Nocturnal Druid contacted me through the blog. I met her in Starbuck’s and her bouncy brown ponytail, farmer’s tan, adorable freckles and tiny figure eight tattoo on the inside of her left wrist were a surprise. Though she appeared to be in her mid-to-late thirties, our initial phone conversation lead me to believe I would be meeting a middle-aged heavy smoker. It was during that phone call that Noc explained that though she wasn’t a Welleslian herself, she had a story about a Wellesley family that I had to hear.
“I found you through an article in Wellesley Weston Magazine,” Noc explained.
“Oh, that,” I replied, a little embarrassed. “Yeah, they published part of the Dump Swap story last October.”
“Did you really see that little ghost girl?”
“I did,” I admitted.
“Cool, not many people have seen a full-on ghost.”
I considered. Noc was a ghost hunter so she’d probably seen many strange things in her time, but despite that little ghost girl and the creatures we’d seen in our home, I still didn’t know what I thought about the paranormal. I said, “I’ve spent so many years wanting to see something that really scared me, but now that I have it’s more confusing than thrilling, you know?”
Noc nodded her head in agreement. She said, “I was on this investigation once, in an abandoned mental hospital. Those places are freakin’ terrifying at night and they’re drenched in every single bad feeling you’ve ever had. So, I’m walking down this long hallway with doors on both sides, right? And I keep thinking that I see something out of the corner of my eye in every room I pass. But when I look in? Nothing.
“Then I’m almost to the end of the hallway and again I see something in my periphery. So I look over thinking that it’ll just be a trick of the light, you know, shadows from my flashlight or something, but it wasn’t. There was a nurse in scrubs standing right there in the middle of that room. She was as real as you are now. I made eye contact with her for like, five seconds, and then she just turned and walked to the corner of the room, out of sight.”
“And that’s when I would have wet my pants,” I blurted out.
“Ha!” Noc laughed, “I just about did and I totally didn’t sleep for weeks, I couldn’t close my eyes without seeing her. But really it left me with more questions. It didn’t add up. What the hell was that woman doing there? Was it really a woman or only, like, a memory of a woman? Or just a figment of my imagination? If that’s all it was then how did she follow me along that night, through all those rooms? I get being terrified and hallucinating, but this was complicated. ‘The ghost,’” Noc does finger quotations, “Sort of lulled me into thinking there was nothing there and then showed itself at just the right moment.”
“Like it was messing with you,” I observed.
“Exactly. What motivation would a ghost nurse have for screwing with me like that?” “Maybe she was mad you were in her space,” I guessed.
“Do you really think so?” Noc pressed.
“No,” I admitted.
Noc was silent for a moment, staring at the buzzing baristas at the coffee counter. Then she asked, “Do you believe in ghosts?”
“Ghosts?” I echoed. “Yes, I mean I don’t know anymore. The more I talk to people and now that I have some head space to really think about what happened in my house, I think ghosts might be a red herring.”
“Then what is it? What are people experiencing?”
I picked at the cardboard sleeve around my latte, considering. I had formed the beginning of an opinion about the paranormal, but I knew it wasn’t a popular one among the ghost hunting set.
Finally I said, “Sure there are ghosts, you know dead people with unfinished business or loved ones they want to watch over or whatever. But I think for the most part, it’s all some sort of deception.”
“Mm hmm,” she prodded, “But by whom?”
“Demons,” I admitted, quietly.
“Bingo,” she declared loudly, causing a businessman sitting at the table next to ours to jump.
“Wait, you think so too?” I said quietly, surprised.
“Yes!” Noc insisted, nodding her head enthusiastically. “Granted I think there are lesser gods like the earth spirits, but we know there is a hierarchy to the demonic and they can probably make themselves, you know-”
“Look like anything they want us to see,” I interjected.
“I never talk to anyone about this,” I admitted. “I’m afraid they’ll think I’m an alarmist or a Bible thumper or something.”
“She keeps her cards pretty close to the chest. Honestly, I don’t really know what she thinks, other than that it is dangerous to go looking into the darkness,” I said. “What made you start to suspect the paranormal was more diabolical than ghostly?”
“How old are you?” Noc asked.
“Um, thirty-” I paused, racking my brain. “Eight. I’m thirty-eight.”
“OK, well, I’m thirty-six so we were probably on the same track in terms of popular ghost theories, you know? We’ve been fed the same story over and over. Ghosts are trapped spirits who retain the personalities they had in life.”
“That old ‘if he was a jerk in life then he’ll probably be a jerk in death’ line,” I commented.
“Totally. Except, what do we know about people who’ve had near death experiences? They typically come back saying that everything we’ve ever worried about in life simply disappears and we become peaceful and even repentant for the wrongs we’ve done. So how does an angry ‘ghost,’” more finger quotes, “stomping around in an attic jive with that?”
“I’d never really thought about it that way,” I admitted.
“Yeah, well, it’s more than just that. I’ve been an investigator for almost nine years. When I started I bought the whole dead people theory but after years of investigating I can’t make my experiences fit into that narrative any longer.
“I’m not talking about the truly residual stuff,” she said quickly, waving a hand in dismissal. “Those may really be time slips or strong emotions or energy, left behind. We’ve all walked into a room after an argument, and the vibe is just different, you know? And then all those stories about dead loved ones visiting in dreams or just as they pass over – those anecdotes are always positive and loving even if that person was a jerk in life, so that I can buy.
“But dead people intentionally interacting with the living in a negative way? That I don’t buy. Why would dead people be so petty?
“Part of it is selfish, I suppose,” she went on. “I don’t even want to entertain the possibility that I might get stuck here messing with people in the middle of the night in my old house. I mean, aren’t we supposed to transcend a bit?
“You’re biting your nails,” Noc said abruptly.
“Sorry,” I apologized quickly, “I’ve had the same suspicions and you’re making me nervous. What do you think is really happening?”
“I think we are part of a game,” she replied, lowering her voice. “The devil fell to earth with thousands of other disobedient angels, right? So if the earth belongs to the devil and it appears that he can’t reach us once we are off this field, then he’s got to do his best to catch as many of us as he can while we’re here, right? And deception, like you said, is his greatest tool.”
“Yeah, and you know what else I keep coming back to?” I asked. “Distraction. It is our way of life now, we just live distracted. So there are some people who obsess about shopping or their looks, money, work, their phones, their kids, and then there are other people, like us who are distracted by this whole other world. And no matter what we are most distracted by I think the demons are right there, able to insert their, like, influence where we are most vulnerable.”
“I’ve only read a couple of your interviews, but I just knew we were on the same wavelength!” Noc declared. “I think we are getting suspicious at this particular point in time because they’re getting lazy.”
“What do you mean? It feels like things are crazier than ever,” I said.
“Oh, I totally agree that they have been ramping up their efforts, but their techniques for scaring us are stale. They’re wearing out their gimmicks, right? I mean, how many apparitions in Civil War garb or long white nightgowned ghosts can there be? How about the haunting smell of rosewater perfume or cigar smoke, or-”
“Ghost kids rolling balls across the floor,” I added.
“You got it,” she said pointing at me.
“But wait, if you really think it is all demons then why are still ghost hunting?”
“Think about it. They can’t touch us, that’s their biggest deception; convincing everyone that they actually have any power over any of us. We don’t belong to them. Never have. I like a good scare, that’s all.”
“You best be careful,” I cautioned. “Just because they can’t get you after you die doesn’t mean they can’t make your life hell.”
“Alright, true. But, and maybe this is the distraction you were talking about, but sometimes they do something truly terrifying, and I want to be there to see it. Sometimes they actually get creative. There was one haunting in Wellesley that I investigated a while back and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. When I came across your blog I knew you’d want to hear about it.”
“I can’t wait,” I said, though honestly I was a bit hesitant. If a ghost nurse simply confused her, I thought, what did she consider truly terrifying?
“So, I’m the case manager for a team of four paranormal investigators,” Noc began. “My husband Tyler is our lead tech specialist. I mean, we all have a working knowledge of the equipment but he’s the expert. We have two investigators, Patricia our team psychologist, and Maurice the demonologist. Oh and actually, this kid does most of the evidence analysis, you know after the investigation he reviews the hours of audio and video footage, marking events for us. He doesn’t come along on investigations though.”
“Ok,” I said, “But, a psychologist and a demonologist? That’s impressive.”
“Well, our clients usually need one or the other,” she replied, “Or both.”
“Lord help us,” I sighed, then asked, “What’s the name of your team?”
“Nice,” I commented, “How do you get cases?”
“Ty runs the website and we field inquiries from there. People contact us through the site, they are required to leave a phone number so that I can call them after an initial email response. I don’t trust email to get an accurate read on a situation. Some people are just looking for drama and I can only really tell if they’re seriously in trouble when I have an actual conversation with them.
“After that preliminary phone interview I set a time for an in person meeting and a walk through of the haunted property. I bring Patricia along so she can make a quick evaluation of the client’s mental state. Once we get a read on the situation we either refer the client out to more appropriate resources, like mental health professionals or other medical help and then follow up with them over the next month or so to be sure they are getting the help they need. But if I believe our team is the appropriate group to help the family we take the case.
“If we accept a case I do some background research on the property’s history to prepare and we set a date for our team to go in and investigate. And we don’t just investigate a home for only one night like most teams, we spend seventy-two hours at the place. The whole team spends all three nights together and at least two of us are present in the home during the daytime as well.”
“Like that television show,” I interrupted.
“Yeah, sort of,” Noc said with a smile. “Anyway, once the investigation is done we review the evidence and I arrange for a client meeting, typically about a week later. We go over our findings and conclusions with the family and line up all of the resources they will need to resolve the haunting, if that is what they wish to do. I stay in touch with the people over the next few months, then taper off contact throughout the following year unless they need us again.”
“Man,” I said, impressed. “Do you charge for this?”
“Never!” Noc barked causing the businessman to look over at us.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply-”
“Of course you didn’t,” she affirmed, “It’s just that charging for a paranormal investigation is such outlandish bullshit. Our service points people to other people who maybe might possibly be able to help them. We’re just grateful that our clients allow us into their homes. Honestly, we should pay them. How else would we find the so-called ghosts?”
“That’s true,” I agreed.
“I know it sounds pretty involved, and it is. Even though I walk through around thirty or forty properties a year we only take on between seven and ten of those cases. A case has to be pretty extreme for us to commit. I’m not spending three days and nights in a house that only has occasional wall taps or slamming doors. The amount of time and effort we put into our investigations has to be worth it.”
“But what about the houses with the banging and slamming doors?” I asked, feeling protective and worried for those people.
“We have their homes blessed or refer them out to a different team. I mean, we help them, we just don’t camp out and give them the full court press.”
I took a sip of my latte, considering then said, “Wow, three full nights in a legitimately haunted house. What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever seen?”
“I’m about to tell you,” Noc replied with a smile.
“Oh man,” I breathed.
Noc leaned forward, “So about a year and a half ago, Ty forwarded me this email inquiry from our website. It was from a woman in Wellesley who was convinced that her house was haunted and that her oldest child was being targeted by the spirit. I responded with my usual list of questions and she emailed back immediately so I picked up the phone to call her.
“She told me about the house. They’d only lived there for a couple months and they’d done a small amount of renovations before they’d moved in. She mentioned some strange things had happened during renovations but the family had been out of state at that time and only heard about them second hand from the contractor.
“So, there were four kids in the family but the mother told me that only one of them, the oldest daughter, was being sort of ‘pursued’ by the spirit. The girl had begun fighting with her siblings and wasn’t sleeping well. She was even sleep walking and hearing voices.
“This woman was convincing enough that I agreed to check the place out, but really I thought we’d just be referring them out to a pediatric psychologist.
“But I knew we might have a real case on our hands the second Patricia and I pulled into the driveway. The home was on a busy road and it had a little stream running through the back yard. As we were walking up the front door a train blew past the back of the property. The house was right on the commuter line. There was a hell of a lot of energy swirling around and, I’m telling you, it wasn’t positive.
“The house was really small, too small for a family with four kids. Laura, the client, opened the door before I even had a chance to knock and she kind of shooed us into the living room off the foyer-”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I said, holding my hand out. “This wasn’t the Arnold family, was it?”
“Yeah,” Noc said, her brow furrowed, “Michael and Laura Arnold and their daughter-”
“Lilith,” I said.
“How the hell do you know that?”
“They were like my third or fourth interview!” I exclaimed.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Noc said, laughing.
“No, really,” I insisted. “I remember they told me they’d had a ghost hunting team in at one point. You didn’t read their interview on my blog?”
“No,” Noc said, laughing, “I’ve got to read it! Did she tell you anything about my team?”
“Um,” I hedged, pretty sure that I remembered Laura telling me the ghost hunting team had made things worse. “I can’t really remember,” I fibbed, “They told me they’d consulted a ton of people though.”
“Man, she totally cut us off. I suppose I can’t blame her, we only lasted two nights in that house. I insisted on getting a priest in there to bless the place before we went any further.”
“Let me go to the bathroom before you scare the hell out of me,” I muttered, getting up from the table.
Noc nodded and picked her phone up off the table to scroll through texts.
When I came back I said, “Alright, what happened?”
“Did you meet the dad, Michael?” Noc asked.
“Yup,” I replied.
“Huge guy,” Noc commented. “Total gentle giant. The middle boy, Jack, was the only kid home that first day when Patricia and I checked out the house. He was home sick from school and he sat in an armchair with an iPad while we interviewed the parents. A couple times I wanted to suggest that he go up to his room or the kitchen or something, I mean the stuff his parents were telling us was pretty fucked up, but they didn’t seem to think it was a problem.”
“What exactly did they tell you?” I asked, wondering if she got the same story from them that I did.
“They said they’d done some improvements to the home before moving in. There’d been a small fire and a few accidents during the renovations, but nothing that triggered any alarm bells at the time. After they moved in some strange stuff began happening; unexplained knocks at the front door, some of the furniture and photographs moved around, voices.
“But it was Lilith who had them the most concerned. Everyone but Lilith slept on the second floor, while she’d set up shop in the basement. Shortly after they moved in Lilith began hearing voices calling to her in the middle of the night and though it scared her enough to sleep in her parents room for a few nights, she’d returned to the basement and wasn’t frightened any longer.
“The dad heard her speaking to someone down there too, he distinctly heard two voices whispering back and forth and he thought she’d snuck a boy in. But when he opened her bedroom door Lilith was alone and denied speaking with anyone.
“As we listened to their story I was seriously holding onto the hope that we would only need to refer these people out to one of our pediatric psychiatrists, you know? I was scared. I had this, like, really nasty feeling in the pit of my stomach.
“It didn’t help that that place was freaking tiny, but it was more than the lack of space that made it claustrophobic. The air was heavy, like the feeling on a really humid day only it wasn’t humid – it was cold. And those people were terrified. It actually felt like they were terrified to have us in the house. Like they shouldn’t be telling us what was happening. Patricia’s read on the family was that the parents were genuinely afraid in their living situation and that they had a true fear for – and perhaps of – their eldest daughter.”
“God,” I said, “Imagine being afraid of your own daughter.”
“Terrifying, right?” Noc agreed. “Anyway, they gave us a tour of the place. The house was a modified Cape and with three tiny bedrooms and a bath upstairs. It was all freshly painted and clean, I couldn’t honestly point to anything that screamed ‘haunted house’ but the place was saturated with something that I had never experienced before. And that was just the upper floors. When they opened the door to the basement I literally had to force myself to follow them down the stairs.
“Look,” Noc said, resting her elbows on the table, “I don’t scare easily and sure, their story was creepy, but I really don’t think that’s what had me spooked. You know what it was? It felt like the house was watching us.
“I know that probably sounds wicked dramatic,” Noc said quickly.
“Not at all, well, a little bit, but I believe you,” I reassured her. “I’ve had this image in my mind of that basement since I spoke with the Arnolds. Like it was a totally normal basement with a creepy dark bedroom shoved in one corner.”
“No, it was just the opposite,” Noc said. “The basement itself was straight from a 1980s summer camp horror movie, all wood paneling and red leather furniture and ugly afghans. The Arnold’s style upstairs was a little ‘country kitchen tchotchke,’ you know, lots of pineapple art and figurines, but this was like stepping back in time. It took up half the basement to one side of the stairway. The stairway sort of bisected the space with the wood panelled hang out area to one side and a creepy unfinished room with the boiler and laundry on the other side next to the girl’s bedroom.”
“And what was that like?” I asked.
“The bedroom? Any other house, any other family and I would have described it as totally normal. A typical teenage girl’s room, you know? Lavender walls with lots of posters and magazine pages taped to them. There was even a cork board with photos of friends. They must have been people she knew back in Chicago because Michael told us that Lilith hadn’t been able to connect with any kids in Wellesley.
“When you interviewed her did Laura tell you about the symbols she found underneath the wallpaper?” Noc asked.
“She did,” I affirmed. “She told me they were painted on the walls.”
“Right, pentagrams and inverted crosses,” Noc said, shaking her head. “The thing that struck me as odd was why would someone just paper over them, you know? She told me the story about the devil-worshipper kid who’d lived in the house before them-”
“Who’d killed himself,” I added.
“Right. But think about it, if you found that stuff painted on the wall in your basement would you just throw wallpaper over it? No. You’d either try to clean it off or at least paint over it before you did anything else.”
“Totally,” I acknowledged. “And didn’t she say the wallpaper was floral patterned?”
“Yup,” Noc said, before taking a sip of her hot chocolate. “Not really the kind of thing a loner kid suspected of Satanism would typically choose to decorate his room, huh? We assumed his parents must have put it up after he passed.”
“You’re sure that was the boy’s room?” I asked.
“Mm hm. We got confirmation from the neighbors across the street. They had a girl who was a couple years younger than the boy and they had been friendly in elementary school.”
“So sad,” I murmured.
“Unimaginable,” Noc agreed.
I sighed, “So what do you think the deal with the wallpaper was?
“I don’t know, the boys parents never returned my calls or emails so I have no idea. It’s a stupid thing to be stuck on, I mean, maybe they hired someone to wallpaper over the symbols, but something didn’t sit right.”
“Do you think the parents had something to do with the boy’s death?” I asked shocked.
“No, no,” Noc said quickly, “It’s more that I wonder if they might have been satan worshippers too.”
“Get out of here,” I said, skeptically. “Did the neighbors tell you anything else about the family?”
“They confirmed what the next door neighbor had told Laura, the kid wore black all the time and that there was heavy suspicion he had killed at least two of the neighborhood cats.”
“Ugh, is that even really a thing?”
“What do you think?” Noc replied, raising her eyebrows. “Who knows, he could have just been a troubled boy and people created rumors about him because of the way he dressed and acted.”
“But the inverted crosses,” I pointed out.
Noc nodded her head causing her ponytail to bounce, “And here’s the thing, Laura told me that the symbols weren’t just scrawled willy-nilly on the wall, they formed a pattern. Four inverted crosses created a sort of box around a pentagram.
“Laura insisted that there was no way Lilith could have seen the pattern on the wall. She immediately painted over it once she found it. And yet, she found the exact same image drawn over and over again in Laura’s school notebooks.”
“Shush,” I said, chilled.
“Laura showed me one of the notebooks. Apparently Lilith insisted they were just mindless doodles.”
“Yeah, and really that was the detail that pushed me into taking the case. As much as I wanted nothing to do with that home, I knew we had to start our investigation immediately. So I rallied the troops and we decided to go that very weekend. We planned to stay from Friday morning around eight o’clock through the same time Monday morning.”
“Was the family home while you investigated?” I asked, surprised.
“Typically we ask the family to stay in the house the first night and request that they stay elsewhere for nights two and three,” Noc explained. “I like to compare what it’s like with the family there to the vibe when they are gone.”
“But you all didn’t make it to the third night,” I recalled.
“Nope,” Noc confessed. “That second night was,” she paused, considering, “It was the scariest night of my life.”
I didn’t say anything. I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear the rest of the story. I was already completely freaked out at the thought of that dark cramped basement and a daughter who wasn’t acting like herself.
“We got there a little early,” Noc continued, “Just as the kids were on their way out the door for school. That was the first glimpse I’d gotten of Lilith. She was a cute kid, tiny like her mom, you know? She had on black workout pants and a black hooded sweatshirt and she had the standard long wavy hair that all young girls seem to have now. Jet black like her mother’s. At first glimpse she just seemed like a typical surly teenager. But the way she treated her mother was a step below. It was really harsh. Dismissive almost, like Laura just didn’t matter.
“The other kids were perfectly normal, you know respectful of their parents and their interactions with one another seemed fine. But Laura and Lilith had this super tense exchange over a medication that Lilith was supposed to be taking. Everyone was in the kitchen and Laura held a pill out to her with a glass of water and Lilith stared right at her mother for a moment before saying, ‘You and I both know that pill isn’t the answer, Laura.’
“My mother would’ve raised holy hell if I had spoken to her like that,” Noc said seriously. “And in front of house guests?” She shook her head. “Anyway, the kids left for school and Laura and Michael went to work. Once they were all gone the team toured the house. We needed to set up a home base for the computer and multiple screens we use to watch live feed during the investigation.
“We decided to set up shop in the finished half of the basement.”
“Come on,” I said.
“It wasn’t ideal,” she admitted, “I try to be aware of how the environment can influence our read on a situation. The place was dark and creepy, all low ceilings and wood panelling. And damp,” she added. “But the house was so small that it was the only place we could have some space to ourselves while monitoring the family and the house.
“Once we’d brought in all our equipment and set up home base and established the feed from the cameras placed in each room, Ty and I did the first walk through. We like to record baseline readings during the daytime and it helps to work out any kinks in the command center or cameras.”
“What exactly do you do on that initial walk through?” I asked.
“We typically work top down in a house. If there’s an attic we start there. We conduct short EVP sessions in every room and take temperature and EMF readings when the house is quiet during the daytime. There was no attic space so we began in the master bedroom.
“We started that first session by introducing ourselves to the house. I made it clear that we were there to help the family and we wanted to interact with whoever or whatever was in the house causing the disturbance. Then I invited the entity to speak into the recorder. Right off the bat, I played back the recording and we heard a deep growly laugh.
“I’ve heard creepy shit before, but this laugh was fucking terrifying. It made me almost drop the recorder. Ty took it out of my hand and listened to the laugh again. Then he turned on the recorder and asked, ‘Who is here with us?’
“The bedroom was freezing and I had this overwhelming feeling that there was something in the closet. It was totally irrational, but I couldn’t shake it. Ty wound back the recorder and we listened.
“There was a low grumbling that we couldn’t make out at first but we listened again and I heard it. It said my name. My real name. I changed my name when I was nineteen, it’s a long story but I dated this psycho guy and, well, it’s a long story. But listen, no one has called me by that name in over fifteen years.”
“Holy shit,” I said, wondering about the terrible relationship that had prompted such a unique name change and knowing that I dare not ask.
“Look, I’m not just trying to act tough when I say this, but I don’t scare easily. I’ve been through too much crap in real life not to mention the fact that I’ve been in some incredibly haunted places. But that – hearing my real name growled into a digital recorder? That scared me. I seriously considered packing up right then and there. But Ty and I talked through it and I realized that the demon was trying to get rid of me by hitting right where he knew it would hurt. That name isn’t me anymore and hearing it brought back a wave of awful memories.”
“I don’t know how you didn’t just run out of that house,” I said, recalling Biddy’s recording of the shadow figure using her real name, Bridget, in their very first meeting. This wasn’t a good sign.
“Well, I didn’t need anymore proof that we were dealing with the demonic, that’s for sure,” Noc continued. “I wanted to call in a priest right away but Ty disagreed. He argued that we needed to document as much as we possibly could. It made sense, I mean that’s what we were there for, but I had a really bad feeling about that house.
“I convinced him to hold a team meeting and let everyone vote on whether to stay or go. I lost, three to one.
“So we pressed on, methodically moving through each room on the second and first floors. We didn’t record any more EVPs so my anxiety lowered a little that is, until we went down into the basement. Maurice and Patricia were monitoring base camp so Ty and I went to the laundry room first. Aside from that oppressive feeling of being watched we didn’t find anything strange in there. Then we went into Lilith’s room.”
Noc took a deep breath before continuing, “We closed the door behind us and Ty began taking temperature and EMF readings. The room proved to be cooler than the rest of the basement and the EMF detector spiked. Of course, both of those readings could have been explained away by some naturally occurring phenomena, but when we get readings like that in an area of known activity we pay attention.
“I began the EVP session by asking if the entity who had been speaking to Lilith would like to speak with us. Things happened quickly after that. First, this big stuffed dog fell off the shelf above Lilith’s bed, making us both jump. Then Ty pointed behind me, my back was to the small half window with a ground level view of the back yard. I spun around and basically yelled, ‘What did you see?’ He began to tell me when I heard Patricia scream from the other side of the basement.
“So, we rushed out of the room and while I went right to command center, Ty blew past me up the basement stairs. I called to him but he didn’t answer me so I just focused on Patricia.
“She was standing up at the desk with her headphones in her hands and Maurice looked stunned.”
“‘What the hell happened?’ I demanded.
“‘Did you hear it?’ Patricia asked, ‘Did you hear it say my name?’”
“Oh no,” I said quietly.
“Patricia had been listening to the audio from Lilith’s bedroom camera through her headphones so we wouldn’t pick up the recording during our EVP session. She told us that just as I asked who was talking to Lilith she heard a child’s voice say, ‘Patricia remembers me.’”
“Oh fuck,” I breathed.
“Yeah,” Noc said, “The reason Patricia began investigating hauntings was because growing up she played with an imaginary friend at their Cape house every summer. Her friend always wanted to play far out in the woods behind their house. There was an accident with an old tree house and whatever it was, it made Patricia suspicious of the girl. She began to suspect the girl was trying to kill her.”
“What in the what?” I said. “Ok, there is a lot to unpack with that whole nightmare, but you’re telling me that Patricia heard that little girl’s voice over the recording in the Arnold’s house?”
“Yup,” Noc confirmed. “It sounds impossible, but she was so rattled I knew that it was true.”
Noc looked down at the table. FInally she said, “We should have left right then. I should have insisted that leave we immediately and call the church.”
“Wait, what did Tyler see out the window in Lilith’s room? Why did he run right upstairs?”
Noc sighed, “Oh right. He saw a little gray goat walk through the yard, right past the window.”
“No way!” I exclaimed.
“He went right outside to see if maybe it was, you know, like-”
“A neighborhood goat just wondering around?” I interrupted.
She laughed, “Yeah. When he came back inside we rewound the video recording on the off chance that we may have caught the animal on tape, but the camera only caught a shadow pass by the window. Ty insisted that it wasn’t a dog. He saw it’s hooves.”
I just shook my head.
“Anyhow, Patricia was so shaken that we decided to skip the final EVP session we’d planned for the command center area. Instead, we sat in the kitchen and made our game plan for the coming night. We decided that Ty and I would camp out down in the basement while Patricia took the second floor and Maurice monitored the first.
“Typically the first night of an investigation we just get a lay of the land, you know? A feel for the house and it’s little quirks and noises. We sit and listen and might do some short EVP work but really what we want is for the the house to settle around us.
“The rest of day was quiet, but the home was oppressive. Maurice worked around the house double checking his equipment. Ty and I hung out in the basement and Patricia stayed at the kitchen table. She likes to do what she calls ‘free association writing’ during daytime investigations. She says it helps her to get in touch with the feelings the house brings out in her.
“Anyway, Laura got home from work around two thirty that afternoon and the kids rolled in a little after three.”
“Did you tell Laura about the recordings?” I asked.
“No. No way. We don’t share anything with the family until we’ve had time to prepare a full report of our findings after the investigation. That afternoon Patricia and I interviewed the little kids together. They were adorable and pretty normal, if a bit shell shocked. The twins, Carrie and Rosemary, told us that they’d heard the voices while playing video games in the basement.”
“What did the voices say?” I asked, not wanting to know.
“The girls told us the voices sang songs and told jokes,” Noc said, her eyebrows raised.
“Shivers,” I said.
“Yeah, I mean, they seemed genuine. They told us they didn’t go into the basement anymore, and get this – they said they stopped ‘after Lil told us the voices were dead people.’”
“Ugh,” I groaned. “What about the little boy? I remember Laura saying Lilith attacked him or something.”
“He wouldn’t tell us a thing, but I could see that he was legitimately frightened of his older sister. He actually shushed his little sisters when they told us about Lilith and the voices. He goes, ‘You know she can hear us. Shut up!’
“Where was Lilith?”
“In her room.”
“Did you interview her?”
“Yeah, her dad made her come upstairs to speak with us but she didn’t say much. I asked her about the voices and Patricia tried to press her about how she was ‘feeling.’ She pretty much only gave one word answers, but she did ask one thing.”
Noc paused and I demanded, “What? What did she ask you?”
“She asked me if I’d spoken to the ‘scribe’ yet.”
“What does that mean?”
“We’ll get there,” Noc replied after a moment.
I sat back in my seat and said, “Alright, the build up is killing me. What happened to you in that house?”
“Sorry, I just want to give you a lay of the land. We waited for the family to go to bed that first night and we sat and listened and watched. Nothing happened. Well, we did catch Lilith standing in the middle of her bedroom for about and hour and a half in the middle of the night. She was turned away from the camera, so we couldn’t tell what she was doing. She just sort of stood there, shifting back and forth from foot to foot, her hands just hanging at her sides. So, you know, take that for whatever it’s worth I guess. I suppose she could have just been putting on a show for us, but that kid was creepy.
“When she came out of her bedroom in the morning it was Patricia and Ty manning the command center. She peeked around the basement stairs at them and said, ‘You’ve upset them.’ They asked her who she was talking about and she just stood there staring.”
“I have no idea how you all stayed in that house,” I said.
“It was stupid, we shouldn’t have,” Noc replied honestly. “The family cleared out after breakfast, Patricia and I took naps on the couch and Ty and Maurice took the first daytime shift. They reported steady knocking coming from the ceiling in the master bedroom, but other than that, nothing. When it was their turn to nap Patricia and I conducted EVP sessions in the upstairs bedrooms, but things up there had gone quiet. No more knocking, no EVP responses. So we headed to the basement.”
“Uh uh,” I said.
“We started in the command center area because we’d skipped it the night before. We got two responses. Patricia asked if her imaginary friend was with us and a woman’s voice replied ‘yes.’ Then I asked if she had a message for Patricia. The voice that we recorded, it changed, it was the same woman but she was angry. She said, ‘We almost had you.’”
“Demonic,” I said quietly.
“Yup,” Noc agreed. “The day was creepy, but as nighttime came we all started to feel, I don’t know, I guess the only way to describe it is this, like, impending doom. It felt like we were trapped in a web.
“So, darkness fell,” Noc said dramatically, “and we split up. Maurice and I at the command center, Ty on the first floor, Patricia on the second. Maurice and I watched as Ty and Patricia walked through the rooms, attempting to capture EVPs or any other indication of paranormal activity. Around nine-thirty Ty got the first hit. He held the voice recorder up to the camera in the kitchen so that Maurice and I could hear it. We,” Noc paused again, seeming uncertain of how to continue.
“What?” I prompted, “What did it say?”
She looked down at her hands on the table for a moment then said, “You know what? Let me get through the rest of the night and then I can play the recording for you. I brought the actual recording. We saved it.”
“Ok, sure,” I said, thinking, Come on, man, get to the punchline.
“Sorry I’m scattered, that night, well it had a real fallout. None of us left that house alone. Every single one of us brought something home with us that night. Things attached. Patricia still hears that woman’s voice in her house every once in awhile. She’s afraid the thing is going to go after her four-year-old daughter. Poor Maurice has a shadow figure lurking in his backyard now, he lives in Concord in a very wooded area and he won’t let his kids play out there anylonger.
“And Ty and I,” Noc took a deep breath and sighed, “We’ve had some stuff happen in our home. Our basement is basically overrun.”
I waited for her to elaborate. She didn’t.
Finally she said, “So, Maurice and I are in the basement, Ty and Patricia are upstairs. At about eleven-thirty I’m watching Ty on the computer screen sitting on the couch in the living room. But then Maurice and I hear Ty call my name from the other side of the basement, near Lilith’s bedroom.”
“How?” I said, confused.
“We assumed there must have been a delay in the feed that we hadn’t recognized before. So I got up and walked around the stairs towards Lilith’s bedroom. Mind you, the basement was pitch black. We had an electric lantern and the light from the computer screens at command center, but all of the lights in the house were out.
“I had a small flashlight and I made my way towards the bedroom slowly, I called out to Ty with no answer back, but I thought maybe he was concentrating on something or needed help. Something made me stop right in the doorway, it was, well, sheer terror.
“I froze, I wanted to call out to Maurice but I couldn’t. I was able to whisper Ty’s name again and just as I did something growled in my left ear. It said, ‘He’s dead.’”
“What?” I demanded, horrified.
“I knew, I knew right then, I mean I knew that Ty was in danger. I screamed and jumped into Lilith’s bedroom, away from that voice. I spun around so that my back wasn’t to the door and just as I heard Maurice call out to me from the other side of the basement there was this low growl from the doorway. I backed up and tripped over the bed and fell down. I screamed again and saw Maurice’s flashlight beam in the hallway. I called to him to be careful and ran out to meet him. I dragged him up the basement steps, calling out to Ty the whole time.
“He was fine, of course, but I just knew we were in trouble there. Just as we were explaining what happened, Patricia rushes down the stairs from the second floor and goes, ‘There is a fucking goat standing in the middle of the backyard. It’s staring up at the house. I just saw it out the window.’”
“Oh my God,” I said with a nervous laugh. “What a nightmare.”
“It was. I refused to let Ty out of my sight after that. We left the cameras rolling and stayed together in the family room. By the time morning came we’d decided to tell the family we were packing up to go and I intended to contact a priest to have him come and do a complete exorcism of the property immediately.
“We had everything packed up by the time Laura came to check on us that morning at ten o’clock. She was pissed. She called us amateurs and phonies who couldn’t even stay in her home long enough to give her a straight answer. I tried to explain, but she wouldn’t listen. I tried a million times to contact her that following week, I had a priest on call to come whenever she would allow it, but she only took my call once. She told me that the activity in the house had been much worse since we left and that she was disgusted with herself for allowing us into her home. Then she hung up on me.”
“Honestly,” I said, “That is so bizarre, because when the Arnolds contacted me they wanted me to put them in touch with an exorcist. At the time I felt awful that I couldn’t help them. They had misunderstood that I was only recording hauntings in Wellesley. But why wouldn’t they just call you and ask you guys to do that?”
“I don’t know. I think that poor woman felt like we abandoned her and her family by leaving early. I know she could tell how terrified we all were that morning and it probably scared the hell out of her. Which was the last thing she needed. Maybe I could have handled it better but I was so freaked out that all I wanted to do was get out of that house.
“We did review the evidence though, and in addition to all of our personal experiences in that house our cameras recorded those tapping noises Ty and Maurice reported, a kitchen chair slid out by itself on the first night, then the closet door in the master bedroom opened – also by itself – the second night of investigation, and the camera in the kitchen caught a crystal clear EVP. It didn’t mean anything to me until I read that story you wrote in Wellesley Weston magazine and I happened to see your name.”
Noc took out a small square digital recorder with headphones and slid them across the table to me. She said, “This was recorded on that second night in the house. Ty was pursuing a line of questions with the entity. He’d recorded what we assume was a demon ask, ‘Where is the scribe?’ And then,” she paused, “Well, here, listen. You’ll hear Ty’s question, there will be a few moments of silence and then tell me what you think the voice says back to him.”
I put the earbuds in, picked up the recorder and pressed ‘play.’ I heard a man’s voice, presumably Ty, ask ‘Who is the scribe?’ then there was silence for about five seconds and a low growly voice answered, ‘Elizabeth….. Sower.’
I yanked the earbuds out. My ears and fingertips tingling like they do before I have a panic attack.
“What in the hell?” I demanded. “No way. You made that,” I insisted, hopefully, “I’ll give it to you, it’s creepy. But there is absolutely no way that you could have recorded that.”
“It’s real,” she insisted quietly, “I’m sorry.”
My mind racing I picked up the earbuds and said, “Play it for me again.”
She did. It was scarier the second time.
We stared at each other for a moment.
“Alright, let’s say I’m willing to entertain the idea that this recording is real,” I said, “What in the hell does it mean? The scribe?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Noc said, excitedly.
“But I wasn’t even interviewing people when you all were investigating that house, really, the Arnolds were one of my first interviews and it happened months after you were there.”
“They’re diabolical. Time is different to them,” she said, referring to the demons in the Arnold’s home.
I slumped in my chair and said, “I don’t know what to think.”
“Well, I think you’d better watch your back,” Noc advised.
“Great,” I said, sarcastically.
Noc turned her head to watch a group of women walk by. A blur of Chloe bags, white skinny jeans and flawless skin.
“This town,” she said, under her breath.
“What about this town?” I asked.
“It’s just a weird place, full up with type A pretty ponies,” she replied with a laugh.
“I happen to know two of those pretty ponies,” I said. “I volunteer at the food pantry every week with one of them. Every week, in her own free time, she bakes cookies or pastries for the clients to snack on while they wait in line for their turn to fill their baskets with free groceries. And the other one, with the amazing eyelashes? She started a diaper bank out of her home. I just read that she fully supplied 245 Massachusetts families with diapers last year. And, I mean, I don’t know the other girl with them, but if she’s running with that crowd, she came to play.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to be a jerk,” Noc began.
“I know, and I don’t mean to be defensive. You’re right. This is a weird town and there are a lot of, what did you call them? ‘Type A pretty ponies?’” I laughed, “But most of them use their privilege for good. Maybe that’s why they’re drawn here, to balance out all this darkness. Maybe they’ll end up saving us all.”
I smiled to myself imagining a bunch of highlighted, Bar Theory’d Wellesley women chasing demons down Central Street in their LuluLemon workout gear and Lily dresses.
“Point taken,” Noc Conceded. “Do you want to keep this?” She asked, holding out the recorder.
“Absolutely not,” I said immediately.
“But it’s hard proof that this shit is real,” she argued.
“That’s the last fucking thing I need,” I replied.