ghosts in the burbs

A blog about the people who live in Wellesley, MA and the ghosts (and monsters) who haunt them.

I do love our new house. I do. It’s a little quirky, having been a pool house and all. But honestly, pool house is a relative term in Wellesley. It’s a good sized home with a garage and everything, but it wasn’t meant to be lived in full time so the layout is challenging. It’s cute though, unique. Best of all, our yard is surrounded on three sides by woods which, believe it or not, is something I’ve always wanted. My ultimate dream is to be tucked away in the forest with a bottomless cup of coffee and a stack of mysteries. Zero interruptions. Zero responsibilities save for updating my GoodReads account. So, you know close enough. At least I’m in the woods.  

Unlike our last three neighborhoods, where you couldn’t get away from everyone if your life depended upon it, which I found quite charming, the houses here are much further apart, the neighbors are very friendly but everyone does their own thing around here. Minding their own backyards, if you will. The girls and I occasionally walk down to the end of the cul de sac and aside from the construction crews and landscaping trucks zipping too and fro we don’t really see anyone. I suspect the houses on our street are empty most of the time. 

This past winter right around New Year’s Eve, Chris noticed a really strong gas smell outside. He walked down the street and heard a hissing sound coming from one of the houses. Long story short, an ice sheet had fallen from the roof and hit the gas meter? Pipe? Hell if I know what the hell broke off, but gas was just streaming out into the neighborhood. Someone came out from the gas company and fixed it, nothing happened, though the man seemed pretty freaked out by the whole thing. The reason I mention this is that no one else was around. It was evening, and all the houses around us were silent and dark. Apparently the people who owned the house were out of town for the month. How long would that gas have seeped into the neighborhood if we weren’t homebody recluses, right?

So that was weird, but not, like paranormal weird, it just kind of illustrates that while we are in a neighborhood, no one’s really around. Something happened yesterday afternoon actually, that reminded me of that fact again. I was eating lunch and watching an old Dead Files episode when I heard this booming voice outside. It didn’t let up. I went out to the patio and heard NPR blaring through the neighborhood. A house a few doors down apparently has an outdoor speaker system and someone was blasting talk radio. At first I thought it was silly, then I wondered how long it might go on. Then, as I sat back down to my Frankenberry cereal my anxiety ridden, true-crime saturated brain whispered, “Maybe it’s a distress call….”

So I spiraled. I got it in my head that the entire family in that house was under attack. That someone had broken into their home. Either a stranger or, more likely someone with a grudge. Maybe against the dad? Or maybe one of the kids? Which reminded me that this one time in high school there was this guy in the class above mine who was horrifically bullying this other kid. That kid  – the one being bullied – hired two of the instructors at his karate studio to beat the bully up. They duct taped him to a chair and beat him to within an inch of his life. My point is, my brain pulled up this memory, mixed it with all the true crime stories I’ve read and listened to, and created the story that a violent home invasion was happening on my street and that maybe the woman in that house had somehow managed to slip away and turn on the outdoor speakers in hopes of alerting someone in the neighborhood that they were in distress. 

I flipped off the Dead Files and went back to the window, and stood there with my cereal bowl listening to the booming tones of the NPR radio host. Should I go knock on the door? No. If they weren’t being attacked how would I explain? What if they thought I was being a Karen complaining about the noise? 

I went back outside and recorded some video then sent it to Chris. “What should I do?”

“Nothing. They probably don’t even realize it’s on.” 

He soon returned home with his salad and moments later the radio turned off. 

“See, they probably didn’t realize it was on.”

“Or they’re all dead,” I muttered. 

Now I get that my mind leans towards the scary side of things more than the average person, and I have good reason, but I think anyone would admit that this neighborhood is a little spooky. I wouldn’t have jumped to the conclusion that the people were in the midst of a violent home invasion in any of the other neighborhoods we’ve lived in. I would’ve assumed one of the neighbors’ kids had flipped the switch on the outdoor speakers by accident or even that the neighbors were just being rude and playing their radio too loud.

But not here. There’s a vibe here. It’s not inside my house, inside my house feels cozy and calm. I mean I’m not calm, I’m an anxious mess. But that’s beside the point. The ground here, the land, the forest, the trees, the lake up and over the hill behind our house, and that river so close by… all of it adds up to a sort of insidious creepy fairytale vibe. In the sunshine it’s fine, on a cloudy day less so. But at night? We don’t go outside at night.

I’ve learned how to turn the dial way down on my ability to see and interact with ghosts when I’m home, and I can sort of minimize my, like beacon, so ghosts aren’t drawn towards me. It’s made for a much calmer existence. But of course I’ve taken a little look see around the neighborhood, and I haven’t encountered anything too weird. Save for the sinkhole in Anne’s back yard. And Kelly’s whole time warp situation [see ghost story #58 Come Again?].  But I have this nagging sense that things are just plain weird around here and it isn’t a ghost-y type feeling. It doesn’t feel demonic either. 

Meeting Anne and her sister-in-law forced me to face this vibe straight on. Had I not known about that sinkhole in her backyard, I probably would’ve continued to chalk up my suspicions to my overactive imagination. But of course I couldn’t be that lucky. I know there’s something up here. And I suspect it has something to do with the estate that was here in the late 18 and early 1900s.

Anne and Carly were not the first to mention the Baker Estate to me. It was time warp Kelly who first asked me if I knew that we all live on his old estate. But, like so many other things, the whole idea just fell out of my head after I spoke with her. Blame it on the back to school whirlwind. Anyhow, I Googled it and found a pretty cool article about the whole thing on the Needham Historical Association website (a town that’s just a stone’s throw from our house). I ordered a book and a DVD containing a short film about the whole thing from that website. We don’t have a DVD player anymore but you know damn well well one will show up at the dump swap eventually. I just have to be patient.

I’ve only read a few chapters of the Historical Association’s text titled, The Baker Estate or Ridge Hill Farms of Needham, but it was enough to get the gist of this curious William Emerson Baker. I suppose you would describe him as an eccentric, a kind, generous and rather idealistic one at that. He bought up over 900 acres between Needham and Wellesley and created a “Circus, Amusement Park Fairyland of the Beautiful and Bizarre,” as the book describes it. I swear to God, I must be manifesting or law of attraction-ing these things into my life at this point, right? I mean who else would blindly land smack dab in the middle of something like this?  

Anyhow, there were two bear pits (word around the neighborhood is that someone on the other side of the lake actually discovered the remnants of one of these pits when they were landscaping their backyard), lots of horses, waterside attractions, a bowling alley, a deer farm, a bunch of pretty monuments and such that he bought up from state fairs and had transplanted to his estate, beautifully kept gardens, and… underground caverns.

The book came with a large pull out map. It appears that the entrance to those caves was just beside the lake. According to the text, the caves are no longer accessible. To which I say, “Sure, Jan.” It’s not just me, though. Right? A late 1800s amusement park. It’s creepy. And it feels just about right. Now, I’m not saying that this Baker guy did anything nefarious here. By all accounts he was just a quirky person who liked sharing his quirks with everyone else. Godspeed.

But do I think it’s a coincidence that he set up his amusement park here? No. This place is weird. Do I think that he may have unintentionally stirred some spook up by digging that lake and creating those caverns and all the other attractions – including The Hotel Wellesley which just happened to burn down? Yes. I do. 

My proof? We’re about to hear from another set of neighbors – my neighbors – who are dealing with something really scary on their property. Just coincidentally, diagonal from their place, right across the lake, is the location of the old, now defunct, cavern attraction entrance. 

So, circling back – or I mean at this point, zig zagging wildly back to Anne’s sinkhole – Claire was right. I lied. I absolutely heard something when I peered over the edge into that seemingly bottomless pit. And the voice was just as Anne had described, gravely and wet. It said, “What was done cannot be undone. They never should have come here.”

At the time I assumed they meant they wanted Anne and her family out of there. I say they because that wet gravely voice was actually made up of at least three of those things, all speaking together. Shivers. 

As the whole experience sinks in, I’m beginning to think the “you” was more of a “you all,” as in, “you all never should have come here.” And “here” didn’t just apply to Anne’s property, they were referring to this whole area. I can’t explain why I am so certain that this was their meaning, but I’ve learned not to second guess my gut in these matters. 

I don’t think people are supposed to live in this part of town. 

Our street is long and ends in a cul-de-sac upon which sit three very large houses. If you’re staring straight into the cul-de-sac to your right there’s an old colonial with a tasteful new and very large addition. The center house is unique and let’s just say century-specific. It actually overlooks Sabrina lake. And the house on the left is the one that Biddy and I went to visit. I suppose McMansion is the most accurate way to describe it, and it sits atop a little hill.

Painted a neutral grey, with white trim, a black roof, some brick detailing along the facade and black shutters the house is about as pretty and unassuming as it gets. It’s homeowners are the type to hire seasonal decorative landscapers, a phenomena that before moving to Wellesley I thought only businesses did. For autumn this looks like artfully placed haystacks, multi-colored gourds and pumpkins, tall grasses and tasteful Halloween decorations like wooden signs and such. You should see it at Christmas. 

Anyhow, the day Biddy and I went to meet Heather and Josh Squire was a quintessential New England autumn morning. Biddy parked at my house and we decided to walk down to the Squire’s so she could catch me up on their situation. Life had been so crazy as of late that we hadn’t really connected at all about the haunting. 

Our street is quite long, and as I’ve mentioned, when the girls and I take walks we rarely see neighbors, so I’d never really noticed the house before. Walking up the driveway it became apparent just how massive the place was. It’s top level, presumably the third floor, was lined with six dormers. 

“How many kids do they have?” I asked as we climbed the front steps. 

“Two boys, teenagers,” Biddy replied, reaching for the doorbell. 

Before she had the chance to press the button the door swung open and a middle aged couple greeted us.

“We thought we could sit on the screened in porch out back, are you comfortable with that?” Heather asked. 

We were, so we followed them through a grand entryway past a sweeping staircase and into a surprisingly gloomy kitchen. A spread of muffins, fruit and coffee sat atop a brown granite countertop with gold and black flecks. I grabbed a coffee and a pumpkin muffin topped with those great cinnamon sugar crumble thingys.

The screened in porch was just off the kitchen, it was a rather large room overlooking the woods. Off to the right I could see a slice of  Sabrina lake. The vibe was very lake house, all wood and plaid and believe it or not there was a fireplace. 

“It’s a little chilly. Shall I light the fire?” Josh went to the mantle to flip a switch and the gas fed fire came to life.

We sat in four Scotch plaid upholstered chairs arranged in a semi-circle before the fireplace, above which was mounted the antlers of some very large animal. I mean, it must have been a deer but who knows. Outside the morning was autumn grey and the trees, whose leaves were about halfway through their seasonal wardrobe change, swayed in a crisp breeze. It was one of the prettiest rooms I’ve ever been in. 

Now that we were facing each other I could see just how exhausted, wrung out really, the couple appeared to be. 

“I am embarrassed we haven’t had the chance to meet before this.”

“Me too,” I replied.

“We’ve just been so consumed,” Heather continued, glancing at her husband.

“This is all new to us,” he explained. “Nothing like this has ever happened to us before, thank God. We are grateful that you are able to help, but uh,” he shifted in his seat, “We do hope to remain anonymous.” 

Heather put a hand on his arm. “She’s going to record this, that’s part of the deal.”

“I don’t have to share your story on my blog, that’s totally up to you,” I explained quickly.

“No,” Josh said firmly. “We agreed to this and we aren’t going back on it-”

“If anyone else is going through something similar, we would hope our story might find them and-”

“Right,” he interrupted his wife, after she’d interrupted him, “We just don’t want our names or anything specifically identifying to be included in the story.”

“Of course,” I reassured them. 

“I haven’t had the chance to tell Liz much about what your family is going through,” Biddy cut in. “But I think it would be helpful for all of us if we start right at the beginning.”

“Can I be totally honest?” Asked Heather.

“Sure.”

“I’m really afraid of what you’ll find here.”

My eyes slid over the dark woods at the edge of their lawn. I’d already sensed there was something off about the place. If I were being totally honest, I was afraid of what we were going to find in the house. 

“It’s just,” Heather continued, “I’m afraid it will get worse if we talk about it.”

“It might,” Biddy replied frankly. “But it’s the only way we can determine how to best help you.”

Josh let out a deep sigh.

“How long have you lived here?” I asked.

“Almost ten years.”

“Have you been dealing with the, uh, problem that entire time?”

“No, no, no. It started last fall, actually.” Heather looked to her husband for confirmation. 

“That’s right, last September right around the time the boys went back to school.”

“Do you know of anything that happened around that time that might have caused the problem?” Asked Biddy.

The couple exchanged a look. 

“Our neighbors moved in last summer, things started happening shortly after they arrived.”

“They are lovely people,” Heather added quickly.

I could see the edge of their neighbor’s house through the trees, as I stared at it a loud ringing began in my ears. Pulling my attention back into the room I realized that everyone was staring at me.

Heather inched forward in her seat. “Are you seeing something right now?”

“No. Not yet. Sorry, I don’t completely let my guard down until I know what I’m walking into.”

“I’d keep that guard up if I were you,” said Claire nervously. 

Biddy shot me a concerned look. “Tell us from the beginning what’s happened here.”

Josh kind of sunk back in his seat while Heather leaned forward. 

“Josh noticed the, uh, problems first,” she began. “It’s all sort of a blur, but we can tell you that there have been two distinct stages to this whole nightmare. The first indication that we were dealing with something paranormal happened outside.”

“In the woods,” Josh clarified. 

“That’s right,” Heather agreed. 

“I’ll say,” Claire muttered. 

“Josh was working on the porch,” she motioned towards the screen door behind them through which a wooden deck was clearly visible. “It was late September, right?” Josh nodded in confirmation. “He was in a Zoom meeting when one of his coworkers made a comment about our kids.”

“He wanted to know why they were home from school,” Josh added. 

“Right, and you were confused because you thought the boys were at school.”

“They were at school. Tom, a guy I work with, saw someone walking back and forth behind me on the porch. The way he said it, he goes, ‘Then who’s that kid zipping around behind you?’ Well, it scared me, to be honest. I had my back to the woods, and you know what? I’d had this spooky feeling that I was being watched, but the way my laptop plugged in and all, it’s just the way I had to sit. But I’d been uncomfortable the whole call.

“It was impossible that anyone could have been on that porch without me knowing. There are at least ten stairs down to the yard. I would have heard them on the steps.”

“Spooky,” I offered. 

“I had that same feeling, of being watched I mean, when I was out back gardening one afternoon right around that same time. I have some raised beds off to the right there, you can’t see them from here, but they are close to the trees. I eventually gave up on gardening altogether. It began to feel as though someone was about to run out of the woods at me.” Heather shivered.

“We keep all the curtains drawn. Otherwise it just feels like eyes are always on you.”

“There are eyes on us,” Josh pointed out bitterly. 

“There sure are,” Claire whispered.

Just then there was a knock on the screen door. A quick, ‘knock, knock, knock.’ It sounded so natural I swore I would look over to see someone standing on the porch waiting to be let in. 

“Oh, shit,” Biddy and Claire said at the same time. 

I gripped the edge of the cozy chair and put my coffee mug down. 

“Can you see it?” Heather asked in a low voice as she peered behind her at the door.

“See what?” I replied in a shaky voice. 

“I don’t know, whatever it was that just knocked.”

“Does that happen a lot?”

“Constantly,” Josh replied. I noticed that he hadn’t even bothered to turn around. 

“Are you getting anything?” Biddy asked.

Besides a feeling of sheer terror? I wanted to say. Instead, I said, “Really bad vibes.” Then, “Aside from the knocks and feeling watched, what else is going on here?”

“Okay, well, voices, um, footsteps, strange noises outside, something dug a hole in the backyard, um there are cold spots in the house-” Heather listed.

“Tell Liz what happened to you in the backyard,” Biddy prompted, looking at Josh.

He scrubbed his face and ran his hands over his bald head. “I was out back last year just before Thanksgiving. I was raking up some leaves the landscapers had missed and I heard someone call to me from the woods. You know there’s a trail back there, right?”

I nodded. 

He gave me a hard look. “You shouldn’t use it, don’t bring your kids back there.”

“Done,” I replied. 

“I thought maybe someone had come up through our woods off that lake path so I walked back into the trees a bit and called back, ‘hello?’ After a minute I heard my name again. ‘Where are ya?’ I said. ‘Back here,’ they said, only they sounded a little further away. So I asked if everything was alright, and took a couple more steps in. It got quiet so I called out again. Then right behind me, and I mean close, the voice said, ‘Nothing will ever be alright,’ and he said it like he was laughing and he had this horrible gravely voice.”

“And there it is,” said Claire.

“I jumped a mile,” Josh went on. “But when I turned around there was no one behind me. I got out of those woods and locked all of our doors and haven’t been back out since. We forbid the boys from going back there, but… it hasn’t been easy.”

“We don’t think Derek intentionally goes into the woods,” Heather explained, “Obviously, when he’s sleepwalking he can’t have any control of his actions.”

“That’s right,” Josh conceded. “We’ve done everything we can to keep him – them – away from the woods. The alarm system, the cameras… locks.”

Heather reached out and took Josh’s hand. “The boys have had a hard time, Chad has been staying at a friend’s and Derek, uh-”

“He seems to be the most affected out of all of us,” Josh explained. 

“Can we speak with them?” I asked, because Claire wouldn’t stop demanding that I absolutely must talk to the boys. 

“If you think that’s necessary,” Heather replied nervously. 

I hesitated because I was trying to listen to what Claire was telling me. 

Biddy stared at me, eyebrows raised, then said, “Yeah, I think it would be helpful to hear about the whole family’s experiences.”

“Okay, we’ll  arrange for a time for you to meet the boys.”

“Thanks,” Biddy replied kindly. “Is it just noises or have you seen anything out there?” 

We all stared out at the trees. The wind had picked up, the grey morning seemed to have darkened. I wished that we’d driven, I wasn’t looking forward to the walk home. I wasn’t worried about rain, being anywhere near those woods made me extremely nervous. 

“I saw something,” Heather said quietly. “I was coming back up the driveway from the mailbox. I should have grabbed the mail before driving up to the garage but I didn’t think of it. When I got about halfway up the driveway I looked up and this thing was standing on that stone wall beside the garage. It was big. Big for a dog anyways. But it wasn’t really a dog. I thought coyote at first, but that wasn’t right either. It jumped down and began walking towards me. I tried to shoo it away, but it just kept coming. It had very dark brown, mangy fur. It looked like a huge German Shepherd mixed with a bulldog.

“I started yelling for help, I was backing away from it down the driveway, but I hit a patch of black ice and fell right onto my butt. I thought that was it, that it was going to attack me, so I covered my face with my hands and just curled up into a ball and waited for it to happen.”

“I was in the office when I heard her screaming,” Josh cut in. “I ran outside and found her like that in the driveway.”

“I didn’t even know I was still screaming until he’d basically lifted me off the ground.”

“Did you see it?” I asked him.

He shook his head.

“It just disappeared,” Heather explained. 

“Was that the only time you saw that thing?” Asked Biddy.

“Yes,” the couple replied in unison. 

“What about the boys?” I asked at Claire’s prompting.

There was a pause before Josh answered. “Chad has seen shadows, we are not completely clear on what Derek has seen.”

“You mentioned that there have been two distinct phases to the haunting,” I said. “Was all this just in phase one?”

The couple exchanged their thousandth worried glance of the day. 

“We built over the garage,” Heather said as though she were confessing to some horrible deed.

“Actually we tore down the old garage, added to it so it would hold three cars and then built our master suite above it,” Josh clarified.

“They opened up the house,” Claire groaned. 

“You think the renovations stirred up even more activity?” asked Biddy.

“We know they did,” Heather nodded emphatically. “Before we knocked down that garage at least everything was out there, but once construction started…”

“That’s when they got inside,” Josh said in a low voice.

The past eighteen months or so have been a mind fuck for everyone, but for preppers? Oh, what a confusing time it has been. At the start of things it was relatively clear – get your hands on some masks, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer then quarantine. Hole up as best you could, if you could, and be grateful for and kind to those who could not. Done and done and done. But the prepper in me knew there had to be more. I sorted through the plastic bins in my basement. If the lights went out, we were covered. If the water went bad we had filtration and those little disinfectant pills. But those things didn’t seem likely. 

What good would my Bear Grylls fire starter be when I was facing down the barrel of remote learning? A solar powered crank radio did nothing to assuage the isolation and loneliness. My stockpile of Starbucks Via instant coffee offered no solace. We weren’t at risk for scurvy, there was plenty of fruit around. This wasn’t the prepping I’d prepped for. I ordered a twelve pack of Dinty Moore stew. We’re vegetarian. I brought it to the food pantry. Then I began stockpiling and freezing the coffee creamer Chris and I like and we are still drinking our way through that hoard, needless to say, it is no longer my favorite. I fixated on sweets. Ordering twinkies and hostess cupcakes, a sort of “if everything goes to hell at least we’ll have these as a bright spot in the day” plan. I snuck down to the basement in the evenings and finished them off. 

I was flummoxed. This was not the world shifting emergency I’d expected. I’d planned for a catastrophic weather event. An earthquake. Rising seas. Followed by anarchy. Events that call for action. Quarantine called for stillness. For nothing. For a fuck ton of family togetherness. The goal post kept moving. We would be through this in two weeks, by the end of April. May at the latest. Next fall. When we’re vaccinated. When they’re vaccinated. After the booster. When we reached herd-immunity. Never. 

I prepped for the wrong catastrophe. It knocked me off my little superior planning pedestal. I’m used to being wrong. I’m sure you’ve noticed I’ve been very wrong here many times. I’m stopping the podcast. Nope, I’m starting it back up. Whoops! Can’t handle it and remote learning. And on and on. Then there are the more cringy “wrongs.” The wrongs in which I touched on topics I’ve had no business poking. Glorifying drunk mommy culture, writing about Hoodoo and Santa Muerte. Oof. I have been in the wrong and outright offensive so many times and trust me, it is embarrassing. Humbling. It makes me want to shut this shit down and pretend it’s all in the past. Which is what the old me would have done. Current me is willing to listen and say a simple and heartfelt, I am sorry. I will learn and do better from here on out and when I stumble again and offend you, I will breathe and apologize again and hope you forgive me, again. It’s not easy being wrong. It’s not easy to admit you’ve had a bad idea, or that your beliefs, opinions, certainties were based on lies or misinformation. But sometimes that’s just what you have to do.

But fuck all if I’m just gonna sit here and accept being wrong about the damn prepping. It feels too free and loose, as though I’d be tempting fate if I simply let go of the idea that someday my prepping will come in handy. So, after too much time doom scrolling Twitter, I continually find myself on Amazon filling my cart with seed packets and raised garden beds and composters and clothing lines and clips and better water filtration systems… and then I force myself to move all of it to the “save for later shelf.” 

We all want some semblance of control. Recently, I found mine by compulsively ordering half-cords of firewood. That’s where my anxiety and fear has landed. How the pandemic might land us in a situation where it is the dead of winter and without firewood we would freeze to death in our home, I honestly don’t know. I’m as irrational as the next person. I don’t claim otherwise. 

But, what if the worst thing did happen? The thing that actually threatened scurvy, or made money obsolete and ensured that my instant coffee was the only thing standing between me and a trade that meant life and death. Climate change is coming for all of us and, even though we have all the evidence in the world that it’s moving at a faster clip, catastrophe still sorta feels like a way off in the future thing, right?

I spoke to someone who thinks – no, she claims to know for sure that catastrophe is not a future thing. It’s a soon thing. A really soon thing. How does she know? A sinkhole opened up in her backyard and the things living inside of it told her so. In detail.

On the scale of stepping on a snake in the middle of the night to being left behind by a scuba diving boat in the dead middle of the ocean, sinkholes rank somewhere in the middle of my nature horror scale. After the following interview I Googled “scary sinkhole stories” and after a little bit of reading, sinkholes leveled up in my list of nature related fears. One particular article by The Week, “7 Terrifying Sinkhole Disasters,”  (https://theweek.com/articles/466766/7-terrifying-sinkhole-disasters) was particularly haunting. According to the article, “Jeff Bush, a 37-year-old husband and father, [who] was in his Florida bedroom… when the Earth opened up, swallowing him and everything in his room whole. The expansive hole was about 20 feet wide, and had been almost completely hidden by the house as it grew and shifted… Three days later, the search for Bush’s body was called off, as the ground was considered too unstable and dangerous to continue.” 

A sinkhole opened up beneath his bedroom. A sinkhole opened up beneath his fucking bedroom. IN the article, this geography consultant in Tampa chillingly explained, “There’s no way of ever predicting where a sinkhole is going to occur.” 

A sinkhole appeared in Guatemala City on May 30, 2010. It swallowed a three story building and measures about 60 feet wide and 30 stories deep. In Illinois a guy just dropped down eighteen feet into a sinkhole that appeared out of nowhere on a golf course. After heavy rains San Francisco sewers ruptured creating a sinkhole measuring 240 feet long, 150 feet wide, and more than 40 feet deep. Forty feet deep. That’s like a four story building, give or take. 

My Google results suggested that Florida, Texas and Mexico are some real hotspots, but sinkholes appear all over the world, even, apparently in Wellesley. I mean, of fucking course we have sinkholes, why wouldn’t we? 

Anne Werner is a neighbor of mine. She lives on a long winding road, lined with honest to God mansions. FYI – I don’t live in a mansion, we snuck into this neighborhood by buying someone’s pool house. Seriously. But we are surrounded by quintessential stately New England homes. Anne’s is on the northern edge of her street, her backyard slopes down to the Charles River. That same river that separates Boston from Cambridge. Stepping off her wide back deck you descend a gentle hill before the yard flattens out and extends to the edge of the water. This part of the river meanders through weedy snaking curves, it’s level rising and falling with the rains. This summer was a wet one and you can see how high the water’s gone by the muddy lines it left on trees along the bank. 

There’s a great walking path that skirts this part of the river, but the rainy summer brought with it mosquitos in the billions so I’ve been sticking to the road for my walks. Personally I wouldn’t want to live in a house beside the river – or in Anne’s case a brick estate complete with tennis courts, swimming pool and greenhouse – rivers have always felt so… sneaky. As though they could lull you into relaxation with their tinkly sounds and then reach out and grab you, dragging you along in their murky violent depths forever. Dramatic, yes. But still… I don’t like it. 

All opinions aside, Anne’s property is dangerous. 

Her sister in law, Carly, is the one who reached out. She asked that I meet her at her sister in law’s house. I wanted to hear their story in a neutral location, preferably Cafe Nero, but Carly was insistent. When I found out her sister in law lived just a couple blocks away from me, I agreed. 

I walked the short distance to Anne’s home and found her and Carly waiting for me in the driveway. 

“Oh, I totally recognize you,” Carly declared happily. “You have a bernedoodle.”

“Oh, sure,” said Anne, “I think I’ve seen you too.”

“We didn’t know what your whole COVID comfort level was,” Carly said quickly. “So we figured we’d head back and sit on the deck rather than going inside.”

I followed them along a brick pathway that wound along the side of the palatial home. I don’t know enough about gardening and landscaping to speak to what was going on in that yard, but my God, it was beautiful. The wild flowers and tall grasses, evergreens and Lord knows what kind of trees, looked as though they’d always been there and someone had gently placed Anne’s home right at the center of the scene. The gleaning white deck, which was either brand new or had been power washed recently because with all the damp we had this summer I knew there had been no escaping the constant creep of mildew, overlooked the yard which rolled gently down the the edge of the river. 

Anne accepted my ooo’s and ahh’s graciously and lead us to a umbrella’d table upon which sat a pink cake tray laden with donuts and a Starbucks coffee to go box. 

“We hear you like sweets and coffee,” Carly said, taking a seat and picking a strawberry frosted donut from the top of the pile. 

Anne placed a pretty scalloped Julisca floral plate before me and passed me a pink linen napkin. “Coffee?”

“Yes, please,” I replied happily, reaching for a glazed. 

“We only have soy creamer, the grocery order hasn’t arrived.”

“Perfect,” I said, stirring sugar into the dainty tea cup. 

We fell into a comfortable silence, something I am not at all used to, but the slight breeze flowing through the trees and the unseasonably cool morning coupled with the view lulled me into a cozy calm. 

Carly picked apart her donut, actually knocking the sprinkles off onto her plate. “You have a ghost with you now, right?” 

I nodded. 

The women exchanged a glance. “Before we talk about Anne’s, uh, problem, would you mind checking something for us?” 

“Sure. What’s up?”

“Are there any other ghosts around? I mean, other than your ghost.”

I sighed. “Um, I’m sort of blocking things right now so I can focus on you guys, but I can open up if you’re looking for someone.”

“We would really appreciate it, we just want to know if there are any dead people around, like if they hang out here. Would you be able to tell?”

“I think so.” I closed my eyes and took a deep breath then opened my eyes and gazed around us. The river flowed almost imperceptibly past, the woods were quiet save for the birds and the leaves brushing together in the breeze. 

“No one is here at the moment.”

“Are you certain?”

“Yes.”

“Good.”

“Were you hoping for someone in particular”

“Definitely not,” Carly spat, as Anne said, “Yes and no.”

“What we mean is,” Anne explained slowly, glancing at Carly. “Our father in law passed away two years ago and the thought of him lurking around gives us the shivers.”

“Got it,” I said. “You’re in the clear – for the moment anyway.”

“He’s not here now but he does lurk around a lot,” Claire said matter-of-factly. “He’s allowing himself to deteriorate, giving himself over to the darkness.”

“You know what though,” I said to the women, “If you want to be sure he never comes around I can email you some links to easy protections you can wear or even put around your properties.”

Anne smiled. “We’d appreciate that, thank  you.”

Again, silence fell over us and I wished that it could just stay that way. The yard was incredibly peaceful. 

“Brace yourself,” whispered Claire, ruining the mood. 

I sighed and savored a bite of donut. “There’s more, right? You weren’t just wondering about your father in law?”

“There’s more,” Anne said quietly.

“So… what’s going on?”

“Voices coming from a sink hole back there are telling her about the end of the world.” Carly gestured towards the water.

“There it is,” Claire declared triumphantly. 

“Way to just lay it all out there, she’s going to think that I’m severely mentally ill.” Anne smoothed her caramel highlights and drew in a breath. “It didn’t all happen at once. It came on slowly, over the past month. I mean, maybe that’s fast actually. I don’t know, but I did talk to my therapist about it and she doesn’t think I’m schizophrenic so…”

Though I was thoroughly rattled, I attempted to smile reassuringly. That term – “end of the world” – shot a spike of not so much fear, as intuitive resignation through me. As though I knew this conversation had been coming for months. Like deep down I’d known that at some point I’d be sitting across from a person who would break the news. The dread humming in the background wasn’t just caused by the relentlessness of these past months, that ever present foreboding warned of something much worse barreling toward us. 

“I really don’t think tip-toeing will benefit anyone in this situation,” Carly insisted, her long hair swaying as she shook her head. “We have to tell her what’s happening, right? That’s why we asked her to come.”

“I’m just not so sure this is such a good idea anymore, we’re neighbors and-”

“Anne, we’ve talked this to death in circles and we can’t find a way to stop it. We have to let someone know, right? She is the perfect person to help us.”

“I know you’re right, I just wish we could be a little more anonymous.”

I shoved a bite of donut in my mouth as they discussed whether or not I was the right person to tell their horrible secret.

After some more back and forth I spoke up. “Are you the only two who know this is happening – aside from your therapist?”

Anne swiped at her eyes and ran the sleeve of her LuluLemon sweatshirt under her nose. “We haven’t told anyone.”

“Not even our husbands,” Carly confirmed.

“They wouldn’t understand,” Anne added, an edge in her voice. 

“Would you like to go see the pit?” Carly asked moving to get up from her seat. 

“No!” I sort of yelled. “I mean, not yet. Why don’t you just tell me what’s happened and then maybe we can go take a look see.” 

“A couple weeks ago, I started waking up early, around four in the morning and I just couldn’t get back to sleep. I was anxious… really anxious, but not about anything in particular, and that doesn’t happen to me very often. I reasoned it was just back to school nerves. I was concerned that the kids might be sent back to remote learning and my oldest, [name omitted], has learning differences that make that incredibly challenging for him. It’s his junior year, so it is very important that he puts his best foot forward for his college applications.” 

Carly made a sympathetic noise and reached for another donut.

“At any rate, the insomnia didn’t strike me as particularly strange until along with it came the utterly overwhelming urge to go outside. I’d lay in bed staring up at the ceiling willing myself to stay put. I’d attempt to read to distract myself or listen to an audiobook… it was no use. The house felt so stuffy and restrictive, it was as though I couldn’t get enough oxygen within those walls.” Anne stared up at her beautiful home then her gaze slid towards the river. 

“It wasn’t enough to step out onto the deck,” she went on. “I had this urge to feel the ground beneath my feet.” 

“Forgive me for interrupting,” said Carly. “But, that is not her at all. She is not outdoorsy.”

Anne chuckled. “So true. I wouldn’t have walked across the driveway without shoes, let alone through the mud.” She stared down at her bare feet and admitted, “In fact, I feel agitated right now. I struggle being this far from the ground. The earth. It’s become a constant distraction. It’s all I can do to get the kids off in the morning and Charles out of the house. I just want to be out there.”
I followed her gaze towards the edge of her property, towards the river.

“What exactly is out there?” I asked.

“The sinkhole. I discovered it the third night my insomnia drove me outside. The first night I only walked to the bottom of the stairs, I was too frightened to go out there. God only knows what comes out at night around here.” Anne closed her eyes and drew in a deep breath. “I resisted walking down to the water as long as I could.”

Carly reached out and squeezed her hand. 

“I don’t know how I didn’t fall right into it. That’s not true, I know why I didn’t, but the idea of falling down into that pit,” she shuddered at the thought, “I would rather die.”

“It’s got to be because of all the rain we’ve had, right?” Carly insisted. “I’ve lost count of how many times our basement has flooded since last Spring.”

“Do you think there could be more?” Anne asked, shakily. “Maybe we should warn someone.”

Carly shrugged.

Anne’s haunted gaze fell on me. “They are silent during the daytime. I’ve gone down to check. It’s only at night that I can hear them, and even then they seem to be the loudest after a storm. That thunderstorm we had the other night? Do you remember? They were the clearest they’ve ever been.”

“You were outside in that?” I asked in disbelief. The storm woke me up, Joey too. The rain had been so heavy it felt dangerous as though it would pound a hole straight through the roof. The thunder shook the entire house. 

“I go out every night,” Anne said quietly. “I can’t help it.”

“How have you kept this a secret from your husband?”

“He’s a heavy sleeper.”

“Tell her what you hear when you stand at the edge of that thing,” Carly prompted.

Anne pushed her chair back abruptly. “Can we just…” she darted towards the deck stairs and scurried down them before anyone had a chance to react.

I exchanged a look with Carly. We stood and followed Anne who was now pacing the lawn, taking deep cleansing breaths and wringing her hands. 

Carly took a seat on the bottom step and I stood awkwardly close to the deck scanning the grass for snakes. They are around, you know. I’ve seen a bunch on my walks. And a few in our yard. 

“They want me to know that the end is close. The end of what we know now, The Seven say that it will change and the change will be very painful. ‘Pain like humanity has never known.’”

“The Seven?”

“That’s what they call themselves,” Carly provided.

“They say there is no way to prepare,” continued Anne. “There is no stopping what was put into motion. Only some will survive.”

“What the fuck is going to happen?” I stammered.

Anne shook her head and stopped pacing. “I don’t know exactly, but sometimes I get visions. Of water. Actually, sometimes, I dream about a wall of water crashing onto the shore. Many shores, really. And there are people running, but it is hopeless. There are explosions, I don’t know if they are manmade, but there are many explosions and then a wall of water and then people and then devastation. What was there just isn’t there anymore. I think I am dreaming of actual places around the world and I am seeing what will happen to them.

“The dreams are all different. I mean, they show me different locations and I see how these places come to ruin. It’s water, always water. And then I wake up and they call me out here to listen. And sometimes the ground sort of trembles while they speak. Like, they are moving around down there and for the ground to shake the way it does, I mean, they must be massive.”

Anne looked over and gave me a small tight smile. “You’d think I’d be terrified, right? It’s scary to talk about, but when I’m with them I’m not afraid. But what they tell me. What they are saying… I don’t know how much time we have.”

“They haven’t given you any indication of when this is all going to happen?” I pressed.

“It’s got to be soon,” said Claire.

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“Why do I say what?” Anne looked confused.

“She’s talking to her ghost,” Carly said excitedly. “What did she just tell you?”

“She thinks whatever is going to happen will happen soon,” I admitted. Then to Claire, “Couldn’t they just be trying to scare her?”

“Gnomes aren’t imaginative like that.”

“Gnomes?” I laughed.

“Gnomes?” Carly and Anne mimicked. 

“She’s talking to earth elementals, so they have to be some sort of gnome, right?”

I relayed Claire’s opinion. 

“This is insane,” Carly commented uselessly.

“Have you seen what they look like?” I asked Anne.

“No, and I don’t want to. Hearing their voices is bad enough. That gravelly, wet sound can’t come from anything attractive.” 

We stood and stared at the river. I wanted another donut and I wanted to go home.

Claire broke the silence. “Ask her to show us the sinkhole.”

I sighed. “Can we see it?”

Without a word Anne began heading down towards the water. Carly got up from the step and walked behind her without hesitation. I trailed behind them. 

About ten or so feet from the river, Anne stopped and pointed down. Carly stopped abruptly and turned back to look at me. I forced myself to walk past her. Grass as thick as sod abruptly gave way to a gaping, perfectly circular hole in the ground.

I gasped. “You have to put something around this, like caution tape or something.”

Anne shrugged. “I’ve tried. They pull it down.”

I took the tiniest step forward, unable to resist my curiosity. Or… maybe I was being called forward. 

“Listen,” said Claire.

I closed my eyes and felt the slightest tremble beneath my feet and immediately stepped back from the hole. 

“Did you hear anything?” Anne asked hopefully.

I shook my head.

“Liar,” Claire sniffed. 

I ignored her. “It’s so close to the river. Why hasn’t it filled up with water?”

“I read that Baker had actual caverns people could explore somewhere around here so we were thinking that maybe this connects to those.”

“Who?”

“That guy who created the amusement park here in the eighteen hundreds. All of this belonged to him – your property too I’d bet.”

“Ding, ding, ding,” Claire muttered.

“Shush,” I snapped.

Carly looked taken aback. “Sorry.”

“No, not you. What amusement park?”

The women exchanged a look. 

“How long have you lived here? You really haven’t heard about it?”

“Brace yourself,” Claire muttered.
“Just tell me.” I tried to keep my voice steady. 

“There was this guy, Wilson, no William Baker, who owned over one hundred acres around here at the turn of the century. On it he built a ton of attractions, sort of like an amusement park for the time. He’s the one who created Sabrina Lake.”

“Really?” That was the lake my daughters rode their little kayaks on all summer. 

“Mm hmm. Impressive, isn’t it?” said Anne. 

“Someone’s landscapers found the old bear pits a couple years ago.”

“Wait, you know what, this is actually ringing a bell. I think one of my neighbors mentioned this when we moved in.”

“Google the Needham Historical Society. You’ll find a ton of information about it. Most of his property was in Needham but some extended into Wellesley. He tried to get this area incorporated into a new town, actually. Hygenics, or something.”

“Hygieia,” Anne corrected.

“Sounds cult-y,” said Claire.

Anxiety, which had been mounting an attack within me since I’d first set eyes on that goddamn sinkhole, was beginning to interrupt my ability to think straight. I took another step back from the black pit and met Anne’s eyes. 

“You need to move.” 

Her shoulders slumped. “Will they let me go?”

I waited for Claire’s response. Then said, “They should be tied to this specific property, especially since it’s right beside the water. Moving will break their spell.”

“There’s a house that just came up for sale on the other side of Livingston. I know the broker,” Carly said quickly. 

Anne considered. “The big white one?”

“Yes, I’m sure she can get us in to see it today.”

“But is that far enough away?” 

I shrugged. “Probably.”

Carly took out her phone and began scrolling for a number. 

Anne took out her own phone. “I’ll text Charles.”

I turned and walked back towards the house without another word, Claire alongside me, chattering the whole way.

“I Googled you.”

It took me a moment to process the words. I’d been deep into editing the book. That book. The one that I’ve been working on forever. The one I am so so very hopeful will reach you all wrapped up in a pretty hardcover package someday. 

I’d been reworking a conversation between two characters, trying to make it read like a realistic discussion about incredibly unrealistic events so it took a beat to leave that conversation and actually see the young woman before me. 

I pushed my cheaters up and smiled at her. “Oh?”

“I wasn’t trying to stalk you, but you said you were a writer? I write too.”

“Cool. What kind of writing do you do?” I asked, filled with that particular sense of loss I get when I am pulled out of my make believe world into the present.

“I’m just a freelancer. I contribute to a couple online magazines.”

“Wow. What do you write about?”

“Just like, social commentary stuff.”

“That’s awesome.”

“It’s nothing…”

“No it’s not, it is super hard to get paid writing gigs. I had to make up an entire podcast to get anyone to read my stories. You must be good!” I encouraged. I guessed that Annika was in her mid twenties, a time of life you couldn’t pay me to repeat.

“I totally don’t want to bug you at all so just tell me to go away if you are in the middle of something, but, um… I nannied in Wellesley for a few months.”

“No way.”

“Yeah, not last summer but the summer before. I-” she hesitated. 

“Wait,” I said excitedly, realization dawning, “Was the house haunted?”

Annika smiled. “Sort of.”

I closed my laptop. “Tell me everything.”

Giggling, Annika pulled the chair out across from me and began to sit down but stopped short when a man walked through the main door and stood at the front desk. “Shoot, I’ll come back later. I have a break at twelve-thirty. Is that okay?”

I checked the time, that would give me about two uninterrupted hours of editing. “Perfect.”

It was early summer and I was at a local shared work space (which I’d recently joined with the help of the very generous support of listeners like you), set up at my very own six person table in the cafe area, close to the bottomless coffee and sparkling water bar. I’d finally given in to the fact that I needed a space separate from home to finish the book. Save for the past year, pretty much all of my writing was done in Starbucks or Quebrada or Cafe Nero or the library. 

A year into at-home life and home became far too distracting. I found myself obsessively tidying when I should have been writing. Putting on old Ghost Adventures episodes as background noise and lying to myself that they might provide spooky inspiration when all they did was make me sleepy and wonderfully distracted. Loading and unloading the dishwasher. Konmari-ing the cabinets, walking down to the mailbox, karate chopping the pillows. Anything but actually sitting down to write. I was, as my favorite Instagram parody account of privileged life @carolineunboxes, “hashtag blessed” that the girls were in school four days a week and remote learning only one. So I had wonderful chunks of time to take care of all of my responsibilities plus time to devote to writing. 

And yet… I tinkered and toddled around the house instead of taking advantage of the alone time I knew so many other working parents would kill for. I wandered around wracked with guilt that I hadn’t answered emails or DMs for the Ghosts in the Burbs account even though I’ve set a boundary for myself that I simply don’t answer emails or DMs – usually I can’t even read them. When I do I end up obsessing over the messages, most of which are incredibly nice, but I never know when I’m going to stumble upon a landmine – those sneaky notes that start out nice and then sort of end with a gut punch of passive aggression. So I never know what I’m going to get and my fragile little snowflake self obsesses over both the compliments and the criticisms. I know I’m strange and my anxiety weasles its way into the weirdest fucking things, but if I want to keep writing, and I do, then email and DMs have to wait – for now. I sincerely apologize if you have reached out. I just can’t seem to reply to messages at this point in my life – except sometimes I can, which is weird – and I sincerely hope that is something that changes in the near future, but for now it is what it is. 

I remind myself over and over to come back to my highest intention, to write stories that distract people who like the same sort of distraction I do. Blah blah blah, self help book regurgitation, blah. Back to the stupid shared office deal, I finally gave up on the idea that I “should” be able to sit still and work at home and admitted that I simply couldn’t. I had a choice to make, I could self sabotage, I could let the opportunities suddenly lining up before me slip away, or I could make an investment in my career and rent a table in a shared office and get over myself. 

I chose the latter. 

The first day I got more done than I would have in a week at home. Why I drag my feet on these things is beyond me. 

Anyway… Annika is the office manager at this shared office space. From our interactions I gathered that she was smart and driven and appeared to have genuinely nice interactions with the people utilizing the office. 

As I waited for our 12:30pm chat, I cringed at the idea of a Wellesley mom having this kind young woman in her clutches. But before we hear her story I thought it might be fun to  geek out on some paranormal phenomena theory. 

We’ve explored the idea of poltergeists here before, Jenn was plagued by that particularly spooky paranormal situation brought on by trauma and that wackadoo who broke into her house and attacked her family [scootch back to episode 5 – The Home Invasion if you want to hear more about that particular nightmare]. But let’s dig into the traditional definition of poltergeist with the help of Wikipedia and Britanica.com. I think we’ve all heard the “noisy ghost” bit. This type of spirit seems to be a real attention whore, tossing things about, moving furniture and banging on walls. They’ve even been known to pinch, bite and hit, which sounds a lot like living with an invisible toddler. 

Poltergeists typically haunt people rather than locations, and often they set their sights on one person in particular, usually a young adolescent woman. Now here’s where things get interesting, because there is a chance that all of this activity isn’t caused by a ghost at all. Some people believe these things are caused by a person with the gift of psychokinesis – the psychic ability to influence the physical world with their minds, or perhaps with the strength of their emotions.

The science people say, “yeah… no.” And yet the phenomena of poltergeists and psychokinesis remain linked in the paranormal world. All of this to say, I think Annika witnessed just such a person. Someone whose emotions were so repressed that they had to find an outlet and did so by creating a haunting. But that’s just my opinion. Here’s what she told me.

“It was the summer after I graduated and I hadn’t found a job yet so I was a little desperate. The nannying gig was only part time and I was living at home so I still had a ton of time to look for jobs and go on interviews and stuff. The mom wanted me to watch her kids four mornings a week. They belonged to the country club in your town so I was mostly supposed to take the girls to the pool, feed them lunch and bring them home around two o’clock when she usually had playdates set up for herself with her friends’ kids. 

“The girls were sweet, but they were… willful, you know?”

“Oh?” I said as if I didn’t know exactly what she meant.

“I just mean, they were like… really comfortable talking to adults as equals, does that make sense? Which, like, whatever I’m not saying they should ‘respect their elders’ or anything, but they expected to call the shots, like all the time.”

“Gotcha.” So I did know exactly what she was talking about. My kids are a little older now, thank God, but playdates when they were younger with children like the ones she was describing were a draining nightmare. There is a popular parenting style here, one that I hadn’t encountered before moving to Wellesley. It’s central tenant appears to be the act of  consistently telling a child, “no,” to a request five or so times only to eventually give up with a “yes” or more accurately an exhausted, “okay, fine honey,” on the sixth. It’s the consistency of the inconsistent communication style that really drives it home. We’ve all given in, but turns out, from what I’ve gathered anyway, that when you do it over and over without fail? It produces a relentless, off-putting terror of a child. I’ve met many of them. Trust me, it’s brutal. 

“Like, I know my experience with kids is limited, but I was around a lot of that family’s friends that summer and it was like they all had this unspoken agreement to never say no to their kids. I mean fine, whatever,” Annika continued, “but it created the biggest freaking cry babies. The kids were wicked mean to each other and then the second another kid gave it back to them or they didn’t get their way they just couldn’t cope. Like at all. They were like little ticking time bombs, I had to be so careful not to piss them off.

“It was just a summer gig, so I took the easy route and basically let them do whatever as long as they weren’t being mean to each other. But it wasn’t just the kids, being in their house was like walking on eggshells. The mom, oof. Mom was an ice queen.

“But not at first – in the beginning she treated me like I was her little sister or something, always wanting to know who I was dating and what my friends and I did for fun. But slowly it was like she just lost steam and couldn’t be bothered. And her friends were, just, like, a lot. They’d go on and on about all the expensive shit they got but they were like, really cheap. I watched all their kids one time when they went out to dinner and they came home two hours late and only paid me eighty bucks! I used to charge twenty dollars an hour for three kids. And here I was watching seven.”

Annika went silent. I could tell she was worried she’d said too much. “Look, I don’t mean to sound-”

“No, no,” I assured her. “I get the picture.” 

“Right. Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound all judgy. The kids were really sweet when we were out of the house for a while and I got their minds off trying to control everything and just be kids. It was their mom who I think, like, brought everything on.”

“How so?”

Annika picked at a hangnail. “She was the most… like, frigid woman I’ve ever met. She tried to be friendly, but I think she just like, didn’t want to be. It was more like she knew that it was expected. Like how I was saying at first she acted so interested in me and my life and then it was like a switch flipped. I was just another person who… no, like another cog in the machine of her perfectly curated image of her life and once she got me spinning the way she wanted me to she didn’t have to bother pretending with me anymore.”

“Yikes.”

“It was almost like she didn’t have any real emotions. No. It was more like she’d wrapped them up, or something. She did laugh with her friends and it seemed genuine, but it was mostly because they were making fun of other women they knew – or of each other behind their backs. It is so hard to explain. I sound like I’m just explaining a mean girl, but she was more than that. Like their house, it was sort of void when she didn’t have anyone there to impress. It wasn’t a happy house. It just wasn’t really anything. 

“And she was the same way. Even when her youngest would tantrum, and let me tell you that little girl could scream, this woman was like a statue. No one is that calm. But that was just it, it wasn’t like she was calm, she was scary calm. Like, clocking it, storing it away or keeping track or something.”

“Did dad live at home?”

“Oh sure. He was a nice guy. I actually kind of felt bad for him. I only saw him a handful of times because unless I was babysitting for them at night I was gone by early afternoon. But the interactions I did see between them sucked. 

“Anyway, the first time something freaky happened we were in the kitchen. It was one of those nights I was there to babysit. She’d just gotten a new rug and was having her friends over cocktails to show it off, so I was supposed to get the kids fed, bathed and to bed. Her middle kid, the six year old little girl, had won this tiny little stamp at swim class that day. She was so proud and had been carrying it around with her since she got home. 

“Their kitchen and family room were all open so their kitchen table was kinda close to where the new rug stopped. Holy shit. I did everything I could to quietly try and get the ink out before her mother saw it. Honestly, it barely left a freaking mark but you would have thought her daughter put a fucking cigarette out on that carpet.”

Annika hesitated. “The thing is, right before she lost it on [child’s name omitted] there was this moment when she realized what I was doing and we all froze, the kids and I, I mean, sort of bracing for her to freak out. But before she could even react, there was a loud popping noise and two of the pillows on the couch flew across the room. The kids and I saw it, but none of us dared to say anything because she was off on a rant. I don’t think she even noticed it.”

“Whoa,” I said excitedly. “Poltergeist.”

“Right! That’s exactly what I thought!”

“Did you see anything else happen?”

“Are you kidding? That was just the start! One morning I was making them breakfast and the dad hadn’t left for work yet so he was having coffee at the table with the kids. He was being silly and they were all laughing and the middle girl was making funny faces and snorting. Just happy little kid stuff. The place actually felt normal for a minute. And then she walked in. 

“I was at the table pouring more juice into the kids cups and she started wiping down the counters and piling the pans and stuff I’d used to make pancakes into the sink. I was like, ‘Sorry, I was just about to do that.’ She goes, ‘I don’t want them to be late for their swim lessons and this is quite the mess.’ I started to help clean up and then he made the mistake of speaking up. He goes, ‘Thank you, Annika, for making such a nice breakfast.’ 

“Oh my God, he might as well have called her an unfit mother. She goes, ‘Maybe if you were here more you’d know that Annika does this every morning.’”

“Oh,” I grimaced. “I don’t want to scare you off from having kids if you want them, but honestly, what you’re describing is just like, the first five to ten years of marriage after parenthood.”

 Annika laughed. “I totally get that, and no I don’t want to have kids, but like I totally get that sniping at each other is normal. I remember my parents totally did that – that’s not what was weird about the morning. The thing is, after she said that thing about him being around more, the dad goes ‘Good morning to you too,’ and every single glass on the table shattered at the same time.”

“No way.”

“Yeah, it was all chaos and she was just like, ‘Get the kids out of here, I’ll take care of this.’ So I rushed them out of the house, but oh my God, I was so freaked out.

“When I brought them home that afternoon she had a migraine and asked if I could stay until her husband got home from work. I took the kids on a bike ride and kept them outside as much as I could but we went in around four for a snack and I had them all set up around the kitchen island…”

Annika paused, remembering. “I cut up an apple for them to dip in peanut butter, it was one of their favorite things. [Name omitted] started to get silly, trying to make the other two laugh. It was really cute. It got us all giggling but I was trying to keep them as quiet as possible and then the television turned on by itself – and the volume was literally up as high as it could go. I rushed over but couldn’t find the remote control right away and by the time I turned the thing off she was standing in the kitchen looking furious. Like, scary mad.

“She goes, ‘Thank you. You can go now.’” Annika shivered at the memory. “I tried to explain but she was just like, completely iced out, which, whatever, but then I couldn’t find my keys anywhere. It was so fucking awkward. I always left them in my shoes in the mudroom because she didn’t like anything to clutter up the counters. 

“They weren’t there. They weren’t anywhere. I had to call my mom to bring the extra set of keys. It was so fucking awkward.”

“Oh no,” I laughed. “Did they ever turn up?”

She blew out a breath. “Yeah. Their housekeeper found them in the master bathroom in the laundry bin.”

“Weird.”

“Totally, but thank God she’d been home all day and knew there was no way I could have gone upstairs to her room, right? She would have thought I was up there snooping around or stealing.” 

“Oh… good point.”

“Things just ramped up after that. The electricity in the house went nuts. We came home from the pool one day and the microwave was on with nothing in it. She was upstairs trying to nap, her migraines had gotten really bad. Then the girls’ iPads totally glitched out and the washing machine flooded their laundry room. It was crazy. 

“And then stuff started happening at my house.”

“Get out of here.”

“No really. I know it sounds totally strange, but things began disappearing and reappearing at home – just like they did at their house. And my lights would dim randomly. Maybe I was being totally paranoid, but I just had this feeling that I was dragging home the energy from their house.”

“So spooky, I never even thought of something like that happening.”

“Me either. 

“My last day babysitting for them there were thunderstorms so we couldn’t go to the pool. We were stuck inside for the morning so I tried to come up with games for them to play in the basement. I did an obstacle course and we built a fort and played ‘What time is it Mr. Fox?’” She smiled at the memory. “The girls were totally having fun. 

“She had a friend over for coffee. I’m not sure what they talked about but before the woman came she seemed like she was in a fine mood, at least a neutral one anyway. But after her friend was gone she stormed downstairs and was like ‘I can’t even hear myself think with all of this racket!’ 

“I settled them down and put on a movie. They weren’t supposed to watch Barbie movies, but I let them because I knew it was such a treat they would be totally mesmerized. I started cleaning up the basement, just putting away all the things we’d played with that morning. I was organizing their art table when I found a pile of drawings beneath some coloring books. I could tell the oldest little girl had done them and, seriously? They were super freaky. There were three pictures; one of her bedroom, one of the whole family around the kitchen table and one of their little swing set in the backyard. In that one she was pushing her little sisters on the swings. Without that dark scribble cloud they would have been totally normal drawings.”

“Uh oh.”

 Annika wrinkled her nose. “She drew this cloud hovering above the people in each photo. The cloud was in black and blue crayon with yellow squiggles coming out of it. But the freakiest thing was that in the drawing of her bedroom she’d written ghost with an arrow pointing to the cloud thing. It was so cute and sad, she spelled it ‘g-o-s-t.’”

“Wow.”

“I couldn’t get her to tell me anything. The one that really worried me was the one of her alone in her bedroom, like, the poor thing, right? I asked her if she’d said anything to her parents and she got totally freaked out and was like, ‘Don’t tell mommy.’”

“Oh man,” I sighed.

“Right? So, but I like, had to say something to the mom. When it was time for me to go I put on another Barbie movie for the kids and brought the drawings up to the kitchen. She was drinking coffee at the kitchen table. Just sitting there in the silence by herself. I showed her the drawings and… she freaked out. But not like, mad. No, she was scared

“I told her I’d asked [name omitted] to tell me about the pictures and that she was worried about [mom’s name omitted] knowing about them. She got totally defensive then, and she was like ‘you know [name omitted] has always been strange.’ She grabbed the drawings off the counter and crumpled them up and right as she did the kitchen sink turned on full blast. 

“We stared at it and then it just turned off by itself. She started to say something but then we heard the door to the garage in the mudroom door open and close and footsteps headed towards the kitchen. I thought maybe her husband had come home early, but the footsteps stopped right before the doorway. She called out ‘Hello?’ but there was no answer. I was completely creeped out and was about to run down to the basement to get the kids out of the house, when she crept over and jumped through the doorway into the mudroom to like, startle whoever it was I guess.

“I listened as she unlocked and relocked the door out to the garage. Then she just came back into the kitchen and all calm, goes, ‘I can’t fucking believe this is happening again.’”

“Uh uh.”

“Yeah. She filled up a glass of water at the sink and chugged it then goes, ‘I apologize. I thought I’d taken care of this before we left New York.’” Annika shook her head sadly. “She was actually like, a real person for a second and then the ice wall went right back up. The next thing she said was, ‘I think we can both agree that this isn’t working out anymore.’”

“Wait, she fired you?”

“Yup.”

I considered all that Annika had said. The ticking time bomb kids. The seemingly perfect house and friend group obsessed with expensive belongings and the number on the scale. The migraines. The woman at the center of it, pulling the strings on a life she wasn’t really a part of. “She sounds so unhappy.”

Annicka nodded in agreement. “I get that, but like, they were richer than anyone I know, their kids were totally normal and healthy, and she could have or do whatever the hell she wanted.”

“Totally, but shit’s complicated, right? Being a mom, especially in a place like Wellesley is a mind-fuck. I was an utter wreck when my kids were little. I didn’t want to be a controlling bitch, but it felt like the only way to survive. It was brutal. ” 

Annika picked at her nails. “I’m never having kids.”

I just laughed. “I have to ask…”

“I can’t tell you her name.”

“Could I guess?”

“Sure, but I still don’t think I should tell you.”

“Was it [name omitted and I will take it to my grave].” 

Annika looked panic stricken. “Oh my God. You know her? I am so sorry you must think I am such a judgy bitch!”

“No, no, no! I just had to know. I won’t tell a soul – besides my husband. But is it still okay for me to share the story on the blog?” 

“You’ll totally change all the names?”

“Of course. And I will leave out [certain description of an event that I most certainly did cut from this story] because I don’t think I am the only one who would recognize the players in that situation.”

“Shit. I should learn to keep my mouth shut.” 

I shrugged. “Look where bottling everything up got that woman.”

A terrifying  monster named the Rake initially gained momentum and notoriety as a Creepypasta. Similarly to Slenderman, the Rake may have begun in an author’s imagination but like pesky tulpas tend to do, it appears to have broken through into our reality because enough people believed. Like so many paranormal oddities, the Rake found its way to Wellesley. But before I tell you that hot mess, I thought it might be fun to go back to the Rake’s origin story – the CreepyPasta that unleashed this particularly scary monster into the world. So that we may all land on the same page before our next neighbor shares her harrowing encounter with the Rake, I’m going to read you the CreepyPasta that started it all – with a little side commentary because, as you’ve probably noticed, I have a hard time not interrupting. The link is in the show notes. So without further ado, here is, The Rake, first posted to Reddit almost exactly 12 years ago on April 27th 2009.

During the summer of 2003, events in the northeastern United States involving a strange, human-like creature sparked brief local media interest before an apparent blackout was enacted. Little or no information was left intact, as most online and written accounts of the creature were mysteriously destroyed.

Primarily focused in rural New York state and once found in Idaho, self proclaimed witnesses told stories of their encounters with a creature of unknown origin. Emotions ranged from extremely traumatic levels of fright and discomfort, to an almost childlike sense of playfulness and curiosity. While their published versions are no longer on record, the memories remain powerful. Several of the involved parties began looking for answers that year.

In early 2006, the collaboration had accumulated nearly two dozen documents dating between the 12th century and present day, spanning 4 continents. In almost all cases, the stories were identical. I’ve been in contact with a member of this group and was able to get some excerpts from their upcoming book. [Okay, so then they just jump right into the excerpts here – ]

[and first one is called] A Suicide Note: 1964

“As I prepare to take my life, I feel it necessary to assuage any guilt or pain I have introduced through this act. It is not the fault of anyone other than him. For once I awoke and felt his presence. And once I awoke and saw his form. Once again I awoke and heard his voice, and looked into his eyes. I cannot sleep without fear of what I might next awake to experience. I cannot ever wake. Goodbye.”

Found in the same wooden box were two empty envelopes addressed to William and Rose, and one loose personal letter with no envelope:

“Dearest Linnie,

I have prayed for you. He spoke your name.”

[the second excerpt] A Journal Entry (translated from Spanish): 1880

“I have experienced the greatest terror. I have experienced the greatest terror. I have experienced the greatest terror. I see his eyes when I close mine. They are hollow. Black. They saw me and pierced me. His wet hand. I will not sleep. His voice (unintelligible text).” [shiver’s “wet hand” yikes]

[third] A Mariner’s Log: 1691

“He came to me in my sleep. From the foot of my bed I felt a sensation. He took everything. We must return to England. We shall not return here again at the request of the Rake.”

[and the final and most chilling excerpt] From a Witness: 2006

“Three years ago, I had just returned from a trip from Niagara Falls with my family for the 4th of July. We were all very exhausted after a long day of driving, so my husband and I put the kids right to bed and called it a night.

At about 4am, I woke up thinking my husband had gotten up to use the restroom. I used the moment to steal back the sheets, only to wake him in the process. I apologized and told him I thought he got out of bed. When he turned to face me, he gasped and pulled his feet up from the end of the bed so quickly his knee almost knocked me out of the bed. He then grabbed me and said nothing.

After adjusting to the dark for a half second, I was able to see what caused the strange reaction. At the foot of the bed, sitting and facing away from us, there was what appeared to be a naked man, or a large hairless dog of some sort. Its body position was disturbing and unnatural, as if it had been hit by a car or something. For some reason, I was not instantly frightened by it, but more concerned as to its condition. At this point I was somewhat under the assumption that we were supposed to help him. [yeah…. no…]

My husband was peering over his arm and knee, tucked into the fetal position, occasionally glancing at me before returning to the creature. [what the hell, right? That’s quite the useless reaction]

In a flurry of motion, the creature scrambled around the side of the bed, and then crawled quickly in a flailing sort of motion right along the bed until it was less than a foot from my husband’s face. The creature was completely silent for about 30 seconds (or probably closer to 5, it just seemed like a while) just looking at my husband. The creature then placed its hand on his knee and ran into the hallway, leading to the kids’ rooms. I screamed and ran for the lightswitch, planning to stop him before he hurt my children. When I got to the hallway, the light from the bedroom was enough to see it crouching and hunched over about 20 feet away. He turned around and looked directly at me, covered in blood. I flipped the switch on the wall and saw my daughter Clara.

The creature ran down the stairs while my husband and I rushed to help our daughter. She was very badly injured and spoke only once more in her short life. She said “he is the Rake”.

My husband drove his car into a lake that night, while rushing our daughter to the hospital. They did not survive.

Being a small town, news got around pretty quickly. The police were helpful at first, and the local newspaper took a lot of interest as well. However, the story was never published and the local television news never followed up either.

For several months, my son Justin and I stayed in a hotel near my parent’s house. After we decided to return home, I began looking for answers myself. I eventually located a man in the next town over who had a similar story. We got in contact and began talking about our experiences. He knew of two other people in New York who had seen the creature we now referred to as the Rake.

It took the four of us about two solid years of hunting on the internet and writing letters to come up with a small collection of what we believe to be accounts of the Rake. None of them gave any details, history or follow up. One journal had an entry involving the creature in its first 3 pages, and never mentioned it again. A ship’s log explained nothing of the encounter, saying only that they were told to leave by the Rake. That was the last entry in the log.

There were, however, many instances where the creature’s visit was one of a series of visits with the same person. Multiple people also mentioned being spoken to, my daughter included. This led us to wonder if the Rake had visited any of us before our last encounter.

I set up a digital recorder near my bed and left it running all night, every night, for two weeks. I would tediously scan through the sounds of me rolling around in my bed each day when I woke up. By the end of the second week, I was quite used to the occasional sound of sleep while blurring through the recording at 8 times the normal speed. (This still took almost an hour every day)

On the first day of the third week, I thought I heard something different. What I found was a shrill voice. It was the Rake. I can’t listen to it long enough to even begin to transcribe it. I haven’t let anyone listen to it yet. All I know is that I’ve heard it before, and I now believe that it spoke when it was sitting in front of my husband. I don’t remember hearing anything at the time, but for some reason, the voice on the recorder immediately brings me back to that moment.

The thoughts that must have gone through my daughter’s head make me very upset.

I have not seen the Rake since he ruined my life, but I know that he has been in my room while I slept. I know and fear that one night I’ll wake up to see him staring at me.”

Properly spooky little monster story, huh? I definitely don’t like the idea of something crawling “quickly in a flailing sort of motion along the side of the bed.” Yeesh. The description of this thing brings the Windigo to mind, who (in the folklore of some northern Algonquian peoples) is a cannibalistic giant; a person who has been transformed into a monster by the consumption of human flesh. The Algonquin originally lived in the dense forest regions of the valley of the Ottawa River and its tributaries in present-day Quebec and Ontario, Canada. That’s not too far from northern New York, though it is incredibly far from Idaho. But I Googled it and northern Idaho and upstate New York kinda have similar climates. 

Come to think of it, Wellesley has hot humid summers and bitterly cold winters too. Maybe that’s why one of those awful creatures made it so far south. Or maybe they have nothing to do with one another and a Rake is just a Rake. A Windigo a Windigo. I’ve shared a few images of the Rake on my instagram account so you could take a look for yourself. 

Of course, I gotta mention that it kinda sorta totally looks like an alien, but I will refrain from commenting further. 

Anyhow. Let’s meet a Wellesleyan who can give us their own account of this creature, whatever the hell it is.

Luna Bellamy. Hmmm… how to describe her? Well there’s no doubt she’s from the north east. Chilly. Intelligent, I bet she went to a really good really expensive college. Great short layered haircut, no haircolor. Rich skin, she’s definitely been fraxeled and injected. Slow to laugh, too serious for my taste. Opinionated as all get out but somehow reserved at the same time. Like, getting her full story out was like pulling teeth, but she shared her take on the covid vaccine without hesitation. 

“It’s great we have it but I don’t believe their storyline for a second. Either ‘they’ already knew something like this was coming and had the vaccine in the works, or ‘they’ have the ability to create any vaccine this quickly and they’re not sharing that fact because it would cost them too much money. Say bye bye to Cancer or HIV and they say bye bye to a lot of money.”

Hmm. Well, that made me feel frightened and sad and if it were true, incredibly angry and well, right back to frightened. 

“I’m not a conspiracy theorist or some Q person,” she assured me. “I just don’t see how anyone could take the mixed bag of messages we’ve been force fed the past year at face value. There’s more to the story. For one thing, that’s no natural virus. That thing was man-made. Which is fine, we all know they’re doing it. I just don’t care for having smoke blown up my ass about handwashing and Clorox wipes when we’re dealing with a biological weapon.”

You should have heard her opinion on Megan and Harry. But we don’t have time for that. We want to hear about the Rake. 

Luna lives in a heavily forested part of town that borders Dover. Yup, that Dover, the one with the infamous Demon. High strangeness all around indeed. 

Her house is located on my favorite street in town. I personally wouldn’t want to live there, but it is the coolest. It is a winding tree-lined spooktacular road that weaves it’s way past a farm (whose cows hang in the freaking woods you guys), then meanders along Lake Waban for a titch, before entering dense forest. Only a handful of driveways pop off this glorious road leading to utter fortresses. If I may share a ridiculously nerdy thing I like to do when I need inspiration or to get in a spooky mood for writing, I drive up and down this road blasting Peer Gynt Suite No.1, Op. 46: In the Hall of the Mountain King. I don’t know why it works, but it does. It’s like this weird hack. When I do it, not always, but most of the time I will see flashes of a story from start to finish as if I’m watching the trailer for it. I can’t recognize faces worth a damn and directions might as well be in another language, but give me a made up name and about fifteen minutes in the car to imagine with that song playing in the background and I have a spooky story to show for it. Brains are so weird. 

Anyways… I’ve always wondered about the people who live on that creepfest of a road. Luna and her family have lived there for about fourteen years and nothing of note happened aside from the occasional coyote sighting. Until this past March.

“A good portion of the siding was ripped off the side of the house. We didn’t hear it happening and we don’t often go in that portion of the yard in the winter. I didn’t notice it until we had that warm snap in March and was cleaning up the yard, so who knows when it actually happened. But it was unsettling. At the time we believed it was something only a person could accomplish. 

“I have a fifteen year old and a twelve year old. Boy and girl in that order. They swore up and down that they didn’t do it, I never really thought they had, but I had to ask even though it would have been out of character for either of them to be that destructive. My husband John and I were left with the unsettling idea that someone came up the driveway, which is about seventy five feet long mind you, or they’d come from the woods, which I don’t have to tell you are very heavy in that part of town. 

“I reported it to the police, a nice young man came out and took a look around but he didn’t find anything of note. He reminded us to keep the alarm system armed and suggested it might be some girls from the college screwing around. 

“Wellesley College girls never struck me as the sort who get a kick out of vandalism, but what do I know,” Luna said dryly. “The visit from the police left us with zero sense of relief, but I was glad that the incident was on record. We used our alarm system absolutely religiously, mostly for peace of mind, but in all those years that we lived there we’d never needed it until that thing began coming around. 

“One thing I found odd, something that I believe proves that this thing, whatever it is, has intelligence is that until we discovered the vandalism to our home, we had no problems whatsoever with our security system. But the week following the discovery of the ruined siding the alarm company called three separate nights because the system kept indicating that the sliding doors in our sunroom had been compromised. 

“The doors held firm but we did find streaks of mud on them indicating it had been trying like hell to get inside. We were told that it was probably several raccoons causing trouble even though the marks were far too large to be made by such small animals. The police suggested we install cameras for peace of mind, which we did. 

“Whatever that thing is, it is not an animal. It has… powers.”

“What kind of powers?”

The seconds ticked by as Luna considered the question. Finally, she said, “I apologize. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in weeks. I’m sorry if I am scattered, but it’s happened so fast and there are things that, in hindsight, I see were connected.”

“You’re not scattered at all,” I told her.

She laughed and rubbed her eyes. “Trust me. I’m scattered. Sorry. Okay. So the thing ripped off the siding and then tried to get in through the sliding glass doors. It was all very unnerving, but we are practical people. Naive as it may have been, I still felt safe in our house. The alarm system was doing its job and the police showed up quickly when they were alerted by our security company. 

“And then… one morning I was upstairs getting ready for the day. John and the kids were out running errands so I was home alone. I’d just turned off my hair dryer when I heard the alarm panel in our bedroom alert. It wasn’t it’s usual, beep beep, that it makes when a door opens or even the crazed beeping it does when the alarm trips. It sounded different – glitchy. So I went to check. 

 “When I opened the bathroom door, it was freezing. I could feel a breeze just streaming through the bedroom. The alarm panel was going nuts so I attempted to enter in our code but it wouldn’t accept it. My cell phone rang and I knew it was the alarm company letting me know they were sending someone out. I stepped out into the upstairs landing as I answered the call and I could see that the front door was wide open – that’s why it was so damn cold. I told the dispatcher to send the police right away and I holed up in my bedroom until they arrived.”

“Oof, that is really scary. How long did it take them to get there?”

“Not that long but far too long, if you know what I mean. I finally got the alarm to stop that incessant beeping and dragged an armchair in front of the door because I could hear the thing stalking through the first floor. It shuffled around in the foyer for a time and came halfway up the stairs. The poor woman on the phone with me from the alarm company, she must have thought I lost my mind.”

“Holy shit. What did you think was out there?”

“Honestly, I thought it might be a bear. I know how absurd that sounds but it was large and the way it’s footsteps sounded… big paws and big claws. That’s all I could think.

“The police – three of them – checked the house top to bottom. They didn’t find a thing. But what truly threw me off kilter was the fact that someone – or whatever that thing was – had opened every single door and window on the first floor. The policemen were on high alert. In fact, at first I don’t think they believed me that there was anyone in the house. I don’t fault them for it, the situation was ludicrous. But I insisted they speak with the alarm company dispatcher so she could provide her take on the situation. Once she weighed in they understood that it wasn’t some sick bid for attention.”

“Did they find any sign of the intruder?”

“Mud had been tracked into the foyer. It was assumed that was its means of entrance, but there were no marks on the windows or the mudroom or sliding glass doors. The damn thing just came in, opened the house then disappeared into thin air.”

“What did they tell you to do?”

Luna smirked. “Keep the alarm set.”

“So scary.”

“It gets worse. I was backing out of my garage one night and was about to put it in drive when something in the backup camera caught my attention. Something ran behind the car. I looked behind me and couldn’t see anything, the back up lights weren’t bright enough, so I looked at the screen again and saw eyes reflected in the car’s lights.”

“Oh no…”

“There are bushes beside the driveway so I couldn’t see the thing, just the eyes. I thought it might be a coyote until it moved forward out of the bushes,” Luna shifted in her seat, distinctly uncomfortable at the memory. “You are familiar with the idea that a car’s night camera display is black and white, yes.? Well, when it came out of those bushes… Jesus. It almost glowed.”

“What did it look like?”

“It looks like a person with a long misshapen head. It has a smooth body and moves like a person walking on their hands and feet, but the head,” she shivered, “The neck looks hyperextended so that the creature can look straight forward. I couldn’t really see it’s feet, but it has a sloped back, like a sway back horse. 

“I should have thrown the car in reverse and hit the damn thing, but I was so shocked by it all I could think of was getting the hell away so I tore out of the driveway.”

“The Rake,” Claire whispered. She’d been silent for a time and I assumed she’d been just as enthralled as I was by Luna’s story. 

“What’s a Rake?” I asked.

“Are you getting something from the spirits?” Luna asked nervously.

“My guide just mentioned a name, um, just one second, okay?”

“It’s a monster,” Claire continued.

“What does it do?”

“Not sure.”

“How do you know it’s a Rake?”

“I saw one inbetween a long time ago and her description sounds like the thing I saw. It shouldn’t be down here though.”

“What do you mean ‘down here?’”

“What is the ghost saying?” Luna asked impatiently.

“She knows that the monster on your property is called a Rake and she just said it doesn’t belong here, one more second, okay?”

“They are ancient and there aren’t many of them. They come from up north.”

“An elemental?”

“No. Powerful like an elemental and ancient like one. But it has no actual tie to the earth, it’s self-serving. It’s like a demon mixed with an earth spirit.”

“Oh…” 

“Well?” Luna insisted.

“It sounds as though the thing stalking your house is a mix between an earth spirit and a demon.”

“But what does it want? No. How do I get rid of it?” 

I paused and listened to Claire’s advice. 

“You’re probably not going to like this,” I said after a long moment. “But you basically have to move. At least across town, if not further. These things claim a territory for themselves and stay within certain boundaries. And they like the woods, so if you were to move to a more populated area you’d be much better off.”

“I hate neighborhoods,” Luna complained. 

I shrugged. “Sorry.”

“I suppose that isn’t the worst thing. But I just have to be sure – if we move, will it still be able to get in my head.”

I blinked. “Wait, what?”

“It’s not just stalking our home, it communicates. I thought the ghost would know that.”

“What exactly does it communicate?”

“Warnings.”

“About what?”

Luna looked uncomfortable. “I’m sure it’s just trying to scare me.”

I raised my eyebrows but remained silent and waited. 

Luna crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m going to be completely honest with you, I am afraid that if I tell you everything you will think I am either lying or delusional.”

“I promise I won’t think that,” I said simply. 

She studied my face briefly then looked away. “I don’t want these images in my mind any longer. They are so vibrant that it’s as if the tragedy’s have already happened. I have no proof, but I know it is getting into the house and putting things into my mind as I sleep. John and the kids aren’t affected by it – thank God – I am the one it wants to torment.”

“Hold on, so it’s showing you things? Like psychically?”

“I suppose that’s what you would call it. I hate to use the word premonition, but I believe that’s what it’s transmitting to me.” 

“A harbinger,” Claire said quietly. 

“Harbinger… that’s bad, right?” 

“Very. Think Mothman.”

“Mothman’s real?”

Claire remained silent.  

“I don’t know all of these terms,” Luna said, obviously frustrated.

“Sorry. The Mothman was a creature that showed itself to a bunch of people in this town called Point Pleasant, West Virginia.”

“I saw the movie, I meant the other word you used – harbinger.”

“Oh, right. It’s something that does just what you are describing. It alerts people to future events. Like the Mothman with the bridge collapse or like hearing a Banshee signals death is coming.

“Of course, it doesn’t mean what they show you will actually happen. This thing could be a trickster,” I went on noting the shade of green Luna’s face had taken on. “That bridge collapse might have had nothing to do with Mothman, and Banshees are just a folktale.”

“No they’re not,” Claire chided. 

“What exactly is it showing you?” I asked, ignoring her. 

“Tsunamis. In extremely vivid and painful detail.”

“Can you tell where it happens?”

“Not it. There’s more than one. Two on the east coast and one on the west. Simultaneously.”

“But how could that-”

“I keep seeing these things that look like small submarines hit the ocean floor and it causes shockwaves that trigger the tsunamis.”

“Fuck.”

“No one makes it. New York… my God, so many people die, they drown right in the buildings. And Florida, I mean, it simply disappears. It’s just not there anymore the force of the water is too great. And California – the tsunami is only the beginning, earthquakes get triggered and they fan out halfway across the country.”

“Maybe it’s just trying to scare you,” 

“No.”

“If what it’s showing you is coming – I’m not saying that it is – but if it is showing you the future then it can’t be all bad if it’s trying to warn you. Maybe it wants you to tell people.”

“I didn’t say it was warning us.”

I blinked. “But you said-”

“I misspoke. I should have said threatening, rather than warning. There is malice behind these premonitions, or whatever you want to call them. Besides, who could I tell? Who would believe me? What use is a warning like this” Even if I could get someone in our government to believe me, how could anyone stop someone from using such a weapon against us? It might even trigger us to take the first shot.”

“Then why?”

“I don’t know that’s why I got in touch with you.”

“It’s excited about the negative energy created by what’s to come. That’s how harbingers feed, and they extend the energy source back by creating fear before the actual event,” Claire explained. 

“So you’re saying this is actually going to happen?” I screeched.

“Oh my God, is that what the ghost just said?”
“Don’t play dumb,” Claire admonished, “You’ve sensed something big coming for a while now.”

“Well, sure, but I thought it would be another nightmare virus stain or terrorist attack.”

“But that’s what she just described to you – an attack on our country.”

“So it’s real. This is really going to happen,” Luna’s voice was shaky. 

“Maybe it’s just trying to scare you,” I suggested uselessly for the second time. 

“We have to move,” Luna said, more to herself than to me.

“Yeah, you probably should before that thing can show you anything else.”

“No, I mean yes of course, but we need to get away from the coast.”

“Tsunamis can’t reach this far inland, can they? We’re like, what, sixteen, seventeen miles from Boston?”

“The water doesn’t make it this far, but the survivors do. There’s more, afterwards, I mean. It will be awful.” Luna grabbed her purse off the picnic bench and slung it over her shoulder. “You should think about leaving too. The earthquakes make it about halfway across the country, but maybe Illinois or Missouri will be safe. Safer. Once the survivors fan out though…” She stood. “You should think about moving too.” 

Swinging her leg over the bench to stand she turned to go. Almost as an afterthought she looked back at me. “Thank you. I needed confirmation. Tell your ghost that I appreciate her.”

Then she walked to her car and drove away.

“Oh my God,” I groaned.

“Crazy, right?”

“So that’s all going to happen. Why didn’t we think to ask her when?”

Claire sniffed. “Eh, it’s probably only 50/50.”

“What? You made it sound like a sure thing.”

“Nothing’s a sure thing.”

“Claire, that woman is going to move to Missouri!” “Meh, it’ll be good for her.”

[follow me on Instagram @ghostsintheburbs for up to date info on the podcast & blog ]

When you think of the Queen Mary, if you think of the Queen Mary, you probably think of it’s history. The flouncy fabulousness of its original purpose as a luxury liner catering to the rich. Or perhaps you think of it’s role as a war ship in World War II and the bloodshed it both witnessed and caused. Maybe you think of it’s present, docked at the port of Long Beach, California. Or maybe the Queen Mary brings death to mind. It wouldn’t be surprising. There have been multiple deaths recorded on board the Queen Mary since its launch in 1936.

You can find countless websites with all the lurid details of the Queen Mary’s tragic past. I found the following on TopTenz.net.

At least 49 people have died on the ship since it served as a luxury cruise liner, along with countless other military personnel who passed away during the war. One report was that of a man who was crushed to death in the engine room (nicknamed Half Hatch Harry, the 18-year-old crew man crushed to death by door number 13 is said to haunt shaft alley). Just think about that for a second. The story goes, he and his fellow crewmates were screwing around jumping back and forth in front of the door as it closed and he got caught and crushed as it sealed shut. 

It’s not just his death that must haunt that space, but the consciences of all those who saw it happened. Those men who jumped in time just before him, the guy who pulled the lever to begin the closing, the one who leapt just before him, the men who had to collect his remains, the doctor who declared him dead. All those feelings have to leave a mark too. 

Several children are said to have passed away by drowning in the pool. There have been documented murders that took place aboard the Queen Mary years ago too. There’s so much more, and it all adds up to the great ship’s reputation as one of the most haunted places in America. Now layer on the fact that it’s also a hotel and tourist attraction.

If you want you can stay the night in one of 347 original state rooms and suites. Personally, I would not stay in Suite B-340. In all honesty I wouldn’t stay in any of the rooms, but there have been so many complaints of paranormal activity in that specific room it became off-limits to guests for a time. It was the usual ghosty stuff, faucets turned on and off on their own and the toilet flushed by itself too, there were footsteps and that old feeling of being watched by unseen eyes. But after receiving so many requests to stay in that room they decide to re-open it to guests.  For just $499 per night you may experience the haunting for yourself, the ship will even provide you with some ghost hunting equipment, a Ouija board crystal ball and Tarot cards.

The ship is chock full of ghosts, too many to detail here without taking up a ton of time, but perhaps that’s why one of them followed today’s interviewee home. Maybe things were getting a little too cramped on board and they jumped ship. 

Gunner Darknight (obviously not his real name though he did request that I use this as his alias) has been ghost hunting for years, methodically checking infamous haunted locations off his bucket list one vacation at a time. He’s slept in Lizzy Borden’s bedroom, not once but four times.

“Oh, she did it all right, and I would have done the same. That dad was one sick bastard.”

He used to say that Bobby Mackey’s Music World was the scariest location he’d ever visited – though he now claims that his own home is the worst haunt he’s ever experienced. But at Bobby Mackey’s it was the dark shadow figures that had him so shook. 

“There is no doubt in my mind that there is something demonic at that bar and it has nothing to do with Pearl Bryan’s murder – if it ever even happened, I’m certain the whole beheading nonsense was just that – nonsense. But the place used to a slaughter house and the actual suicide of that girl Johanna may have thrown fuel on the fire. But it’s the hunters who’ve stirred the pot since then that keep that place active. Either willingly or unwittingly, somebody opened a door to a really bad place there. I was alone at that well and this darkness just wrapped itself around me, up until that point in my life I’d never felt such dread. It’s pure evil.”

His favorite haunted hotspot is Savannah, Georgia. “The ghosts there are just fun, man. It’s like they know what’s up, they’re there to haunt and we’re there to get the chills and they just don’t disappoint. I got to hang in the Pirates’ House basement for a few hours by myself, and the EVPs were off the charts.” 

I had to look that one up. According to VisitSavannah.com, “a saloon and rest stop for seafarers from abroad, The Pirates’ House still stands today as one of Savannah’s most well-known restaurants. However, The Pirates’ House can’t escape its dark past. Many were brutishly shanghaied down in the boarding house basement and forced to serve on the sea.”

“But you want to hear about the ship,” Gunner said, his voice growing grim. A charmingly large guy, like an ex football player put out to pasture, Gunner falls somewhere between fifty and sixty years old. A scruffy bearded, retired police officer, who proudly refers to himself now as a house husband, who just so happens to be married to my hairdresser. 

I asked him why so many people in law enforcement get into investigating the paranormal. It’s a thing I’ve noticed over the years on my beloved ghost hunting shows.

“We’re people who like answers,” he replied without missing a beat. “And I bet you can’t find one cop who hasn’t run into something totally unexplainable on the job. Paramedics and firefighters too. We just have exposure to too many people and too many places. Sooner or later something happens that you can’t explain and I think it lights a fire in a lot of us.” 

“That makes a lot of sense,” I said. 

“What about you? Why are you into this stuff?” 

I hadn’t shared with his wife that I could see spirits, and since everything around us was spirit free for the time being, I didn’t feel the need to tell him either. So I said, “You know, to start out, I don’t really know how I became so obsessed with the paranormal. I just always have been. The only thing that can explain it is that the spookier it is the more calming it is for me, if that makes any sense. I can’t tolerate watching any sort of drama on TV, it’s too uncomfortable for me. I’ll be up all night with the worries. But show me a horror movie and I’ll doze off like a baby.”

Gunner laughed at the idea. “I totally get that. I’m happiest traipsing through an abandoned insane asylum at midnight with one of my buddies.”

“Are you an anxious person?” I asked. 

“Uh, yeah, you might say that.”

“I’ve been reading about how some people’s baseline gets set high in childhood and because of it they need to seek out highly charged situations to feel normal.”

“That tracks,” he said with a grin, “How about you? You a worrier?”

I held up my hands, showing off my bitten nails. 

He threw his head back in laughter then held up his own bitten fingers. 

“Twinsies,” I laughed. 

“I suppose so. Not many people I know get the draw to ghost hunting. It’s always nice to meet someone who’s into it too. Jane’s a good sport,” said Gunner, “She’ll travel wherever I want to go, but she’s in the spa and to bed by nine when we’re at a hotspot. Ear plugs in, eye mask firmly in place.”

“She mentioned she didn’t want to see anything she couldn’t unsee,” I said smiling.

“Sure, sure,” Gunner said, his face falling. “There are times when I wish I’d taken a page out of her book.”

“Like on the ship?”

“Yes. Do you know much about it?”

“I’ve watched the Ghost Adventures, Ghost Hunters, Holtzer Files, and the BuzzFeed Unsolved investigations and, listened to a handful of podcasts about the hauntings.”

“Just to chat with me?”

“No, no, I just love this stuff.”

“You really do. That saves me some explaining.” He squinted his eyes for a moment, as if my admission had solidified something. “It was a birthday present from Jane, given on the condition that she didn’t have to tag along. She visited her sister in Santa Monica while I spent the weekend on the boat. 

“We planned the trip around the first date Suite B-340 was available. I got a reservation for November 2019, right before COVID. Good and bad luck depending on how you look at it.”

“You stayed there alone?”

“Oh yeah, and it didn’t disappoint. I searched that room top to bottom for any funny business. You know, little tricks to thrill the guests, and I gotta say, that place was clean. Just as I was dozing off that first night the faucet in the bathroom turned on full blast. Startled the hell out of me. I read about that happening in that room and I skimmed past it, not really clocking it as anything too spooky, but it really got me. 

“I checked beneath the sink to make sure they hadn’t rigged it up to go off, but I didn’t find anything that would indicate a set up.”

“It sounds like you were pretty skeptical.”

“More like, suspicious. That place makes a lot of money from it’s reputation, I could understand if the owners might be tempted to boost the hit ratio for the ghost hunters, you know? From what I could tell, the place was legit. 

“Welp, I had two nights to do the whole horse and pony. Most unsettling feelings came up near door thirteen where that poor man was crushed to death. It’s true that you get more in  tune to vibes the more haunted places you go to and the vibes in there were bad. Not evil, just bad bad feelings. Loss, disbelief – that sort of thing. 

“The story about the POWs being held in the hull of the ship was new to me – I hadn’t heard about that until I took the tour. Talk about torture. I’m sure there are worse ways to go, but being cooked to death ain’t something I’d wish on my worst enemy. Nasty EVPs down there. The kind that make you hope the whole residual haunting thing is real – that it’s just energy causing the disturbance rather than people getting trapped in their very worst moments not realizing that they’re dead, that it’s over.”

“It’s awful to think about,” I said, not wanting to tell him that was exactly what happens to some poor souls. 

“All of that was spooky, but it was the pool area that got me into deep water so to speak.”

“Jackie?” I guessed.

“Bingo.”

One of the most famous ghosts on the Queen Mary is Jacqueline Torrin a little girl who was around five or six years old when she tragically drowned in the second class pool. There are many reports of a little girl splashing in the water (though there is no actual water in the pool now) and calling out for her parents. She’s even said to play hide and seek with guests. Some people believe that Jackie had a friend named Sarah who also drowned in the exact same pool in 1949. Several people have heard the girls singing. A spookfest for sure, and a sad one at that. 

But you all know my stance on little girl ghosts. They’re never really little girl ghosts. I know people who will swear up and down that there are child spirits who interact with the living in these haunted places. 

Maybe I haven’t been to that ship myself, but I would be a million dollars that “Jackie” (and around her name I put air quotes) isn’t the ghost of a little girl. If it were then why the hell hasn’t anyone tried to move her on? No. She’s a distraction, a temptation to look into deep darkness. 

Just ask Gunner. 

“I saved the pool deck for my second night on the boat because I wanted to really devote a lot of time to it. I got lucky and was there with a small group – only three other people. We were all taking turns asking questions. The first hour was pretty quiet. One of the women had brought toys with her, a ball and a teddy bear, and she was pretty focused on getting Jackie or Sarah to move one of them. 

“At one point one of the tour guides came down to hang with us, actually what she said was she wanted to ‘check to make sure we were all okay.’ There had been some ‘incidents’ in recent weeks and if the negative encounters continued the staff were considering closing the pool area to investigators until they were certain things were safe.”

“Ooo, did she say what had been going on?”

“I tried to pry the details out of her, but she was a little squirrely.”

“Huh.”

“I pressed her though, asking if we should be on the lookout for anything. ‘Watch the tone of the EVPS,’ she advised, and ‘be sure to do a cleansing when you step off the ship.’  Now I never put much weight on the idea of personal spiritual cleansing or even of doing the whole protection ritual before going into a haunted environment. After all, I wanted to experience ghosts, why would I protect myself? And a cleansing after the fact? Why would any ghost want to come home with me? But the specificity of her suggestion, that the second we leave the boat we should do a cleansing ritual, that made me think.”

“Kinda ominous,” I agreed.

“She wouldn’t provide any further details and I found that frustrating, but I let it go. She hung with us for a time then went on her way. After she did one of the guys there was like, anyone up for shaking things up a bit? Sound like there might be more than just Jackie down here. The guy he was there with suggested we do some provoking to see if we could shake something loose. I told them I’d pass but they could go for it. At that point the woman who’d been there bowed out, I think the tour guide’s warning freaked her out. 

“The one guy, I’ll call him Baseball Hat and the other one Tattoos – I didn’t catch their names – so Baseball Hat starts provoking right outta the meathead playbook, didn’t have an original thought in his head. So I just hung back and observed. I will say that even if he was a cheeseball, the guy did manage to turn the vibe. It got real spooky real fast. 

“He played back his recordings and got a couple weird EVPs. One was this strange popping sound that none of us had heard in real time and the other was whispering, a whispered conversation. None of us could make out the words, but there were definitely two people, or spirits, talking to one another. 

“The guys took off after another half hour or so. I went with them to use the facilities then decided to give the pool area another shot. When I got back down there I was pretty fired up to find the place empty. I jumped right into an EVP session. Actually, here,” he picked his phone up off the table and opened his recording app. “You have headphones?”

“Yeah, but do I want to listen to this?”

He pursed his lips and tilted his head side to side. “It’s not the clearest recording I’ve captured, but it’s the weirdest.”

I reached into my coat pocket and unwound my headphones from around my phone and let Gunner plug them into his phone. He pressed play. 

“A little louder,” I instructed. 

“That good?”

“Yeah, better.”

I listened to Gunner speak into the silence. He introduced himself. He asked if there were any spirits who would like to speak with him. He said, “Jackie, if you really are here, you don’t have to stay, honey, you can move on.” 

I met his eyes as I listened and smiled. There was silence then a strange noise. A sort of hiss then a pop. I said, “Did you hear that when you were recording this?”

He shook his head. “Keep listening.”

“I’d like to speak to the spirit causing concern. It sounds like you are new around here. Why are you here?” His questions were followed by more silence. 

“It’s getting colder in here, is that you? Are you making it cold in here?”

A response in the form of nonsensical mumbling.

I met Gunner’s eyes again. His face was grim.

There was a loud metallic bang on the recording. 

“Are you trying to intimidate me?” Gunner’s voice demanded. “You’re gonna have to do more than that.”

More mumbling and then one word: ask. It was clear as day.

“Give me a sign of your presence.”

Distant tapping.

Gunner fell silent on the recording, and then there was a glitchy kind of static and I heard him grunt. Then the recording ended. 

I pulled out my earbuds. “What was that?”

“One thing I know I’m freezing my ass off asking questions into the darkness, the next thing I know I’m flat on my back looking up at a couple women asking me if I’m okay.”

“Oh no…”

“I blacked out. I have the sense that something rushed me, but I don’t really have a memory of it.”

“Not good.”

“No.”

“I feel like a lot of amateur ghost hunters go to places like that and don’t really experience anything at all. But you seem to have experienced a lot.”

“Oh yeah.”

“Have you ever thought you might have abilities?”

“I sure as hell hope not,” he said, emphatically. “Visiting haunted locations is one thing, but who in their right mind would want to see or hear ghosts all day?”

I smiled. “But you did see and hear them for a time, right?”

“Yeah, until I called in the big guns and cleared ‘em out of my house for good.”

“So, what followed you home?”

Gunner fiddled with his empty coffee cup. “Something really really nasty. I shoulda’ taken that guide’s advice and done some sort of spiritual cleansing when I got off that ship. Too stubborn,” he muttered. 

“When did you know you had a problem?”

“On the plane ride home.”

“Uh uh.”

“To be frank, I had a creepy feeling ever since I left that pool deck. I chalked it up to visiting a good haunt, but even my wife noticed I was jumpy. For one thing, I couldn’t sleep. We had two nights in L.A. before we headed back east and I tossed and turned all night. The second I’d start to drift off I’d startle awake. Thinking I’d heard something, or that I’d felt someone shake me.

“I dozed off on the plane for about an hour and my wife said I was mumbling the whole time. She didn’t want to wake, wanted to let me get some sleep after those nights of tossing and turning.”

“What were you saying in your sleep?”

“I was apologizing over and over again. ‘I didn’t know. I’m sorry. I didn’t know.’”

I scrunched my nose. “Not good.”

“Not good,” he agreed. “And it got much worse. First night at home. We go to bed and I crashed. It was such a relief, until I woke up across the street in our neighbor’s yard. The guy was yelling my name for a full minute, he was about to have his husband call the police. Embarrassed doesn’t begin to describe what it felt like. There I was in these guys’ yard, like an oaf, just wandering around in my tighty whities.”

I couldn’t help but laugh.

“Quite the image, huh? They’ll never let me forget it either,” Gunner guffawed. “Every time they see Jane now they ask if she’s keeping a close eye on me.

“That felt like a fluke. No… it didn’t, but I did my damndest to chalk it up to one. Jane made me a doctor’s appointment, they took blood work and I ended up on a low sodium diet which sucked, but the doc diagnosed the sleep stuff as stress related. Jane made me start taking walks with her in the morning. 

“At that point the feeling of being watched was with me all the time. Then a couple weeks after we got home I was in my office working on my puzzle when I heard the hiss and pop – same one from the EVP session. I’ll tell you what, that stopped me cold. I froze up. I couldn’t move even though I would have sworn on a Bible that there was someone standing right behind me. I mean I just knew it. 

“After a second or two someone tapped on the window beside me and I spun around. But of course there was nothing there. I got up and checked outside to make sure but all was clear. Eventually I grabbed another tea and sat back down to my puzzle to try and cool down. The blood pressure was definitely up. 

“God, you know I was probably sitting there for at least five, ten minutes before I felt the tug on my pant leg.”

“Nooo…”

“She was under my desk. Crouched down. Her hand over her mouth like she was trying to not to laugh out loud.”

“A little girl?”

“It sure looked like a little girl but that thing didn’t have an ounce of human in it.”

“I both could and couldn’t believe my eyes, it was like my brain couldn’t catch up. We just stared at each other and then she started to crawl out from under the desk… but she wasn’t using her hands to crawl,” Gunner shook his head at the memory. “She sort of wrapped her hands around her neck and crawled out on her elbows and feet.”

“What the fuck.”

“That got me moving. The wife and I stayed at the Residence Inn over in Needham that night. Now, I know better than to think that evil bastard was gonna stay in my house. I knew damn well it was connected to me, but I just felt I could keep a better eye on a hotel room than the whole house.”

“Makes sense.”

“I went sleepwalking again that night.”

“In the hotel?”

“Ayup. The poor night manager found me apologizing to thin air on their pool deck.” He let out a sigh. “Like a stubborn idiot, I waited too long to reach out for help. It’s not like I didn’t know what I should do, I just didn’t want to admit I needed it.

“Through the ghost hunting network I knew this demonologist guy and I reached out to him the next morning.”

“Someone local?”

“Yeah, actually he lives here in town. Nick, Nick Sayre.”

I sucked in a breath. 

“I take it you know him.”

“Mm hmm. Didn’t know he’d become a demonologist.”

“Well that’s what he calls himself. He wasn’t much help, truth be told. Came to the house and wanted to investigate. Caught a good EVP though.”

“What did it say?”

You asked for this.”

I let out a low whistle.

“Guessing maybe that’s why I was apologizing so much in my sleep. My story is fair warning to all those ghost hunters out there. You ask one of these things to show you a sign of their presence? You better be specific unless you want them coming up with their own answer for you.

“Long story short, that Nick guy put me in touch with a woman named Biddy who had some connections with the church.”

“Stop it.”

“You know her?”

“She’s one of my closest friends! How have we not met each other yet?”

“Huh. Small world. She’s one smart lady, doesn’t mess around. I gave her the lay of the land and was ready to go through the whole dog and pony with the Catholics but she thought I should try a Wiccan priestess first.”

“Cool. Did it work?”

“Like a charm. Haven’t seen hide nor tail of that nasty thing since.” 

“Well there’s absolutely nothing around you now, that’s for sure.”

“Oh really? How can you tell?”

“Um,” I hedged, realizing that I’d put my foot in my mouth.

“Are you psychic?”

“No, nothing like that…”

“Then what?”

“Promise you won’t think I’m crazy?”

“Depends what you say next”

I took a deep breath. “I’m a medium and not only are there no spirits around you, this entire coffee shop is empty. It’s weird.”

Gunner sat back in his seat and his face lit up with a huge smile. “Well, I can explain that,” he said, pulling a necklace from beneath his shirt, at the end of the silver chain was a teenie tiny bottle. A teenie tinier cork stopper on top of it held a red powder securely inside. 

“Brick dust!” I said in realization.

He laughed. “Ayup, I guess that’s confirmation the stuff really works.”

“It sure does. It even kept my guide away.”

He tucked the necklace back into his shirt. “No more ghost hunting for me.”

“I’m sorry,” I replied.

“You’re never too old to try something new,” he said, waving the comment away. “Now aliens, aliens are a whole other ballgame.”