ghosts in the burbs

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

unnamed-1I did the right thing. I pulled one of those awkward K turns and followed Lindsay back to her house. I’m sure you can imagine her response when I pulled my ginormous car into the driveway behind her Mercedes SUV. Her initial, “Um, excuse me but I think you have the wrong house,” was followed by obvious annoyance and then alarm when I insisted that she not go into her home.

Maddeningly, Lindsay began repeating, “Maam, I feel unsafe,” over and over no matter what I said. So I finally yelled, “Lindsay, shut up. I just spent forty-five minutes in your sunroom talking to the monster that came with the pearl necklace you bought at auction.” She shut up. Eventually I was able to convince her to follow me to the Starbucks in Linden Square. Biddy met us and took it from there, but not before she revelled in an “I told you so” moment.

You guys, I talked to a monster and it cured my insomnia. I feel great. Whoever left that fake voodoo doll in my home can bring it. I talked to a monster for fuck’s sake. And now people are coming out of the woodwork to tell me their stories.

It’s awesome.

It’s terrible.

I admit, it’s getting a little out of control. But I haven’t had this much purpose, this much drive in a long time and I’ll take it. I’m OK with the minutia of daily life because there is something wonderfully terrifying happening and I’m in it. My childhood dreams are coming true. Though instead of Nancy Drew I think I’ve willed myself into the Bess role. Biddy might be George, or maybe she’s Nancy. I don’t know, let’s not overthink it. At any rate, it’s October, our high holy season, so I’m leaning in.


However, I do have one confession to make. I’ve been going to yoga. It turns out it’s worth the hype. I’ve heard for years that it would help my back but it sounded too damn boring to even consider. In reality it’s quite entertaining. I love the way the instructors talk. They say things like, “Now, reach your arm back and grab your toes, but only if they’re available to you,” and “Bring your leg into tree pose. You are rooted, you are strong. You are a tree. Now reach, reach to the sky and listen. What is the sky telling you?” It is really quite lovely.

So, I was in a class last Friday when the instructor, Alston (a silver fox type who could have been anywhere between forty-seven and seventy-seven years old), ended the class and we did that thing where you relax for ten minutes – which really is so incredibly relaxing – and then as everyone was rolling up their yoga mats he asked, “Has anyone heard about this blog of Wellesley hauntings.”

I gasped, and he looked right at me and said, “You’ve read it!” Before I could answer a woman in the back row called out, “My girlfriends and I drive ourselves crazy trying to figure out where all the houses are!” Another woman chimed in, “I only made it halfway through one story, it was too scary.” A third said, “Are they really true?”

I listened, shifty eyed and wishing that I could make like a tree pose and leave as three of my classmates debated the probability of the blog’s authenticity. The instructor chimed in here and there as the rest of the class whipped out their cell phones and googled the blog.

“Have you read it?” He asked me. I froze for a moment before admitting, “I’m Liz.”

He yelled. He yelled in the small, peaceful yoga room, “The universe is a bewildering tease! I knew we were meant to meet!”

Pandamonium, the kind that can only break out after middle aged women have been lead in a calming practice by an incredibly good-looking older gentleman, broke out. There were “Oh my God’s,” and “Who is Liz’s” and some shaking heads. There were questions, one about Mattie Payne, another about my St. Benedict medal.

A suburban women’s exercise class is a sure fire way to disseminate information. I’d been found out. It was exciting and scary and overwhelming and the instructor wanted me to come to his house for advice about an “ethereal conundrum.” He’d consulted his spirit guides, and my blog came up in three different synchronicities; a conversation, a business card, and a gut feeling to mention the blog in class that morning. He’d made up his mind to contact me that afternoon but that still small voice moved him to mention the blog after class.

“The universe delivered you in my moment of need,” he declared.

He insisted that we seize the opportunity our spirit guides had gifted us. I was high on relaxation fumes  and I wasn’t due to relieve Kat’s babysitter for another hour and a half so I agreed. He unhooked his phone from the speaker and called his wife in front of me.

“Siggy! Spirit answered. You’ll never believe who is coming over. That woman Liz from my dream… No, no the other one, the one from the blog.”

Okay, that was a sizeable red flag (I mean, how many women did this guy dream about?) but I found him so earnest and enthusiastic that I couldn’t wait to hear what the old hippie had to say. And these weren’t strangers, I knew his wife, Sigourney. She was an instructor at the studio too and I’d taken her class several times. She was prone to over sharing about past physical ailments of the gastrointestinal kind. Clean eating and bone broth had been her dual saviors and she preached their magical healing properties. Yes, I tried them, it didn’t stick. Anyhow, I went ahead and got into my car and followed my yoga instructor to his home.

Alston and Sigourney Mercer lived in an enormous mansion. The real old-fashioned kind, with groundskeepers and maids. It was a mammoth brick house set far back from Pond Road on Lake Waban (whose banks the Mercer’s shared with Wellesley College). The property was all trees and landscaping in front and wide open rolling green lawn extending gently down to the lake in back. I parked behind Alston in the driveway and followed him up wide, leaf strewn steps to the front door.

Once inside, we set our shoes (pricey leather flip flops, his and slide on cheap Champion sneakers from Amazon, mine) neatly onto a cowhide print mat. As I took off my rain jacket, Alston rang a large gong standing to the right of the doorway. Naturally, I screamed and crouched down on the ground.

“I’m sorry if I startled you,” he said softly. “As I’ve progressed in my practice I’ve become prone to absorbing other people’s energies, both emotional and physical. I’ve adopted this practice to scatter the energy that attaches to me during class.” He considered me for a moment. “Did the tightness I was feeling in my lower left back belong to you?”

I stared at him and stood back up.

“I thought so,” he nodded his head knowingly. “I can feel that your body is beginning to let it go, you’ve learned what you needed to from the pain. Just be patient as your body catches up with your mind.”

Sigourney saved me from a reply as she walked out of their immense open concept kitchen towards us. Her hair in a long braid down her back she wore an an oversized grey cashmere sweater and grey yoga pants. Her feet were bare. My best guess pegged Sigourney somewhere in her mid-forties though clean eating and Botox may have shaved off a few years.

“I knew there was something special about you,” she declared softly. “Alston often has meaningful dreams but this one seemed especially powerful.”

“Thanks for inviting me over,” I replied, dodging her comment. “Your home is beautiful.”

“Are you allergic to dogs?” She asked.

“No, thank God,” I replied.

“Baci! Bella! Come.”

Two glorious dogs entered the scene from stage left.

“What!” I gushed idiotically.

“Our silly Goldendoodles,” Sigourney said lovingly, as I bent down to scruff their huge curly-q heads.

“Let’s sit in the cove,” Alston suggested, smiling down at the dogs.

“The Cove” was an area in their kitchen. It contained the largest couch I’ve ever seen, a big half circular thing in soft grey leather. It’s shape mirrored by the outward bend of a window-lined wall overlooking the lake. It seemed that every home I’d been to lately had incredible views. In the “baby belt” (the part of town in which I lived) the only vista was of hodgepodge fences and toy strewn yards.

We sat, Alston and Sigourney at the couch’s apex (her legs draped over his lap) me to their left (wedged between the two hundred-pound dogs who guarded me on either side like stone lions).

“So, what can I help you with?” I asked wishing we could just talk about the dogs.

“Well, I fear we’ve gotten in a little bit over our heads,” Sigourney replied sheepishly. It was my first time experiencing a sheepish attitude. Turns out it’s like obscenity, you know it when you see it and it makes you distinctly uncomfortable.

“Siggy is in touch with Spirit,” Alston declared.

“Okay,” I said slowly.

“It’s true, through meditation I’ve opened my mind so that I am in a constant feedback loop with my spirit guides,” she explained.

“And that’s good?” I guessed.

“Absolutely, but,” she hesitated looking to Alston for reassurance, “Well, recently there’s been a lapse in communication. Some new energy came on the scene and it was very positive at first-”

“Indeed, by all appearances they were good spirits. You see, Siggy’s abilities are a blessing, and she has worked hard to-“

“Manage them,” Sigourney cut in. “But something happened. These new ‘energies’ caused me to completely lose touch with my spirit guides. It’s besides the point, though I could really use their guidance right now, but I think they were chased away.”

“By whom?” I asked, mentally patting myself on the back for using the word whom and then immediately panicking that I hadn’t used it properly.

Alston released a deep breath, “The fairies.”

I pinched my lips together willing myself not to giggle.

Rubbing Sigourney’s foot absently Alston said, “They are not what they initially presented.”

Stalling until I could trust myself to speak, I blinked slowly and nodded my head. Then I asked, “So they were nice to you at first but now they are causing problems.”

“To put it lightly,” Alston confirmed.

As Alston took another deep breath Sigourney launched into an explanation, “We have many spirits here with us. I’ve always been open to that, you know, open to the other world’s alongside ours. But since I’ve been meditating upon intentionally opening myself up further I’ve begun to attract [dramatic pause] other things. There have been a few negative encounters, but before the fairies came my spirit guides always enveloped me in a golden light of protection.”

“Hmm,” I said, meaning Oh, for fuck’s sake.

“I’m not a medium or anything,” Sigourney continued. “I am just in tune with the energies that surround us and I’ve been gifted with the ability to read other people’s energy fields.”

If that were true then she must have seen my energy field turn cloudy and dark. I don’t dig people who claim this ability. If it’s true then it’s intrusive, if they’re lying or are just good at picking up on other people’s moods then making this magical claim is manipulative at best.

I changed the subject. “Can you see ghosts?”

“Oh sure,” she replied as though that were a given.

“So you’re intuitive and you can see ghosts and sense otherworldly energies. Then you’re a medium,” I pointed out.

“Well, I suppose you could say I’m a self-taught medium, not a natural one.”

“Okay, what about the fairies, can you see them?” I asked, looking back and forth between the couple’s concerned faces.

“Yes,” they replied in unison.

One of the dogs gave up sitting and collapsed on the couch, dropping it’s massive head on my lap. I really just wanted to talk about the dogs. “So what have the fairies done to make you think they are bad?” I asked.

“They weren’t bad at first,” Sigourney replied defensively. “They were nice and, sort of playful. When I experienced them the first time in my meditation they were like little orbs of light in a rainbow of brilliant colors. They became more actualized the more I noticed them and over time they began to take shape.” She looked over at Alston guiltily.

“Can you see them too?” I asked.

He nodded his head seriously.

“They look like tiny little stick figures now, about two feet tall, and-” Sigourney hesitated, “They’ve lost those brilliant hues.

“They remind me of tiny birch trees,” Alston added, “Their weird heads are sort of a part of their bodies if that makes any sense.”

It did in a really creepy way.

“I invited them into our world, into our home. They were just so sweet in my meditations and I intuitively knew that they wanted to bring me gifts.”


“Yes, they told me they had been attracted to my open vibrations and if I were to give them safe harbor they would bring blessings that I had never even dreamed of.”

Oh man, I thought. “Where’d they come from?” I asked.

“They said they came from the woods but you really can’t believe anything they say,” Sigourney replied with a nervous laugh.

“That’s where I first encountered them,” Alston explained. “In the woods around the house. Siggy had told me all about them, it was exciting. We thought… well we first met at a yoga retreat and we connected over our shared interest in energy work. I truly believe that if we can just get out of our own way, there are energies that we can tap into that will completely heal and help us.”

“You mean like Reiki?” I asked.

“Not exactly,” Alston replied slowly. “Yes, indeed there is space for energies to heal people of their diseases, and that is wonderful. But that is not our calling. We are interested in tapping into energies in the universe to strengthen and guide us along our path to fulfilling our life purpose.”

I wasn’t following.

“We wanted to tap into the power of the universe,” Alston said trying to explain.

I still wasn’t following.

“We thought we could manifest everything we ever wanted if we could just align ourselves with the one true source of universal power.”

“Like the Secret,” I said.

“No,” Sigourney said, obviously offended. “That is abundance work. It’s beginner level. We were looking to find something to bring us up to the highest vibration possible.”

“Like the fairies?” I guessed, completely confused.

“Not specifically the fairies, but I cast a wide net in my meditation and they showed up. And they told me they could do for us what we could not do for ourselves. They would deliver our dreams to us if we would feed them,” Sigourney admitted.

“Oh God, please tell me they don’t eat small animals or something,” I pleaded.

No, nothing like that. It was energy, emotional energy they wanted. It was a trade off, you see. They guided good fortune and positive events to us and in turn we allowed them to feed off our energy.”

I shook my head. I didn’t completely understand what the hell they were talking about but I got enough to know it was a bad idea.

I decided to get away from the airy fairy talk and back onto firm footing. I said, “Okay, so you saw them in the woods?”

“Yes,” Alston replied quickly. “I was practicing Tai Chi in the yard one morning,” he motioned towards a spot in the woods that lined the yard. “We created a small patio area back just beyond the treeline for my practice.

“It was this past summer probably late July, just after dawn. The woods were beginning to wake up but it was still rather dark. I was staring out at the water when I heard a loud shuffling behind me. I often hear shuffling in the underbrush and it’s usually just squirrels or chipmunks scurrying around, but this was different. The noise came towards me, right up behind me and then stopped. I had the feeling that whatever it was was watching me and that I was in danger.

“I was immediately gripped with a fear. I turned slowly and saw three of them there, standing right on the edge of the patio. At that point they were still projecting an image of color, those three were a dim purple, with spindly legs and arms. They wore sort of interested expressions and they were just watching me.

“I still felt frightened but I suspected these were the spirits Siggy had been in communication with so I asked, ‘Are you Sigourney’s friends?’ They nodded their heads at me as one. In fact, all of their movements were aligned. I introduced myself and thanked them for their presence and then, and I’ll always regret doing this, but I told them I was a willing host and that they were welcome on our property.”

“Uh uh,” I breathed.

“They seemed harmless,” Alston said defensively.

“You said you were terrified of them,” I pointed out.

“You’re right,” he acquiesced, “I should have trusted my first instinct that morning, I-” he paused and glanced over at Sigourney before admitting, “I truly thought they were they to kill me and I think they would have if I hadn’t been so, uh, welcoming.”

Sigourney looked down, she was crying.

“What exactly have these things done to you guys?” I asked.

“They’ve taken over everything,” Sigourney whined. “We can’t do anything without them interfering.”

She wiped tears from her cheeks and took her own cleansing breath, “I let them in completely and their meddling was very positive, at first. People began showing up to my yoga classes and asking me to be their life coach. Opportunities came up out of nowhere, an editor contacted me and wanted me to write a book on my yoga lifestyle. I was able to fall into meditation upon a moment’s notice, I could manage poses that should have taken me years to master. It was a whirlwind.”

“What about you?” I asked Alston. “Did they give you good luck too?”

He nodded. “You name it. Our investments grew, a knocking noise in the Wrangler that I’d been meaning to have looked at just stopped. Problems disappeared and good things happened in their place. I no longer have to take a medication for high blood pressure that I’d been on since I was thirty. My hair is growing back, getting thicker-”

“Yeah,” Sigourney interrupted enthusiastically. “I can’t gain weight now even if I try. I’m in better shape than I ever have been and I can eat like a pig and it doesn’t affect me at all.”

“So then what’s the downside of all of this?” I asked. Careful not to talk too loudly or move, the dogs were asleep and I didn’t want to disturb them even though they were putting off an incredible amount of heat.  

“It wasn’t just positive emotions that they wanted to feed off.”

“Then why were they doing such good things for you?” I asked.

“I think they are somehow vulnerable in a way that I don’t understand and they need, like, a home base. It’s like they need the protection of a host. I invited them here and they are willing to make our dreams come true, but they thrive off negativity and the more of it they get the more powerful they become.”

“But where do they get negative energy?” I pressed. “You guys seem thrilled about what they’ve done for  you.”

“We are sort of the yin so they can yang. It’s like, when they do good for us it gives them license to do bad to others. For some reason it has to be a balance, because they create positivity in our lives they are given the permission or ability to balance that out by creating negativity and chaos in other people’s lives,” Sigourney explained.

“How did you figure that out?”

“It took us longer than I’d like to admit,” Alston said heavily. “I did notice that people around us, especially acquaintances, you know people that we come in contact with often enough but aren’t close with, there just seemed to be a lot of bad luck swirling around our outer circle of friendships.”

“For example?” I said, subtly trying to make a little space for myself in-between the heater dogs.

“Um, well for instance, our favorite barista, she had a black eye this one morning and I asked her what had happened. She told me that she’d been in a car accident that had totalled her car. Then I saw another accident that same day in the parking lot at the studio. It was one of my students and wouldn’t you know it, she got a black eye. Then when the gardner showed up with a black eye and a dented fender I recognized the synchronicity for what it was and I began to pay attention,” Alston said.

“It’s the three’s,” Sigourney pointed out. “They create chaos in groupings of three and they seem to like to play around with different topics or, like methods. Three black eyes from three car accidents, or three broken bones from three bad falls.”

“Couldn’t you just be reading into those things a little bit? I mean it could just be weird coincidences, right?”

Alston took a deep breath, gaining patience. Sigourney said, “It wasn’t like that. I know we aren’t explaining it well because some of it is simply intuition but I think the best example is the boat,” she looked to her husband to explain.

“Right,” he agreed nodding his head, “Do you remember that huge wind storm we had this summer?” I didn’t remember. “It hit the lake hard and all of the neighbors lost trees and had some pretty significant property damage. Our boat took on a lot of water and the insurance company declared it totaled so we got the full amount for it.”

“Okay,” I said slowly, suspecting these people just had a bad case of magical thinking.

“The engine had died earlier in the summer. To replace it would have cost a fortune. The boat needed other work that we’d been putting it off. We basically got to just buy a new boat because of that storm. The thing is, our closest neighbors, over there to the right. They lost their boat, falling trees caused major damage to their roof and they were without power for two weeks.”

“Storms are weird,” I said. “Couldn’t you just chalk it up to luck of the draw?”

“No,” the couple said as one.

“What we gain, other people lose.”

I wasn’t convinced.

“The better our fortune, the more grand the gift the fairies give us the worse the punishment for the people we come in contact with,” Sigourney said firmly.

“But not your close friends and family,” I said, “Why?”

The husband and wife exchanged a glance and Sigourney began to cry again.

“We made a deal,”Alston said blowing out another cleansing breath. “As we came to realize that they needed us in order to receive the negative energy they craved, I asked that they keep our close friends and family out of their scope.”

“What did you give them a list or something?” I asked with a laugh.

The Mercers just stared at me.

“Please tell me you added my name to that list,” I said quickly.

“Oh, of course we did! Right after Alston called me this morning I requested your safe passage here,” Sigourney said in a tone meant to be reassuring. She sighed, “The fairies are getting more… creative. I am so grateful for all they have done for us and I certainly don’t want to cut off this positive energy flow. But we just aren’t sure that it is the best thing to continue on at this level. We, I mean I thought that maybe you or one of your friends might know how to sort of curb their power a bit.”

“Wouldn’t it be safer for everyone if you just got rid of them?” I asked.

“We tried that already,” Alston admitted.

“And they wouldn’t go?”

“No, they went, but we just, well I missed them,” an edge had crept into Sigourney’s voice.

I stared at her. When she didn’t elaborate I sighed heavily and said, “Out with it. What happened?”

Alston shook his head and looked down at his lap. Sigourney prattled, “We, you know, we got a little overwhelmed because it felt like things were a bit out of control. I mean I had to let the staff go because it was becoming an insurance liability with the rate at which people were getting injured here.”

“We stopped mail delivery so now I have go to the post office to pick everything up. It isn’t safe for strangers to come onto the property,” Alston added.

“What about me?” I blurted.

“Oh no, I told you, we have you covered,” Sigourney waved away my concern. “But, we reached a point where, though we were so grateful for all they had done for us we felt it best to part ways.” She spoke about it as if it were a matter of firing a landscaping company didn’t work out.

“So where’d they go?” I asked.

“I moved them onto a couple that we know.”

I raised my eyebrows.

“It was a gift, really. The husband ended up getting elected.”

“Did they know they had the fairies with them?” I asked.

“Neither were enlightened enough to see them, you understand. But they were totally the type of people fairies are attracted to. The couple was very goal driven and focused on success. It seemed like a nice match.”

“Then why did you change your mind and bring them back?” I asked, my view of this zen couple having completely deteriorated.

“I missed their company for one thing,” Sigourney said, “And I realized that ultimately it was too… dangerous for them to attach to people who didn’t know what they were dealing with.”

“The woman’s mother was living in their guest house. She fell down the basement stairs and they didn’t find her for over forty-eight hours. Her back was broken and she swore that someone pushed her,” Alston said, the edge now in his voice.

“Guys, you know these things aren’t fairies,” I insisted.

“Of course they are, I see them. We see them. They are fine, we just need to find a way to tone things down a bit, maybe put a few more safety nets in place. They are still being incredibly generous with us-”

“But if they have to maintain a balance of bad and good energy output-” I began.

“Right, of course, we don’t want anything bad to happen to anyone, but when they first started helping us we were really benefiting from the small blessings they provided and it only caused minor disturbances with other people. Stubbed toes, lost contact lenses, minor illnesses, you know just little extra upsets.”

“They might little upsets when they happen to other people, but do you want them to happen to you?” I asked.

“Of course not,” Sigourney said quickly, “and we don’t want them happening to anyone else. The thing is, these fairies are here and they’re not all bad it’s just that the speed at which things have escalated might be a little concerning. At first it was yoga poses and good luck, but now… Someone just reached out to me from the Gaiam Network. They want me to have my own lifestyle program, kind of like the Kardashians but for spiritual people. It is everything I’ve ever dreamed of. Think of how many people I could reach, showing them the benefits of clean living and yoga. I could expand my influence and together we could begin to heal ourselves and the planet.”

“Sigourney,” I said, shifting in the seat hoping that the dogs would move over a bit. They basically had me pinned in place and I would never even consider shoving them off the couch but I was steps from having a panic attack. “Okay, so you’re telling me that these spirits cause serious problems for anyone who comes into your orbit. If you had a television show do you think they would be able to affect the people who watch you?”

She was silent. Alston said, “I hadn’t even considered that.”

“I just have to learn to contain them,” Sigourney said quickly. “ Maybe I could even change them.”

Alston appeared to be getting more and more uncomfortable with the conversation. I asked him, “Do you think she can control them?”

He took one of his maddening cleansing breaths then turned to his wife, “I trust your intuition and your abilities one hundred percent, Sig. It’s just-”

Sigourney snatched her legs back off of his lap and pushed away from him a bit. “It’s just what?” She challenged.

“I know you hold incredible intuitive power but I am afraid that your vision might be clouded on this one. I’m just not sure that these things are what they appear to be.”

“That’s ridiculous, you’ve seen them yourself. What else could they possibly be?” Sigourney demanded.

“Demons for one thing,” I pointed out.

“Demons? Why is everyone so convinced that every spirit is a demon?”

I made eye contact with Alston, then said calmly, “Maybe demons is a strong assumption, but there are levels, you know higher and lower negative entities. I’m only drawing upon the stuff I’ve heard on the Dead Files, okay, but it sounds to me like these are almost like tiny little energy vampires. They’re getting off on your excitement over these ‘blessings’ or whatever you want to call them, but I think they really want bad things to happen. If it truly comes down to a fifty-fifty positive-negative energy swap then think about it – they are making your dreams come true, you’re getting a television show, right? Then won’t they have to ruin someone else’s career or dreams in order to even out the energy?”

Alston had been staring at his hands in his lap, he looked up and said, “It’s true, Sig. And, the other thing that’s bothering me is their appearance. Why do they look so scary now? I’m sorry honey, but I think they tricked you into thinking they were these beautiful glowing creatures but now they walk around here looking like freaky little evil twigs.”

“Walk around here?” I asked, startled.

“Yeah, you never know when they’ll just be standing there, watching. And Sig, honey, I’ve never really gotten a loving vibe from them.”

Sigourney’s arms crossed over her chest, “How long have you doubted them?”

Cleansing breath. “Since I saw them in the forest, every fiber of my being wanted to get away from them. I felt, in my bones I felt that they wanted to hurt me. But I sort of fell for it when they acted kind because I think I was just so relieved they weren’t there to kill me.”

Sigourney looked really pissed. Alston looked relieved and worried at the same time. I felt like a marriage counselor.

“Have you ever gotten a bad vibe from them?” I asked.

Sigourney uncrossed her arms. “There was this one time when I was down on the dock. I was leaning over the water to grab Bella’s tennis ball and when I pulled myself back up they were there, two of them standing right behind me. I swear the look on their faces wasn’t right, but then they started glowing pink and I figured they were just there to watch us play catch. They’ve always seemed to get a kick out of the dogs.”

Chilled I said, “To quote Oprah quoting Maya Angelou, ‘when someone shows you who they are believe them the first time.’ Trust me, those things are nothing but bad news.”  

“How do we get them out of here?” Alston asked.

I’d begun to shrug my shoulders and mention Biddy as my go-to fixer when Sigourney growled, “We are not kicking them out of this house. Where will they go?”

“Honey, we need help. This has gone too far.”

“Too far? You didn’t think things were going too far when you filled up your yoga classes or when you stopped having to take that little blue pill.”

“For Christ’s sake Sig, they are running us. I can’t even have the damn trash service to the house anymore after that poor man’s arm got caught in the truck. I’m spending half my days running garbage to the dump the other half tip-toeing around this house trying to avoid those freaky little bastards.”

“Shhhhh!” Sigourney hissed. “Be quiet, what if they hear you?”

I interrupted the quarrel. “Where are they right now?”

“In the theater-“

“The theater?” I asked.

“We have a little home theater in the basement, it’s small,’ Sigourney said dismissively, “just sixteen recliners.”

What in the hell had these people done for work before becoming yogis? I thought, not for the first time.

Alston explained, “I put the television on for them, it will hold their attention for a few hours.”

When I realized he wasn’t kidding I asked, “What do they like to watch?”

“Real Housewives,” Sigourney replied, “of Atlanta mostly, though New Jersey sometimes does the trick.”

I held back nervous laughter and considered the couple for a moment, their faces clouded with worry and what I hoped was a little guilt.

“So what do you want me to do?” I asked. “If you don’t want to get rid of them-”

“We do, we want to get rid of them,” Alston held up a hand, silencing his wife, “This has gone far enough. Honey, we’re in over our heads.”

Sigourney looked like she had a whole lot more to say but she kept her mouth shut.

I wanted out of there. I offered to put them in touch with Biddy. They, well Alston thanked me and walked me to the front door alongside the dogs. I was jumpy, worried that I was going to run into one of the little stick creatures. It was the same feeling I used to have when walking down Marlborough Street in the Back Bay. Only then it was the fear of encountering a rat that made me skittish.

I rang the gong after I put my shoes on, making Alston laugh. As I walked to my car I checked my phone to see if I’d missed any texts while I’d been in the house. When I looked up from the phone I saw that my car looked funny, it was sort of leaning to one side. On closer inspection I found that both of the tires on the driver’s side were completely flat.

Son of a bitch, I thought.

I froze, unsure what to do. I decided I would call AAA and wait in the car. I didn’t really feel like dealing with the Mercers. As I was searching through my bag for my wallet so I could pull out my AAA card Alston and Sigourney rushed out of the house.

“What’s wrong?” Sigourney called, worry in her voice.

“It’s nothing, my tires are flat, I’ll just call AAA.”

“No!” The couple yelled.

“What do you want me to do?”

“You can’t have those people come here, it’s not safe for them,” Alston insisted. “I’ll put the spare on and then you can drive it to a shop.”

“It’s two flat tires, I only have one spare,” I said, feeling trapped and increasingly panicked.

“Then I’ll go buy you another spare,” he said quickly. “It will only take a moment you can wait inside with Siggy.”

“No, no way. Why did this happen? I thought you said you put me on your stupid protection list,” I snapped Sigourney.

“I did, I did. I guess maybe they just wanted to cause some mischief.”

As she said that the front door to the house slammed shut and we heard the deadbolt click into place.

“Damn it,” Alston said, “They’ve locked us out again.”

“You people are crazy, I’m calling AAA and I’m getting my car fixed and I’m getting the hell out of here.”

“You can’t, it’s not safe,” Alston pleaded.

“We could just make a swap,” Sigourney said quietly.

Alston considered her for a moment, “How about Bill? He’s been such a shit about fixing that pothole.”

Sigourney nodded in agreement. She walked back to the house and sat criss cross applesauce on the steps, held her hands in front of her heart and closed her eyes.

“What in the fuck is she doing?’ I demanded.

“Shhh, just give her a second. She just needs to offer the fairies an alternative.”

“To what?”

“The AAA tow truck guy.”

I stared at him and then I climbed into my car and shut and locked the doors. To distract myself I Googled “yoga studios near me” as I waited for help to arrive.

images“Must we document every conversation?” Biddy asked sighing.

“Yes,” I replied dumping two sugar packets into my coffee.

She watched me for a moment then said, “It’s not a Voodoo doll.”

A tightness that I had been carrying in the space between my neck and shoulders relaxed an infinitesimal amount. Picking up my coffee cup I asked, “Then what the hell is it?”

“Just a painted doll. This woman I know from my past life, she sort of fancies herself as an expert on Hoodoo. I showed her the doll and she said it’s just a doll. You’re not cursed, but someone wants you to think you are.”


“I don’t know, who?”

I took a turn sighing. Biddy leaned forward and said in a low voice, “I’ve got a theory. It’s the town.”


“Yes. If the stories you’ve documented tell us anything it’s that something about this town attracts intense people. Mostly yuppie types, right? But energy is energy, it isn’t good or bad until someone taps into it. We know this place attracts go-getters and overachievers. But what if it attracts the opposite too?”

“Boring losers?” I said without thinking.

“Mean,” Biddy chided. “No, bad people with bad intentions. We’re obviously a magnet for evil spirits, even monsters. Why wouldn’t the energy here attract bad people too?

“Not everyone I met when I used to ghost hunt wanted their home cleared of evil entities. Some people actually want to harness that power, work with it, aim it. So what if someone aimed it at you? Or at least wanted you to think they did.”

The miniscule easing around my shoulders re-tightened as I considered the implications of Biddy’s theory. “So a stranger really did break into my house? It seems so improbable.”

“Have you had any parties lately, like for the kids where someone might have slipped away and put that doll in the attic?”

I began to shake my head then remembered. “We had this impromptu block party actually. Everyone ended up on our front lawn, watching the kids ride their bikes in the street. People were in and out of the house to use the bathroom, I guess I wasn’t really paying attention.”

“So it could be someone you know.”

I stared at her, completely freaked out.

“It’s just an idea,” Biddy continued, eyeing me, “On the other hand, maybe the doll was just a prank.”

I shook my head,  “I don’t think so. It’s too much.”

“Maybe it’s someone who reads the blog and wants to insert themselves in the narrative.”

“If they live in this town then they already are a part of it,” I said.

“Regardless, hold off a bit on interviewing anyone else until we know what’s going on. Take a break. Get some sleep or something. You look like hell.”

I smiled. “I would if I could.”

“Of course you can,” Biddy said, annoyed. “Just stop interviewing people.”

“No, I mean sleep. I can’t sleep,” I explained. “But I’m not going to quit interviewing people. It’s sort of the only thing I have besides the kids. What else am I going to do? Go to a spin class? I already volunteer enough and I can’t just sit around waiting to pick the kids up from school so I can wait to put them to bed and then wait for them to wake up and do it all over again.”

“Get a hobby.”

“Is that what you would do?” I asked, seriously.

Biddy eyed me, “No. I waited until my entire life almost fell apart before turning my back on ghost hunting.”

I waved the comment away, “No one’s life is falling apart. So some weirdo is trying to scare me. So what,” I paused, considering whether I should tell Biddy more. I said, “There was one weird thing, though.”

“What?” Biddy asked quickly.

“Molly Vail, that psychic I interviewed a while back. I had coffee with her yesterday and she mentioned Voodoo. She said she’d had a dream about me. I was standing on the banks of a river. A bad storm was approaching and-” I stopped, taking in Biddy’s crossed arms and raised eyebrows. “She’s the real deal,” I insisted.

“Uh huh,” Biddy replied. “Go on, so you were on the banks of a river in this woman’s dream.”

“Whatever. She said that there were spirits in the water, watching me and waiting for the storm to come and raise the water so they could reach me. Then three woman walked out of the woods behind me with a Voodoo doll and placed it next to me.”

Biddy didn’t say anything.

“Sort of a coincidence, don’t you think? That she had a dream about me and a Voodoo doll?”

“What did she say it meant?”

“She didn’t know, but she thought it was some sort of a warning.”

“Well at the very least you’d better stay away from ghost filled rivers,” Biddy said looking down at her watch. “I have to scoot.”

“Where are you headed?” I asked.

“Spin class,” she replied making me laugh out loud. “What’s on tap for you today?”

“I’m actually going to meet a woman with a monster story.”

“Where? Here?” Biddy asked.

“No, her house. She lives over on Bristol Road.”

“You’re not supposed to go to people’s houses alone,” Biddy pointed out.

“It’ll be fine,” I said.




Lindsay Deardon is a very specific type of woman. One which I typically avoid like the plague. I’m not being judgy, well maybe a little, but I’m quite certain that I’m not her type either. Whereas I am all mirrored behavior and self deprecation, she is deliberate and confident. I avoid awkward silences like they are an email from the PTO. Lindsay takes a moment to think before she speaks. She chooses words carefully. I ramble nervously. She’s all control and calculation, scanning through her steel trap-like mind for measured and appropriate responses. Lindsay does not giggle. And if passive aggression were an art form, Lindsay would be a master creator.

I wasn’t exactly in peak performance when I met Ms. Deardon. My insomnia had been tapping me on the shoulder every night at three-thirty a.m. for weeks. Up for the day I ran from vague but nagging fears by watching Ghost Adventures re-runs and highlighting self-help books until the sun came up. I’d become so tired in fact that I was losing the ability to interact properly with people. I couldn’t recall simple words like “driveway” or “sneaker.” I’d find myself in the kitchen standing over the girls’ half-packed lunches having realized that I had zoned out thinking about some imagined conversation with an acquaintance who’d offended me long ago. I was half in the world, half in my scrambled brain. It was worse than having an infant. At least an infant keeps you on some sort of a schedule. This fog of exhaustion was all-encompassing.

I’ve been depressed before. I’ve been really tired for long periods of time before. This was different. It felt as though something was keeping me from myself. Distracting me, running me. It was aggressive. Relentless.

And it was in that mental state of tired confusion that I met Lindsay.

She lived in a very expensive part of town among brick mansions and storybook style estates, complete with English gardens and discreet guest homes hidden by impeccable landscaping. Hers was a massive grey colonial with a winding shell driveway, a gorgeous detail I hadn’t seen this side of the Sagamore bridge. Huge, I mean colossal maple trees shaded the yard and the house, their leaves browned and curled at the edges. We’d had a humid summer and a fungus had taken hold of all the maple trees in town. It crimped and browned their leaves making the autumn landscape a dull sepia.

Black shuttered windows watched me park my Suburban and crunch across the driveway in brand new Uggs. I’d returned to my roots. Re-adopting an old uniform; skinny jeans, button down, green quilted down vest, and obnoxiously cozy boots. I climbed the granite steps and rang the doorbell. A pretty young woman with a bouncy ponytail, black framed glasses and business attire opened the door and said, “Good day, Maam.”

Having never met Lindsay before I mistakenly assumed that this woman was her. A parent I knew from Joey’s pre-K class had put us in touch with one another. Joey’s friend’s mom read the blog. She’d grown up in Wellesley alongside Lindsay, the two carpooled to an early morning boot camp on the Boston Common twice a week and Lindsay had asked her if she knew anyone discreet that might help her with a tricky paranormal situation. My name came up and a terse email exchange ensued. I was to report to Lindsay’s home on that day at that time and listen to her story. Advice would be appreciated.

I’m self-aware enough to know that no one should accept advice from me, but I figured I’d record the story and point her in the direction of one of Biddy’s old friends.

So the woman who was not Lindsay, whose role in the home was never explained or addressed but who I decided must be some sort of a housekeeper/personal assistant lead me into a grand sitting room towards the back of the house. There sat the real Lindsay in a crisp white button down shirt, impossibly skinny skinny jeans, and emerald green ballet flats. She wore her long thick highlighted blond hair in perfect beach waves that needed a good tousling. A thick slab of bangs swept across her forehead. Tasteful diamond studs, a big diamond pendant and a ring finger dripping with diamonds displayed tiny and not so tiny exclamation points of wealth. She was thin, pilates thin and she was pretty, and she was really fucking rich. She was wearing lipstick.

My hostess looked up from the October issue of Vogue and stood as the housekeeper/personal assistant person announced my arrival.

Lindsay thanked me for coming. “Would you like anything to drink?” She asked. “Sparkling water? Kombucha?” I declined and she said to the P.A., “Please close the doors behind you Rebecca. That will be all for today.”

Lindsay indicated that I take a seat across from her on a full-sized pink linen couch the twin to the one on which she perched. A gold-framed glass coffee table sat prissily between us, holding a green lacquer tray atop which sat a pile of home decorating books, a candle and a small orchid. The candle had never been lit.

The walls around us were a stark white and aside from ornate golden wall sconces to each side of the French doors, the room’s windows provided the only decoration, a view of the rolling back yard edged by dense forest. I could see the edge of a brick patio bordered by healthy hydrangea and there was a, well I wouldn’t call it a shed because it was beautiful and built to look like a small replica of the house itself. It was set back into the woods in a little carved out cove, shaded by trees.There was even a shell covered walkway leading from the patio to the tiny house. It was absolutely adorable, enchanting even.

“It’s just a play house for the girls,” Lindsay said dismissively when she noticed me looking at the structure.

I commented on how sweet that was and said something about how my girls would love a playhouse like that.

“They’ve maybe used it twice in the past year. It’s a den of spider webs,” Lindsay replied, obviously annoyed about it, though I couldn’t tell if she was annoyed that they’d used it only twice or that they’d played in it at all.

I pulled the digital recorder out of my vest pocket. Prior to meeting this woman who looked like she stepped out of an episode of Guiding Light, I’d been feeling pretty good about the fact that not only had I showered and dried my hair that morning, I had on blush and real clothing, not work out clothes. Lindsay’s sleek no nonsense perfection made me feel like a bulky clod.

I showed her my digital recorder and turned it on before placing it on the coffee table between us. As I did I notice the rug under our feet. It was so pretty. A soft green with specks of gold threads running through it. I became self-conscious of my stupid boots.

“Where shall we begin?” Lindsay asked as though she were heading a board meeting.

“I don’t know much about your situation,” I replied taking a deep breath. It was all I could do not to just walk out of that room. It is hard to explain and I am sure it is all wrapped up in my own projections and neurosis, but women like Lindsay – self-possessed, pulled together, direct – make me want to run in the opposite direction. I find them too strict and they find me too flighty. I’ve been trying to be more comfortable with being uncomfortable but it’s a real work in progress.

Lindsay crossed her legs and played with the gargantuan eternity band on her left hand. She was looking out the window as she said, “I don’t even know what you’re doing here. I don’t know what you could possibly do for me, I don’t know if anyone can do anything.”

I made myself remain silent. Trust me, that’s really hard for me to do.

Finally, just as I was about to either explode or fill the silence with nervous chatter, Lindsay said, “Someone, or rather, something is trying to ruin me.”

I was surprised. “How?”

“It is pretending to be me and doing and saying things that I would simply never do.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” I said.

“It began with that goddamn necklace,” she spat as though I should know what she was talking about. When I didn’t offer the understanding she expected she elaborated, “The pearl necklace, from the auction in Stowe. That’s what the thing escaped out of and I need you or someone you know to tell me how to put it back.”

“Look,” I offered, creeped out. “Just tell me everything. Then we’ll figure out how to fix things.”

“That woman with the sailor’s valentine. What ended up happening to her?” Lindsay asked abruptly. “Did you do anything to help her?”

My mind caught up and I said, “Oh, you mean Pam. I called her a few days after I left her house and apologized for running out on the interview. I did some research and found a medium in Cambridge who was able to bind the entity and remove it from the house. I think Pam sold the valentine eventually, I know she got rid of it somehow anyway.”

“You bound the spirit of the little girl?” Lindsay demanded, disgusted.

“It wasn’t really a little girl,” I replied trying not to sound defensive.

Lindsay looked back out the window towards the playhouse.

“I don’t know what is happening to you but I’m happy to listen and if I can I’ll put you in touch with someone who will help. I promise I won’t just leave you hanging.”

Lindsay looked at me and swept her bangs to the side with a flick of her head. “It began at this auction, in Stowe. I’ve found unique trinkets there before and I really needed some small pieces for the built-ins in Cooper’s office.

“On that visit last Spring I found these beautiful antique rose quartz urns for the mantle at the beach house. They were a steal. I should have left it at that but this necklace caught my eye, a long strand of Tahitian multi-colored pearls. It was a piece I could only wear on island, of course, you know for cocktails.”

I could see Lindsay in my mind’s eye. On a perfectly weathered deck overlooking an expanse of beach plum bushes and scrub, the ocean not far off in the distance. The collar of her crisp white button down popped, white jeans, and rich leather sandals, one hand fingering the pearls the other holding a crisp glass of Frosé.

“It was a ridiculous impulse buy,” Lindsay interrupted my daydream with feigned embarrassment. “I even bought them with my secret stash so I wouldn’t have to explain the expense to Cooper. He can be so tedious about money. Though never if it has to do with sailing or golf, of course,” she said with a forced laugh.

“I didn’t wear them right away, you know. The season wasn’t right. I shoved them to the back of my necklace drawer and only found them when I was packing for an early summer weekend on Nantucket. My girlfriend held a three night fortieth birthday bash on the island. The necklace was perfect for the cocktail hour on the first night.

“It would be dishonest to say that I didn’t notice anything strange about the necklace at first,” Lindsay’s head gave another twitch, again knocking her sweepy bangs to the side. “For one thing I know that I packed them in a box towards the bottom of my suit case. The luggage was packed to the gills, there’s no way it could have shifted on the flight over. But that box was right on top when I unzipped my bag. Everything else was in place. And when I, well, this probably sounds like a stretch, but I took a shower and when I came back out to the bedroom the pearls were there. Laid out on the bed like they were waiting for me. I asked Coop if he’d put them out for me, he hadn’t. Of course he didn’t, that wouldn’t be like him at all.

“It was so strange, they were beautiful, stunning. Even more so than I had remembered. When I put them on I had a sort of hot flash. The hotel was frigid, Cooper is very particular about air conditioning, but I was so hot it felt like I was standing in front of an oven. The feeling was intense, but it passed quickly.

“Everything else was normal that night, though I had an incredibly vivid dream that someone was standing over me in my bed, watching me, sort of studying me. I know now that wasn’t a dream. It was there. And it was studying me. The first time I suspected something wasn’t right was the next morning. Cooper and I had slept in and when we went down to the hotel restaurant for brunch my friend, Ainsley, made a comment about how ‘wasted’ I’d been the night before. I’d had two glasses of wine, but I wasn’t drunk. I don’t get drunk, only idiots drink their calories.

“I asked what she was talking about and she said, ‘I never thought I’d ever see you at the Box.’ I’ve never been to the Chicken Box. Filthy dive bars aren’t my scene. I’d been in bed by ten o’clock.”

“That’s weird, could she have seen someone that just looked like you?” I asked.

“I tried to convince her of just that, but she wouldn’t hear it. I assumed she had been the one who was wasted that night but then one of my other friend’s husbands came over to our table and started chanting ‘Chug! Chug! Chug!’ It was so obnoxious. He said he’d seen me there too and that I had engaged in some sort of a drinking contest with a bachelorette party.”

“Oh man,” I laughed.

Lindsay wasn’t amused. “The idea is absurd, I didn’t know who they’d seen but it wasn’t me. The rest of that weekend on Nantucket was strange. There were a couple other instances of friends claiming they’d seen me laying out at the beach or waiting in line for ice cream. Again, things that I simply don’t do. We made a joke of it, that I had a look-alike on the island. ‘The trashy doppleganger,’ we called her.

“Everyone had a good laugh over that but then it began happening when we got back to town. I was at SoulCycle one morning, Back Bay not Chestnut Hill, and the woman who is always at bike fifteen asked to trade with the woman next to me. Then this woman, Jill, she’s an acquaintance at best, started going on and on about what a great time she’d had over brunch the day before.

“Frankly, I was dumbfounded. I don’t talk to people at SoulCycle. I’m there to work out for Christ’s sake, I’m not the work out buddy type.

“I tried to politely make it apparent that I was there to have a moment to myself when she said, ‘Let’s do it again. I can’t today because I have a parent teacher conference and I can’t go there smelling like booze.’

“‘I’m sorry, you must have me confused with someone else,’ I told her. She laughed out loud, I mean she threw her head back hysterically, drawing looks from the other women in class,” Lindsay’s eyes were wide, as though she couldn’t believe the woman’s gall to actually laugh out loud. “The instructor came in so we couldn’t speak any further though the woman leaned over and said, ‘You’re a riot, Lindz.’

“No one calls me that,” Lindsay said, and I could tell that she meant it. She twitched her bangs out of the way again. “I rushed out of class before the last five minutes. I couldn’t deal with talking to that loud woman again.”

“What did you think was happening?” I interrupted. “A look-a-like on Nantucket is one thing, but this woman knew your name.”

Lindsay considered for a moment, and crossed her legs in the opposite direction. She attempted to push her bangs behind her ear but they were just a touch too short. She closed her eyes, obviously agitated. “I don’t know what she, I mean what I thought. I was just annoyed. I am a bit of a home body and when I go out to do something I want to do it, I don’t understand why everything has become social hour,” she took a deep breath.

“These coincidences began happening more often. People who I’d only known in passing became increasingly familiar with me.  It was very uncomfortable. The barista called out my order as I walked in the door. I only drink green tea but she insisted that I’d raved over the salted caramel mocha,” Lindsay shivered then bang twitched.

“I was more upset by the intrusion of it all. My life is simple,” she waved a hand around the room as if indicating the subdued elegance was a reflection of minimalist living. “I keep a very small inner circle, now everyone and their cousin was approaching me with inside jokes and proposals of playdates or cocktails.

“After about two weeks of this nightmare I visited my psychiatrist. I want you to understand that I was given a clean bill of health. She suggested that I’d been under a great deal of stress, the children had been home all summer. I needed time to decompress and regain my space.

“I took a weekend at the Whiteface Lodge, by myself. No Cooper, no children. Just me, yoga and silence. That was the weekend that it took over my life.”

“What did?”

“The mimic. I slept at the Lodge, in a way that I simply hadn’t slept in forever. I came back refreshed and ready to put my life back in order. I’d done some research and decided to drop SoulCycle and apply for a membership at an exclusive yoga community in Wayland. I’d had an epiphany on that trip, I needed less busyness in my life, more stillness.”

I had no idea what this woman was talking about, it seemed all she had was restrictive stillness but I nodded my head pretending to understand.

“I returned from my retreat last Monday morning. The kids were already off to school and Cooper was at work, of course. Rebecca was nowhere to be found. I checked my planner but found nothing about a day off for her. So it was just me at the house. I set my bags at the basement stairs for Rebecca to take care of the next morning, then I texted her and she said she’d requested the day off on Friday and that I had approved the absence. I had no recollection of that, but let it slide. I went to the workout room in the basement to do some meditation, re-center myself. We have a sliding glass door that overlooks the backyard in that room. I pulled out my yoga mat and began my meditation and a noise outside caught my attention. It sounded as though someone had thrown a rock at the glass doors.

“I stood to look and see what it could have been. Movement by the playhouse, back towards the woods caught my eye. I watched for a moment, unsure of what I had seen. I was about to sit back down when I saw her, it, open the playhouse door wave to me and then slam it shut. It was me. It was me in that little house. I can’t even describe the way it felt. It was like I was having a waking dream.”

“Oh my God,” I said, unable to think of a better response. Honestly, I didn’t know how to take Lindsay’s story. To me she seemed like a complicated bundle of narcissism and agoraphobia. It was almost too perfect that the monster haunting her was herself. “Did you go out to the shed?” I asked.

“Of course not. I ran upstairs and pressed the panic button on our alarm system and went to our safe room.”

“There’s a safe room in this house? Can I see it?” I asked without thinking.

Lindsay looked at me as though I’d just asked to sit next to her in spin class. “Sorry,” I said quickly. “I just haven’t ever seen one before, I thought they were an urban legend.”

Lindsay ignored my apology, and with a bang twitch continued, “The police came immediately and searched the grounds. They found no one. But they did retrieve the strand of pearls from the play house. That’s when I knew the mimic was tied to them somehow. Perhaps they were cursed by some native, I don’t know how it all works with those people.”

“What people?” I challenged her.

“You know, those religious types.”

“Oh, sure, I know exactly what you mean,” I said, my patience completely worn thin by this uppity bitch. “So you saw your doppelganger in the perfect little duplicate of your house. What happened next? She attended a PTO meeting? Or signed you up to volunteer somewhere?”

Lindsay slowly tilted her head to the side and gave a little smile. Then she regained resting bitch face and said, “The weekend when I was away she threw a party at my house, invited everyone we know, my husband’s colleagues, all of our neighbors, the kid’s friend’s parents. Apparently it was quite the bash. And I am almost completely certain that it was with my husband that night and then again on Sunday morning.”

“Well, I mean, wasn’t he at the party?” I asked dumbly.

She looked up at the ceiling in exasperation, “Yes, he was at the party. But I think it was with him. Do you understand what I mean?”

“Oh, shit,” I said, getting her point. “That is disgusting. I’m sorry.”

“It is humiliating. He was all, affectionate when he came home Monday night,” she shook her head quickly as if to shake off the memory.

“So she, I mean it, is just running around interacting with everyone as though it is you?”

“Yes, so what do you think Biddy would try to do if she were to try and get rid of it?”

“I don’t know I would have to ask her,” I said, surprised at hearing my friend’s name. I hadn’t mentioned her, though I guess Lindsay had read the blog.

“Well, think. Take a guess,” Lindsay pressed.

“It’s not a spirit or a demon, at least I don’t think so,” I said. “It seems like a kind of monster, or a strange being you know? And if it is the result of some sort of curse then I guess she’ll have to reach out to someone who can counteract it.”

“She is able to commune with witches?” Lindsay asked in an amused tone.

I paused, looking at her. Lindsay wore the same small smile she had moments before.

“Biddy knows a lot of people from her ghost hunting days,” I said cautiously. “Um, I know this is silly but how do I know that I’m talking to the real Lindsay right now?”

Lindsay tilted her head again and her smile widened. “Good girl.”

I laughed nervously.

Lindsay lifted her hands and scruffed her perfect bangs up and off her forehead. “I was beginning to think you were a complete idiot. Ugh,” she said, annoyed, “I don’t know why she wears her hair like this. It is incredibly impractical.”

“What?” I said, quietly.

“Our Lindsay is such control freak. But we both know that an expensive keratin treatment does not guarantee a cute fringe, now does it?”

Lindsay’s face had transformed. Where there had been tightness around her eyes and a pinched sense about her lips, there was a softening. A calm amusement.

The mimic watched me watch it.

“How’d I do?” It asked watching me intently. “From that dumb look on your face I’d say I was pretty convincing. I thought you’d figure it out sooner, though. Do you honestly think Lindz would ever tell anyone that this is happening to her? No. She’d go to her grave first. I expect she soon will, actually. A few more little nudge nudges from me and then I’ll be rid of her. She’s got a good gig going here but she won’t let herself enjoy it. She’s so fucking repressed.”

The thing tucked it’s legs beneath itself on the couch, then shook a finger at me, “No shoes on the sofa!” It giggled then said, “It didn’t take you very long to hate her did it? Oh, this one is as elitist as they come. You want to know what she thinks about you? It’s quite incredible really, I know exactly what she knows. I have all her memories in here,” the thing tapped it’s head gently, “I can form her opinions as though they are my own.”

I stared at her. At it.

It watched me, “You know, Miss Liz, I’ve been wanting to meet you. You’re pretty much what I expected. Gullible, a smidge vague, though that’s probably from that bad case of insomnia.” It winked at me, again. “I don’t know why they’re so worried about you, you’re not much to be worried about.”

I grabbed the recorder off the coffee table and held it out in front of me like a weapon as I stood up and backed away from the thing. My mind swirled with far fetched ideas, trying to convince myself that I was speaking with a mentally unstable woman, not a monster. But I wasn’t sure which scenario was more terrifying.

“Quit messing around,” I said, like a complete and total idiot.

“Oh, no.” It said in a low voice. “I am not messing around. I am as serious as a knife through your eye.” It stood up causing me to back up so quickly that I knocked over a side table, and watched as it’s lamp fell and smashed on the hardwood floor.

The mimic tsked and exclaimed, “Oh boy, Lindsay is not going to be happy about that!” Then it began to laugh hysterically. One hand over it’s mouth, the other on it’s stomach.

I bent down without taking my eyes off the monster and grabbed my bag, then I began to back towards the exit.

“Leaving so soon? Well, I must say this was fun. A word of advice, if I may? Stop these ridiculous little interviews. I might not think you’re a threat but I’m not the one you need to be worried about. They don’t want you connecting any more dots my dear.”

I’d backed into the French doors at that point and was feeling around for one of the knobs. I found one, turned it, pulled and bolted for the front door. The mimic called, “Sweet dreams!” before snorting with laughter.

I jumped out the door and slammed it behind me making a run for the car. Once safely locked inside I was shaking so badly I could barely get the key in the ignition. I gunned it out of the driveway, spraying broken sea shells behind me. Maddeningly, traffic kept me from turning immediately onto Cliff Road off Bristol.

I waited in an impatient panic for a break in traffic, trying to convince myself that it had all been a mean prank. I’d almost sold myself on the idea when Lindsay, the real Lindsay, turned off Cliff Road and onto her street. She drove past me without looking, in a blinged out Mercedes wagon headed towards her house.

digging_basement_under_house_17438_560_374Before we address the dead body in Adrienne’s basement, I’ve got to tell you about my current drama. Remember that doll I found in the kids’ Clubhouse? I threw it out. I mentioned that I’d found one exactly like it on the front steps too, right? Well, I threw that one out as well, but the third time the doll turned up I finally caught on to the game. It was the same damn doll. A girl superhero action figure, the size of a Barbie, painted all black.

Yes, I’ve called Biddy and yes she’s pissed that I didn’t call her when the thing turned up on my porch the first time. I honestly wasn’t too concerned about it. Okay, lie. There was serious panic tip-toeing around my mind but I was wrapped in the embrace of my old friend, Denial. I know people knock it, but Denial is a wonderful ally. It’s a handy little cheerleader when I know deep down that I am in deep shit. My friend Denial got me through all the time the girls spent in the NICU, it got me through running marathons, it even made that tapping demon situation soft and fuzzy around the edges. Denial can even handle more than one issue at a time. Take now for instance, it’s lulling my tenacious back problems into soft focus even as it’s whispering “Don’t worry about it,” whenever I think about that weird doll.

The thing about Denial is that she isn’t the strongest of buddies. Eventually she takes off and then that pain in the ass Anxiety turns up like a bad penny. Anxiety is like one of those North Face puffer vests; stifling, zipped too damn tight, tummy-tee short and swishing around maddeningly with every move. But as annoying as the vest of Anxiety is, at least it eventually prompts me to action. Luckily I have another old buddy waiting for me, impatiently holding out her hand to get tagged in. When Anxiety has overstayed her welcome, Rage comes to call. And Rage is the slow burn that gets shit done.

Denial is gone and Anxiety was driving me to distraction, but like the ballsy fiercely loyal friend in a children’s story about bullying, Rage showed up just in time to deal with the strange man in my front yard.

After I put the kids to bed last night I took the garbage out and there was a man sitting on one of the beach chairs the girls had dragged out of the garage earlier that that afternoon.

He was just sitting there, smoking a cigarette and staring at the woods behind our neighbor’s home across the street.

“Hey there,” I called, trying to hide my surprise and annoyance.

He flicked his lit cigarette into the road and then stood, put his hands in his pockets and began to stroll out of the yard. He glanced back slowly at me over his shoulder and replied, “Hey there.”

Fear, perhaps irrational perhaps not, shot through me. Rage showed up immediately, her braided pigtails bouncing with excitement. Unwilling to let the weirdo simply creep off down the road I called, “Nice night for a walk.” Which, in hindsight was not the best Rage has ever come up with, but she was called up so fast I’m sure she was just trying to assess the situation.

The man stopped and without turning to look at me said, “Nice night for a ghost story,” before continuing down the road towards Boulder Brook park.

I stood there frozen watching him walk away until he turned onto the path into the woods. I finally came to my senses, dropped the garbage bags in the driveway and ran back inside the house. Chris was out late at hockey which meant I was alone with the girls for another two hours. I set the alarm and turned on every light in the house. Then I texted Biddy and sat on the couch pretending to read an Agatha Christie, my great uncle Eddy’s old billy club at my side.

When Chris got home he asked if the garbage bags thrown in the driveway were a message that he needed to help out more at home. I told him I saw a weird bug in the driveway and panicked. I’m meeting Biddy for coffee tomorrow morning, I’m not expecting good news.



Ok, back to Adrienne, to recap she is passionate about the apocalypse and she just shared that she and her husband found a body in her basement. Alright? And scene:

“No you did not!” I breathed.

“We most certainly did,” Adrienne insisted.

“How did you miss that in the inspection?” I asked, only half-kidding.

Adrienne leaned forward, “Here’s the thing, we were in the process of digging out the basement in order to build a secure bunker. It had poured concrete flooring and after we broke that up and hauled it out we intended to go down another seven feet.”

“That’s a pretty major project,” I commented.

“Yeah, it took us about six months of weekends just to break up that concrete and drag it out of there.”

“You guys did it all on your own?”

“We were building a secret bunker, so, yeah,” Adrienne looked at me like I was a complete moron. I saw her point.

She continued, “So I was working in a far back corner, we’d finally begun making some progress. I was about two feet down in the dirt when the smell hit me. At first I thought maybe I’d uncovered a sewage line so I switched the shovel out for a rake. Of course we mapped out exactly where all the utilities and everything were on the property, but the house was old and I didn’t want to take a risk of puncturing something unexpected. I slowly raked aside some more dirt and uncovered the edge a blue tarp.”

“Oh, shit,” I breathed. “This is like an episode of Forensic Files.”

“I don’t know what that is,” Adrienne said.

“It’s a T.V. show, like Cold Case Files or Dateline.”

Adrienne shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t watch much television.”

Oh, whatever, I thought, suppressing another eye roll. I asked, “Well then what did you think when you saw the tarp? I mean, if I even see a blue tarp for sale over at Green’s Hardware I immediately think, dead body.”

“It gave me pause,” Adrienne admitted. “I figured maybe someone had buried a pet beneath the flooring.”

“Gross,” I interrupted.

“Uncovering a dead dog would have been problematic all on it’s own, but something about the tarp,” she paused, “Made me cautious. So I stopped and waited for Elliot to get back downstairs before digging any further. Though I did have to move over towards the bulkhead to wait for him. The smell became close to unbearable.”

“See he’d been carrying concrete and dirt out in buckets to the back yard-”

I interrupted again, “Sorry, to be stuck on the logistics, but there must have been a ton of dirt and concrete to get rid of if you’re digging out an entire basement. Where did you put it all? How do you keep the neighbors from noticing?”

“Excellent question,” Adrienne said, as though I was a student in an Apocalypse Prep For Beginners course. “This house was over in the Cliff Road area close to the edge of town. We had two acres set back from the road and surrounded by forest, there was even a sizeable stream that ran through the property,” she shook her head in dismay at what I suppose was disappointment in losing such a choice piece of end times acreage. “We created neat piles of debris approximately twenty feet back into the woods.”

“No wonder you’re in such good shape,” I replied.

“It’s better than CrossFit,” she conceded. “So anyway, Elliot was barely down the bulkhead stairs when he goes, ‘What in the hell is that smell? Did we hit a sewer line?’ I brought him back into the basement and pointed to the edge of the tarp.

“He grabbed the rake and pulled more dirt away uncovering the whole thing. It was about six feet long and it was obvious that it was wrapped around something body-shaped. ‘It’s gotta be someone’s dog,’ Elliot said hopefully. But then we saw hair mixed in with the dirt near one open end of the tarp, blond hair.”

“Are you serious?” I demanded.

“Yeah,” Adrienne said simply. “What a total punch in the face. All that work for nothing.”

“What did you do with the body?” I asked, almost afraid of the answer.

“We called the damn police, we had no choice,” she sighed disgustedly. “We had people swarming all throughout the house, forget the work we’d done on the basement, we’d made a ton of modifications to the upper floors as well. Wasted. We knew we had to move and start again from square one but we couldn’t do anything until the investigation was over and we were allowed to fix the basement. It was a fucking nightmare. Not to mention how hard it is to sell a house where a body’s been found. It’s impossible! People are so fucking superstitious. We’ve got a renter in there now.”

“Do they know about the body?” I asked.

“No, I don’t think so. They haven’t ever brought it up anyhow.”

“And about that body,” I prompted.

“It was a woman. She was screwing around with a married man, the wife found out then killed her and they buried her body in the basement.”

“Well, that’s a bit of a twist,” I said. “Isn’t it usually the guy who murders his mistress?”

“I suppose,” Adrienne pouted. “People need to learn to manage their own shit.”

“What happened next?” I asked, eager to get to the ghost.

“So the house was processed as a crime scene for over a week. We had to clear out of there and stay in a hotel, which is probably the most vulnerable place to be in the event of a disaster by the way.”

My mind flittered to all the people caught in the path of a relentless hurricane season and I remained silent, not trusting myself to withhold snark.

“So the body, the woman, her name was Catherine Platt. She had an affair with this guy, Paul Whitfield. He sold the house to the people who we bought it from. The jackass was married and his wife Georgia found out about the affair so she invited Catherine to the house (apparently they were in the Juniors together or some shit) and poisoned her coffee. Then she calls the husband and tells him what she’d done. He gets home and the assholes decide to try and cover it all up.

“You’ve gotta give them credit. If we hadn’t dug that basement out no one would ever have found her.”

“People must have been looking for the poor woman,” I argued. “How did they get away with it?”

Adrienne shrugged, “Part dumb luck part evil genius I suppose. There were rumors in town that Catherine had run off with her therapist, or that she’d escaped back home to L.A. Multiple theories shifted attention away from the fact that a couple women in their spin class overheard Georgia invite Catherine over for coffee on the day she went missing. Georgia must have been a convincing actress because she never fell under suspicion.

“The police found Catherine’s Land Rover parked over at Morses Pond. The gossip mill filled in the blanks. Her husband actually became suspect number one. That dip shit was also cheating with some chick in his office. The perfect storm of messy lives and gossip protected the Whitfields and they almost got away with murder.”

“Until your doomsday prep plans came along,” I commented.

“Exactly. You know the police actually did search the house, but obviously they missed something. They think the couple stashed the body way back in the woods for a time before burying it in the basement.”

“When did all this happen?” I asked.

“The nineties.”

“And when did you find the body?”

“A little over four years ago.”

I was surprised that I hadn’t heard anything about it before, but it had probably gone down just before we’d moved to town. I made a mental note to ask some friends what they knew about the murder.

After a moment I said, “That poor woman.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Adrienne replied, shifting in her chair.

“Come on, drinking poisoned coffee then getting wrapped in a tarp and buried two feet below someone’s basement floor is pretty brutal,” I insisted.

“True,” Adrienne replied. “But what’s worse is having the ghost of that woman think you’re the one who killed her.”

“Oh no!” I said enthusiastically, failing to hide my excitement.

“I don’t care if you believe me or not, it happened,” Adrienne said defensively.

“Tell me what happened already and I’ll tell you if I believe you,” I said, impatiently.

“Alright, obviously the plans for the basement were off. We had to move, everyone and their sister had been in there and we couldn’t risk having our fallout shelter so public. It really sucked. That place would have been the perfect hold out,” she sighed.

I ate another Munchkin. Stuffing sass.

“So we had to get the house ready to put on the market.”

“How long had you been living there?” I asked.

“About two years. Once the police finally cleared out we began getting the house ready for a sale. That’s when the ghost came around.”

“So, wait. Nothing strange happen in the house beforehand?”
“Not that we noticed,” she replied, thoughtfully.

“Weird, I feel like it would make more sense if the ghost caused problems until you found her body.”

“Yeah, well if this woman was anything in life like she was in death? I don’t blame those people for getting rid of her.”

“Jesus,” I said, “Harsh.”

“I know, but I have wondered if there was more to the story about her death. Maybe it wasn’t just revenge on the wife’s part. Maybe they had to get rid of her. I’m telling you, the way she came after me I would have done anything to get rid of her.”

“What did she do?” I asked.

“Little things at first. A couple days after we moved back in I was in the basement making a list of the supplies we’d need to lay a new floor. I had my measuring tape with me and I know that I put it down for a minute on the stairs so I could make note of a measurement. I went to pick it back up but it was gone.

“I began looking all around the floor, thinking maybe it had fallen and I had kicked dirt over it by accident. Then all of a sudden I heard the swoosh noise. You know that noise a metal measuring tape makes when you let the ruler slide back in? That sound came from the back corner of the basement. Where we found the body.”

“Yikes,” I breathed.

“I went right over and there was my tape measurer. Sitting right in the center of the depression where the body’d been. Look, I’m not a jumpy person but that doesn’t mean I was cool with hanging out in that part of the basement. I hadn’t even been back there since the day we called the police. There was no logical reason for the tape measurer to be there. But it was.

“I chalked it up to a fluke. Maybe I’d been distracted with the construction plans and had dropped it.”

“But the noise of the measuring tape recoiling,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, that I couldn’t ignore, though I tried to. I think she was just testing the waters then, getting her sea legs. I can imagine there’s a bit of a learning curve for ghosts,” Adrienne said thoughtfully. “They probably have to practice moving small stuff first before they get the hang of it.

“So those first weeks back in the house minor things like that kept happening, minor but irritating nonetheless. Like, any time I used anything electrical, my spin toothbrush, the toaster oven, the computer, it blew a fuse. And it was only me, it never happened to Elliot. I began having to ask him turn things on for me just so I could get through my day. Then the lightbulbs started exploding. I could use lights during the day for the most part, in my office or bedroom, though never in the basement. But at night, if I flipped a switch or turned on a lamp the bulb would make this popping noise and blink out. It was ridiculous. I had two different electricians to the house – I even had one of them come at night so they could see exactly what was happening – neither one could explain it.

“Then she started moving things. Big things. I woke up one morning and our dresser, it’s just about waist high with three drawers, about this wide,” Adrienne held her arms out indicating an approximate width that appeared to be a little over a yard, “It was pushed up against my side of the bed. It took me a moment to get it when I opened my eyes. The dresser was right there in front of me, and everything on top, a lamp some books and a couple picture frames, were exactly as I’d left them.”

“Where does the dresser usually sit?” I asked.

“On the other side of the room, on the wall across from Elliot’s side of the bed.”

I just shook my head.

“We hadn’t talked about it before then, but Elliot was like, ‘We can’t ignore what’s happening any longer.’ We were a ways from being able to sell the house, there was still a lot of work that needed to be done before we could put it on the market. It had to be especially perfect seeing as a body had been found in the basement.”

“What did you decide to do?” I asked nervously.

“Elliot bought a Ouija board.”

I had no words, so I stuffed one of the last Munchkins into my mouth.

“We did some research online. It seemed like a lot of people with ghosts try to sage ‘em outta there or use salt to banish them. But I found a couple websites that warned against doing either of those things because it was possible to inadvertently trap the ghost rather than dispel it. And apparently that really pisses them off.

“We decided to contact the ghost directly and find out what the hell it wanted.”

“And?” I prompted.

“We put a lot of thought into it. We drew up a questioning strategy to dig out as much information as we could from the spirit. We believed that only then could make an informed plan of attack.”

“Know your enemy,” I commented, imagining Adrienne and her husband sitting in a police interrogation room, a Ouija board on a table between them.

Adrienne slurped the last of her Dunkachino obnoxiously, “Precisely,” she said pointing a finger at me. “We needed to know who the ghost was, what it wanted, and where it spent most of the time in the house. We developed a line of questioning regarding its past life too.  We planned to dig out facts, names and dates that we could verify and validate.”

Adrienne stared at me, I think hoping that I would praise her for the ridiculous plan. I said, “Had either of you ever used a Ouija board before?”

“Of course not,” she snapped. “Why would we? It’s spiritualist bullshit.”

“But it was the first thing you chose to contact the ghost in your house,” I pointed out.

“Well we needed the right tool for the job,” she replied.

“So how did that work out?”

Adrienne pushed her sleeves up and crossed her arms across her chest. “It made things a million times worse,” she admitted.

“How so?”

“The ghost ignored most of our questions, it was almost completely uncooperative. She told us her name, though. Catherine, the woman we found in the basement, which wasn’t a shock but it was,” Adrienne paused, searching for a word. She landed on “disconcerting.”

“What else did the board tell you?”

“We wanted proof that it was Catherine, so we asked how she died. She actually wrote out ‘bad coffee’ on the board.”

“Holy hell, that is incredible!” I exclaimed.

“It was pretty amazing. Elliot and I weren’t pushing the planchette. It was her. What I really wanted to know was why she was still there, I thought it might give us a clue as to how to get rid of her. I asked, ‘why are you stuck in the house?’ And she wrote ‘not house.’ It didn’t make any sense because she sure as shit had been spending time there. I pressed for specifics and she wouldn’t reply. Elliot finally got frustrated and demanded to know what she wanted.”

Adrienne began to pick at the cardboard of the empty munchkin box. “When he asked her what she wanted the planchette slid across the board towards me and it didn’t stop until it was in my lap.

“I grabbed it and threw the thing across the room. And then the lights went out and the security alarm sounded. We scrambled up the basement stairs-”

“Wait,” I demanded, “You were using the Ouija board in the basement?

“Well yeah, we set it up right over where we’d found her body,” Adrienne replied scrunching her eyebrows, “It made the most sense.”

I shook my head, frightened by her dumb bravery.

“So we got upstairs and the alarm was deafening, I swear she somehow made it louder than usual. I ran straight to the second floor to check on Duke but not before noticing that all the doors to the first floor were wide open.”

“Shit,” I said. “But who the hell is Duke?”

“Our son.”

“You have a child?” I said trying to hide the surprise and horror from my voice.

“Yeah. Why else would we be in the suburbs?,” she replied.

“How old is he?” I asked, afraid of her answer.

“Five, he just started kindergarten.”

“What elementary school does he go to?” I asked trying to sound nonchalant.

“I’d rather not say,” Adrienne replied.

“My daughter just started kindergarten at [school name omitted],” I said, prying subtly.

“It’s not that one,” she said waving the question away. I sighed with relief, I certainly don’t want to seem too judgy, but I also didn’t need Max hanging out with this woman’s child.

“Anyhow, that night, after Elliot went around and closed and re-locked all the doors we just called it a night.”

“You didn’t close the board?”

“What do you mean?”

“I thought you said you did research!” I replied, irritated.

“Most of that stuff just seemed like hocus pocus,” Adrienne said dismissively. I rolled my eyes but didn’t comment further. “Catherine was much harder to live with after that night. For one thing opening all the doors at once like that? That was one of her favorite tricks. She did it at least once a day and at completely random times, you never knew when it was coming. And it was as though she knew exactly how to drive us crazy.

“She put my wedding ring in the toilet. She managed to burst a pipe in the ceiling that was directly above our coat closet downstairs where I keep all of my shoes. My keys stopped working even after I had new ones cut, even after I had the locks changed on all the doors.”

“Why was she picking on you? You found her body, if it weren’t for you then her killers would never have been caught,” I said.

“It took me a while to figure it out too,” Adrienne admitted. “I began to see her, just glimpses at first. She loved standing in the corner of our bedroom. Elliot couldn’t see her, but I could. I didn’t sleep.”

“What did she look like?” I asked.

“She was wearing what I assumed she died in, workout clothes. Black yoga pants, obnoxious neon Nikes and a camouflage LuLu Lemon shirt.”

I glanced down at my own outfit, the only difference was that my shirt was pink.

“I suppose you could spend eternity in a worse outfit,” Adrienne laughed. “I honestly felt like I was being stalked. And it was me, it wasn’t Elliot, or Duke thank God. She haunted me. I didn’t feel like I could tell anyone what was happening. I couldn’t do any real research either, she glitched our computer up it up whenever I tried to use it. I tried using a library computer and ended up causing a power outage.”

“Did you try the salt and sage?” I asked dumbly.

“I went a step further. I called a priest,” Adrienne said darkly. “He said he’d be happy to come to the house and perform a blessing. So there he was on our front step and I couldn’t get the door open. I opened the window and told him to go around to the side door. He was good natured about it at first, but as he watched me through the glass struggling with the second door he began insisting that he’d come back at a better time.

“I was freaking out. Trapped. I motioned for him to go back to the other door so I could talk to him through the open window. I rushed back only to see him getting back in his car. I called to him, ‘Father! Wait!’

“He waved and called back, ‘I’ll do my best to find someone to help you.’”

“Oh shit,” I said, unconsciously feeling for my necklace.

Adrienne shook her head, “And then I had a full blown panic attack. I wanted to jump out the window into the yard but the screen wouldn’t budge. So I ran to the kitchen to get a hammer to smash the door handle off the side door and as I rushed around the corner to the mudroom I almost crashed right into her.”

“The ghost?”

Yes. She was standing in front of the door with a smirk on her face. And she, like said, but not out loud it was like she thought the words and I could hear her thinking. I know it sounds ridiculous. But she goes, ‘I’ll never quit paying you back for what you did to me.’ Then all the doors on the first floor flew open with a huge crash and she disappeared, leaving the alarm blaring.”

“So she did think you killed her.”

“Yeah,” Adrienne said quietly. “We tried the damn Ouija again. I spelled out ‘I am not Georgia’ on the board thinking maybe the message would get through to her that way. It didn’t work. So I sent Duke to stay with my parents in California for two weeks hoping I could somehow solve the problem by the time he got back.”

“Elliot suggested we hold an auction to unload the house but I knew in my heart that it wasn’t the house that mattered. The ghost was attached to me. The little jump scares she enjoyed torturing me with were one thing, but then she began influencing me.”

“Mm mm,” I murmured.

“I began to black out. I would find myself in my car and have absolutely no idea why I was there or where I had been.”

“Oh no,” I breathed.

“It was really scary. She started to jump me like that more and more, and when she did she caused all sorts of problems. One day she went and bought a shit-ton of dresses and old lady slacks and cardigans at Talbot’s. All final sale, mind you.”

“She must have wanted to live through you,” I commented.

“No, it wasn’t like that. She didn’t want to be alive again, she wanted to fuck up my life.”

“So how did it all end? How did you get rid of her?”

“That’s almost the craziest part of the whole story. I was in the library with Duke. We were in the children’s room and there was this woman there. She kept looking over at me. As we were leaving she followed us out to the parking lot. She was really sweet, had a two year old little girl with her. I figured she thought she recognized us, but then she goes, ‘Excuse me, I don’t want to be strange, but do you believe in ghosts?’”

“No freaking way! Was she psychic?”

“Yeah, she could see Catherine. She said she usually didn’t stop people to tell them about their ghosts unless she thought they might be in danger. When we were in the library she’d had a vision of what the ghost had been doing to me. She asked if I wanted help.

“Wow,” I said in disbelief. “Could she get rid of it? What did she do?”

“She was really persistent. She came to the house and spoke with Catherine a few times. She even brought print outs of newspaper articles and explained to her what had actually happened. Eventually Catherine accepted the fact that I really wasn’t Georgia and moved on.”

“That is truly incredible,” I said. “What a godsend.”

“Molly was amazing, you should meet her actually.”

“Wait, Molly? Not Molly Vail,” I asked, shocked.

“Yeah, that’s her. You know her?”

“Shut the front door!” I exclaimed. “Her story is on the blog.”

“Small world,” Adrienne replied obviously not as impressed as I was with the coincidence.



I texted Molly the second I got into my car.

Just met your friend Adrienne. Crazy story! How are you?

What synchronicity! Been meaning to get in touch, she texted back. Can you do coffee in the morning?

Sure, I replied suddenly overcome with anxiety.

OK good. Cafe Vanille 9am?

I texted the thumbs up emoji.

How much do you know about Voodoo? Molly texted seconds later.

d6391c0b-c847-477d-832a-f4f318fd3949_1.01af5aa40e57dd6ecd99110a88e53235The Boston Marathon is pure love. It is a 26.2 mile wall of strangers supporting and challenging runners to dig in until they take a left on Boylston Street. We lived in Boston for thirteen years and have been out in Wellesley (also a part of the marathon route) for three. Every time I’ve gone to cheer on the runners I’ve had to blink back tears as I join the line of spectators. The vibe is so incredibly strong, you can feel pure love and hope emanating off every single person along the course.

I simply love the marathon. Chris and I ran it together twice, once before the bombings and once after.

The year of the bombings I was pregnant with Joey and I had the marathon playing on the television as background noise like I do every Patriot’s Day. Though we lived in Beacon Hill at the time I didn’t hear the bombs go off. But I did notice the live marathon feed change to a strange view of the freeway and then within moments my phone rang, it was Chris calling to say he was alright and that he would he would walk home along Comm. Ave. I didn’t get the chance to ask him what had happened, he just hung up. Then the panicked Facebook messages began rolling in.

“Has anyone heard from so-and-so?”

“Was so-and-so at the finish line?”

“I can’t get in touch with anyone, they’re blocking cellphones!”

On that day Chris worked at 745 Boylston Street, the office building is about a block up from Marathon Sports where the first bomb went off and right next door to Forum where the second bomb detonated about 15 seconds later. When he heard the loud booms he thought one of the ever-present construction cranes had come down. But then he went to the window and looked down at Boylston Street.

At that very moment eight-year-old Martin Richard, 23-year-old Lingzi Lu, and 29-year-old Krystle Campbell were dying, seventeen other people were so horrifically injured that they lost limbs, and countless others suffered devastating burns and lacerations.

No one works Patriot’s Day in Boston. Except Chris. He was alone in the office but for one other woman and the building’s doorman. An angel of a man who stopped Chris and his co-worker from leaving the building through the front door and walking straight into a bloody, heart-wrenching nightmare. As it is Chris still can’t shake the image of a policeman running, a toddler in his arms, blood draining from her ears.

We didn’t know anyone who got hurt that day. We know people who had crossed the finish line half an hour or so before the bombs went off. We know people who had been cheering on loved ones and strangers from those two blocks but had left before the madness. We were a hairsbreadth from tragedy, but it didn’t touch us. But if Patriot’s Day in Boston emanates love every year, the four confusing days after the 2013 Boston Marathon radiated fear and rage.

Preppers often times have a trigger event. This was mine.

There are three (okay, five) Rubbermaid containers sitting in my basement, their contents patiently awaiting calamity. Could those plastic boxes have done a damn thing if Chris had walked down to watch the runners before he came home that day? No.

But I heard a new term in those four days of madness: Shelter in place.

Now that was something I could control.

Thus, my five plastic containers. Enclosed within are candles and waterproof matches, batteries and a solar powered radio-slash-cell-phone-charger-slash-flashlight contraption. There’s a Bear Grylls fire starter and a Swiss Army knife. A much bigger knife, crank walkie talkies, a massive first aid kit plus extra medical supplies, lots of kids tylenol and advil and plenty for the adults too, and even a stash of canned foods. Dinty Moore Stew, beans, peanut butter, jelly, candy and a lot of water. And since I was a little girl and read of sailors developing scurvy on long boat trips, I’ve had this thing about access to vitamin C. So little cans of tropical fruit are included as well.

Preppers exist on a paranoia continuum. To the left are those who stock extra batteries for flashlights in case of an overnight power outage, to the right are wackadoos who build bunkers in remote northern locations. I suspected that I might be crossing into serious paranoia territory, and then I met Adrienne Raczki.

She sent an email introducing herself as a  fellow Welleslian and asked if I might be interested in discussing something “truly terrifying.” She gave no further details but attached a giph of Dan Ackroyd in the Twilight Zone movie saying “You wanna see something really scary?”

How could I possibly say no to that?

Adrienne suggested that we meet at the Dunkin’ Donuts near Newton Lower Falls and informed me that she’d be wearing a pink Patagonia vest. I didn’t know what I would be wearing, but let’s be honest it would probably be workout clothes since my jeans had been a bit too tight lately.

I sat at the only free table in the corner of the shop, next to two men who were in the midst of a heated discussion about their business. One of the guys went on and on about everyone at the company being fed up with Kevin and his lack of focus. I reached into my bag and flipped on my voice recorder. I know it probably seems like, well maybe illegal but at the very least inappropriate, but I sort of like to study the way people talk to each other, it helps me write more realistic conversations and here I was alongside the perfect example of an argument. I would be turning the recorder on soon enough, I just turned it on a bit early.

“We’re all sick of your shit, Kevin,” the guy insisted loudly.

For his part, Kevin was agonizingly calm and even said a few things about constructive feedback. I wondered why they chose Dunks to have such a private talk.

A moment later I spotted Adrienne. Beneath the pink Patagonia vest she wore a white long sleeved t-shirt. A cute pair of distressed boyfriend jeans, a pair of well loved white Chuck Taylors and long highlighted hair completed the active lifestyle look. I guessed that she was in her very early thirties. She waved to me from the door and held up one finger, indicating she’d just be a minute while she placed her order.

I continued listening to the colleagues’ maddening back and forth and then groaned a little bit when I saw Adrienne approaching the table with a huge drink in one hand and a box of Munchkins in the other.

“Hieeeee!” She said cheerfully, placing an extra large iced Dunkachino and donuts on the table.

“Help yourself,” she said, indicating the box of Munchkins.

“Oh man, thank you. I don’t want to be that person but I’m trying really really hard to stay away from sweets.”

She smiled, “Oh, I totally get it. Sorry to provide temptation.”

“Well, I mean, I’ll have one,” I replied, sipping my black coffee.

We began to chat about the blog, Adrienne was pretty concerned about keeping her identity secret, but after a minute she sighed loudly and said, “Excuse me for a minute,” then she leaned towards the table next to us and with all the authority in the world said, “Hey, man. Settle the fuck down. There are people here trying to enjoy their coffee,” she paused for the briefest of moments then continued, “And Kevin, why are you letting this dickhead talk to you like that?”

The angry guy was about to say something when she cut him off, “We’ve heard enough from you today angry smurf. Don’t back chat me.”

The two stared each other down for a moment while Kevin and I stared at them staring at each other.

Angry smurf began a reply, “Mind your own business you nosey-”

“Finish that sentence,” Adrienne said calmly, slowly standing up.

The angry man looked like he was considering his options.

“Fuck this,” he finally said, shoving his chair back so hard that it fell over.

We all watched him storm out the door.

Kevin cleared his throat and said, “Thanks for your help. I was letting him blow off a little steam before I fired him.”

“Dumbshit,” Adrienne said without missing a beat. “Where’d you go to business school?”

With that Kevin actually laughed, “Enjoy your coffee, ladies,” he said before picking the chair up off the floor and leaving.

Then Adrienne turned to me, “Good riddance, huh?”

I was speechless, halfway between thanking her and getting up to leave myself.

“Sorry to be so aggro, but guys like that are the worst,” she said in a peppy voice.

A woman who had been watching the exchange as she waited for her order came over and high-fived Adrienne.

“Stuff like that happens to you all the time, doesn’t it?” I asked.

“I guess so, I’ve never been good at ignoring bullshit,” she said simply.

“That’s amazing.”

“Well, moving on,” she said, popping a Munchkin in her mouth, “As long as you’re sure that this story won’t be connected back to me in any way, then I have a ghost story for you, but I came to it by way of the apocalypse.”

Again, I was speechless.

“My husband and I are preppers.”

It took me a moment to understand what she was saying, at first I thought she was referring to being preppy. Then her meaning dawned on me.

“Oh!” I said, “You mean like stocking food for disaster?”

“Not just food,” she replied, stirring the massive Dunkachino with a straw. “All sorts of supplies. It’s about independence, really. The ability to take care of your own. You know, people in this country are asleep, we’ve allowed the government to run us all into a forever war so they can keep us in a state of perpetual state of fear and confusion. If we feel that there are bad guys swarming all the time then we won’t think clearly. They can’t have us thinking for ourselves,” she paused, sizing me up.

“Go on,” I said.

“Well, I mean have you thought about it at all?”

“What?” I asked, confused.

“The state of everything,” she insisted, her peppy demeanor gone. “This slow march towards disaster that we’ve all signed on for. You’re educated, you have access to resources, you recognize that there is darkness here. But what are you doing to prepare for the end days?”

“Good question,” I said, afraid she was about to whip out a Bible. “What are you doing to prepare for it?”

“Everything I can,” she replied excitedly pulling her chair in closer to the table. “I grew up in California where it felt like disaster was hiding around every corner. The mudslides and rolling blackouts, wildfires, riots. Not to mention the threat of the big one, the earthquake that would kill us all.

“Then this one Sunday in church our preacher referred to armageddon in his sermon. I’d never heard the term before. I read a lot so I went to the library and checked out a Time Life book on the subject.

“I read it once then flipped back to the front page and read it again, only that time I took notes. It made so much sense, I realized that all the disaster around me was a part of a bigger picture. We were being given a glimpse, a warning of what was to come. Little frightening messages of the inevitable.

“So I began reading the newspaper every day, then two or three a day. There were signs from all over the world, right there in black and white. Proof of our imminent advance towards the apocalypse but no one was talking about it.”

I didn’t know what to say so I sipped my coffee.

“So I decided to be prepared,” Adrienne concluded.

“But isn’t the whole point of the apocalypse that no one makes it out alive?” I asked.

“No, no, no, no,” Adrienne said rapidly. “I’m not a religious nut. I’m not talking Jesus coming down on a flaming horse and branding us all, I’m talking about the clearing of the planet. The book of Revelation is allegory. A warning, an incredibly forward thinking one.”

“You really think something like that is going to happen?”

“Yes,” she replied simply. “And I’ve been preparing for it since I graduated from college.”

“How in the world did you end up in Wellesley?” I asked, thinking this wasn’t exactly the ideal place to prepare for the end of the world.

“My husband grew up here but we met in college. We both got our Bachelor’s in Horticulture at Oregon State. I met Elliot in the program while we were worked a farm about half an hour from campus. We got to talking and it turned out we were both interested in the end times.”

“What are the chances of that?” I mused.

“I know, right?” She agreed with a big smile.

“But still,” I pressed, “Why did you guys move back here? I would think you’d be better off riding out the apocalypse in the mountains or something.”

“Uh uh,” she replied firmly. “The government’s entrenched in the mountains. Trust me, you don’t want to be anywhere near them when it all falls apart. It’s going to be hard enough to keep from getting drafted no matter where you are.

“Ultimately, we chose Wellesley to be close to Boston, we’re foodies.”

I tried really hard to maintain a neutral expression, that word tended to give me the eye rolls.

“We couldn’t move to New York, you’d have to be an idiot to live there,” Adrienne declared. “Sure it’s the ideal place to experience food but the place is a death trap. I shudder to imagine what will become of those people. Boston’s fine,” she waved a hand dismissively, “We blend in here and it’s easy to escape.”

“Hmm,” I said considering. The traffic around here on a Tuesday was maddening enough, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like during a world-wide emergency. But I thought better of pointing it out and asked, “What exactly do you think is going to happen?”

“A large scale trigger event, I’d say it’s a toss up between climate change initiating a technology fueled financial meltdown and plain old fashioned nuclear war.”

“What about an outbreak?” I asked.

Adrienne shook her head knowingly, “Illness in itself won’t elicit enough panic to cause full scale disaster. Of course, disease will come after the initial event. The outbreaks we’ve seen around the world are a PG-rated preview of what we’ll encounter when the system collapses. The main event hasn’t happened yet so the government will continue to allow certain structures to remain in place to contain disease.

“But, when an outbreak occurs when half of our medical professionals are already dead, when we have no electricity and people are already weak from lack of proper nutrition, that’s the outbreak that will imprison the sick in hospitals in order to protect the healthy.”

As I tried to digest the image of the possibility Adrienne whispered, “You know to stay away from hospitals, right?”

“I love hospitals,” I replied shaking my head.

“Oh man,” Adrienne sighed. “Look, that’s fine for now, I guess, but you do realize that you’re completely giving up all freedom the second you walk through those automatic doors.”

I looked at her skeptically, I’m perfectly happy to give up my so-called freedom to medical professionals. Afterall, what good is freedom if you’re hurt or dead?

“Think about it,” Adrienne insisted pointing a finger at the table. “Imagine how it will all play out. Let’s say the war is on and the enemy decides to weaken our systems by releasing biological warfare on the civilian population.

“In wartime, the kind of future war that we will be facing anyway, even the flu will be used as a biological weapon. So let’s say the agent is released and someone in your family comes down with symptoms. You don’t want to contaminate everyone else in the house so you all decide it’s best for the infected family member to go over to Newton Wellesley Hospital, just to get some fluids and medicine. Let’s imagine it’s your husband. He’ll get the rest and treatment he needs and be back with the family within a week, right?”

“Right,” I agreed.

“Wrong!” Adrienne said loudly. “He’s not coming back home. The hospital goes into lockdown mode with military personnel guarding all entrances. They’ve successfully contained a portion of the diseased population and those people will not be allowed back out if there is even the slightest chance they might infect healthy citizens.

“Chris ain’t leavin’ that hospital, it’ll be just you and the kids.”

“They won’t be allowed to do that,” I said, weakly, the idea of being separated from Chris driving a spike of fear in my heart.

“It’s martial law, Liz, they can do whatever they want.”

Adrienne took a big sip of her coffee drink.

I suddenly realized that I had a Munchkin in my hand. My God, I thought, How many of these have I eaten?”

“What’s your antibiotic situation like?” Adrienne asked.

“I don’t have one,” I admitted.

“What if you or one of the kids gets an ear infection in that first winter? Or you slice your hand collecting firewood?”

“My doctor’s not going to just right me and open-ended prescription just in case of natural disaster or nuclear war,” I argued, thinking of Joey’s frequent ear infections and feeling panic rise within me.

“There are other ways of getting meds,” Adrienne said, her eyebrows raised, “Comprende?”

“You mean order then from Mexico?” I said, laughing nervously.

Adrienne’s eyebrows stayed up. She finally said, “Have you done anything to prepare? For even the smallest of emergencies?”

“Oh sure,” I replied giving her a quick overview of the contents in my basement Rubbermaid bins.

“Okay, first of all, you should never tell anyone exactly what you have stockpiled and where.”

“So that was a trick question?” I said, irritated with the know-it-all sitting across from me.

“No, it’s fine to tell me. I have my shit together, but don’t go telling other people you have water and supplies in your basement.”

“Trust me, it’s not something that I’d bring up at the block party,” I replied.

“Good,” she said, ignoring my sarcasm. “What about cash? It will matter, in the early days at least. Though when it sinks in that things are never going back to normal we’ll have to rely on trade. Water will obviously be incredibly valuable, especially if we are in a fallout situation and are unable to safely collect rainwater or anything from streams or lakes.

“The thing about water, though, is that it will basically be priceless. So it shouldn’t be used for trade unless you are desperate for medication. But even then, you might be bringing hell down on your own head if you let the wrong people know that you have safe drinking water. And let’s be honest, at that point the people who are willing and able to trade valuable medications are going to be the type of people who will rain down hell.”

Adrienne laughed conspiratorially and I forced a smile then said, “I’ve stocked up on packs of Starbucks Via instant coffee. I can’t imagine being without coffee and I actually thought they might be a good thing to trade with people.”

“Huh,” Adrienne said, “Yeah, that’s brilliant. I may have to steal that idea from you!”

“Steal away,” I replied, feeling proud for getting an answer right.

“I didn’t hear you mention any weapons though, do you have a gun?”

I shook my head. Then Adrienne shook her head back at me and asked, “Then how are you going to deal with the zombies?”

I began giggling nervously. This woman was serious and I am fucking serious when I tell you that I hate zombies. Not that I think they could actually exist, it’s the idea of them that gets me. People losing all semblance of humanity, irrational, violent, unwavering in their hunger for destruction. It frightens me deeply. There are glimpses of it within normally rational people. Like when the news films a group of crazed sports fans rocking a car until it flips over as the larger group watches on and cheers. What in the fuck is that, right? It’s terrifying. I did not like where this conversation was headed.

Adrienne must have noticed my obvious discomfort because she quickly explained, “When I say zombies, I don’t mean the ones we see on television. I’m referring to the real walking dead. The carriers, the people who didn’t prepare, the injured or sick. They’re as good as dead, so I call them zombies. When the world is falling apart you’ll have to be able to recognize who those people are and cut them off.”

“That’s pretty cold,” I chided. “So you’ll shoot anyone you think might be too weak to survive?”

“No, not exactly. But if someone comes in between me and my family and survival then I’ll do whatever it takes.”

“I’ll be sure to stay clear of you in the event of an emergency then,” I said seriously. “I wouldn’t want there to be any confusion about my intentions.”

“Look, I’m not saying I’m going to go out and just pick people off that might be a threat. But people will be desperate and irrational. I’m simply ready to protect my family if I need too.”

“Sounds a little paranoid,” I commented.

“I’d call it prepared. Look, everyone has different priorities. I take responsibility for my family and their future in the event of an emergency. To survive armageddon one will need to make hard decisions. Otherwise, you’ll end up becoming a zombie swept up in the initial harvest,” she replied, matter-of-factly.

“Dark,” I said.

“It sure will be,” she agreed. “Do a quick Google search for “refugee camp conditions,” and see how long you can read first hand accounts before you have to turn away. Part of surviving is taking control of your own survival.”

“But those people didn’t have a choice, they were fleeing war or some other disaster. It’s not a matter of taking control, those people were caught in the crossfire and it’s not their fault.”

“I know that, I’m just giving you an example of what it will be like if you allow the government to round you up with the promise of food, water and shelter. If you fall for it you might as well sign the death certificates for yourself and your whole family.

“Self-sufficiency is the only way to survive what’s coming.”

“I don’t know if I want to survive in that kind of world,” I said honestly.

“Yes you do,” she replied.

We sat in silence, each lost in our own thoughts. I couldn’t help but imagine my girls, dusty and too-thin playing in a tent, amongst a never-ending sea of duplicate structures.  I felt sick that I had never truly allowed myself to imagine what it must be like to be chased from home. Fuck worrying about armageddon. There was enough hell on earth already.

I finally said, “Well, you’ve managed to completely freak me out, do I dare even ask about your ghost story?”

“Yes!” Adrienne exclaimed, “I’m sorry, I could talk about prepping for hours. But what I really wanted to talk to you about was what happened in my old house. I mean, I’m sure you’ve heard scarier stories, but this was the craziest thing.

Crazier than what we’ve already discussed? I thought. “So what happened?” I asked with a sigh.

“It all started when Elliott and I found a body in our basement.”


My world is rather small and I don’t travel very far from the Swells, so here we are, headed to Nantucket again. Let’s brave the Cape traffic and shoot for Hyannis where our ferry boat awaits.

August in Nantucket is humid, if you brought your hair dryer you’re a rookie. When it isn’t engulfed by dewy fog, the sun beats down relentlessly on the island and the surrounding ocean sparkles a deep dark navy, hiding great whites stalking seals its depths. Lines are long and service is slow and you can’t move very far without running into someone else’s child in mid tantrum. This is the stuff of forced family fun. The stuff you do “for the kids.” The stuff that pushes cocktail hour back to four p.m.

Each August Chris and I schlep the kids to the island for a week of beaching and eating and biking and whining and crying and laughing. We made a new discovery this trip, a “kid’s camp” run through one of the large hotels. From nine A.M. through noon the girls did crafts, went turtling in Madaket, hopped aboard the old fashioned fire truck for a ride to the Aquarium, and sifted through the sand all under the watchful eyes of a group of college kids. It was brilliant.

One morning after I’d returned from my walk to Jetties Chris and I were enjoying a coffee in a cozy little nook in the hotel lobby when I heard someone call, “Sower!”

I looked up from my computer and Chris from his iPhone to see Blue Seven beaming at us. We jumped up to greet our old friend.

“How long has it been?” Blue demanded.

“The wedding!” I replied, in disbelief.

We invited Blue to sit with us for a cup of coffee and caught up on kids and jobs. Blue looked exactly like I remembered him. Salty and scruffy and slightly sunburned. A lifetime of laughter and squinting at the horizon had carved deep smile lines around his eyes. At twenty-nine, he’d looked his current age of thirty-nine. In another ten years of chartering fishing trips I imagined he would appear a genial sixty years old.

After catching each other up on our current lives, and listening to Chris and Blue retell the same silly stories I’d heard dozens of times Blue asked, “What’s this I hear about your ghost stories? Jess won’t start talking about them, she’s pushing them on all our friends.”

I shook my head, embarrassed, “It’s just a little writing project, really.”

“Not true,” Chris insisted, “Liz is onto something. Wellesley is almost as haunted as Nantucket.”

“Did I ever tell you about my family’s place?” Blue asked with a twinkle in his eye.

“Wait!” I insisted excitedly. I dug through my bag to find my voice recorder, then uncovering it I held it up, “Tell us the story! Can I record it? Is that weird?”

Blue cleared his throat and smiled, “Will you change my name?”

“Of course,” I assured him, pressing the record button.

“Alright, but don’t tell Jess. She’ll flip when she hears this on the podcast.”

“Deal,” I said.

“You all came to the house after the wedding, right?”

We did. We’d continued the party on his parent’s lawn late into the night. The house was a grand three-story Federal style home of white clapboard, black shutters and shingles, greyed by the sea air. Built by a whaling captain in 1774, the property had a sprawling front yard and an ominous widow’s walk reminding passersby on Centre Street of the island’s grim past.

Blue’s grandfather bought the place in 1920 and it’s been a beacon, calling the family together every summer since. The house was magnificent, for sure, but it was also worn down and drafty, creaky and a touch moldy. The first floor was a hodge podge of well-loved furniture, old rugs and built-in bookcases jammed with James Pattersons, Harry Potters, yellowing Readers’ Digests and a legion of dog eared paperbacks. The home’s upkeep was a labor of love and necessity, to truly fix it up would cost a small fortune, so fresh band-aids were applied each season to the home’s most egregious issues.

Blue’s an excellent storyteller. So I’m going to let the salty old dog’s words speak for themselves. Besides, if I’d transcribed our entire conversation, with all Chris’s ‘Cut it out, man’s’ and my ‘Uh uh’s’ we’d be here forever. Not to mention the fact that we drifted off into tangents a lot, like all conversations with good old friends tend to do.

Blue began, “When we were kids we’d drag our sleeping bags up to that old death trap of an attic. If you opened the portholes at night it brought in an awesome cross breeze, made it the coolest place in the house. We cleared out a corner near one of the windows and made a little bedroom there.

“You know the widow’s walk, yeah? That’s where I saw my first ghost. It was a wicked humid night, probably July. You know what actually? It must have been fourth of July week because my cousins, Chris, you remember Janie and Adam, they were there. So I’m about ten and it’s the middle of the night and I wake up to pee. We’d pee out the window on the far side of the attic so we wouldn’t have to climb back down the ladder in the middle of the night. Mom threw an absolute fit when she realized we were doing that,” Blue guffawed at the memory.

“Yeah, so I’m doing my business out the window when I hear footsteps above my head. I figured that one of my cousins had climbed up onto the widow’s walk. You’d think we’d have been up there all the time but the thing was a wreck. The spiral staircase shook as you climbed up, felt like the damn thing would come tumbling down around you and it wasn’t worth it anyway, the deck itself was a splinter-filled mess. Gramps made a big deal of having a carpenter check it at the beginning of each summer, but I didn’t see the guy do a damn thing. He’d just climb up there for ten minutes then come back down and declare the broken deck ‘sound.’

“We weren’t supposed to be up there and when I heard the footsteps that night I was kinda surprised. I figured Adam might have filched some cigs from his parents so I stood at the base of the spiral trying to decide if I should go up or not when I realized that the footsteps I was hearing were pacing back and forth along the walk.

No one in their right mind would do that. You go up there and you take a look and you stand still and count the minutes ‘til you can get back to safety. Hearing someone clomping around up there scared me. But it totally scared me in a little kid way, yeah? I was afraid all Adam’s stomping around would break the walk apart and then we’d all get in trouble for sneaking out there at night. It didn’t even register that Adam was in danger, I was more concerned with my dad taking away attic privileges and that’s what pushed me up those stairs.

“I had it in my head to tell Adam off and maybe even take a puff or two of his cigarette. I tried to climb those stairs as quietly as I could, which was damn near impossible. I’m lucky the bolts didn’t come right out of the ceiling. The eye hook on the trap door was latched which gave my ten-year-old mind a little pause, but then I thought maybe Adam had managed to lock himself out and that’s why he was making such a ruckus. For a minute I was psyched to be the one to save the day.

“I unhooked the latch and pushed the heavy door up and out above my head until the hinge caught and held it in place. The pacing had stopped and I figured Adam was out of sight behind the trap door where I couldn’t see him. I whispered his name a couple times and he didn’t answer.
“I had the creeps real bad. I could sense someone standing just out of sight on the other side of that door, yeah? But something in me did not want to see who it was. I knew Adam would never let me live it down if I just turned and scooted back down those stairs. So I made myself crawl out onto the porch.

“When I stood and turned and saw who was there I freaking froze, man. I have never in my entire life been so terrified. I couldn’t move. I don’t even think I was breathing.

“It was a man, I swear on my daughter’s life, he was as real as you and me. He looked like Abraham Lincoln without the hat. No, seriously. He was really tall and skinny and he had a beard and his hair was too long and sort of flattened down around his head. We stared at each other for what felt like forever and then he goes, and I’ll never forget this, ‘They’re dead. Every one of ‘em. They’re all gone down to sea.’”

“Then he starts pacing again. He walked straight towards me so I broke for that trap door, man. I crawled in there so fast I don’t know how I didn’t kill myself on those stairs and when I yanked that trap door closed I got a mean handful of splinters. Actually had to go to the doctor to dig some of ‘em out. Yeah, I slid down the rest of those stairs screaming and crying. I didn’t even realize I was doing it.

“Adam and my sister met me at the bottom of the stairs and dragged me over to our sleeping bags telling me to shut up so I wouldn’t wake up our parents. I told them what I’d seen and they believed me. If they hadn’t I think I would have lost my little mind. Janie had the idea to go to the library and try to find out how to get rid of ghosts. We stole table salt from the kitchen and sprinkled it across the last step up to the widow’s walk and since we couldn’t get our hands on any sage we burned a couple of dried leaves up there and shared a cigarette in the attic, blowing the smoke up to that hatch hoping it would clear the ghost away.

“You know what? I told mom about it years later and she some research. You’re not going to believe this, so, not the guy who built the place but the second captain to own the house, right? He’d lost his entire crew on a whaling trip and then lost his mind. He was supposed to go but sent his brother in law instead or something tragic like that. Man, can you imagine? Stuck out on that walk, having to relive that forever?”




Blue was chock full of stories. His next involves another sea captain’s mansion. Today a hotel, the Jared Coffin House is the oldest mansion built on island. A three-story brick Greek-Revival style estate that sits atop Broad Street. The original structure boasts thirty guest rooms, one can only imagine how grand it must have been when sea captain Jared Coffin built it for his family in 1845.  

“When I was fourteen I landed a job as a bellhop at the Jared Coffin.” Blue began, “It was the summer before I snagged the job as striker on the Emily Marie.”

“But that’s your boat’s name,” I interrupted.

“Mm hmm,” Blue said with a smile. “I’ll tell you that story next, it’s not a ghost story but it’s pretty fucked.”

“It’s scarier than a ghost story,” Chris commented.

“Yeah, true. But so I got this bellhop job at the hotel. It was mostly dragging luggage up and down three flights for summer people, but I had to help the cleaning staff a lot too. There was this Irish girl, she was real cute, a tall freckled brunette. Mary. I think she was eighteen, totally out of my league, but I hopped to anytime she needed help carrying towels or lugging the vacuum to the third floor.

“This one day I’m coming out of a room after dropping bags and she runs right into me and knocks me clean over. She stumbled a bit but just kept on running down the hallway to the stairs. I went after her and when I got down to the first floor I saw she’d run right out the front doors onto the sidewalk.

“My first thought was that one of the guests had made a move on her, or worse. I’m telling you, she was shaking and insisting that she wouldn’t go back inside. When she wouldn’t tell me what happened I went into get another one of the cleaning girls. I didn’t want to get her in trouble by telling their manager, but I knew that if she didn’t go back in and finish her shift she’d be out a job.

“The girl, ah, Shelby it was, was mad at me at first, she thought I was the one to get her worked up. Mary finally calmed down a bit and told us what she’d seen. She had been making one of the twin beds in room three-oh-one. Said she was trying to rush since she’d had the creeps the second she walked in there. Near the small bathroom there was a closet door and as she was shaking a pillow into a new case that closet door creaked open. She tried to ignore it by thinking the old building was just making itself more comfortable but then as she threw the pillow onto the bed the closet door creaked back closed. She was on the other side of the room and had to pass that closet to get back out to the hallway.

“She said she had this awful feeling someone was hiding in there even though she knew that wasn’t possible. The manager had told her to open the room and she was afraid of having her hours cut if she made a fuss and it turned out to be nothing, so she decided to crawl across the beds to the hall door and then prop it open. That way at least someone would hear her scream if she was attacked.

“As she crawled across the first bed she heard something shuffling and scratching across the floor beneath it. She said it sounded big. Too big to be a mouse. She freaked out and jumped onto the other bed and just as she did she felt something grab at her ankle. She said it felt like it had claws. Then, get this, the closet door slammed open and as she bolted for the door she caught a glimpse of a small woman crouched in the corner of that closet. The woman had on a dirty white dress and two long skinny braids and, listen here, she had black teeth.

“I didn’t know if she was freaking out or what but that girl was scared to death. We finally got her to go back inside and luckily it was a slow time of day you know afternoon in the middle of the week. Everyone was at the beach, so I told her I’d go up and help her finish the room. Shelby sort of bullied her into it, lecturing on about how Mary couldn’t afford to get fired.

“I don’t know why I agreed to go back up there with her. I guess I thought it was all probably too good to be true, yeah? But I went up. Mary was shaking, man, literally almost unable to walk down the hallway when we got up to the third floor. I went ahead of her, and I tried to hide it but I was spooked. As I turned the knob on that door all the hair on my arms stood straight up.

“I was scared and excited, man, I thought that maybe I was about to see a ghost again. But when I opened the door all there was was a seriously trashed hotel room. The sheets had been torn off the beds and thrown on the ground all crazy-like and the beds themselves had been sort of pushed around away from the wall. One of the pillows had been ripped open so there were down feathers still floating in the air.

“It was like walking into an after party if the guests just disappeared into thin air. I could only stand there and stare. Mary was behind me peeking in over my shoulder and I was about to say, ‘Are you pulling my leg?’ half hoping the whole thing was a prank, when the closet door started to open with this slow creeeeaak that I will never in my life forget. I slammed the door so hard and took off down the hall. Mary chased after me screaming, ‘I told you!’ I didn’t even think about it, I just went straight to my boss and told him there was a crazy lady in room three-oh-one and that she’d scared Mary and then trashed the place.

“He started to go up there but I stopped him. I glossed over what had happened to Mary (I left out the part about the claws on the floor) but I told him we had to call the police. There was no way I was going back up there with a crazy lady in the closet.

“Yeah, what did the police say? At first they thought it was a prank. When my boss finally convinced them that he was being serious they said they’d send someone over to check it out. You know who showed up? The sheriff. He listened to the story then brought my boss up so they could have a look for themselves. When they got back downstairs my boss looked like he was about to pass out and the sheriff left us with a word of warning to stay away from that room, then he asked to talk to Mary’s manager. We were all in the back office and he calls her in and gave her a really hard time about trying to open that room up again. She had no idea what he was talking about, it was her first summer at the hotel. So the sheriff goes ‘Under no circumstances is that room to be used.’ He said he’d be sure to call the hotel owner and the past manager to let them know how irresponsible it had been for them not to pass on the rules about three-oh-one. Then he left. Leaving the four of us there staring at eachother.

“On the Bible. On the Bible that’s exactly how it went down. I didn’t go near that room again and I hated to even be on that floor. But a couple weeks later I was manning the reception desk. Sometimes the overnight guy needed time off so I would snag the shift if I could since it paid time and half. So around two-thirty in the morning this guy comes downstairs complaining about a loud party or something in the room above his. He said there must be a big dog in the room above theirs too because they kept hearing it scratching on the floor.

“He was in room two-oh-one. Directly below that devil of a room. No! Of course I didn’t go check it out! I moved him to another room. I made up some story about a high ranking government official staying in the hotel and gave them vouchers for free breakfast for the rest of their vacation. I thought for sure I’d get canned the next morning but when I told the story to the day receptionist she just goes, ‘Quick thinking.’”




Blue’s ghost stories kept me up reading late into the night for distraction for the rest of our vacation, but his last story frightened me for a different reason.

“Oh yeah, the Emily Marie. She’s a beaut, a Crosby Hawk with a twelve foot beam. We can have 4 rods fishing at once, you know, you’ve been out with me Chris. Couple stripers, right? Some blues too. Yeah, I started on the Emily Marie as a striker. Oh, it’s like a helper, I guess. You know for the captain but also the guests. I did all the lugging and managed the gear and cleaned fish. All that shit. I started on the boat in ‘96 the summer after my freshman year at BU. I spent the next three summers doing the same thing then after I graduated I had no job and no idea how I was going to find one so I worked for Dave again. Dave Nevers, the captain.

“He was as salty as they came, man. Good guy, knew his stuff on the water, but his home life was a mess. Big drinker, he’d put away six/eight beers on a three hour charter and the guests were none the wiser. I think that’s why he hired me, you know, just in case. There were a couple close calls, but nothing too bad. For the most part he managed the drink well enough, his problem was women. The boat was named after his wife. I met her when I was twenty and she was the hottest forty year old woman I’d ever seen. I could barely even make eye contact with her.. She really was something, looked like a pin up girl. Thing was, Dave slept around, he couldn’t help himself. You know guys like that, yeah? Dead set on pressing the self destruct button just to see what it’s like to watch their lives burn to the ground. That was Dave.

“She eventually found out, the island’s so damn small you can’t keep anything a secret. And that’s what got her, the humiliation of it. He hadn’t even tried to save her the embarrassment. He just carried on as though no one would talk and he got away with it for a long time but then he made the mistake of hooking up with one of her little sister’s friends and that was the end of it.

“The thing about Emily was that she was patient. She didn’t even tell him that she knew what he’d done. She just hopped a Cape Air to Boston then jumped on a flight back home to NOLA. She went and bought herself a curse from a genuine Voodoo queen.

“Yup, she didn’t want to kill him but she wanted him to feel just as humiliated as she did and she wanted him to suffer. It started out slowly, he rolled his ankle and then got a mean case of poison ivy when he was weed whacking the yard, even breathed the stuff in. It was nasty. What else, I mean it was ridiculous. HE was walking around with a nasty rash all over is face and arms and legs, he had to wear a boot for the ankle, and then that’s right! His hair started to fall out and I mean fast. It was patchy. He was one of those guys who always wore a hat, but the poison ivy drove him so made that he couldn’t tolerate wearing it anymore.

“We joked about his stroke of bad luck and all the while Emily never let on until things started happening with the boat. Weird things. Crazy asshole charter guests, the anchor line broke like every time we put it down, gas leaks, stuff like that. She eventually told him what she’d done and he was completely freaked out. He tried to convince himself the curse wasn’t real but then we hit a totally unexpected storm one morning, it came out of nowhere and we damn near capsized. It was a charter trip and we had three guys with us. That’s what convinced him he had to get off the water. He sold me the boat for a thousand bucks and made me promise I wouldn’t change the name. Said it was bad luck. I swear. I tried to argue with him that it wasn’t enough money but he was desperate to get off the island and away from that woman.

“I didn’t know if I believed in the curse or if his karma just came back around good and strong, but the creepiest thing was about a week after I’d started taking out charters on my own I was cleaning out one of the cabinets in the center console and I found this little action figure wedged back behind the first aid kit. It was like a little G.I. Joe Someone had painted it black and wrapped it in red twine.

“I just threw it right over the side, you know I hate when people litter in the ocean, man, but I didn’t want that thing in the boat. Curse or no curse I didn’t want anything to do with that nonsense.”

“Wait,” I interrupted, “An action figure? Painted black?”

“Yeah, it’s old black magic voodoo shit. Even though I didn’t completely believe in it I asked around and this girl I was friends with new all about it.”

Instead of sharing the nervous laughter with Blue and Chris I was silent.

“What’s up?” Blue asked. “Did one of your haunted neighbors find a doll or something?”

I shook my head.

Chris and Blue stared at me.

“It’s nothing. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence,” I said, feeling panic rise.




You see, a week or so before we left for vacation something weird happened. We’ve been doing more work on the house. We pushed a wall back and took over half of our tiny garage space to make more space in the kitchen for storage and such. When our contractor, Eric, took down the original wall and ceiling in the process of these renovations he created an opening that allowed us to glimpse the previously enclosed and unused attic space above the garage.

The house is rather small for the five of us (and two dogs and a fish) so I hated the idea of closing off this little attic again. Eric put up walls and flooring and built a wooden ladder off our mudroom so the girls could climb up to play in this attic space that we’ve nicknamed the Clubhouse. It is a hard place to describe, so I’ll take a video of the space and post it to my Ghosts In The Burbs instagram so you all can see what I’m talking about.

I need you to understand the layout because I found something up there the other night.  Something that shouldn’t have been there. My girls can barely climb up and down the ladder into the space, Joey basically has an all-out panic attack every time she attempts it. The girls aren’t capable of carrying anything up there. I have to hand their toys up to them.

The other night Chris was out at a late client dinner, the kids were all in bed and the dogs and I were sitting on the couch watching This is Us (just kidding, I was watching the episode of Hollywood Medium with Corey Feldman – gets me every time). I thought I heard the big girls banging around upstairs a couple times but when I peeked/stormed into their bedroom they were sound asleep. I kept the volume on the television low so that I would hear the girls if they were messing around but after a few moments I realized that the noise I was hearing wasn’t coming from upstairs, it was coming from that attic space above the garage.

I muted the television and listened. I heard a soft sort of banging noise that wasn’t familiar. It wasn’t exactly consistent, but it was persistent. I kept hearing the sound but it wasn’t in any sort of a pattern. And no, it wasn’t at all like the tapping that happened in the house back when we had our little demon kerfuffle. It sounded like someone or something was making the noise.

I got up and stood in the doorway between the living room and kitchen to see if I could explain away the noise, hoping that maybe it was the ice maker or the air vents. I took a step into the kitchen but froze when I realized that the noise was definitely coming from the Clubhouse. I looked back at the dogs asleep on the couch and felt it best to leave them be. They’re so used to strangers coming in and out with all the work we’ve been doing that they would likely want to befriend an intruder at this point.

I grabbed my phone off the coffee table and punched 9-1-1 into the call screen but held off on pressing send. I held the phone in one hand and grabbed our fire poker from the fireplace with the other, then I tiptoed into the kitchen towards the noise. Once at the bottom of the ladder I flipped the switch to fill the attic with light and called “Hello?!” There was no answer but the noise stopped for a moment which scared the ever living hell out of me.

When it started back up again I forced myself climb up the ladder, phone in my back pocket, fire poker in my right hand. Deep down I knew that it couldn’t be a person, but something was making that noise and I was in that irrational state of being furious that I was frightened. In all honesty, I was also pissed that Chris wasn’t home to deal with it and I was even more pissed that I wasn’t able to sit quietly in front of the damn television for even ten minutes.

I crawled awkwardly to the first level of the attic, it opens to a space about nine feet by five feet (this is the part above the garage) and then there is another area about nine by nine that sits raised up a foot or two (that’s the part above the kitchen). You’ll have to see the video for this to make any sense, but the noise was coming from the far back corner of the raised section.

There was something moving, swinging in that back corner. I climbed onto the upper level space and crawled back to see what it was. There was a doll, an action figure about the size of a barbie, it was one of those new Super Hero Girl dolls and it was hanging from the ceiling by a string. Someone had painted it black. It was was getting blown about by the air vent and banging against the vaulted ceiling and back wall awkwardly.  The red string holding it was stuck to the ceiling with duct tape. I gave it a hard yank and pulled it down.

I sat there staring at the painted figure in my hand. The red string around its waist was tied in a perfect bow.

The next morning I asked Eric if he’d noticed it up there the day before, he hadn’t. I could tell by their reaction that the big girls hadn’t left it up there either because they asked if they could paint their dolls too when I showed it to them. Chris insisted that it must have been the girls since they were into action figures and were always “taping shit onto other shit.” Even though I knew it wasn’t one of the girls’ dolls I didn’t argue because I didn’t want him to feel as scared as I was. Because the thing is, I’d found another doll exactly like it on our front steps just a few days before.