Nick was the first person to call me about my community board posting. Moments after I hung up with him to schedule our interview I received a text with a calendar invitation to our meeting. The entry was labeled, “Interview with Nick Sayre, Paranormal Investigator.”
We met at Quebrada on a sunny frigid morning right before Thanksgiving. Nick absolutely insisted on paying for breakfast.
He’s one of those people who say things three times, “No, no, no,” (when I offered to treat to breakfast), “Sit, sit, sit,” (when we were choosing a table). Nick was controlling. A huge amount of energy, data and opinion stuffed in a tight package. I was overwhelmed before we even sat, sat, sat.
“You’re writing a book,” Nick stated.
“No, at least, not at the moment,” I replied, “I’m just researching hauntings in Wellesley.”
“Right, right, right. I’m glad I saw your flyer. You know you should punch it up a bit, or put a notice in the Wellesley Townsman. You’re lucky I even gave it a second look, but my kid was checking out a flier on the community board for a Lego league and the word ‘ghost’ caught my eye.”
“Well, I’m glad you got in touch,” I said, trying to swallow this constructive criticism graciously.
“I’m in Real Estate,” he said.
“Oh?” I replied.
Nick sat back with his legs spread wide under the table. I knew because I was trying to stay out of his way.
He said, “Marketing, is key. If you want to get your message out, you need to know your audience.”
Got it. “Right, in your text you refered to yourself as a paranormal investigator. Is that something you do on the side?”
“On the side,” he affirmed, sitting forward in his seat. “I’ve seen some crazy shit. Shit that would turn your hair white.”
Bullshit meter engaged, I ran through escape scenarios but he had paid for my breakfast so I was a captive audience. I nodded and took a sip of my coffee, “What have you seen?”
“What haven’t I seen?” he said with a loud laugh.
“OK, well how did you become interested in paranormal investigation?”
“Sure, sure, sure, start at the beginning. It all started with a Ouija board. My wife and I hosted a couple’s game night. It’s something we do with friends once a month and everyone usually plays dirty pictionary or whatever but I wanted to shake it up a bit.”
Pause. First, who was the woman who had married Nick Sayre, Paranormal Investigator? Then, what the hell was “dirty pictionary?” And finally, I have to admit, I was raised Catholic. I fear Ouija Boards, heavy metal music and herbal remedies lest they lead to a twenty year pact with the devil. To me, playing a Ouija Board for game night was akin to giving your social security number to a telemarketer. You simply don’t do it.
“You played with a Ouija Board for game night?” I demanded.
“Yeah, there were eight of us; four couples. Only five of us used the board though. My wife, her friend Jenn and her husband Dave wouldn’t play. My wife’s afraid of it and Jenn said it was ‘against their religion,’ whatever the hell that means.”
“Are they Catholic?” I asked.
“Who the hell knows,” he replied dismissively, “They sat and watched us while we used the board. You know that religious bullshit is an excuse for anything. You’ve got these religious idiots refusing to vaccinate their kids because they think they are smarter than everyone and then they start measles outbreaks at fucking Disney World.”
“Yet another reason to avoid Disney World,” I said, agreeing with him but not wanting to get into it.
“Ha! Exactly. Talk about conspiracy theories.”
“Right,” What? I thought. “So only five of you played the game.”
“Yeah, five of us used the board. We each put a hand on the planchette and started asking the classic Ouija Board questions, like, ‘Are there any spirits here with us?’ and ‘Can you give us a sign of your presence.’”
“Did anything happen?”
“The planchette moved to ‘yes’ twice and everyone swore they weren’t moving it. Then someone had the idea to ask a question that could be answered with numbers. Gary asked the spirit to tell us his house number. It was a good question actually because none of us knew the answer off the top of our heads, and I’ll be damned if the planchette didn’t spell out 1 – 9 – 9. His fucking house number!”
“No way,” I said.
“No shit,” Nick replied. “I mean, Gary could have steered us that way, but I don’t think he did. So then we got a little creative with the questions. Ali asked for her mother’s name and the board spelled out ‘S-a-r-a-h-H-e-r-e’. Ali’s mother is dead, has been for about five years. Creepy, right?”
I nodded and sipped my coffee.
“We were all really getting into it at that point and whatever we asked, it answered, pretty accurately. Then I asked again for the spirit to give us a sign of its presence. And this is where everyone sort of disagrees on what happened next. I asked the question and Jenn said, ‘Don’t,’ like she was afraid something would happen. We all looked up and Maeve gave this little scream, which totally freaked me out because she was looking over my shoulder. Everyone jumped up and I turned to look behind me. Then I heard my son, Nicholas, who was upstairs sleeping, start screaming, “Mommy! Mommy!” My wife ran upstairs to calm him down and the rest of us were in a sort of embarrassed panic. Scared, but trying to laugh it off.
“I poured another round of drinks and we left the board alone until my wife came back downstairs about ten minutes later. I asked what our son had been yelling about and she said he was repeating ‘doors, doors,’ over and over again. Apparently, his closet doors were open. She looked freaked out but said that we must have left them open by accident.”
“What did she see over your shoulder?” I asked, gripped with an overwhelming urge to look over my own shoulder.
“She just said she must have been caught up and scared and she thought she saw a weird shadow standing over me.”
“A shadow? Standing?”
“Yeah, it sounded ridiculous at the time. She’s like that, though. Has been since we had the kids. You know, dramatic,” He rolled his eyes and took a sip of coffee.
I wanted to give him a quick throat punch, but instead I asked, “Did you continue with the Ouija board?”
“No, we were all kind of freaked out and over it. We had a couple more drinks and then everyone had to go home to relieve their babysitters.”
“Aren’t you supposed to close the board, or something? Like, to end the communication?” I asked, remembering something that I’d seen in a movie.
“That’s just something from movies,” he said, dismissively.
“So why did this peak your interest in the paranormal?” I asked, not liking Nick very much.
“It got results, that’s why it peaked my interest.”
“What results?” I shot back taking my own sip of coffee.
“For one thing, the doors. After that night, we started to have a problem with doors in our home.”
“They would be open when they should be closed and closed when they should be open. Especially in the kitchen. He loved opening and closing the cabinets there.”
“He?” I asked, chilled despite the hot coffee.
“My wife and I referred to him as The Ball. It was something my son said, his closet door did the same thing and he eventually got used to it. He’d say, “No, no, Ball. Door close please.’”
“Your son talked to something called Ball?”
“Yeah, we’d hear him in his room or in the playroom in the basement chattering on and on. It was like an imaginary friend.”
“I have a three year old, and honestly, I would be terrified if she were speaking with something and doors in our home were opening and closing on their own,” I said.
“My wife hated it, but it just fired me up. I wanted to know more. I did some experiments with the kitchen cabinets and then started my research. I even checked some books out of the library,” and with this he winked at me.
Oh, for Pete’s sake, I thought.
“How about your friends? The ones who played the Ouija board with you. Did anything happen to them?” I asked.
“Oh, totally. The two couples who played the board that night had strange things happen in their homes. One heard footsteps several nights in a row and the other, actually they are our next door neighbors, Mike & Janet, they had some issues with doors opening and closing too. So then the McCarthy’s – the ones who refused to play because of their religion – convinced Janet to have the house blessed and they planted St. Benedict medals at the four corners of their property.”
“That sounds pretty extreme,” I commented, sitting back in my chair.
“Yeah, they couldn’t handle it,” Nick shook his head and leaned forward, “You know what? Here’s something I haven’t told anyone. I dug up the medals they had planted on our property line. Ha!”
“Why would you do that?”
“It pissed me off,” he said loudly.
“Why?” I asked.
“It just did. Once they put them in I couldn’t get it out of my head. I mean, that’s my fucking property line,” He replied angrily, almost rageful.
“Are you still friends with them?” I asked, feeling increasingly nervous around this tightly wound man.
“My wife is, but I don’t really talk to any of them any more. I’m too busy. The team takes up all of my free time.”
“Right,” I said, “How did you meet your ghost hunting team?”
“Online,” he replied. Then explained that he had been doing research about Ouija boards and found a chat room where he met and began a relationship with a group of three guys and one girl who called themselves the Metrowest Ghost Hunting Society (MWGHS). They went out together every Friday and Saturday night to sit in abandoned buildings, hospitals, and the occasional haunted home.
“Have you all ever seen a ghost? Or captured it on film or anything?” I asked.
“Oh man, have we seen things? You could say that,” he said with a forced laugh. “This one night, in an abandoned apartment building up in Danvers, we staked out a room where a little girl’s ghost had been seen. We set up ball in the middle of the floor and no one went back into that room the whole night. We left a video recorded in there and after reviewing the film we saw the ball move by itself!”
“Whoa,” I said, picturing an empty room, bathed in infrared light, a ghostly child playing sadly with a rubber ball.
Nick went on, “Over the course of five hours, the ball moved three feet!”
“Oh,” I said, disappointed.
“That’s hard proof of the paranormal. You know that paranormal just means, ‘above the normal’ or ‘out of the normal,’ right? Catching this activity is not easy.”
“Does your wife mind you doing this every weekend? I mean, does she mind that you are out looking for spirits?” I asked.
“She doesn’t love it, but you know, I work all week and I need an outlet. Everyone does.”
What about her outlet? I thought. Then asked, “It seems like you were having more significant activity in your home than what you find on your ghost hunts. Have you captured anything there?”
“You mean on film?” He asked.
“Yes,” I said, annoyed. What did he think I meant? Captured in a net?
“I’m not filming my own home,” he replied as if that suggestion was the most ludicrous thing that had been said in this conversation. “My personal research there is just that, personal. I’m not willing to share my results at this time.”
“You’ve mentioned this research a couple times now, what exactly are you doing?”
I noticed, not for the first time, that when I asked about his home or his family he would rub the side of his head in a weird way. Using his middle finger he massaged above his ear in a circular motion. There was actually a small circular bald spot there.
“I’m incredibly in tune with my home,” he said. “I can feel when things are about to happen there and as I continue to work with it the feeling is beginning to carry over to my investigations with the MWGHS. I had the feeling that spirit was with us in a home we were investigating recently. I asked it to give us a sign of its presence and just like that, we heard three taps.”
“But at home, you said when you ‘work with it.’ Work with what?” I asked, pressing.
“The board,” he replied, his middle finger tracing small circles above his ear.
“You’re still using the Ouija Board?”
“It’s the most effective way to contact spirit.”
He sat back, obviously agitated, “Whenever I need to.”
I considered for a moment, “What about your son?” I asked, “Does he still talk to his imaginary friend, Ball?”
Nick looked around and leaned forward in his seat, “He does, and so do I. I mean, through the board, of course. He spells his name, Baal.”
“What do you talk to him about?” I asked, pushing my seat back a little bit.
Nick smiled, “Everything. He predicts the future, knows things that will happen to me and my family, he even knew when my mother-in-law was going to die.”
“Oh, God, I’m so sorry,” I said, horrified.
“Yeah, well, what are you gonna do? At least I knew not to book a trip for the kid’s Spring break this year. But that’s not the only thing. Dates and events are great, but I am learning to see things, and people, for what they really are,” he sat back in his chair, crossed his arms and scanned the bakery, “I know things because the board knows things.”
I laughed awkwardly, “Well, I hope the board doesn’t tell you about me!”
Nick raised an eyebrow and said, “I wouldn’t be here, telling all of this to a stranger, if I wasn’t sure of your future.”
“And what exactly can I expect in my future, Nick?” I asked, annoyed at his theatrics.
Just then a woman in head-to-toe Lululemon, long highlighted blond hair and Chanel sunglasses sauntered up to our table and declared, “Mr. Sayre! Oh! It is so good to see you!” She turned to me, “Are you selling? He is incredible, honestly! Nick!” She turned back to him, “I have been meaning to email you so we can get together for a drink or coffee or whatever. I’m on my way to Bar Theory right now, but I promise I will call,” turning back to me, “He’s a genius! You’d better find somewhere else to live because your house will literally sell overnight! Bye!”
“Bye, Amanda,” Nick replied watching the woman’s ass as as she bounced away. He turned back to me with a smirk.
I was done.
“Well, Nick, thanks so much for talking with me. It was really, interesting,” I grabbed my purse from the back of my chair then reached to turn off my voice recorder.
Nick grabbed my hand.
I immediately tried to pull it away, but he held tight.
“It was great to talk with you,” he said, holding eye contact like a freaking psychopath, “Before you go, I just wanted to say, congratulations.”
“For what?” I asked, snatching my hand away.
“Oh, better for you to be surprised,” he laughed out loud and stood up. “Great to meet you. Let me give you my card, just in case you need it.”
I collected my things. literally shaking from rage and fear.
“No thanks, Nick,” I said, managing to sound relatively normal. “I have your email if I ever need to get in touch.”
Nick held his hand out to me. I ignored it and picked up my coffee. He let his hand drop, “See you around,” he said, “Congratulations again.”
I nodded and said goodbye, desperate to leave. I could feel his eyes on my back as I left the crowded bakery.
About a week and a half later I found out that I was pregnant.