card reader in tow. He intended to use those tools to cross examine Lilith in what he referred to as a “data gathering session.” With that completed he claimed he would be able to diagnose the family’s paranormal problems with one hundred percent accuracy. He’d added that Lilith’s name had come up in his “talking board” session that very morning and that he took it as a sign that he was uniquely suited to help the family. He wanted to get started right away. Would Laura please respond immediately with her home address and a confirmation that she would cover all travel expenses associated with her case. At this final line Laura scanned back through the wordy email to confirm that Nick did indeed live in Wellesley. What sort of travel expenses could he possibly be referring to? She wondered.
Completely put off by the man’s pushy email and about ninety-five percent sure that she didn’t want his brand of help, Laura googled “talking board.” The search returned article upon article about Ouija Boards pushing Laura to one-hundred percent certainty that she didn’t want this Nick person anywhere near her home, let alone her daughter.
Hopelessness threatened to overtake her at that point but then she received an email from a woman named Nocturnal Druid. Of course, the woman’s name put Laura’s guard up, but her email was so thoughtful and kind that Laura went ahead and called the phone number provided in the message. The ghost hunter answered on the first ring.
Anxiously, Laura gave her a run down of the things her family had witnessed and the strange behavior Lilith was displaying.
Noc, as she’d told Laura she’d like to be called, took a deep breath before sharing her suspicion. “Listen, I’ve been a paranormal investigator for about seven years and I’ve experienced a good amount of legitimate phenomena, so I wouldn’t say this unless I was certain. If what you have told me is true, then I suspect that you’ve got some sort of demonic infestation happening in your home.”
Defeated, Laura began crying so hard she could not speak. Somewhere in the back of her mind she’d been harboring hope that there was a logical explanation for her family’s experiences. Hearing this kind and seemingly normal woman not only confirm her worst fear but to do so in such a straightforward way broke her.
Noc gave her a moment to pull herself together. “Look, it might not be all that serious, it could just be that something low level demonic has attached itself to your daughter.”
“How would that not be serious?” Laura asked.
“I’m sorry. I’m not implying that would be a good thing at all. It wouldn’t be any better, of course, it might just be easier for us to clear. But if it’s the house, the land, and the girl that need to be cleansed of demonic influence then things get complicated. Not impossible, just tricky. The truth is, I won’t know until I come and get a look at things for myself. We can do an initial intake interview in which myself and another team member come to the house, it would be best if I were able to speak with both you and your husband at the same time. If I am certain that our group is the right one for the job then I’ll pull together the whole team and we’ll come for an investigation. We’ll do our best diagnose exactly what is going on in your home and we will get you in touch with the professionals to get rid of the problem.”
“Do you use anything like Ouija Boards or Tarot cards?” Laura asked.
“Oh, God no,” Noc replied with a snort. “That would be like throwing fuel on the fire. Why do you ask?”
“Oh, it’s just I heard back from one other ghost hunter and he wanted to bring both things into the home to make his own diagnosis of our situation.”
“Please tell me you didn’t let him do it,” Noc said nervously.
“Of course not.”
“Thank God. That could have been catastrophic. Do you mind me asking who suggested doing such a thing?”
“His name was Nick, um, and his last name started with an ‘S.’”
“That sounds right, yes.”
Noc made a noise of disgust. “Well, I’m glad you didn’t let that guy into your house. He’s not ill intentioned but that doesn’t mean he can’t instigate major problems. Anyhow, would you like to set up a time for myself and my friend Patricia to come for the initial review of your situation? Patricia is our team psychiatrist. We’ve found it to be advantageous to have her attend all of our primary client meetings.”
It all sounded a little too good to be true. Laura hesitated a moment before asking, “And how much would all of this cost if we decided to move forward?”
“Absolutely nothing,” Noc responded quickly.
“Nothing at all?”
“Of course not, we offer our opinion free of charge. The honest truth is that we are grateful to people who grant us access to their haunted properties. We only ask that you grant us three full nights in the home for our investigation. One with the family there, the other two with the family off the property. Most of our clients stay in a hotel or with relatives those nights.”
“Oh, I don’t know if I’ll be able to convince my husband of that-”
“Let’s just start with with the the initial meeting and interviews, then we’ll see where things go. I could come over as soon as Monday morning.”
Laura said that sounded fine.
When they discussed it later that evening Michael was skeptical about inviting a group of so-called “ghost hunters” into their home. He was certain what they needed was spiritual warfare carried out by a true professional.
“What we need is a full fledged Catholic priest to sort out this here hell hole,” he declared after Laura said he needed to be home Monday morning to meet Noc’s team.
Laura wondered aloud where he would find a priest who would believe them, let alone come to the house.
“We’re Presbyterian, Michael-” Laura started.
“Do you even know anything about these people?” Michael demanded. “What if they’re just coming to case the joint?”
“I highly doubt they would advertise their services online only to come and rob us blind. They’d be caught instantly. I’ve read all of the customer comments and recommendations on their website. Over and over again people said how professional the group was.”
“They probably wrote those reviews themselves,” Michael said, suspiciously.
“Fine, then what’s your suggestion? What do you think we should do?”
Michael sighed. “Well why not a priest? Or a reverend, or anyone religious for Christ’s sake? Maybe we could have someone come perform a blessing.”
“We,” Laura said with a humorless laugh.”Sure, ‘we’ can get right on that. I’ll just go looking for some sort of religious figure to wave his magic wand.”
“Well if it is a demon causing all of this then isn’t that what we need? A priest? What the hell can a bunch of ghost hunters do about it?”
“You’re right,” Laura conceded. “I’ll find someone religious. But I do think these ghost people could help us. Noc said they have a demonologist on the team so I have to assume he or she would have ideas. I’ll find a way to get a priest or someone out here if you agree to at least meet the ghost hunters Monday morning. Deal?”
“Deal,” Michael agreed.
Michael had listened to Laura’s concerns all along about his daughter and he’d accepted the fact that the twins were actually hearing footsteps coming from the attic and that one of them was interacting with some ghost boy in the yard. Jack’s scare and Lilith’s strange reaction had shoved him further out of denial that there was something frightening happening to his family. But it was a rainy Saturday afternoon when Michael became aware of just how serious the situation in his home had become. Laura had gone to the movies with Jack, Rosemary and Carrie while he hung back with Lilith who’d refused to join them. It was just as well, he was happy to hang out on the couch with a beer and the game.
Laura was, as had become the norm, worried about Lilith so Michael reassured her that he would, indeed keep an eye and ear out as he lounged around. Lilith holed up in her room, but Michael had insisted that she keep the basement door open.
He was in the kitchen refilling his bowl from a bag of microwave popcorn when he first heard the whispering. A whispered conversation, actually coming from the basement. The voices were very faint so he grabbed the remote and turned down the volume on the television then went to the top of the basement steps to listen.
He thought, Lilith must have a friend over. His next feeling was one of relief that she’d finally made a friend. That thought was followed quickly by concern that the friend might be a horny fifteen year old boy. He strained his ears trying to determine whether the second voice he was hearing was male or female. Unable to tell who exactly Lilith was speaking to he walked as quietly as he could down the steps. Still, the old stairs creaked and groaned beneath him.
He was certain Lilith and her friend would hear him coming so he was surprised that the whispered conversation continued until he was in front of her bedroom door. Michael was reaching for the door handle when he heard what he was certain was a male voice say, “Shh, he’s coming.”
“Here we go,” Michael muttered to himself, then he gave three quick raps on the door before pushing it open.
Lilith was sitting at her desk with her back to the door, her lava lamp offering the only light in the room. She turned around slowly, calmly to look at him.
Michael flipped the light switch on the wall next to the door, the overhead light illuminated the dreary space. A quick glance around the room proved his daughter was alone.
“Who were you speaking to?” He asked, trying to keep his voice steady.
“No one, daddy,” Lilith said, a smile in her voice.
Michael stepped into the room, looked behind the door and under the bed while Lilith calmly watched him from her desk.
After he assured himself that there was no one hiding in the girl’s closet he said, “I don’t want you having any friends down here unless you clear it with either me or your mother. Got it?”
Lilith nodded and began to turn her back to him.
“Know what, kiddo? I think you best come on upstairs for a bit. The games on and I’ve got some popcorn.”
She began to protest, but Michael made it clear the idea wasn’t up for discussion.
When Laura and the younger kids got back home she found Lilith and Michael sitting at opposite ends of the couch. He stood up and nodded for her to head up to their bedroom to talk.
Once they’d closed the bedroom door he told her, “We gotta find a priest or something ASAP, and call that ghost hunting group and get them over here as soon as possible.”
The ghost hunters arrived at our home in a red VW wagon. I don’t know what I had been expecting, perhaps a Scooby Doo van, but the cute little car surprised me. They didn’t look at all the way I’d imagined them either. Actually, that’s not totally true. Patricia, the psychiatrist, was pretty much what I’d expected. She was in her late forties, with kind smile lines around her eyes, a business casual outfit, no makeup and wavy shoulder length hair parted in the middle and tucked behind her ears.
Noc, on the other hand was about fifteen years younger than I’d had her pegged after our phone conversation. Her gravely voice brought to mind a much older woman, one who’d smoked heavily. In reality, Noc was probably around my age, if not younger. She had rosy cheeks, freckles across the bridge of her nose and wore her shiny sable brown hair in a high bouncy ponytail.
I watched nervously from the window beside the front door as the women got out of the car. They appeared to be in mid-conversation and from what I could tell they were talking about our property, from their hand gestures I suspected they were discussing the train tracks and the stream that ran past the backyard.
I made a quick check on Jack, who was home from school with a low fever. I had him set up on the couch with his iPad and a bunch of cozy blankets. It was far from ideal to have him home for the conversation we were about to have with these people, but it wasn’t as if I could send him up to his room while they were there.
“They’re here!” I called up to Michael on the second floor. Then I went to the front door and welcomed the ghost hunters into our home.
After introductions were made I offered the women coffee, which they declined and we sat at our dining room table to discuss our haunting. From where I sat I could keep an eye on Jack, he appeared to be entranced by whatever game he was playing on his iPad, but Lord knew he was probably hanging on our every word.
“Why don’t I tell you a little bit about what we do,” Noc suggested. “Then we can go over what’s been happening here and determine if our team is the right one to help your family, or if there is someone we feel might be better suited to your particular case.”
Michael and I nodded in encouragement.
“Great,” Noc said with a big smile. “Well, I’m the case manager for a team of four paranormal investigators. My husband Tyler is our lead tech specialist. We all have a working knowledge of the equipment but he’s the expert. We have two investigators, Patricia here our team psychiatrist, and Maurice the demonologist. We also enlist the help of a young man who does our evidence analysis. After an investigation he reviews the hours of audio and video footage, making note of any anomalous events. Though he opts not to accompany us on our investigations.”
“How do you all get your cases?” Michael asked.
“About fifty percent come in through our website, like yours did,” Noc smiled at me before continuing. “The rest come from word of mouth referrals, past clients who’ve benefited from our help and suggest us when they hear of friends or acquaintances are dealing with disturbing paranormal phenomena in their homes or businesses.”
“And how much do you all charge for this?” Michael asked.
“Michael,” I hissed. “I told you, they don’t charge anything.”
“It’s a valid question,” Noc said, calmly. “But it’s true, we don’t charge a dime. Pardon my language in advance, please, but we believe that charging people for a paranormal investigation of their property would be outlandish bullshit. Our service points people to other people who maybe might possibly be able to help them. We’re grateful that our clients allow us into their homes. How else would we have the opportunity to experience this phenomena?”
“I don’t mean to come across as suspicious here,” Michael said, “We are just in completely new territory. But it sounds to me as though you run a pretty professional team, that’s gotta cost something.”
“I know it sounds pretty involved, and it is. Over the years our team has learned to schedule investigations around our other obligations so that our daytime professions aren’t affected. And even though Patricia and I do an initial walk through of about thirty to forty properties a year we only take on between seven and ten of those cases. A case has to be pretty extreme for us to commit. We don’t apply our expertise or resources to a home that only has occasional wall taps or slamming doors. The amount of time and effort we put into our investigations has to be worth it for us too.”
“But what about the houses with the banging and slamming doors?” I asked, feeling protective and worried for those people.
“Once we get a read on the situation we either refer the client out to more appropriate resources, like someone with the ability to clear negative energy from a space or perhaps mental health professionals would be their best option. Then we follow up with clients over the next month or so to be sure they are getting the help they need. But when I believe our team is the appropriate group to help the family we take the case.”
“So if you were to accept our case, what would happen next?” I asked suddenly terrified that she might refer us out to some crystal and sage yielding hippy or yet another therapist.
“If we accept the case my husband, Tyler, and I will conduct some background research on the property’s history to prepare for an investigation. Then we will set a date for the team to come in and spend seventy-two hours here. The whole team will spend all three nights in the house and at least two of us will remain present in the home during daytime hours as well.”
“Whoa,” Michael breathed. “Seventy-two hours?”
Noc paused powerfully before responding. “We won’t short change the family or ourselves in gathering the information we need to determine exactly how to rid a home of negative paranormal activity.”
“What happens after the investigation is over?” I asked quickly.
“We review the evidence which typically takes about a week or so. Then we would meet here and go over our findings. Patricia and I would share our conclusions and line up all of the resources we believe you need to resolve the haunting. We’d stay in close touch over the next few months to be sure you felt that everything was handled to the best of everyone’s ability.”
“This sounds too good to be true,” I sighed.
Patricia spoke for the first time, “From what Noc has told me so far, it sounds like you’re family has been under an incredible amount of strain since you moved into this house.”
Michael and I agreed that what she said was true. We told them about the fire in the house, the strange occurrences reported by the contractor, my seeing the boy jump in front of the train and the voice I’d heard behind me in the basement.
Noc began taking notes when I shared what we’d learned about the boy, Jason, who’d lived and died in the house.
“You believe his spirit has been interacting with one of your younger daughters?”
“Yes,” I replied nervously. “I know how outrageous that sounds but I think she’s been talking to his ghost.”
“And you think Lilith is staying in what was his bedroom?” Patricia clarified.
I explained the drawings I’d found beneath her wallpaper and showed them the photos I’d taken of the walls before painting over the satanic symbols.
“You see these ones?” I asked, zooming in on a grouping of symbols that we’d found when we tore down the paper on the wall behind Lilith’s desk. Noc squinted at the image of four inverted crosses arranged to form a sort of box around a pentagram. I hadn’t even really paid much attention to those symbols when we’d been dealing with the issue and painting the walls because I just wanted them covered up and gone. But then I caught a glimpse of the same exact image drawn on the back of one of Lilith’s notebooks.
“She left her science notebook on the kitchen counter and I recognized her scribbled drawing on the back as this exact image,” I said, shakily.
“Is there any way she could have seen the image before you covered it up?”
“No,” Michael said with certainty. “We did that wall in one morning. The kids weren’t even home before it was painted over.”
“Could she have seen the image on your phone?” Patricia asked me.
I shook my head. “I mean, it’s possible, but no I really don’t think she did.”
“So you believe she came across these symbols elsewhere,” Noc began making a note.
I said, “Not just her notebook. I saw a page on her desk covered in them a couple days ago and then I was putting clothing away in her closet and, well, it’ll be easiest to just show you.”
We brought the women down to the basement and I showed them the inside of my daughter’s closet.
Noc let out a low whistle. “Wow, guys. This is really something.”
“She’s covered the entire space,” Patricia breathed. “Now, you mentioned in your email that you’d sought medical help for your daughter, is that correct? Can you tell me what her doctor said about her state of mind?”
I went over the meetings with the pediatrician, the school counselor, the two therapists and a recent meeting with an adolescent psychiatrist which had resulted in a prescription for antidepressants.
Noc turned on the flashlight on her cell phone and moved it over the walls. “You did a great job covering up those symbols,” she said. “I can’t find a trace of them so your daughter definitely didn’t see them through the paint.”
“When exactly did you find these?” Patricia asked, referring to the symbols covering Lilith’s closet walls.
“Saturday afternoon,” I said. “So that’s when I found a reverend to come to the house.”
“He was a Congregationalist,” Michael added.
“And Lilith was incredibly difficult when he was here,” I added, suddenly finding myself fighting back tears.
“She swore pretty good at the man and stormed out of the house,” Michael said. “Laura followed after her. The reverend really was a nice guy, he seemed to chalk the whole situation up to teenage rebellion. He offered to bless the house for us, so I lead him upstairs to Jack’s room, you know where the thing happened with the shadow on the ceiling-”
“I haven’t told them about that yet,” I interrupted.
“Well, one thing at a time,” Michael said. “Anyhow, he began to pray and fling around holy water and damned if we both didn’t feel the entire house tremor.”
The four of us stood in Lilith’s room. I could tell that Noc and Patricia were trying to process all they had been told.
“We could show you Jack’s room next,” I offered. “And I can explain how he said the shadow climbed up the wall and then across the ceiling to hover over his bed.”
Patricia and Noc exchanged a look. “You know what, if you don’t mind, just walk us through the rest of the house and point out any place where something paranormal has occurred,” Noc suggested.
I nodded, then started to turn to walk out the door but stopped and looked right at Noc. “Are you going to take our case?” I asked.
“Bet your ass,” she said.
Michael snorted. “Atta girl.”