“Are you hearing anything now?” Adam asked excitedly.
I told him I hadn’t and that I usually didn’t, that it was a rare occurrence as of late. It was a lie. As I’d watched the man and his fiancé walk through Quebrada’s front door Claire had cautioned, “Be careful with those two.”
The truth was that Claire had stuck around after that night in Smith and Wollensky’s when I’d broken the news of her freedom to the three witches who’d bound her in between. After that night she’d told me that there had been a chance to move on and her boyfriend had taken it but she had chosen to stay behind. She said Wellesley was just getting good and that I was just getting started.
The dead were speaking, but not very often and when they did it wasn’t all that informative or helpful. Claire’s voice rose above the rest and when she felt like it she could be rather chatty. But she was respectful when I needed space and irritatingly silent when I needed an answer.
But as far as Adam Harrison and his wife to be, Jessica Heng, were concerned it was neither here nor there. The twenty-somethings had been drilling me about the blog and the people I’d interviewed for about ten minutes and I didn’t much care for being on the other end of an inquiry.
I attempted to take charge of the conversation. “How long have the two of you lived in Wellesley?”
The couple side-eyed each other and Jessica fielded the question. “We moved from the Back Bay about a month ago.”
“My husband and I lived on Marlborough Street for a while when we were your age, I loved it.”
Adam’s smile didn’t meet his eyes. “The city’s great, but things were getting too-”
“We needed a change of scenery,” Jessica finished for him.
“Well, good for you,” I said dumbly. “Did you guys grow up in the area?”
Nope. Jessica was from New Hampshire, Adam from Pennsylvania.
Perhaps I was projecting my own hesitation to leave Boston, but I wanted to know why this painfully hip couple had moved themselves out to one of the most suburban of suburban communities when they could be living in a cool apartment in the city. But I wasn’t sure how to ask. And they weren’t giving any details.
“So, Biddy’s still coming, right?” Adam asked.
“Oh, yeah. She’ll be here,” I affirmed.
Adam had contacted me through the blog, he said that he was a “huge fan” of the stories and that he’d recently turned his fiancé onto them. In his email, Adam described her as a “paranormal enthusiast” and said that they’d encountered something on an overnight in a famous haunted location he was “looking for insight about next steps in dealing with the fallout from that night.”
Initially, I hesitated to reply to the email. Something felt off from the get-go but a back and forth exchange with him made me feel that the couple truly was looking for advice about how to handle whatever it was that had been happening to them since they’d visited what Adam had described as the “second most haunted place in the United States.”
We agreed to meet at Quebrada on a Thursday morning.
“One more thing,” Adam wrote, “Do you think you could ask Biddy to come? We’re in it sort of deep and I’d appreciate hearing her opinion too.” I told him I’d ask.
I broached the topic on a morning walk. We’d gotten in the habit of walking around Lake Waban once a week after dropping the kids off at school. On that particular day it was freezing cold and I was in no mood to embrace an active lifestyle.
“It’s a couple who say they visited some famous haunted place and have been having problems ever since,” I huffed, trying as always to keep up with my athletic friend.
“An attachment?” Biddy guessed.
“I don’t know,” I said, conserving my breath.
“If people had any idea how dangerous it is to visit those places they wouldn’t step foot near them.”
“Really?” I said, forcing out my words. “I thought they were all hype and orbs.”
“Some are just fluff, but some are the real deal. Did he say where they went exactly?”
“Second most haunted place in the country,” I replied.
Biddy considered for a moment. “So these jackasses either went to an old prison or an asylum,” she declared.
“We went to an abandoned insane asylum in upstate New York,” Jessica admitted, “Adam wants to hear your friend Biddy’s professional opinion of the place.”
I sucked air through my teeth but forced a smile.
“That bad, huh?” Adam asked slumping in his chair.
I nodded and sipped my coffee. Willing Biddy to appear.
While we waited for my friend to arrive we chatted about the couple’s favorite area restaurants. Chris and I have a sitter every Thursday night, have for the past few years, and we never deviate from our three favorites – well favorite is a stretch, we don’t deviate from the three closest restaurants in town. I think it’s boring in the safest most lovely way but other people tend to find us boring in the most predictable, well, boring way. Jessica and Adam found it predictable boring and I could tell they felt bad for me. This suburban wife, aging along and looking forward to her one night out a week. Well, joke was on them. To me, getting old and boring is such a relief.
Finally, Biddy arrived. She breezed in in her usual fashion, dropping her coat, hat and mittens on the table before bounding over to the counter for a coffee.
Jessica and Adam sat taller in their chairs when Biddy joined us. I hid a smile over her effect on them. If they were even a tiny bit full of shit she was going to eat them alive.
“So, what’ve we got here? An attachment?” She asked bluntly.
The couple was visibly shocked.
“We’re not exactly sure what’s happening,” Jessica hedged.
Biddy looked at me pointedly. “You guys visited some famous haunted prison or something, right? And now you’re having trouble in your home?”
Adam spoke up, “It was [the name of the haunted location omitted due to the location’s strict requirements regarding articles written about the property. Going forward I’ll refer to it as The Asylum].”
Biddy let out a low whistle as I exclaimed, “Not really! You guys actually went there?”
“You know about it?” Jessica asked, and in that short sentence I heard her implied surprise that someone as lame as me could have anything in common with her.
“Of course I do, I mean not to toot my own horn, but I have, like a PhD in reality ghost hunting shows. That place is really dark,” I said.
Adam looked at his partner, “See, I told you she knew all about this stuff.” Jessica looked skeptical.
“So you’ve watched a couple of television shows, that doesn’t mean you can help us,” she snapped.
“Maybe, but Biddy is an ex-professional paranormal investigator,” I pointed out defensively. “Not only that, she works with the Catholic Church to determine exorcism eligibility.” I stopped myself from adding, And, I have learned a lot from those ghost hunting shows.
“What brought the two of you to The Asylum?” Biddy asked calmly.
Jessica crossed her arms tightly over her chest. Her dark shiny hair cascaded over one shoulder, her cashmere sweater looking expensive and judgy the way only quality cashmere can.
Adam gave her a nervous look, he began to speak but Jessica beat him to the punch. “I’ve just always been interested in the paranormal, you know? I watch all those shows too,” she said, giving me a pointed look. “But I did some actual ghost hunting when I was a teenager in abandoned houses, and Adam knew that I like that stuff so when our friend got married in Rochester I mentioned that The Asylum was close by and Adam surprised me with a private overnight ghost hunt.”
“I had no idea what I was getting us into,” Adam added guiltily, “I completely misread the situation. I was expecting a haunted inn.”
“Did the two of you sleep there?” Biddy asked.
“We didn’t get much sleep,” Adam replied.
Biddy sighed loudly, “But you did treat The Asylum as though it were a bed and breakfast?”
“Pretty much,” Adam replied, looking guilty. “But it was a big night for us,” he grabbed his fiancé’s right hand and gave it a squeeze.
Jessica held up her free hand to show us sparkly diamond ring.
My eyebrows shot up before I could stop them from doing so. “You got engaged there?”
“Right before we went in, I got down on one knee and proposed,” Adam said, proudly.
“Look, I know it probably sounds weird, but Adam knew how much I love haunted places, it was really romantic,” Jessica explained.
“Sure. So were you guys a part of a tour group, or…” I trailed off trying to figure out exactly what these two had been up to.
“No, I paid the owner so we could have the place to ourselves,” Adam replied.
“Are you into ghost hunting too?” I asked, shocked.
“No, but I mean I like horror movies, so…”
“Let me get this straight, the owner of the The Asylum allowed the two of you to stay alone on the property for the entire night?” Biddy asked in disbelief.
The couple nodded in sync.
“I’m really surprised at that,” she said, crossing her legs.
“I don’t understand why you guys are so shocked and offended by all of this,” Jessica said cooly.
“Because it’s shocking,” I said simply.
“It’s not that we’re offended,” Biddy added with another sigh, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to give you a hard time, your story is bringing out the know-it-all mother in me. I apologize.”
“I didn’t realize what a huge deal it was that we stayed there overnight all by ourselves,” Adam said with obvious concern.
“It really wasn’t that big of a deal,” Jessica complained.
“Well, something must have happened, or you wouldn’t have contacted Liz,” Biddy reasoned.
The couple side-eyed each other again.
Jessica spoke. “We saw some stuff, yeah. I mean, I know this is all my fault, but-”
“Let’s go back, walk us through what happened that night, start to finish,” I interrupted, impatiently.
Jessica gave me a look, then said, “Adam told me before we left for our friend’s wedding that he’d rented out The Asylum for us. We’d have the place to ourselves overnight from seven to seven Sunday evening through Monday morning. I was thrilled, it was beyond anything I could have imagined. So I started researching the place, I’d seen it on Ghost Hunters, and Ghost Adventures, oh, and The Ghosts Detectives went there too, so I was pretty familiar with the place. I re-watched all the episodes and made a list of hotspots that we couldn’t miss. And I actually reached out to T.A.P.S. to ask them exactly what gear I should bring with me. The guy who emailed me back was super helpful, if a bit condescending, he thought I was in over my head, but whatever.
“I got a hold of the floor plans and ordered the suggested gear off Amazon. I felt we were prepared for anything.”
“We packed a blow up mattress and sleeping bags too,” Adam added.
“Well, it sounds like you really knew what you were doing,” Biddy said to Jessica.
The woman shrugged, “Yeah, well like I said, I did some amateur ghost hunting in high school and I’ve always wanted to explore a famous haunt. This was my chance.”
“What’s that guy’s name, the tall one, the shadow figure people always see there…” I asked, wracking my brain.
“Roy?” Jessica said with a smile.
“God, you didn’t make contact with him did you?” I exclaimed.
Jessica’s smile disappeared and her face went steely.
Adam shifted in his seat, “Um, yeah I think we did. We got a couple of EVPs of a guy answering our questions. Uh, we didn’t record any visual evidence though, right babe?” He asked, putting his arm around the back of Jessica’s chair.
She blinked and looked over at him. “Uh, no. Nothing on tape.”
I waited for them to continue but they sat. Adam looking concerned, Jessica looking a little confused.
“So, then what?” I prompted.
“Well, things weren’t happening like I’d hoped,” Jessica said slowly. “Sure, we got a few Class-A EVPs that may have been Roy, but other than that the place was quiet. I didn’t want to miss my chance, I just wanted to really experience something that night, you know?”
“What did you do?” Biddy asked, her voice almost sad.
“Adam was such a good sport about it,” she turned and smiled at her fiancé, “He even agreed to this little ritual thing that I put together.”
“Here we go,” I said.
“What kind of a ritual?” Biddy asked with another sigh.
“It was just-” Jessica faltered. “I had this idea, you know? Like that we should mark the occasion, and I made a little ritual out of it. I hoped it would be like an offering, that it might sort of, like turn the place on.”
I grimaced. Adam said quickly, “It wasn’t like we drank each other’s blood out of wine glasses.”
I blanched, “That’s not what I was picturing at all, but yikes. What exactly did you do?”
“It was nothing. We gave ourselves little stick and poke tattoos, that’s all.” Jessica pushed up her sleeve and showed us the inside of her wrist. On it was an obviously amateur tattoo of a triangle.
I was speechless. This preppy woman marked herself and her fiancé with homemade tattoos on an old abandoned, dirty insane asylum. It didn’t add up.
Adam held out his arm to show us the triangle on his inner wrist. His was slightly different, it was upside down and it had a circle around it.
“What in God’s name would possess you to do that?” Biddy asked.
Jessica’s face fell. She looked down at the table. Adam watched her nervously.
“We thought it was romantic,” he offered.
“Kind of unhygienic though, yeah?” I said. “But, um I guess I kind of understand why you would want to do something to call out the paranormal activity. It just sounds so extreme.” I was shocked by the change in Jessica, worried that Biddy had been to harsh.
“Was that it? You just gave each other those little tattoos, you didn’t do anything else to, what did you call it? ‘Turn on the location?’” Biddy asked, obviously skeptical.
“Jess did some work with her Ouija board,” Adam admitted.
“By yourself?” Biddy asked the woman.
“Oh, God,” I said. “And then what happened?”
Jessica looked me square in the face. Her eyes fixed on mine, her lips pursed. I met her gaze for a moment but looked away, over to Adam and when I glanced back her way she looked furious.
Adam cleared his throat and put his hand over Jessica’s on the table. “Yeah, so it was really scary.” Jessica looked down at his hand then back up at me, before looking down again.
“What was really scary?” I asked warily.
“Uh,” Adam said, nervously. “Well, we’d set ourselves up for the night in the electrotherapy room.”
I made a noise of disbelief.
Adam pressed on, “I got to work setting up the blow up mattress and everything while Jess, you did your thing with the board, right babe?” She tilted her head slightly in assent, he continued. “Uh, yeah, so while you were doing that-”
Biddy cut off Adam’s nervous description of the night. “Sounds like you must be pretty familiar with a Ouija board.”
“It’s just another way to connect with the other side. I use voice recorders, electromagnetic sensors and other tools to connect with spirits. The board is no different, it’s gotten a bad rap with people who don’t understand it. But that’s their problem, they’re missing out on an excellent way to gather information and make real connection with the dead.”
“Who did you connect with that night?” Biddy asked.
Jessica considered for a moment. “One of my spirit guides was there, he’s a Native American chief who has advised me many times in the past and there were a couple of residents who’d lived in The Asylum that came through.”
“What did they have to say?” Biddy prompted.
Jessica shrugged. “They told me their names and ages and I asked if they felt trapped, which they did. I asked them if there was anything else in The Asylum besides people who have not properly crossed over and,” Jessica glanced at Adam, “That’s when things got a little intense.”
“The heavy footsteps started up on the floor above our heads, I’m not going to lie, it scared the hell out of me. I don’t know what freaked me out more, though, the idea that it was a ghost doing it or the chance that it might be an actual person up there. We were in such a secluded place. All of a sudden it occurred to me how dumb it was for us to be there by ourselves,” Adam admitted.
“The vibe completely shifted, it’s true. It began to feel unsafe, but it was the spirits who were creating the atmosphere, not anyone living. We were safe, for the most part. I did see shadows at the edge of the room, though, or it might have just been one shadow lurking around, but it was something,” Jessica said.
“We finally dozed off around three, the footsteps were still happening above us but we were too exhausted to stay up.”
“Didn’t it occur to you to just leave?” I asked.
Adam glanced at Jessica. She said, “Why would we do that? We’d come to witness paranormal activity, I wasn’t going to walk out when something that incredible was happening right there in front of us.”
“I woke up for some reason when it was just starting to get light out and that’s when I saw him.” Adam said, shifting nervously in his seat. “I turned over in bed to face Jessica and there was a man there, standing at the head of our blow up mattress, he was sort of bent over her with his face over hers and he was moving his mouth like he was talking but I couldn’t hear what he was saying. I couldn’t tell if I was dreaming or not so I reached out to touch Jess, and the guy turned to look at me. His face was, well he looked like a Halloween mask, like the scariest old man monster mask I’ve ever seen and I screamed which woke Jess up and he disappeared and, babe I didn’t tell you this. But when you woke up you said, ‘How dare you? We were almost done.’”
“What?” Jessica said. “I don’t remember that, why didn’t you tell me?” The woman’s defensiveness dropped and I saw fear in her for the first time since we’d begun talking about their night in The Asylum.
“Since then,” Biddy asked quickly, “What have you experienced?”
“Well, we started hearing those heavy footsteps on the ceiling in our apartment as soon as we got back home, but our place was on the top floor. So it wasn’t a neighbor or anything walking around on the roof,” Adam said.
“And I began seeing the shadow soon after we got back home too,” Jessica admitted. “It slinks around and sort of morphs up from the ground behind you. You feel it tower over you and then when you turn around it, like darts away.”
“You see it too?” I asked Adam. He nodded.
“So you guys moved to try to get away from it?” Biddy asked.
Jessica nodded. “Yeah, but it’s only made it worse. I think we were safer in the city surrounded by so many people, you know? But in the house, we’re just sort of isolated and I think it feels safer there to express itself, or whatever.”
“I did some research online and there are thousands of people who go ghost hunting in places like The Asylum but they don’t bring anything home with them. I don’t understand what we did wrong,” Adam complained.
Biddy held out her hand and counted down on her fingers, “You slept overnight in an extremely haunted location that is fairly accepted to be demonically influenced, thus allowing the entity access to your subconscious as you slept. You,” she said nodding in Jess’s direction, “opened yourself completely with a Ouija Board, and you did an ancient bloodletting ritual-”
“Wait, now that is a bit extreme,” Adam insisted. “We just gave each other stupid little tattoos.”
“Tattooing is an ancient act of bloodletting. I’m sure you were aware of that,” again, Biddy nodded towards Jessica. “That was the whole point, wasn’t it? And did you even notice that if you were to lay your two tattoos over each other they create a pentagram?” Biddy spat. I could tell she’d left you jackass off the end of the sentence.
Jessica let out a bark of laughter then clapped her hand over her mouth.
We all stared at her. “Sorry,” she said, looking horrified. “I don’t know why I laughed, I guess I’m nervous.”
To fill the ensuing silence I said, “Is that true about your tattoos? Jesus, guys what are you playing at?”
Jessica shoved her seat back from the table abruptly. Startled I said, “Whoa, are you okay?”
She stood and made a beeline to the bathroom at the back of the bakery.
“Babe,” Adam called, his voice filled with worry and warning, but she didn’t respond. To me he said, “You have to stop doing that.”
“Doing what?” I asked nervously.
“Mentioning God,” he ran both hands through his hair roughly. “Look, I needed you both to see her, to find out if I’m just overreacting. But you saw how she act whenever anyone mentions God or Jesus or whatever, right? And sometimes she just does that now, laughs at inappropriate times. I, well, a couple of nights ago I woke up and found that she wasn’t in the bed beside me. So, I got up to look for her, because, well, because I’m worried about her and I found her downstairs staring at our basement door. I was like, ‘Babe, it’s the middle of the night, what are you doing?’ She wouldn’t look at me so I was about to say something else when I heard our dog. I could hear his nails clicking on the stairs on the other side of the door. ‘What the fuck, Jess?’ I said and pushed past her to open the door and let Fenway out. I think she, like, locked him down there for some reason. I don’t know. It sounds insane but I think, I think she might be, you know-” he looked at us, pleadingly.
“You think she’s possessed,” Biddy said.
He nodded gratefully, “Yeah, I really do. I thought, I mean I hoped that moving out of the city would solve the problem. Like maybe it was just a coincidence and the apartment was haunted, right? But it’s only gotten worse.”
“Wait, she doesn’t know you think she’s possessed?” I asked in a low voice, suddenly aware of a table full of mom’s from my daughter’s elementary school near us.
“No,” Adam said quickly.
“What does she think we’re here to help you with? A haunting?” Biddy asked.
“She’s just as freaked out as I am, when she’s, you know herself. But she thinks it’s a ghost or something that followed us back. I told her you guys would put us in touch with a ghost hunting team that could clear our house.”
“I suppose I could get clearance from the Church for a pre-interview,” Biddy said, considering the options.
“But couldn’t this be her pre-interview or whatever?” Adam asked, sounding panicked. “Isn’t this enough to get her an exorcism? I don’t know how much more I can take and I seriously don’t know what she’s capable of at this point.”
“Yeah, I guess I could treat this as an interview,” Biddy turned to me, “Can I have your audio recording once your done transcribing this?”
“Sure,” I replied.
“The thing is, Adam, you have to tell her,” Biddy said firmly.
“Tell her what?” Jessica said, gracefully taking her seat.
We fell into an awkward silence.
“Is there something you need to tell me, Adam?” She asked in a low voice.
“Babe,” he said in what was close to a whine. “It’s just…”
Biddy jumped in, “Adam was just telling us that you haven’t been yourself since you returned from your overnight in The Asylum. Would you agree?”
“I may be a little on edge,” Jessica conceded, “But so have you, Adam.” She was calm. Too calm.
“Since you left The Asylum, have there been any instances where you might not quite remember everything clearly?” Biddy asked. “Adam mentioned an incident in which you found yourself in front of your basement door in the middle of the night.”
“Oh. Is that what Adam mentioned?” Jessica went stony. Her eyes squinted slightly, almost in amusement but she looked furious.
“Babe, I just think that maybe there might possibly be, like, something else going on besides just a haunting at our place, right?”
She stared at him icily.
“No one thinks you’re at fault,” I tried to reason. “I mean you did do that ritual thing, but you weren’t asking to be possessed or anything.”
“Wasn’t I?” She said, still looking at Adam.
“Oh,” I said dumbly. “Well, were you? Were you asking to be possessed?”
“What do you think, Liz?” She said, her tone mocking. “You’ve interviewed enough freaks. What’s your expert opinion?”
I met her gaze straight on. “I think you’ve got a big problem on your hands.”
“I’ll refer you to one of my contacts at the Church,” Biddy said directly to Adam.
“Not interested,” Jessica said, her voice low and deep.
“Jess,” Adam said, shocked.
“Fuck off, Adam, and stop whining. It’s pathetic.” With that she took off her engagement ring and plopped it into her fiancé’s coffee cup. “I’ll see you two around,” she said looking carefully at Biddy and then at me.
Then she got up and walked out the front door without looking back.