Welcome back to Lilith, a tale I’ll share a few chapters at a time until her story is complete. If you’re new to the podcast, Lilith is a great place to start (you don’t need any background information to enjoy this account of demonic possession) but do go back to January 7th’s episode and begin with chapters 1-3.
Alright, let’s go ahead and find out what the ghost hunters make of this whole situation.
Noc pulled the car into the small driveway and took in the little house. At her side Tyler said, “I checked out the property on Google Earth and it looks like there’s a stream just past their back yard between the property line and the commuter tracks.”
The couple got out of the car. Noc glanced behind them at the busy road, “So they’ve got a busy thoroughfare in front of the house, running water behind it and railroad tracks beyond that. That’s a hell of a lot of energy swirling around this little house.”
Just then Maurice and Patricia arrived in Maurice’s Suburban. With no more room in the driveway, they pulled the car up in front of the house so that half of it was parked on the sidewalk, the other half on the road. Noc explained to the guys that the home was tight so they’d need scout out the best location for a command center before bringing any of their equipment inside.
It was seven o’clock on a Friday morning in early January. Several inches of snow had fallen on Wellesley the night before and Ty noted that the Arnold’s hadn’t had the chance to clear off their cars yet. He and Maurice grabbed ice scrapers from their cars while Patricia and Noc went to the door.
A moment later a bear of a man came out to the driveway in his suit jacket. “Oh, man guys. Y’all don’t have to do that!” He said jovially.
“No trouble at all,” Ty replied, reaching out a hand to introduce himself.
Michael said, “You might just be are the friendliest people we’ve met since we’ve moved here.” He invited them inside and they met up with the women in the dining room.
It was apparent that they’d arrived at the busiest point in the morning. The kids were in front of cereal bowls in the kitchen, Michael tied his tie as they spoke and Laura was at the kitchen sink speaking with the teenage girl. She held up a hand to indicate she’d be just a minute.
“Leave us here and do what you need to do, we don’t want to interrupt your morning routine,” Noc assured Michael.
He looked relieved. “I’d hoped to have some extra time for you this morning but my manager called an early meeting. Grab yourselves some coffee in the kitchen, Laura’s put out the mugs and fixin’s. She’ll have time to talk once she gets the kids off.”
Aware of the tight space in the home and not wanting to get in the way of the family’s preparations for the day, the team agreed that Patricia should grab coffees and bring them to the table.
She went into the kitchen as Laura was holding out a glass of water and a pill to Lilith.
“Honey, please, just take this,” she said quietly. “I know it doesn’t seem like it’s doing anything but your doctor said it would take a couple weeks for it to start working.” Then, embarrassed she looked over at Patricia and said, “All the fixin’s are out for coffee but you let me know if you need anything else, ok?”
Patricia expressed thanks and set to pouring four cups while trying to appear as though she wasn’t eavesdropping on the conversation between mother and daughter.
Her attention back on her the girl Laura pleaded, “Lilith, please just take it.”
In a low voice that made the hair on Patricia’s arms stand on end, Lilith said, “You and I both know that pill isn’t the answer Laura.” She took the medicine out of her mother’s hand and popped it into her mouth, chewing the pill and ignoring the glass of water. As she left the room she glanced briefly at Patricia, her mouth a smirk, her eyes blank.
Laura went to fuss over the younger children while Lilith descended into the basement.
It took two trips, but Patricia carefully delivered the coffee to her team in the dining room where they were in the midst of discussing the placement of cameras on the exterior of the home.
“I’d like to cover the entire property if possible. But the priority is complete coverage of the backyard from several angles. That’s where the kids are seeing the boy, right?” Ty asked.
Just then Laura ushered the three younger children into the dining room, “Let’s go on and say a nice hello, please,” she instructed. The children shook hands with each of ghost hunters, there was appropriate eye contact and Misters’ and Missus’ all around.
The little boy, Jack, asked, “Are you really going to catch the shadows?”
Maurice smiled at the boy and said, “We can’t catch them, but we know people who can chase them away for good.”
Jack looked at him skeptically.
“All right, off with you three or you’ll be late,” Laura said. The kids said their goodbyes and headed out the door, backpacks slung over their little shoulders. Laura called down to Lilith. The girl slunk upstairs and out the door moments later, long shiny black hair hiding her face.
With her children out of the house Laura appeared to visibly relax. She said, “It isn’t ideal, I’m sure, but I’ve signed up to volunteer at the library today, just reshelving books for a few hours. Will you be alright here on your own? I don’t feel right cancelling, it’s just that it might lead to a part-time job, and-”
“We’ll be perfectly fine,” Noc reassured her. “We’ll just be setting up equipment and getting some baseline readings. What time should we expect you back?”
“My shift will be done at one-thirty, the kids will be home at two-fifteen.”
“Perfect,” Noc replied, relieved they’d have run of the place without interruption while they captured baseline thermal and electromagnetic readings of the home.
Noc and Tyler went outside to grab the handheld devices they’d need for their initial sweep while Maurice and Patricia cleared the coffee mugs. Laura scurried out the door a short time later and the team set to work.
“See what I mean?” Noc said. The four ghost hunters were crammed into Jack’s bedroom.
“Yes,” Tyler replied.
“My chest is so tight in here I can barely breath,” Maurice added.
“Just wait until we get down to the basement,” Patricia said.
“Let’s split up, two groups, and get readings of the rooms up here.”
Tyler and Noc took the twins room, Tyler with a notepad and Noc with a device for reading electromagnetic fields and another to measure any temperature fluctuations in the room. Maurice and Patricia did the same in the Arnold’s master bedroom.
With the girls’ room complete, Noc and Tyler moved on to Jack’s room. While Noc called out readings in Jack’s room (which proved to be four degrees cooler than any other room on the second floor) Maurice was in the hallway about to investigate the attic. Intending to pull down the attic ladder he reached up a hand to grab the string. As he was about to close his hand around it three loud footsteps sounded above Noc and Tyler’s heads in Jack’s room.
“What the hell was that?” Tyler breathed.
After a moment’s pause, Noc called out, “Can you do that again? Can you make another noise for us?”
The team stood still and silent. Just when they’d given up hope of hearing another sound there were three loud knocks on the window in Jack’s room. As if someone were just outside the window – the second story window – knocking to come in.
“Who has a digital recorder on them?” Maurice asked.
Patricia took one from her jeans pocket and turned it on.
“The Arnold family invited us here,” Patricia began. “We are here to interact with whoever or whatever is in this house causing paranormal disturbance. This device will record your voice even if our ears can’t hear you. Who is here with us?” She asked. Pause. “Can you tell us your name?” Pause. “Did you used to live here? Is your name Jason?” Pause. “Can you give us a sign of your presence?” Pause.
Patricia turned off the recorder, rewound then pressed play. The ghost hunters gathered around the little silver device and strained to hear if it had captured for any disembodied voices.
The first two questions went unanswered. Then, they heard a deep growly laugh. It was so ominous, so spooky that the four seasoned ghost hunters actually gasped and leaned away from the device. Patricia replayed the recording. The growl was more disturbing upon second listen. It was chilling and strange, as if several people, or wolves rather, had growled out a chuckle at the same time.
They continued listening to the recording. After Patricia had asked for a sign the recorder caught a static-y interference followed by a voice saying “Jennifer Montgomery.”
“Who is Jennifer Montgomery?” Maurice asked. “Is that another family member?”
Noc had gone pale. Tyler reached out and said, “Are you okay?”
“What’s wrong?” Patricia asked.
Noc shook her head. “That’s me, I mean, that’s my real name. My old name, I changed it years ago.”
Maurice let out a low whistle.
Noc made eye contact with Tyler. “I told you this place was the real deal.”
“I think we should set up base camp and get the cameras rolling immediately,” Maurice insisted. “I don’t want to miss an opportunity here.”
Tyler agreed. Patricia protested that they should continue documenting baseline readings as had always been their practice. It was left up to Noc to decide.
“Well,” she said, after a moment of thought, “It seems the baseline here is high strangeness. So, I agree with Maurice. Let’s take a break from the investigation and get the control center and the cameras up and running. Then we can continue to document baseline. That way we’ll be ready to catch anything else that might come up.”
It wasn’t ideal, but the decision was made to set up shop in the basement’s main room. The team was fully aware that a spooky environment could influence their read on a situation and the basement was straight out of a nineteen seventies horror movie. Dark, damp, low ceilinged and atmospheric with it’s outdated wood paneling they all knew it would make for long nights of looking over their shoulders while they monitored the camera feed. But it was the only place in the house they could be out of the family’s way and have enough room for their equipment.
Tyler arranged two computer monitors on a fold out table while his fellow investigators placed night vision cameras strategically throughout the house. Ty set up the exterior cameras himself. Then he checked to be sure each camera’s feed came through to the base camp monitors and then triple checked that the feed was indeed being recorded.
Once everything was set up to Tyler’s standards, it was decided that Maurice and Patricia would monitor base camp while Tyler and Noc did a baseline sweep of the basement. They started in the laundry room. Aside from the intense feeling of being watched by unseen eyes the readings on their devices were normal and they didn’t have any luck capturing any EVPs. Noc began to let her guard down. She hadn’t let on about how much hearing her old name spoken by a disembodied voice had rattled her. She’d left behind that name years ago along with a dangerously bad relationship. She knew in her gut they were dealing with a demonic presence, but it wasn’t the first they’d encountered. She reminded herself that in her experience, demons had always been more bark than bite. Though they were very good at knowing just what buttons to push.
She followed her husband into Lilith’s bedroom. Noc closed the door behind them and Tyler began taking temperature and EMF readings. The room proved to be cooler than the rest of the basement and the EMF detector spiked several times around Lilith’s desk. Tyler commented that the readings could be explained away by some naturally occurring phenomena, though neither of them believed that to be the case.
“I’ll start an EVP session.” Noc held out her little digital recorder. It was considered the standard in the industry, a little silver square of a device she’d special ordered online and had spent way too much money on. “Would the entity who has been speaking to Lilith like to speak with us?” The room was silent for a long moment. Noc opened her mouth to ask another question when a large stuffed dog fell off Lilith’s bed, actually it was as though it had jumped off the bed. It caused the couple to jump too.
Tyler lifted a hand, pointed behind Noc, a look of shock on his face. She was standing with her back to the small half window with a ground level view of the back yard. She spun around and yelled, “What is it? What did you see?” He began to explain when they were startled again as they heard Patricia scream from the other side of the basement.
They rushed out of the room – Noc went right to command center while Tyler blew past her and ran up the basement stairs. Noc called to him but he didn’t answer so she focused her attention on Patricia.
She found the psychiatrist standing up in front of the command center table with her headphones in her hands. Maurice stood next to her looking stunned.
“What the hell happened?” Noc demanded.
“Did you hear it?” Patricia asked, her voice shaky. “Did you hear it say my name?”
“Oh no,” Noc replied quietly. “Don’t tell me you changed your name too?”
“No,” Patricia said slowly. “We were listening to the audio from Lilith’s bedroom camera through the headphones – we didn’t want you to pick up the feedback during your EVP session. When you asked if the entity speaking to Lilith would speak with you, I heard a little girl say, ‘Patricia remembers me.’”
“Oh fuck,” Noc breathed.
“I heard it too,” Maurice said. “Clear as day.”
“It was her, it was that little girl I played with as a child.” Patricia was holding out the headphones to Noc as if she wanted her to take them from her, to rid her of the whole experience.
“What little girl?” Maurice asked.
Patricia sighed shakily. “When I was young I played with an imaginary friend at my grandparent’s Cape house every summer. She always wanted to go far out in the woods behind their house. There was an accident with an old tree house one afternoon, it made me suspicious of the little girl. I- well I just had the feeling that she wanted me to get hurt. Soon after I began to suspect the girl was trying to kill me.”
“Whoa,” Maurice breathed.
“I stopped following her into the woods and she got really mad at me. Long story short, a couple years later I learned that a little girl with the same name as my ‘friend’ had died on the property.” She looked between her teammates. “I know, it sounds like some made up ghost story, but it’s the reason I got involved in investigating the paranormal.” She paused. “I just heard that little girl’s voice over these headphones. I know it was her.”
“Let’s go upstairs, I gotta get out of this basement so I can think straight,” Noc said. Patricia and Maurice readily agreed.
Once upstairs they headed to the dining room, Tyler was just coming back in through the sliding glass door.
“What did you see out the window?” Noc asked.
“It was the weirdest thing,” he said, shaking his head. “Behind you, through that little half window I saw a small grey goat looking in at us.”
“What in the fuck,” Maurice said slowly.
“Yeah, I just ran around the entire house, even back to the stream, but it’s gone.”
“Could it have been a dog?” Patricia suggested.
“No,” Ty replied. “And there were no footprints.”
“What?” Noc asked.
“In the snow. There were no footprints at all.”
“Fuck,” Noc breathed, the hair standing up on her arms. “Let’s go rewind the footage and see if we caught it on video.”
The foursome trooped down to the basement. The footage showed only an unexplained shadow around the time of Tyler’s goat sighting. Patricia suggested they head back upstairs and discuss their next steps. Maurice wanted to keep investigating, things were just getting good, he insisted, they should capture every last bit of evidence they could.
Noc and Tyler sided with Patricia. They needed a breather and they needed a game plan.
“I for one don’t need any more proof that we are dealing with something demonic,” Noc said once they’d taken seats around the dining room table. “I think the most responsible thing to do at this point it to call in the church.”
“And miss the opportunity to not only document, but actually experience what is going on in this house? It is eleven o’clock in the morning! Can you even imagine what this place must be like in the middle of the night?” Tyler asked excitedly.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this house,” Patricia said quietly. “It’s terrifying, for sure, but this is exactly what we’ve been looking for. Intelligent responses and documentable activity.”
Maurice nodded along. “We can’t pass up an opportunity like this.”
Noc knew she’d been outvoted. “Fine, we’ll stay.”
The timing of the volunteer opportunity wasn’t ideal, but then again, maybe it was. As tormented as I was by worry and fear, re-shelving books proved to be exactly what I needed. On one of my frequent trips to the library I’d noticed a posting on the community board asking for volunteers willing to re-shelf a cart of books or two once a week. I’d inquired at the desk and learned that while awaiting budgeting approval for a part-time library aid the librarians were desperate for help in keeping books on the shelves. The woman I spoke with suggested that if I liked the work I could throw my name in the ring once the position opened up.
The work was pleasant, time-consuming and it required just enough of my attention that it kept the obsessive thoughts about my home at bay. Dread at having to return to my home grew as the books dwindled on the second cart I’d been assigned to re-shelf. I said goodbye to the librarian on duty then reluctantly left the safety of the stacks and headed home.
I entered through the mudroom doors and heard the ghost hunters talking in low voices around my dining room table. “Hello!” I called, announcing my arrival. As I entered the dining room the group turned as one to look at me. On their faces I saw a mix of guilt, fear and excitement.
“I take it something strange happened today,” I said, forcing a smile.
Noc acknowledged that the team had documented significant paranormal activity.
“Oh? What did you catch?” I asked as I slid into an empty chair at the table, though I didn’t really want to know.
Noc was vague in describing their morning but I gathered they’d caught some voices on one of their recorders. Relief flooded me that they’d witnessed some of what we’d been experiencing for months. Tyler assured me that once they’d had a chance to review and gather all of the recorded evidence they would share it with Michael and me. I thanked him, but I’d seen enough living in that house. I had neither the desire nor the need to go over their so called “evidence.”
“We were actually just discussing the symbols you found on Lilith’s walls,” Patricia said. “It seemed odd to us that they were simply papered over.”
“Michael and I wondered at the same thing,” I replied.
Maurice asked. “Do you know anything about the boy’s parents? The ones who owned this home before you?”
“No. The next door neighbor, Ms. Rumsfield, uh, Barbara, implied that there must have been something going on in the home in order for the boy to go so far off the rails. I got the feeling she thought the parents were negligent.”
“Have you tried to contact the previous home owners?” Tyler asked.
“We have,” I said, though I thought Well, duh, would have been a more appropriate response. “We tried to get in touch with them through the real estate agents and our lawyers but it seems they don’t want to speak with us.” I looked around the table. No one said a word so I asked, “What is it?”
Noc finally spoke up, “It’s a stupid thing to be stuck on, I mean, maybe they simply hired someone to cover over the symbols, but it doesn’t sit right.”
“Do you think the parents had something to do with the boy’s death?” I asked shocked.
“No, no,” Noc said quickly, “It’s more that I wonder if they might have been into the occult as well.”
“Jesus, Lord,” I breathed. “So we moved into the home of a bunch of Satanists?”
Patricia actually shrugged. “It’s just a theory, and a weak one at that. But it doesn’t add up, does it? If you found those symbols painted on your child’s walls would you just throw wallpaper over them?”
“I’d do everything I could to remove them and if I couldn’t then I’d paint over them,” I said seriously.
“Exactly,” Ty agreed.
With Noc and her team apparently lost in thought about the damn wallpaper I said, “Well, the kids will be home from school in about fifteen minutes. I should get their snacks ready.”
I was surprised when Noc told me they were going to give us some space and grab a bite to eat at the California Pizza Kitchen down the road. She said they intended to game plan for the coming evening. Did I want them to pick anything up for dinner? I did not. I watched them go and got the distinct sense they were all relieved to take a break from my home.
I felt a sense of relief as well. The kids and I could have a normal afternoon. I needed to pack everyone’s things, I’d booked us a hotel room in neighboring Needham for the weekend. The hotel had a pool. I thought there was a chance we might even have fun. Regardless, two nights away from that God-forsaken house sounded dreamy.
Lilith was late coming home. I wondered if she’d stayed for academic help, or perhaps had spent time with a friend. I didn’t have the chance to ask. When she came in, she kicked off her sneakers and made a beeline for the basement door.
Her three siblings watched her silently from the kitchen table. I sat with them and dipped apples in peanut butter and told them about my day in the library. I wasn’t yet ready to let go of the small spark of happy it had created within me.
Jack wanted to know where the ghost hunters were. “Did they leave for good?” He asked.
“They had a busy morning and went to have lunch at the CPK. They’ll be back tonight. Hey, are you guys excited to swim at the hotel?” I asked, but I failed to change the subject.
“Did they hear the footsteps?” Carrie asked.
Then Jack said, “Did they see anything in my room?”
I shook my head. “They said they had captured some evidence and that once their investigation is complete they’ll share it with daddy and me.”
I brought up swimming again and I agreed to dig out their diving sticks and goggles if I could find them.
Out of the blue Carrie asked, “Want to hear a joke?”
Rosemary shot her sister a warning look that Carrie ignored.
“Two hunters are in the woods when one of them collapses. His hunting buddy immediately calls 911. My friend isn’t breathing, he shouts into the phone. What should I do? Relax, the operator tells him. I can help. First, let’s make sure he’s dead. There’s silence, and then a gunshot,” Carrie had a big smile on her face as she delivered the punchline. “The guy gets back on the phone and says, OK, now what?”
Jack and Rosemary giggled. “Carrie, that’s not a very nice joke,” I admonished, wondering which of her little friends at school had shared it with her.
“I have another one!” She said smiling impishly. “A guy walks into the woods with a young boy. The boy turns to him and says, Hey mister, it’s getting really dark and I’m scared. The man replies, How do you think I feel? I have to walk back alone.”
I gave my daughter a stern look. “That’s dark, Carrie. Did you hear those at school?”
Carrie looked down at her plate looking guilty.
Rosemary said, “He told us those jokes.”
“Who?” I asked, as a shiver of fear ran through me.
Carrie snuck a glance out the window.
“I told you that you were not to speak to him anymore. Where was he?” I asked in a shaky voice.
The girls exchanged a look and Rosemary shook her head slightly.
“Where did you see him?” I demanded.
“We didn’t see him,” Carrie said in a small voice.
“What are you saying?”
Rosemary spoke up. “It’s true, we haven’t seen him. We just…” She trailed off. I stared at her waiting. “We just heard him.”
“In our bedroom,” Carrie admitted.
“Christ Almighty,” I breathed.
“I want the ghost hunters to come back,” Jack said, terrified.
“Me too,” I breathed.
We watched television for the rest of the afternoon. I bribed the kids with Oreos and milk, then buttered popcorn and a promise of pizza for dinner. I didn’t want them out of my sight. After they’d watched a movie I sat with them at the dining room table for homework then ushered them back to the couch for more television. I sat on a stool at the kitchen counter and kept watch.
To our collective relief, Noc and her team returned around four o’clock. I ordered pizza and salads. Michael got home at six and we all ate around the table like a big happy family. Even Lilith came up for dinner, though she stared down at her plate the entire time, only nibbling at her food.
We excused the kids from the table and asked them to clear the paper plates to the kitchen before resuming their spots on couch. Lilith sat still as her siblings cleared the table and left the room.
“That was some good pizza,” Michael said, to fill the silence that had fallen over the dining room.
Tyler began to voice his agreement but fell silent when Lilith spoke up.
“Have you spoken to the scribe yet?” She asked, directing her question to Noc.
“The scribe?” Noc repeated. “No, honey, I don’t think we’ve met.”
Lilith looked disappointed.
“Who is the scribe?” Patricia asked in a soft voice.
Lilith shook her head and gave a small shrug. She looked around the table before standing abruptly and turning to leave the room.
“Lilith, wait,” I called after her. But it was too late, she’d was already through the basement door.
I turned back to the table. Patricia was writing something down in a little notebook.
Noc gave me a weak smile. “We’ll piece it all together,” she said confidently.
Getting ready for bed with a house full of ghost hunters, knowing they were recording our every move was strange, to say the very least. The younger kids all camped out in our room so Noc’s team could have access to their bedrooms if need be, though she assured me they would simply be sitting vigil, either in the kitchen or at what they referred to as their “command center” in the basement. Regardless of the ghost hunter’s needs, Jack had been sleeping on our floor for weeks and I certainly wouldn’t have let the girls sleep alone in their bedroom after what they’d told me about hearing that boy’s voice.
Noc assured me that they would keep as silent as possible at their basement command center so as not to disturb Lilith’s sleep. All I felt was relief that she wouldn’t be alone down there for at least one night.
Sometime in the middle of the night I woke up in the dark with the distinct sense that someone had whispered my name. I sat up groggily and looked around the room. The kids were snuggled into their sleeping bags on the floor around our bed, dead to the world. Michael was snoring softly beside me.
“Laura,” a voice hissed. I looked over and saw that our door was open a crack. It was Patricia. She waved a hand, gesturing me to come to the door. I was thankful that I’d thought to wear my flannel pajamas to bed just in case I needed to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. I grabbed my bathrobe off the hook on the back of the door and slipped out into the hallway.
“What is it?” I whispered. “Is everything alright?”
“Oh yes, no emergency. We just, well, we wondered if you might like to check on Lilith.”
“Why? What’s happened?” I demanded, my voice raising.
“Nothing, nothing,” Patricia said in a soothing voice. “I’m so sorry to wake you, but she’s been awake for a while and we thought you might want to go in to her room and check in. Come on downstairs and I can show you on the camera feed.”
Down to the basement we went. Noc was waiting for us at the bottom of the steps.
“I’m sorry we woke you,” she said.
I waved away the comment. “What’s going on?” I asked, scanning the basement. The two men were standing, arms crossed against their chests staring at one of the computer monitors on the fold out table they’d brought with them.
I glanced down the short hallway to my left and saw that Lilith’s door was closed. Then I followed Noc to their so-called command center.
In the top corner of one of the computer screens I saw a black and white image of my daughter’s room. I could make everything out, the bed and her side tables, the desk, even the laundry strewn across the floor. Then I saw what had caused them to wake me.
Lilith was standing in front of her closet. She was completely still, which is why it took me a moment to notice her there. I watched, waiting for her to move, to do something. When she didn’t I asked, “How long has she been like this?”
Noc caught my eye only for a second then looked back at the monitor. “About an hour.”
“She’s been standing stock still in front of her closet like that for an hour?” I breathed.
“She stood on her tiptoes for about twenty minutes,” Maurice said. “But there hasn’t been any other movement.”
“What in the hell,” I said, more to myself than to anyone else.
“Do you want me to go in with you?” Patricia asked.
I looked at her for a moment, realization dawning that I would have to go into that room and get my daughter back into bed. Terror gripped my chest. I took a breath and nodded.
When I opened the door Lilith didn’t react. I put my hand on her arm and said her name softly. She jumped and cowered away from me as if I’d hit her causing me and Patricia to jump back.
Lilith scurried away from me, crouched down with her back against her desk.
“Honey, it’s me,” I said in a calm voice though I felt anything but calm. “It’s just me, you were sleepwalking. Come on, let’s get you back in bed.”
Her eyes were wild, reflecting the light from the hallway, Lilith began to shake her head back and forth violently. “I don’t want to see anymore!” She screamed. Mommy, tell her I don’t want to see anymore!”