We are having some work done on the new house. It’s nothing major, but whenever I get an update on the renovation timeline from our contractors, I hear Tom Hanks and Shelley Long laughing and whispering “two weeks” in my ear. In the meantime, all five of us (and the two dogs) are holed up at the Residence Inn, or as I like to call it, The Grand Cluster Fuck. The family logistics are a mind numbing, patience testing time suck, but I did manage to go out for a walk with a real live ex-paranormal investigator recently.
I met her at the Wellesley Wonderful Weekend Picnic in the Park. It was a fever dream of bouncy houses, ice cream trucks, toy carts and wild children hopped up on sugar and the freedom of knowing their parents won’t yell at them in public in front of all their neighbors. We ran into friends and set up our blankets near one another. Snuck some wine in to-go cups and chased each other’s kids around, trying really, really hard not to lose one of them again this year.
I ran into Nick Sayles (Ouija board creeper) with his wife Maeve and their son. It was a touch awkward. He congratulated me on our newest addition, and his wife cooed over Kat, confessing that they had been trying for another baby.
“You can borrow this one whenever you like,” I told her.
“Don’t tempt me,” she said.
“Hey, wait here,” Nick instructed, then disappeared into the preppy crowd. I made small talk with Maeve, asked after her best friend Jenn (poltergeist woman), and discussed our move and the house renovation.
C was off with the two older girls in the candy-themed bouncy house and I was sweating my ass off with Kat in the front pack. As we chatted, Maeve’s son kicked her in the shin over and over saying that he wanted ice cream which made me want to go get the biggest ice cream cone I could find and eat it in front of him while describing how incredibly delicious it was.
Finally, Nick reappeared with a woman I’d seen around town. She is one of those people that I share a schedule with. You know the ones? I see her every single time I go to Whole Foods. We get coffee at the same time and use the same dry cleaner. At any rate, we were un-introduced acquaintances and we smiled at each other in recognition.
“Liz, I wanted you to meet Biddy,” Nick said.
“Hi Biddy,” I said, holding out my hand for a shake. “You’re my errand partner.”
With a laugh she replied, “That’s right! I see you all over town.”
“Biddy used to be on our team,” Nick said.
It took me a moment to understand what he meant, and then it dawned on me, “Oh! Your investigation team, cool,” I smiled at them, but immediately felt suspicious of this woman. Who would want to spend extra time with Nick?
“Biddy was our Case Manager and Researcher, but she decided that the job didn’t suit her any longer,” Nick gave a forced laugh and clapped Biddy on her upper arm.
The awkward gesture made me flinch and Biddy’s stony reaction caused further social discomfort. We all stood for a moment, exchanging glances and I broke the silence and said, “Well, it was great to meet you, Biddy, and to catch up with you all, but I’d better go check in to see how C is doing with the girls.”
Nick nodded his head and Maeve smiled. Biddy asked, “Are they by the bouncy houses? I’ll walk that way with you, my daughter is waiting in line to climb the Special Ops course and I should check in with her.”
“Great!” I replied, meaning, no thanks.
“I didn’t leave paranormal investigating because it doesn’t suit me,” Biddy explained as we walked away. “I left it because it is dangerous. People like Nick think they have all the answers, but the truth is no one knows what’s out there. The only thing I am sure of is that it’s nothing to play around with.”
“I would love to hear some of your stories if you ever wanted to talk about them,” I said. “I write a blog, and -”
“Nick told me,” Biddy interrupted. “I would be happy to talk to you about the reality of ghost hunting. Do you walk?”
This question threw me for a moment because I was walking right alongside her. Then, I realized what she meant and nodded my head.
“Good, let’s meet up for a walk around Lake Waban, at the college. Do you know the path?” Biddy asked.
I did. Biddy suggested a date and we exchanged numbers so we could text. We said goodbye and I watched her walk over to an adorable teenage girl with a long blond ponytail. Biddy high-fived her and clapped her hands as the girl launched herself into the obstacle course.
On the appointed day and time, I left Kat with a babysitter and drove over to the Wellesley College campus. It had undergone its annual spring transformation. Lush plantings of all shapes and sizes blanketed the grounds, while wise old trees rolled their wise old tree eyes at the undergrads, having seen it all and then some.
I was well acquainted with the path around Lake Waban, but the healthy greenery disoriented me so much that I missed the entrance to the parking garage and had to wind around for a few minutes before I found my way back. Let’s be clear, it was a case of foliage disorientation – not “mommy brain.”
Once parked in the strange garage (the structure reminded me of Chinese wok), I strolled along a campus pathway towards the lake. You know, I loves me some background research, but Lake Waban, the body of water we intended to trek around, is a secretive little minx. And by that, I mean, several Google searches didn’t produce much information about the big puddle. I did find an article from the college newspaper that a nearby pond (Paintshop Pond) had been used as a dumping ground for a paint factory. Lead snuck it’s way into Lake Waban, and the college footed a hefty environmental clean up bill for the contamination.
A bit of forest, Wellesley College, and a handful of homes surround Lake Waban, and a path skirts it’s shores. The day that Biddy and I took our stroll, a sickly layer of greenish yellow pollen coated the lake’s serene surface. It was late May and it felt like the trees and whatnot had sneezed all over everything.
I was feeling optimistic. I’d put on the Moving 15 (not to be confused with the Freshman 15, the Winter 15, or the I Need to Cut Back To Just One Glass of Chardonnay a Night 15), and this walk felt so “active lifestyle” of me. I’d even worn workout clothes and sneakers. The exercise hadn’t been my idea, but that was neither here nor there.
I was staring out at the water when I heard my name called. I turned to see Biddy approaching in patterned shorts (J Crew) and a navy blue polo shirt with a popped collar. She wore pink slip on sneakers that looked like they might be Vans and her medium length coffee brown hair was pulled back into a high, bouncy ponytail.
She pushed her Wayfarers up and said, “Hey! I hope you weren’t waiting long, am I late?”
“Not at all, I just walked down here,” I replied.
Biddy’s long, toned legs traversed the distance between us at quite a clip and I began to worry whether I would be able to keep up with her on our walk. I also felt like a dope for getting all Sporty Spiced out and I coveted her crisp shorts and a preppy polo.
“Let’s do this,” Biddy said, and we headed down a paved walkway, past a little hill of tall grass that lead us to the lake’s footpath.
I fell in step alongside Biddy and did my best to match her pace. I had to hold my digital recorder up in front of us and felt like a reporter in an eighties superhero movie. After chatting a bit about her daughter (fifteen, at Wellesley High School, straight-A student, lacrosse/volleyball/swimming) and Biddy’s job (human resources director at a large consulting firm in Waltham) I finally asked her how in the world she got into ghost hunting.
“I don’t really seem the type, do I?” She mused.
“Not really, no,” I said as we walked across a long wooden bridge over a buggy, but picturesque marshland. I continued, “But the field does seem to attract type-A’s.”
“I come across as a type A?” She demanded.
“Well, I mean, you just seem like you’re a get it done sort of person,” I replied, a bit out of breath.
“I’m just fucking with you,” she said glancing over at me with a smile. “I know I come on a bit strong, and I agree. There’s something about ghost hunting that attracts strong personalities. I mean, look at Nick.”
I made a sound of agreement, saving my breath.
Biddy explained, “I grew up in a haunted house in upstate New York. It was a classic haunt, some residual stuff and a little intelligent interaction. We had slamming doors, disembodied voices, and one apparition, an old woman in overalls. I saw her a handful of times and we heard footsteps on the creaky floorboards all the time. Nothing too scary.”
“That registers to me as very scary,” I said.
[Side Note: For clarification, ghost hunters and paranormal researchers classify four different types of hauntings. A residual haunting is one that is sort of like one of those online gifs that play over and over. Like a bulldog on a skateboard, or a sleeping cat falling off the couch. Only, instead of a cute video set to replay itself, a residual haunting is suspected to be a place memory. It might be a traumatic event or something important that happened in someone’s life, and it plays in a loop – think Daryl Hannah in High Spirits .
A step up from this is the intelligent haunting. In these cases, there is a supposed spirit interacting with people. A ghost may tap or move items in an attempt to communicate, or frighten. Then there poltergeist hauntings, which appear to be tied to an individual who unknowingly provides telekinetic or emotional fuel for the beings. Finally, there are demonic hauntings. It is widely accepted in the paranormal community (and in many religious ones, too) that the goal of a demonic haunt is to break down a person’s will so the demon may eventually possess the haunted person.]
Biddy continued, “Don’t get me wrong, there were freaky moments, but my older sister and I shared a room and nicknamed the ghost Old Mrs. McDonald to make light of it. It didn’t frighten me so much as make me want to know everything that I could about the paranormal. I probably read every book in the occult section of our town library three times. My sister and I would go to Blockbuster and study all of the video cases in the horror section, of course my mom would never let us rent any.”
“When did you start actually looking for ghosts?” I asked.
“In college. I joined a club called the Upstate Ghost Hunters. We mostly sat around and drank Milwaukee’s Best and told each other urban legends and tried to pass them off as our own stories. But we did manage to investigate a few haunted places. We broke into an old abandoned factory and that was the first time I ever captured an EVP. It was the most amazing thing that had ever happened to me up to that point.”
“You grew up in a house with an overall-wearing grandmother ghost,” I said in disbelief.
“Right, but this was different. It was hard proof that something was actually happening. It couldn’t be explained away by an overactive imagination or wishful thinking.”
I was completely out of breath at this point and unable to say more than a few words at a time. We were walking through a particularly tree root laden area and I said, “What did the EVP say? Uh-oh, OH! WHOOOA!”
And then I went full on, ass-over-teakettle and landed awkwardly on my side. By some small blessing I was still clutching my voice recorder, and, by some small curse, it captured every little detail of the mortifying moment.
After much fussing and assuring that I was fine and that my skinned knee and elbow didn’t hurt one bit (truthfully, they burned like a mother fucker and I had blood all over my shirt and soaking through my sock), I caught my breath, brushed my hands off and started laughing.
“That was exciting,” Biddy said in an unsuccessful attempt to stop herself from laughing along with me. I couldn’t even respond I was laughing so hard.
Finally, I said, “I think I am going to wet my pants,” and I had to run back behind some Rhododendrons to pee.
“Alright,” I said, popping back through the foliage. “Can we try this again, but at a slower clip? I haven’t the coordination for power walking.”
“Of course!” Biddy said, “Sorry.”
“Don’t apologize, I am a total spaz,” I replied. “Before I took that epic digger, I think you were about to tell me about the first EVP you recorded.”
“Yes, right. We were investigating a factory and my friend, Kim, and I wandered upstairs to this huge open room. We walked to its center and turned on our recorder to do an EVP session. We asked the usual questions, you know, ‘what is your name, do you know what year it is, can you give us a sign of your presence.’
“At first, all we got was silence, then I said something like, ‘My name is Biddy, can you say my name?’ and something responded. It said ‘Bridget.’ That’s my real name, Biddy is my nickname.”
“No way,” I replied.
“Yeah, it was amazing. Whatever responded was intelligent,” she said, tapping her finger on her temple.
“That’s more than just an accurate response,” I reasoned. “I mean it knew something about you specifically.”
“That’s right, and we caught another EVP that night. I asked it where I was from and it gave me my street name, Hepplewhite Drive. That’s not really a common name, it was very specific.”
“But how could some random ghost in an old factory know these things?” I asked.
“That was just the beginning. I think that was the night that I really opened up and it took the opportunity to jump into my life.”
“What did?” I asked.
“The supernatural,” Biddy pointed to two swans floating on the water not far off shore.
“Nasty animals,” I commented. “My husband grew up on a lake and a swan drowned their neighbors dog. Stood on him and flapped his wings to keep him under water.”
“Horrible!” Biddy replied. “Do you have a dog?” Biddy asked.
“Two,” I replied. “Westies, little white terriers.”
“Be careful if you bring them out here, actually anywhere in town. A coyote just got a dog off Weston Road. Those things are vicious.”
“So I’ve heard.”
We continued walking and I asked Biddy what she had meant by letting the supernatural in the night she recorded the EVPs.
“I think I made myself a beacon. I was primed and ready, having grown up in the haunted house and then having studied the paranormal so thoroughly I could have Mastered in it. I knew just what to look for, and I think that’s what made it look for me.
“After that night I could capture EVPs pretty much anywhere I went. But they were random, for a while anyway. My little ghost hunting team started to actually experience things. A door slammed in a home we were investigating when we asked the ghost for a sign of its presence. A ball rolled across the floor in an abandoned hospital supposedly haunted by children ghosts. It took me a very long time to realize that these things only happened when I was around; the team never had much luck when I didn’t go out on a hunt with them.
“After college I moved to Boston, and left those friends behind. I worked in the city for a couple years and met my husband. We got married, had our daughter and moved out to Wellesley. I didn’t do any ghost hunting when Alice was really little, though I would occasionally do some EVP sessions. I did one session in our house, right before we moved in, and I caught a voice saying, ‘Biddy’s home.’ I found it reassuring.”
“No, no, no,” I blurted. “That is, in no way, reassuring.”
“I know that now,” Biddy said forcefully. “But, at that time anyway, I was still under the impression that there were harmless ghosts just sittin’ around, waitin’ for the opportunity to talk into my voice recorder. That they had nothing better to do than answer my questions with one word responses and say things like ‘Get out,’ and ‘Help.’”
“What changed?” I asked.
“Well, once Alice was in school full-time, I needed a project. So I went and put together a ghost hunting team. One of my friends was really into it, she loved the whole thrill of it, and then another friend’s husband was a techie guy and liked gadgets, so the three of us sought out haunted places and explored them.
“Eric, the techie guy, made a simple website and posted some of our EVPs and videos. We were good and word sort of got around about us. We began to get emails from people with haunted houses. People who wanted us to document the activity and people who wanted us to talk to their ghosts and ask them to leave. For several years, I travelled all over New England doing just that.”
“What were some of the scariest things you saw?” I asked.
Biddy glanced sideways at me, “You’re really into this stuff aren’t you?”
“Scary ghost stories? Yes, I love them,” I replied.
She considered a moment, and then said, “Ghosts, or whatever they are, moving objects or slamming doors, or appearing one way or another is startling, and it is impressive. The EVPs can be chilling, depending upon the circumstances and the message being conveyed, but above all else, the most terrifying things that I encountered were the shadow people.”
“Eek,” I said dramatically. “You’ve actually seen a shadow person?”
“Several,” Biddy affirmed. “The very first time that I encountered one I was doing an investigation in this house in Vermont. The family had five kids; one of them had special needs, a little ten-year-old girl with Down syndrome. There was some freaky stuff happening in the house, mostly poltergeist-like activity, but the reason the parents reached out to us was because the little girl had been playing with a child ghost, who was warning her of the ‘angry men.’
“On top of that it seemed that everyone in the family was having health issues. Dizziness, nausea, fevers. The parents were at each other’s throats, but they could discern that it wasn’t really them fighting with each other, they were being influenced. Oppressed.
“I honestly wondered if maybe there was a drug problem in the family. But we interviewed friends and neighbors and everyone seemed to be on the same page, even their pastor. He was the most adamant that we investigate the house. So we did.
“I was sitting in a chair, getting a feel for the home. I used to do that, before we brought in all of our gadgets and started the investigation. I liked to get a lay of the land, a sense of the home, you know, its vibe. I was sitting there quietly and something walked past me, a bit too close to my chair. It brushed my shoulder, kept walking and went through the doorway to the kitchen. At first I thought it was one of the guys on my team. I was annoyed, actually, because I liked to have at least a few minutes to myself in the house.”
“When did you realize it wasn’t a team member?” I prompted.
“When I turned to the doorway to ask what they needed,” Biddy stopped walking and put her hands on her hips and stared into the trees. I stopped too. We were in a heavily wooded part of the trail, just able to glimpse the lake through the thick tree line.
I swatted at the gnats gathering around us and asked, “What? Did you just see something?” If I had to jump in that damn lake to get away from a shadow figure you can bet your ass that I would do it and I would drag Biddy along with me in a lifeguard hold.
“No, no,” Biddy replied with a small smile. “It’s just that this stuff, stays with you. It’s hard to shake, and that night changed my life. That night, I turned to the doorway and there was a figure standing there, as clear as day. It was the outline of a man, but it wasn’t the outline of a man, because it wasn’t a man. It was huge, at least seven feet tall, and it was so still.
“For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out what was so off about it, and then I realized, it was the arms. The arms were a touch longer than a person’s, just long enough to not be right. And the torso was a little bit short. It was like a mimic of a man.”
“What did you do? What did it do?” I demanded.
“Well, I stood up and took a step toward it, almost willing it to be only a trick of the light. And when I took a step forward, it did too. I fell back into the seat and then scrambled out the front door,” Biddy laughs and shakes her head. “It wasn’t my proudest moment as a paranormal investigator. I had a reputation for being tough as nails, but that thing? It had an almost predatory vibe coming off of it. Like a coyote waiting to pounce.”
“Did you have to go back into the house?” I asked.
“Oh yeah,” Biddy replied. “Sorry, we can keep walking,” she motioned for us to continue on the path. “The team was excited, this is what we had been looking for, right? The problem was that it had been looking for us too.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“These things, I mean no one can know for sure, but it is suspected that they are ancient. Some people refer to them as elementals. You can find people who can cast them out, but they are so powerful that there are no guarantees, and once they see you, you can’t be unseen.”
“How the hell did this thing end up in that home?” I asked.
“I only have theories and they are mostly concocted from recurring coincidences. There are certain constants. Suicide, drugs, mental or sexual abuse, the Ouija board, Reiki, occult practices. Dark stuff. You know, I spoke to a Catholic priest once who had visions. He had seen demons doing the same moves that we call yoga in order to conjure dark power.”
“Uh uh,” I said.
“Yeah,” she confirmed. “In the case of this family, once we dug deep enough, we found out that their teenage son had been messing with Tarot cards and had gotten his hands on an occult book that had a spell in it to conjure a succubus.”
“Cut it out,” I said, shocked.
“Nope, he wanted to call up a sexual demon. Fucking teenage boys,” Biddy said shaking her head. She had a great way of really wringing out swear words for everything they were worth. ‘Fucking’ came out ‘fuuuh-king.’
She continued, “The home was ripe for the taking, the parents were pretty stressed out, you know, five kids and all, one of which had special needs. They were not at all religious, and had absolutely no protection whatsoever. And to top it off, they lived in a home that was over ninety years old.
“All of these things, taken one by one, wouldn’t necessarily amount to anything, but together? Together they created an environment that lead to very dark paranormal activity.”
“Well, I would think that trying to conjure a female sex demon would be enough to do you in,” I commented.
“Not necessarily,” Biddy replied. “You could go home and do that today, but chances are good it would be just play acting for you. I think that house had some darkness attached to it, the people were stressed, sad and negative, and the boy’s intention was very strong. He didn’t manage to conjure a sex demon, instead he caught the attention of the shadow people. And one of those shadow men followed me home. Or, I should say, it met me at home.”
“Fuck that,” I said.
“Yeah, I felt so irresponsible, and my husband was pissed. I think before he saw actually the shadow figure for himself, he thought this ghost hunting was just some eccentric hobby for me. You know, ‘the little lady needs something to work her mind.’ Just as long as it didn’t disturb his ability to leave for work early every morning and know that I had everything under control on the home front so he could relax and watch television in peace when he got back home at night, then I could do whatever I wanted.
“But then Andrew saw the shadow man. I was at that Vermont case and when I got home he was waiting for me in the living room. I used to get home late, at like five in the morning. I’d stay up to get Alice off to school and then go to sleep for a few hours. Usually, he’d be asleep when I got home, but the second I walked in and saw him waiting, I knew something was wrong.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“He had been asleep when he was startled awake to feel the sheets being pulled down around him. He said it felt as though two people were pulling down on the sheet on either side of the bed. At first he thought maybe it was Alice and me messing around with him. Then he woke up completely and realized what was happening. He could barely breath; the sheet was so tight across his chest. Then he noticed the thing at the foot of the bed. It was the shadow figure, standing there, motionless.
“Andrew said he was struggling so hard that he was unable to speak. He was terrified that the thing was going to get to Alice. The figure leaned over the bed and didn’t actually speak because it didn’t have a mouth, but somehow Andrew heard it say my name. Then all of a sudden it was gone and he could move. He jumped up, checked on Alice, found her sound asleep and sat outside her doorway until he heard my car pull in.”
“Please tell me that is the only thing that happened in your house,” I begged.
“Oh no, that was just the beginning. I met him the following night. I had what I thought was a nightmare about a shadow figure leaning over me in bed tapping on my shoulder. Just tap, tap tapping. It had these dull yellow eyes. Not what you see in horror movies, they weren’t glowing or anything. No, they were a sickly yellow, clouded. When I woke up I could barely move my arm. I went into the bathroom and took off my shirt. My shoulder was completely black and blue,” Biddy pointed to her left arm.
“Lord help us,” I said.
“I told my husband about the dream and when I told him about the yellow eyes, he lost it. He told me the thing that had pinned him to the bed had yellow eyes, but he had left that detail out because it had frightened him so much.”
“Don’t even tell me,” I said. We were just a little more than halfway around the lake, and I wanted, very badly, to be back at my car. But all of a sudden the thought of that weird parking garage terrified me. I wondered if Biddy would walk me to my car.
“The good thing,” Biddy continued relentlessly, “was that I didn’t wait a second to get help clearing the thing from my house. I knew we were in deep trouble and I reached out to several people who I knew could help us. Working together, they were able to banish it from the home.”
“Who were they?” I asked, wanting full contact information – names, numbers, email addresses, twitter handles – just in case.
“A psychic that I met at one of our investigations brought along a Wiccan priestess and after they came through I had a local Catholic priest bless the house and leave us with holy water and salt so that I could periodically cleanse the home.”
“And that did it?” I asked skeptically. “That got rid of the thing?”
“From my home, yes. From the rest of my life, no.”
“Heaven above, what do you mean?” I asked.
“For one thing, it just fired me up about ghost hunting. I became obsessed, and I think this is part of their attack. Hanging in the shadows, so to speak, letting you glimpse them, so that you become obsessed. That sort of obsession is the beginning of oppression. Also, I think they give you things,” she explained.
“Give you things?” I asked, picturing a shadow figure holding a bouquet of dead flowers in his freakishly long arms.
“Well, it’s more like some of their abilities, or thoughts, rub off on you. Like, how since college paranormal activity would amp up when I was around? I think they’d been around me for a long time, letting me hear and glimpse things so that they could draw me in.
“It was more than intuition, it was like I knew when something was about to happen in a home. I knew to go to the attic or the basement. I knew which questions to ask so that I would get an EVP. I would know which person to press in a case, which one had opened the door to the darkness.”
“Psychically?” I asked.
“Not really, no, just strong feelings that were always right,” she answered quietly. “I began to get deep into the whole paranormal world. I spoke at conferences and taught how to record EVPs. I freaking showed thirteen-year-old kids how to contact ghosts. I would do anything to take that back. What is their next step after EVPs? The Ouija board? Tarot cards?
“Look,” Biddy said, stopping again. “I am not trying to brag, trust me, I am not proud of my past or what I opened people up to, but I was a real heavy hitter in the paranormal field. When I am shopping in Boston, and sometimes when we are away on vacation, people still recognize me and want to tell me their ghost stories.”
“Why did you stop?” I asked. “I mean, if a shadow figure in your house makes you more curious than frightened, what could possibly have happened to make you stop?”
Biddy took a deep breath and blew it out, then began walking again. She said, “I’ve never told anyone this.”
I wanted to say, well, let’s go ahead and keep it that way. But what came out was, “Uh oh.”
“Other ghost hunting teams began referring the really dark cases to us, the ones they couldn’t handle. I was feeling one part badass, one part curious, and one part fraud. I knew that I had absolutely no idea what I was actually dealing with, but I was in way too deep and didn’t know how to back out. My marriage was falling apart, Andrew hated the fact that I was still ghost hunting after I brought that thing home with me. He was terrified and I should have been too. But I was too arrogant to be scared and I had convinced myself that I had it all under control.
“On top of that, I had become consumed with catching voices on the digital recorder. Everywhere I went, I tried, and I was almost always successful. But then I began to capture the same voice everywhere I went.
“It was a pleasant-sounding man’s voice. He was always a bit matter of fact in his answers, kind of like a British man, without the accent. I would typically get one to three word responses to questions. He told me that his name was Poe,” she explained.
“Nope,” I replied, matter-of-factly.
“Well, right,” Biddy agreed. “There was this one time, at a haunted house over in Cambridge, I was doing my initial sweep of the house, sitting quietly and getting the vibe before anyone came in. I took out my recorder and asked if anyone was there with me. I rewound the recording and when I played it back a deep growly voice came through and said, ‘Ah, Bridget, Poe told us about you.’”
“Fuck,” I whispered.
“It was a full sentence, class-A EVP. Clear as day, intelligent and communicative. It was the Holy Grail, and now that I had it, I wished I’d never seen a digital recorder.
“The voice startled me so much that I actually dropped the device on the ground. As I bent down to pick it up, I felt something walk past me, brushing my shoulder. I knew it was the thing that had followed me home. I knew right then that it had never left me, that it was Poe. That it always had been Poe, and I knew I was in deep trouble.
“I slowly sat up, and looked across the room. He, it was there. Staring at me, and it felt like it was almost, amused. Like it was saying, gotcha! I know now what people mean when they say that they were frozen in place. I literally could not move a muscle. Those yellow eyes, God help me, they were evil.” She stopped talking and began walking faster.
My knee hurt and I was trying to keep up, after a moment I said, “Biddy, slow down.”
“Sorry, I’ve never talked about this before. I’m a little anxious,” she said, slowing.
“I can’t imagine why,” I replied sarcastically.
“I don’t remember walking to the front door and out of the house, but there I was and there was my team all around me asking me what was wrong. ‘What happened?’ They wanted to know, ‘should we grab the camera equipment?’
“I walked past them got into my car and drove to a McDonald’s. It was the brightest, most alive place that I could find at that hour. I sat there for a long while drinking dishwater coffee and then I went home and woke my husband up. I apologized for getting involved with these horrible things and asked him to forgive me.”
“And that was it?” I asked. “That sounds way too easy.”
“No, I had to have that psychic team and the priest back to the house three times. Poe found his way back in. It was small disturbing things that let me know he’d returned. I’d glimpse a shadow in a mirror, or have my eyes closed in the shower as I rinsed shampoo from my hair and I would just know that something was standing right in there with me waiting for me to open my eyes.
“We even ended up moving, to a smaller home in a busier neighborhood. We had a more wooded yard before, now houses surround us. I know enough about these things to know that they want to isolate you, keep you in fear and keep you in turmoil with your loved ones. I work hard to do to live peacefully.”
“But wait, how the hell did you end up working with Nick?” I asked, confused.
“It was a real fucking lapse of judgment,” she said in annoyance. “He started working with Eric, the techie guy from our team, and weaseled my email address out of him. I wasn’t working at the time and Nick insisted that all he needed was someone who could do research and run a background check on families before the team went in and did their investigation.”
“Why would you agree to that after working so hard to get away from it all?” I asked, incredulous.
“It was stupid,” Biddy admits. “But, honestly, I had spent my life in that field, I had amassed such knowledge, and it felt silly to waste it. I figured it would be harmless to do a few property records searches and interview neighbors and such.
“You know, I worry about Nick. He’s too fucking sure of himself, and let’s just say that he is way too cavalier with that damn Ouija board,” Biddy paused, choosing her words. “I’ve seen first hand what this stuff does to people. It is oppressive. Check their family lives, check their medicine cabinets – you won’t find a lot of carefree happiness there. And then there’s the whole what-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg thing.”
“I don’t follow,” I said, confused.
“Well, do people look for the darkness or does it seek them out? Some people think that only depressive, or angry Goth types are drawn to the supernatural. Or only people bent towards magical thinking or prone to depressive or dark thoughts encounter ghosts and demons.
“But then, what about the random housewife who experiences sleep paralysis and sees dark figures in her basement? How about the four-year-old little boy who says there’s a ghost under his bed who tells him things no four-year old could possibly know? What about those people? If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that there’s no certain paranormal “type.” Anyone can be affected, and, on the flip side, there are even some people who, no matter how hard they try, can’t experience a thing.
“The only fact we have is that we don’t know. We really don’t know what the hell the thing we call ‘paranormal’ really is.”
I followed Biddy across a narrow stone bridge that lead us back onto the college campus. It was humid and my knee hurt and I was scared. We actually walked in silence for a while. I considered what she had said and how she could possibly know whether or not that Poe thing was gone.
As we approached the parking garage, Biddy said, “If something takes a liking to you, just know that there are no guarantees. I still have a lot of contacts and I can put you in touch with powerful people who know how to bind negative energies. But doors do not close. They just don’t. Are you doing anything to protect yourself when you gather these stories?”
My hand went to my chest, to my necklace.
Biddy noted my movement and said, “Good, but you should pray for protection too, and make sure you are constantly checking in on your intention. Curiosity? Fine. Wanting to tell people what it is really like to have a brush with the paranormal? Good. Just don’t get too sure of yourself.”
Biddy considered me for a moment, making me quite uncomfortable, then asked, “Did you really see a little girl spirit standing behind that woman with the haunted sailor’s valentine?”
It took me a moment to catch up, but then I realized she meant Pam. “Yes,” I admitted. “And a little blond girl ghost is -”
“Never really a little blond girl ghost,” Biddy finished. She furrowed her brow, “You’re probably fine but you’re Catholic, right?”
“Well, I grew up Catholic, but -” I began
“Then you’re Catholic,” she said, forcefully. “Go to church for goodness sake and take your family with you. It is fine that you are doing this, just do it to warn people, don’t do it to answer some deep dark question about whether or not we are alone in this world. Trust me, you don’t want to know the answer.”
I had the babysitter for Kat until I needed to pick up the older girls at school. When I got home, after showering and applying antiseptic and large Band-Aids to my battle wounds, I made a disappointing cup of Keurig coffee and headed down to the hotel lobby.
I sat with my laptop and Googled Biddy’s name. Countless webpages appeared and dozens of articles referenced her name and expertise. There were images of her on conference hall stages; microphone in hand, PowerPoint slides looming behind her. I had been talking to paranormal royalty and I hadn’t known it.
There was a website devoted to her strongest EVP captures, I listened to a few and then stopped. These were not the made for TV ghost hunting show EVPs. These were recordings of clear voices, responding directly to complicated questions.
I decided to listen to the recording of my interview with Biddy. I wanted to get a jump on transcribing the conversation. I popped in my ear buds and listened up to my to my epic stumble. Amused embarrassment washed over me as I heard Biddy’s are you sure you’re all right’s and my breathless reassurances.
Then I listened to us laughing about the fall.
Only, it wasn’t just us laughing. There had been someone else there with us, laughing at my expense. His laugh was soft and pleasant, almost British sounding, but not quite.