foxhouseSo a couple weeks ago I had every intention of sharing a classic haunted house story with you. Way back at the beginning of the summer I met with a young woman named Lydia who’d nannied for a family on Nantucket and experienced a crazy haunting. It seemed like a great story for October. Nothing like a good safe scare to kick off the high holy season.

But I’ve been distracted. You know, I honestly considered ghosting out on the blog and podcast. Just walking away from it without explanation and hoping that somehow everyone would understand. But it didn’t feel right and at the same time I didn’t know how to move forward with this project.

Please indulge me for a moment and let me have a middle class white girl break down. My day to day stresses me out enough. I have my hands full without having to manage creepy shit in my home on top of everything else. For example, am I messing up my children? Am I causing irreparable damage when I lose my mind because they took Sharpies and methodically blacked out page after page in my day planner? Defying all parenting advice, I allow them to watch more than two hours of television every day – without exception. And God help them, they are like me. They like Scooby Doo and the scary parts of Disney movies. They’re drawn to it and, in all honestly, I can’t wait to watch Ghostbusters with them in a couple years, then Gremlins and Jaws… But, what if they end up where I am now, too damn close to darkness and unable to look away.

And what about my marriage? I love my husband more than life. I quite literally could not exist without him. Despite that, most of the time now I am a complaining whiny bitch and he is so strong and kind that he can take it and still love me. But how long can someone put up with that before they just simply can’t?

What about the damn house and the cars and the dogs and the groceries and the twenty-percent-off coupon for Pottery Barn (do I really need any more throw pillows? Yes). How about the extra fifteen pounds that I have to lose and what in the mother fuck am I supposed to bring to an “upscale potluck?” I mean give me a small break. Then there’s my back and our families and the fact that one of my sisters isn’t even talking to me right now because she thinks that I am channeling a fucking demon who is influencing me to interview people and record their ghost stories.

No really.

She hasn’t spoken to me since last Spring. She said that the last time we were together the demon latched on to her for a bit then made her dog depressed.

No really.

So I have regular, mundane, relentlessly boring, Groundhog Day level issues that I’m already trying to navigate. I despise the term but they are “First World” problems and most days I feel like I am barely treading water trying to stay ahead of them.

Do I deserve this absolutely charmed life that I live? No. I did nothing to earn it, I just lucked out and go it. So why did I peer into the darkness? Was I daring it to come and get my lucky self? Maybe. Was I really thinking that it was all simply a fairy tale, nothing that some creaky floorboards and an overactive imagination couldn’t explain? I admit it, yes, I thought it was all way too good to be true. Like those “You’ve been pre-selected for a free cruise” postcards. Complete bullshit, but fun to imagine.

The problem was that when I peered so dismissively at the darkness it looked back and laughed.

And now, there is tapping in my home. It is steady and persistent and intelligent.

Look, I admit it, for the last podcast I layered EVPs into the recording of Eric’s story. It was schtick-y, I know, but kind of creepy, right? And around that time I began to entertain the idea of somehow writing these stories, I mean just making them up instead of actually interviewing people. Truth be told it takes a ton of time to meet up with people and hear their stories. Transcribing the interviews and then adding in all the side commentary takes an even bigger chunk of time that I simply don’t have. I thought that it would be just so much easier to make everything up, and frankly, I was beginning to really get spooked.

Something had to give for time’s sake and for my sanity’s sake. I toyed with the idea of continuing with the podcast, but dropping the blog. I simply am not at a time in my life right now where I can be relied upon to consistently use proper punctuation and tense. I’m not proud of it, but it is what it is. As for creating these stories rather than collecting them, I imagined that it might offer a certain level of protection. I still love a good scare, but not a real scare. God bless the Internet; I can’t tell you how thrilling it has been to discover that there are other people out there who like this stuff too. In real life I don’t have anyone to talk to about ghosts or the last episode of The Dead Files. But sharing these stories connected me with people who are actually as enthusiastic about Ghosts Adventures Aftershocks as me.

Anyhow, the idea of making ghost stories up or somehow distancing myself a bit from them is moot. Apparently I was too late. The tapping in Emily and Chad’s interview? That was real.

I didn’t even know about it until a listener tweeted, “Tapping! I heard tapping!”

I went back and listened to Emily and Chad’s story and there it was. Persistent, intentional tapping. It was undeniable and it was what I had been hearing in my home for several weeks. Easily explained away, until it wasn’t.

Of course, we’ve all heard of this paranormal tapping. The taps in sets of three that always seem to be on the list of things plaguing a haunted home. I’d heard about these taps on countless reality television shows but, trust me, it is different when you hear them in your own home.

So, after I listened to my recording of Chad and Emily’s story I Googled “paranormal tapping” and came across a Wikipedia page for the Fox sisters. I’d forgotten about those ladies. Leah and Maggie Fox claimed that the raps and knockings in their family home weren’t random and they weren’t some sort of elaborate trick. No. They were the workings of Mr. Splitfoot and through him Leah and Maggie claimed they could communicate with the dead. The women travelled the country and then the world to prove that the dead remained near the living and they had something to say.

It was the late 1800s and people devoured their message. The women had a major role in the development of Spiritualism – the religion that began with table raps, expanded to automatic writing and graduated to the Parker Brothers Ouija Board we know today. They made it OK for people to contact the deceased. Their revelation hit just before thousands of people lost loved ones to war and it was through their method that countless people attempted communication with those who’d crossed to the other side.

The Fox sisters gave people hope. No longer did one have to rely on blind faith to be reunited with loved ones after death. The Fox sister’s otherworldly communication techniques allowed the living to reach out for answers to what is (ironically) the most important question in life – what happens after we die?

These women made people believe in the unbelievable, and then… they confessed that it all had been an elaborate prank. They admitted that the mysterious rappings began with an apple, some string and a gullible mother. But then, strangely, the siblings recanted their recant. As they reached old age they admitted that they had actually lied about lying. I don’t know what to believe, but like most things in life I assume it was complicated.

Perhaps the women had begun their communications with Mr. Splitfoot as a childhood prank, but Mr. Splitfoot didn’t take kindly to be called a fraud. He kept speaking to people and he kept rapping and that kept people seeking answers. What had begun as an apple on a string bounced against the floorboards became modern Spiritualism.

The Fox sisters aside, other people heard knocking in response to their questions. So who or what were all those people really communicating with? I suppose we could find one clue in the fact that Mr. Splitfoot was a nickname for the Devil.

 

***

 

Like the Fox sisters, my ghost story began with tapping. Not so much on the walls but inside them. It was unsettling, sure, though denial made it possible to ignore for a while. But after I saw a shadow figure in our basement, Chris had an ADT security system installed.

It was like bringing a knife to a gunfight.  

Almost as soon as the installation team left the alarm began to randomly go off without any apparent cause. The system sent us a text every time the alarm triggered and without fail, the texts indicated that the sensor attached to the basement window, the one under our porch (which is only about a foot high), had been tripped.

No one could possibly fit underneath our porch to trip the alarm.

ADT replaced the sensor twice, but it kept happening. I finally told them to just remove it since no one could break into the house that way anyhow. The problem was, the alarm kept going off and we kept getting those damn texts;” ADT Pulse Alert: 3:30 AM Burglary Alarm. Basement Window 3. Proceed With Caution.” The company returned to the house four times trying to “diagnose the problem.”

Chris insisted it was a fixable issue. I knew it wasn’t. I knew exactly what the problem was. I saw a shadow figure near “Basement Window Three” while I was doing laundry. I couldn’t very well tell the kind people from ADT that so every time they came I pretended to be just as perplexed as they were and thanked them for trying.  

Something followed me home and it’s wasn’t a friendly ghost. I’m almost certain that the dark entity at Emily and Chad’s house latched onto me and hitched a ride to our house. I never told Chris that I wasn’t wearing my blessed medallion that night. I haven’t admitted that all of this is my fault, but I know that it is.

At first the tapping was only occasional. Three little taps, just loud enough to catch your attention. Then they began happening throughout the day. At random times, sort of, but at times when the thing doing the tapping was almost trying to distract or add to the chaos. Like, when I was trying to get the girls ready for school in the morning and rushing around and the dogs were asking to be let out and the microwave was beeping and we were already fifteen minutes late. Right in the middle of all that craziness, right when I simply couldn’t handle one more thing. That’s when I’d hear the tapping.

We’d only lived there for about four or five months and we’d had a lot of work done to the house. Our old radiators had been ripped out and we put in a new heating system and central air, so I figured it was all that new stuff settling. Like pipes or something. But then this one rare morning when I had the house to myself it became obvious that it wasn’t pipes.

I was in our upstairs bathroom tweezing my eyebrows and leaning right up to the mirror when I heard three knocks right behind the mirror. Like, right behind the mirror. It startled the hell out of me. I jumped back and stood there staring for a moment trying to explain it away when I heard another three taps, this time above my head. On the ceiling. With just one tweezed eyebrow I ran out of the house and sat in Starbucks until it was time to pick up the kids from daycare and school. I took them to Perrin Park until Chris got home. I didn’t mention any of it to him.  

Later that week I was in the basement doing laundry. There’s a carpeted play area separated by a door from the unfinished part of the basement. There we store unopened moving boxes and other unnecessary junk and that’s where we have the laundry hooked up.

I’d left Kat in her bouncy seat in the playroom while I switched the load over. Next to the washer and dryer sits the boiler, behind which is a cramped little storage space that is too spidery and damp to actually store anything. I compulsively listen to podcasts during the day as I complete all the menial tasks that are parenthood. I only keep one headphone in, though, so I can hear Kat if she fusses. Anyhow, I was listening to Last Podcast on the Left with one ear, keeping the other ear out in case Kat needed me while I transferred towels from the washer to the dryer. Just as I slammed the dryer door shut I heard a little, like, hum. It sounded like, hmmmmmmmm.

I stood very still for a moment then took out the earbud. I wasn’t sure if the noise had come from the podcast, or Kat, or the dryer, but it was strange. I didn’t hear anything more so I went to clean the lint trap and as I pulled it out of the machine I saw something move behind the boiler out of the corner of my eye.

Look, I acknowledge that I was three-kids-and-two-dogs-and-a-move sleep deprived. I also admit that I was taking nerve pills and valium for two herniated discs in my back. Regardless, I saw something and it wasn’t one of the dogs.

It was a shadow in the shape of a small person. A small man. He was sort of hunched over, and he was looking back at me.

Honestly, I just stared. I didn’t move. I didn’t understand what I was seeing and my mind was trying to create an alternate reality. Because there couldn’t really be a shadow shaped like small man crouched behind my boiler. That would be fucking ludacris. So I stared and I stood very still and refused to believe my eyes, until he lifted up one of his small arms and his tiny hand pointed to the door. And then, I mean even if I was somehow imagining the shadow man and hallucinating, I didn’t hallucinate the fact that the fucking door started to slowly close. By itself.

A chill like I have never felt went through my body. Actually, it wasn’t a chill, it was more like the feeling that you get when you’ve stayed in one position too long and your arm falls asleep and it’s all pins and needles until it wakes up. I had that feeling from head to toe. I was frozen in place for way too long and when I finally did bolt for the door I was certain the shadow thing was going to stop me.

But it didn’t do anything. It let me leave.

No one believed me and really, I didn’t blame them. I even let Chris half convince me that I must have hallucinated. Which, really wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities what with my back problem and all the medication I’d been on.

I was able to put most of my fear away and pop it on the denial shelf in my brain but there was this one nagging detail. The door. Mistaking a shadow for a tiny man, sure, maybe that is possible. But that fucking door started to close by itself after the thing pointed to it.

I didn’t see anything else for a while. So I convinced myself that I hadn’t seen what I knew that I saw because no one else really believed it, and if I really did see it then there wasn’t enough nerve pills or Valium in the world to numb my panic. Denial became safety in the make-believe.

Chris didn’t believe me until he saw something for himself. He didn’t see the little shadow man though, he saw an actual man, or the apparition of a man I suppose.

We’d been arguing over nothing all morning. Which had pretty much become the norm. I hated not getting along with him, but it was like every single little thing that he did drove me insane. Anyway, that morning he was bringing up a bunch of stuff from the basement. I’d refused to go back downstairs and I wouldn’t let the girls go either.

He was stomping up and down the stairs carrying up toys and laundry up and I was trying to give him some space, but I was worried. I was scared really; I didn’t want him down there either. I was in the kitchen, near the door to the basement. Chris was headed back down the stairs when I heard him yell, “Hey!”  

Immediately, I had that pins and needles feeling all over. I went to the top of the stairs and was about to call down to him when he appeared at the bottom of the steps and yelled, “Press the panic button. Now!”

I stared down at him as he sprinted up the stairs two at a time. He pushed past me and hit the panic button on the alarm system.

The girls were all in the living room watching television. He ran in and grabbed Max and Joey, and I scooped up Kat, who was screaming and red faced from the loud alarm.

“What is happening?” I called over the din.

“Someone broke into the basement!” He yelled back. “Get the girls outside!”

We brought the girls out through the front door and across the street. Chris went back inside the house even though I begged him to stay with us. I stood there with the three girls, helpless watching him run back into the house.

Two police cars pulled in front of the house just as Chris walked back out our front door.   

“He must’ve climbed back out through a basement window,” he said.

“Was it broken?” I asked.

No, it hadn’t been broken.

Chris told the police that he had been coming around the corner to collect laundry when he saw a guy, a really tall guy, walk into the bathroom. Chris said the guy hadn’t stopped when he yelled at him so he made the decision to get us out of the house before going back in to find out what the hell the guy was doing down there. But by the time he’d gotten us outside and returned to the basement the man was gone.

We have those tiny little quarter-sized ground-level windows in our basement. Someone could not climb into one of those windows without breaking it. It would be impossible, especially for a big guy. And if they’d opened a window, let alone broken one the alarm would have gone off.  

But Chris was insistent that he’d seen a man – a very tall man – walk into the basement bathroom. He said he watched his hand come out and reach back to pull the door closed behind him.

The police didn’t find anything. As chance would have it our backyard neighbor was out planting mums. She didn’t see anyone come past the fence. The man simply disappeared.

After that, I set up sleeping bags for the girls to sleep in our room. When we talked about it that night after the girls were asleep Chris mentioned that the guy’s arms had been long. Too long for his body. He also told me the man had been so tall that he had to duck into the bathroom to avoid hitting his head on the frame. He hadn’t mentioned either of these details to the cops.

So a tiny shadow person and a big long-armed apparition lived in my home.

I became a sort of prisoner to the house. I couldn’t leave the girls there alone and I couldn’t take them out many places. There was only one of me and three of them. It was too much, especially with my back. I didn’t want to go to friend’s houses because I didn’t want to contaminate them. I’d become almost pathologically afraid of being alone, yet I was becoming increasingly isolated.

The tapping became constant. It was to the point that I almost didn’t even notice it anymore.

There were other things. Strange things. There was this one drawer that refused to stay shut on a side table in our family room. I’d come down every single morning and the bottom drawer of this two drawer cabinet would be open so far that it was about to fall out. The girls couldn’t open it by themselves, it sticks and you have to – well, whatever, they couldn’t open it. I’d never opened it in the middle of the night and neither had Chris. It simply was open every morning.

The batteries in the television remote went missing. No matter how many times I replaced them, they disappeared. The first few times that it happened I tore the house apart and couldn’t find them anywhere. At first I blamed the girls, but then I started hiding the remote from them. It didn’t make a difference. When I’d dig it out in the morning the batteries would still be gone.

All of these little things add up to family life, right? Just weird annoying things that happen when you have small children. Sleep deprivation could make me lose batteries a million times over. One of us could be opening a random drawer in our sleep. The shadow figure could have been a figment of my imagination or of my lack of sleep. Chris could have seen a burglar that had a super villain level ability to escape through tiny windows. The taps? Just taps. And none of it is particularly scary. Just strange.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t just family life and sleep deprivation.

The tiny shadow man waits just around corners sometimes so that when I’m not paying attention I almost run into him. He’s there then he’s gone faster than I can process it. It is truly terrifying.

Twice Chris saw the outline of a man in our bedroom window as he pulled into the driveway in the evening. We didn’t call the police the second time, we knew they wouldn’t find anyone.

The upside to all of this was that terror, true chilled to your core, catch your breath, try not to wet your pants terror, beats the Atkins diet any day of the week. Bye bye baby weight. Another good thing about hearing unexplained tapping noises in your home and/or seeing a tiny shadow man traipse around your house tends to put things in perspective. Traffic couldn’t stress me out anymore and I thoroughly enjoyed a long wait in line at Roche Bros. or Starbucks. I liked being surrounded by normal people and I tried to distract myself from my own worries by imagine theirs.

The woman in the LuLu Lemon workout gear was counting the calories she’d had for breakfast and trying to decide if she could treat herself to a skim milk latte or if she should save all her calories for wine. The middle aged man in the sport coat who was still wearing his sunglasses couldn’t remember if he’d cleared the search history on his laptop. His daughter had brought it back to college with he couldn’t let her find out that he’d recently searched for a divorce attorney. The teenage girl was hoping that she didn’t run into any of her mom’s friends because they would ask her how the college search was going and she didn’t know how much longer she could keep lying to everyone. Her mother thought she had a chance at Brown, but she’d secretly signed papers for the Army. I wished for these normal worries.

I should have called Biddy when I first saw that thing in my basement. I should have asked for her help immediately, but I didn’t. It wasn’t until Jenn dropped by unexpectedly to welcome us to the neighborhood and check out our new digs that I accepted my desperate need for help. The second she stepped into our entryway she turned to me and said, “You let something in didn’t you?”

I didn’t even try to pretend. I told her everything and then I called Biddy. I don’t have the mind space to wonder how Jenn knew that we had a malevolent spirit in our home the second she walked in and right now I don’t want to know.

So, do I believe in ghosts now? It’s complicated. I don’t know about ghosts, but I know for sure that there is darkness. I know what I’ve seen in my home. I know what my husband saw. I know what I’ve heard and I know what the people that I’ve interviewed have experienced. But ghosts? They’re a red herring.

*****

“When did you begin to notice a problem in your home?”

“Well, we, I mean my husband and I, we heard the tapping noises first.”

“And when did you hear them?”

“First it was only at night and only once in a while, but then it began happening when I was home alone during the day.”

“What did the tapping sound like?”

“It was faint, always three taps in a row, evenly spaced. Sometimes we’d hear it once, sometimes we’d hear the tapping for an hour or so. It’s sort of inside the walls, but no matter where you are in the house is sounds like it is close by.”

“And you had the house checked out for plumbing issues, yes?” He asked, turning towards Biddy for confirmation. She nodded her head in affirmation.

“Good, that’s good,” he said and smiled reassuringly. “What was the next occurrence that caused you concern?”

I hesitated before answering him, “I saw a shadow. In the basement. I was doing laundry and just out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. When I looked I saw a tiny man, I mean, not an actual man, it was a shadow shaped like a man and it was looking back at me,” Chris reached over and took my hand. “It made the basement door close by itself.”

“And you are certain this wasn’t a person, an intruder, perhaps?” The man asked.

“Yes,” I said, unwilling to elaborate.

“I’m sorry that happened, dear,” he said kindly. “Did the shadow man try to engage you? Did he move toward you, or, perhaps did you hear any noise or words come from him?”

“No,” I replied.

“And Chris? Have you seen this ‘shadow man?’”

“No, not the shadow guy, but I’ve seen something else. It’s a tall man with long arms. It had to duck to walk into the basement bathroom and I’ve seen it in the windows.”

“Tell him about the scratches too,” I prompted. Chris looked at me and gave a small head shake.

“It’s alright,” Biddy prompted, “he’s heard just about everything before.”

Chris sighed and said, “I’ve been scratched on my back several times. A couple of times in my sleep so we might explain that away, but it’s happened during the day too.”

“I think it was the shadow man that was doing it, but I can’t be sure, of course,” I added.  

“Were you ever scratched?” Asked the man.

“No, never scratched,” I said.

He nodded his head and exchanged a look with Biddy.

“What?” I demanded, looking between them. “Is that significant?”

“It would be more significant if you had been scratched, yes. So the fact that you have not been touched is a good thing. Other than you being scratched, Christopher, the paranormal activity has been just visual and auditory, yes?”

“Yes,” Chris answered firmly.

“Good, good,” the man replied while making a note in his bi-fold.

“Don’t you think that the entity is amping up to aggressive contact, Father?” Biddy asked.

The priest removed his glasses and sighed. He said, “Unfortunately, yes. I feel strongly that your home needs an exorcism. I believe there is a demonic entity in this home and that your family is under oppression. Without swift action your family could be in serious physical and spiritual danger.”

I reached for Chris’s hand and looked at him, “I am so sorry, it’s all my fault,” I began, but Chris shook his head and put his arm around me.

“What do we need to do?” He asked.

The exorcist closed his bi-fold and said, “Have faith. Things are going to get much worse before they get better.”

black-eyed“How are the renovations coming?” Biddy asked grabbing her latte off the table.

“You know, they’re coming,” I answered vaguely.

“You look like you haven’t slept in weeks,” she commented.

“Don’t pull any punches,” I replied, laughing, “The house is great, it’s just a bigger project than we’d expected so it’s been a touch overwhelming.”

That was an understatement. I wasn’t sleeping well, Chris and I were either walking on eggshells around one another or bickering like PTO co-presidents trying to choose an autumn fundraiser theme. On top of that, I’d begun biting my nails again. A habit I hadn’t entertained since middle school.

I’d reached out to Biddy for Emily (who suspected she needed her home cleansed of an evil entity) and then Biddy had reached back out to me. She wanted to catch up and discuss what had happened in Emily’s house. I hoped Biddy might fill me in on the banishment ritual that her old paranormal contacts had performed on the Hayes’ house so I brought along my digital recorder.

I began to ask her a question about Emily’s home when Biddy interrupted, “How are the girls?”

“Good,” I said, nodding my head. “They’re really good.”

“Even with all the construction?” She prodded.

“Yeah, really it’s just Chris and I that are stressed about it. We just,” I hesitated, choosing my words carefully, “we’re just getting used to the house, I think.”

Biddy tilted her head up a bit, jutting out her chin, “What is it?”

“It’s the electricity,” I sighed. “We’ve had a guy out and he couldn’t find anything wrong. The lights, I mean, not just the lights, the power to the whole house will go off out of nowhere then not even a minute later it turns back on. Anything electrical freaks me out especially since the house so old.”

“Anything else?” She asked, her eyes attempting to maintain a contact that mine could not return.

“You mean besides fearing an electrical fire?” I said with a smirk. “No, I just haven’t had insomnia like this since after Joey was born. I’m having these super realistic dreams of mundane nonsense. Like, I’m in college and forgot that I had a final, or I’m at the grocery store, checking out three full carts of Pirate’s Booty when I realize I forgot my wallet. Just stupid dreams, but they get my mind going and then I wake up and worry my way through the rest of the night. I’m sure it’s just the stress from moving and construction and the kids. Life stuff, I -”

“Let me send my electrician over,” Biddy interrupted. “He’s used to me calling and having him double-check old houses. I’ll get him over next week.”

“We’re away next week,” I said.  

“Where to?”

“Nantucket,” I replied.

“Even better. I’ll send him over while you’re away and he can fix whatever needs fixing. When you come home you can light that place up like a Christmas tree if you want.”

I accepted the offer gratefully.

“So that’s it, huh? Electricity on the fritz and some stress dreams?” She asked.

“Yup,” I said, picking at a cuticle, “That’s the gist of it.”

“Uh huh,” Biddy took another sip of her drink and seemed to consider for a moment before saying, “Eric, the tech guy from my old ghost hunting team, wants to talk to you about something that happened to him, but I don’t know if it’s such a good idea. You seem like you’re burning it at both ends.”

“No, not at all! I’m looking for a story for the blog,” I said quickly.

We chatted awhile about Emily’s successful house clearing, of which there wasn’t much to report. Biddy explained that Emily sensed a decrease in activity before the priest came to bless the house. Jane, Biddy’s psychic friend told her that though she could feel there had been something dark in the home at one point, it was no longer there. She reasoned that perhaps it had been too attached to their previous property to truly travel with Emily’s family. Whatever the case, Emily’s home was clear of negative energies.  

***

“Now, who are these handsome gentlemen?” Eric demanded, handing me a rectangular white box before bending down to greet my dogs.

“That’s Walter and Artie,” I answered, holding the door for Eric to come in.

“Which is which?” he asked.

“Walter’s the pudgy one,” I explained.

“Well, they’re a perfect pair,” Eric enthused. “My grandmother had Westies, one of them used to actually dig moles right up out of the ground.”

“Yeah, they’re supposed to be critter catchers but these guys haven’t had much luck,” I said. “Thanks for coming over during the Kat’s nap, I was afraid I’d miss the chance to talk with you. What’s this?” I asked, indicating the box he’d given me.
“Russell Stovers,” he said, looking up at me with a big smile.

“Cut it out!” I exclaimed, ripping off the paper. “It’s the Nut, Chewy, Crisp assortment! These are the freaking best. Thank you!” I gushed, genuinely thrilled.

“You really know your stuff,” he observed with a laugh. “I love ‘em too and I didn’t want to come empty-handed,” he stood and looked around, “So you’re doing some work, huh?”

“It’s a work in progress,” I replied, motioning to the plastic sheeting taped over several doorways. “We can sit in the yard, it’ll be much more comfortable than this construction zone. What can I get you to drink? I have coffee, sparkling water, tea -”

“Sparkling water would be perfect,” he replied.

I poured him the water, grabbed my own coffee, the box of candy and the baby monitor and lead Eric outside. We arranged ourselves on two Adirondack chairs and the dogs happily sat near our feet. It was early August and rather warm but a big old maple tree shaded us from the sun and a light breeze kept us cool.

This was my first time meeting Eric. You know those guys who have an intensely loyal labrador retriever named Chief who follows them around without question? Eric was that kind of guy; a self-assured, quietly confident alpha.

He wore a striped polo shirt tucked into khaki shorts held up by an embroidered nautical flag belt. The worn in Sperry’s were a given. I could picture him on a dock, loading a Yeti cooler onto his Boston Whaler, or grilling ribs in the backyard, or patiently standing in a long line at Starbucks with a smile on his face.

All of this was a total shock to me. I’d pictured a totally different Eric. The only thing I knew about him beforehand was that he was the “tech guy” on Biddy’s old paranormal team. I had imagined a tall, dark-haired thin man with densely drawn arm tattoos. The Eric of my imagination wore black t-shirts, torn skinny jeans and Vans. As usual, reality was so much more interesting than my imagination.

After chatting a bit about my choice of audio recorder (a little SONY digital voice recorder that I could tell he found lacking) I asked him what he did for work. I wondered what sort of “tech guy” he actually was.

“I’m an information security analyst for a financial company in Boston,” he told me.

“So do you, like, make sure spies don’t hack people’s 401K’s or something?” I kidded.

“Something like that,” he said, reaching for a chocolate.

I followed suit and grabbed a caramel before admitting, “I use the same password for everything.”

“Me too,” Eric replied, “I use my dog’s name.”

“Really?” I asked.

“No, not really,” he laughed. “Change your passwords, you’re going to get hacked you dingbat.”

I rolled my eyes and laughed despite feeling like an idiot, “Anyway, tell me about hunting ghosts.”

“I don’t hunt ghosts anymore,” he said seriously.

“Oh, I thought you were in charge of all of the technology for Biddy’s old group,” I said, a bit confused.

“I was. I began working with Biddy years ago helping her to set up video and voice recorders so she could document her ghost hunts. I got into the whole technology side of it, we were one of the first groups to use the Ghost Box. I met Frank Sumption at a paranormal conference back in 2002 and he gave me one of his first ‘Frank’s boxes.’ It completely blew my mind and made me a believer.”

“Is that the thing that scans through radio stations and lets ghosts carry on conversations?” I asked. I’d seen these devices used on Ghost Adventures and while they made for exciting television, I highly doubted they were paranormal walkie talkies.

“Technically speaking, an AM FM portable radio is modified to scan through the AM frequencies,” he explained. “An investigator may ask any spirits present to answer questions and since it is believed that spirit responses travel in the same frequencies of AM stations we’re able to actually receive answers to our questions. In other words, we can hold real conversations with ghosts.”

“Mmm,” I said, impartially.

“I get it, it sounds like junk science until you witness it for yourself. I know Biddy’s told you about Poe, right?”

“Oh, yes, of course,” I replied, jarred at hearing the name of the shadow figure that had trailed Biddy for most of her life.

“I caught Poe’s voice multiple times on the Ghost Box, in multiple locations, on multiple dates. His voice is very, refined. It’s unique, unmistakable, really” Eric insisted.

“I know,” I said, quietly.

“Oh, did Biddy play some of my recordings for you?”

“No I, well I caught his voice, I mean his laughter on the recording of our interview,” I admitted.

“No fucking way,” Eric said, obviously impressed.

“Yeah, his voice was definitely distinct. I can imagine hearing it on the Ghost Box must have been terrifying,” I said.

“Oh, it was, I can play some of the recordings for you if you like,” he offered.

“No thank you,” I said firmly. “But, is that what you wanted to talk about? Digital voice recordings?” I asked.

“No. Sorry I got sidetracked. I didn’t always believe in the paranormal. I loved science fiction as a kid and I’ve always been into technology, so hooking up with Biddy’s team just began as a hobby. Once I realized there was more to it than creaking old houses and faulty electricity, I started to take it seriously.”

“From what Biddy told me you guys had a lot of success hunting ghosts,” I remarked.

“Looking back on it, I think they had success hunting us,” he said. “But it’s not the ghosts I wanted to tell you about,” he took a sip of water before continuing, “You know, I haven’t told many people about this. Biddy’s a good friend, and she told me about your blog so I asked her to put us in touch. I think people need to know about the kids.”

“Kids?” I asked, praying he wasn’t about to go off about the so-called Indigo Children that were all the rage a few years ago.

“Yeah, the first time I saw them I was on a run around the Rockridge Pond Trail right off Cliff Road, do you know it?”

Wellesley was crisscrossed with walking and hiking trails and I’d jogged or walked the dogs on many of them, but I hadn’t heard of Rockridge Pond and I told him so.

“Good,” he said firmly, “Keep it that way. I saw them there first. I’ve thought so many times about that morning. It was a Saturday and I have a usual weekend running route, but for some reason I changed it up that day, it was a last-minute decision to turn off the road. I’ve wondered if they did something to make me turn onto that path. Really, they must have, it felt like a set up.”

“Hold on, who are you talking about?” I asked.

“Right, I don’t want to jump too far ahead, but it was the kids. The Black Eyed Kids, that’s where I saw them for the first time, on that path. Have you heard of them?”

“Mm hmm,” I managed to mumble. I did know about the Black Eyed Children, though I wished that I’d never heard of them. Part of the lore of these Black Eyed Kids is that they will only appear to you if you know about them. So, let me just give you a warning, dear creeped out reader: if you do not want to know about them and test that part of the lore, stop reading now and come back for the next story. Earlier this summer I interviewed a nanny in Nantucket and she had an awesome haunted house story. If you don’t want to tempt fate, skip the rest of this tale.  

But for those of you who plan to ride this out, the phenomena of the Black Eyed Children is well documented and pervasive. The first documented encounter appears to be from Brian Bethel in 1998. The journalist’s story spread across the internet after an email detailing his encounter went viral as it was forwarded by friends, friends of friends, and so forth.

As the story goes, Bethel was on his way to pay a bill when he pulled his car over in front of a movie theater to use the light from a street lamp to write a check. Two kids approached his car and knocked on his window. He was immediately filled with intense fear. Not the kind of fleeting fear that occurs when someone startles you, no, he said it was a dread like he’d never felt before.

One kid asked if Bethel would give them a ride to their mother’s house. The boy insisted that “it wouldn’t take long,” they just needed money to see a movie at the theater. “We’re just kids,” the kid insisted before raising his face and showing Bethel his black eyes. No pupils. No irises. Just blackness. Appropriately, Bethel freaked out. The boy continued, “We can’t come in unless you tell us it’s OK.” Like the smartest man in a horror movie, Bethel pealed out of there and looked in the rear view mirror only to see that the two kids had disappeared.

Google “Black Eyed Kids” or “BEK” and you’ll find countless stories of encounters with these beings. I would love to lump these creatures in with tales of the Slenderman or Dogmen. Sure, totally credible sources who have absolutely no reason whatsoever to tell these horrifying stories have reported seeing all of these creatures, but I prefer to believe that it is all fiction because if it isn’t, if there really are Black Eyed Children and packs of Dogmen in the woods, then we simply are not safe. Ever.

And here was Eric. Physically fit, technologically minded, preppy and apparently of sound mind telling me that he’d had an encounter with Black Eyed Kids. Safety is a facade.

“You really have heard of these things?” Eric asked, a bit shocked.

“I’ve read a few stories about them,” I replied. “I know enough about them to know that I never ever want to be anywhere near one.”

Eric looked at the old tree above us for a moment, then said, “Biddy told me you were interested in the paranormal, but, forgive me, you don’t really seem the type.”

“Right back ‘atcha,” I countered with a smile. “You look like you should be golfing.”

“And you look like you should be driving that Suburban parked out front to the local chapter of Oprah’s book club. I’d even bet that you’re the only one who actually read the book,” he shot back with a smirk.

“You got me,” I said laughing, then I grabbed another chocolate and asked, “So what happened?”

“It was last fall and I was out for my run this one Saturday morning. I usually run out to Natick Center then come back and finish with a loop around Lake Waban.”

“That’s far,” I commented. “Are you training for something?”

“Always,” he answered. “Do you run?”

“Not recently,” I replied. Between our recent move and a family trip to Nantucket I’d thrown my back out to an extent that I had never done before. I was literally sleeping on my kitchen floor. It was the hardest, smoothest surface in the house and it allowed me to sleep until about three a.m. each night. I was on serious nerve pills and muscle relaxers. Though I’d been a faithful (slow and awkward) jogger for the past fifteen years or so, I had two marathons under my belt. I used to think of myself as physically able to conquer discomfort. But I had been proven wrong, I hadn’t been able to jog in a couple of months. The pain had been too great.

“A break is good every once in a while,” he replied kindly, sensing there was more to the story.

“Sometimes,” I half-heartedly agreed.

“Well, that morning I decided to change up my route. I planned to run out and back on Cliff Road and then maybe stop at Starbucks before heading home.”

“Where do you live?” I asked.

“In a neighborhood off Central Street, over near E.A. Davis,” he replied with a wave of his hand. “It was one of those perfect running mornings, you know? A crisp, overcast fall morning with a slight breeze and my legs felt great. It was effortless.”

I just nodded my head, surprised to find myself holding back tears. I really missed running.  

Eric continued, “So I’m running out on Cliff Road and I see this trail sign for Rock Ridge Pond. Have you been there?”

I shook my head no, I hadn’t ever even heard of it and told him so.

“Yeah, me neither,” he replied. “I figured I’d take a quick detour and check it out. The leaves had all begun to turn so it was a good day for a trail run.

“The path is rather wide at first, tree-lined and totally covered overhead and then it opens to a small clearing with this random granite table and benches. I remember wishing I had my phone with me. With the fall foliage and the pond in the background it would have made for a spooky photo.

“I stopped for a moment, getting my bearings. There were a few paths I could take. Two looked like they led back into neighborhoods, but a third appeared to skirt the pond so I chose that one. It was narrow, and I was watching my feet as I ran since the ground was covered with rocks and tree roots. The trail has a couple of little wooden walkways to keep you from stepping into muck. I’d just crossed the second walkway and was headed up a short incline when I looked up and saw this little boy sitting on the ground, hunched over next to a cluster of trees. One of his legs was pulled to his chest and the other was straight out.

“It gave me a real start. I actually stopped short and just stared for a minute, trying to catch my breath. I figured that he’d fallen and maybe hurt his leg or something, but there was something off about him. He must have heard me coming, but he didn’t move a muscle. It even crossed my mind for a moment that he might be deaf.

“‘You alright there, buddy?’ I called to him. I was probably about twenty, maybe twenty-five feet away from him. His head tilted to the side a bit and he said something, but he didn’t look up and I couldn’t hear him. Something made me not want to get anywhere near this kid. I’m not embarrassed to admit that I was actually terrified. But, like an idiot, I shook the feeling off and convinced myself that it was just a kid and he might need help.”

“Here we go,” I said, wanting him to stop the story right there and talk to me about Ghost Boxes again.

“Yup, here we go,” he agreed, “I took a few steps forward and called to him again, ‘Hey, buddy, what’s up?’ The kid just shook his head back and forth. At this point that twinge of fear I had turned into annoyance. I’d been having an awesome run, why the hell had I turned down this path, you know? I kept walking towards him and the little fucker just sat there stock still.

“I considered turning around but, you know what? I honestly thought that maybe it was one of those television What Would You Do? set ups. Like a camera was going to pop out of the woods and some reporter would accuse me of being a spineless bastard.”

Eric and I laughed at this for a moment and I agreed, “I live in constant fear of undercover investigations. That’s why I always return my grocery cart to the holding pen.”

“Well, if that had been the case then it would have accounted for the way the whole scene just didn’t feel right,” said Eric. “As I got closer to him I noticed his clothes. They weren’t right either. He reminded me of a kid from the 1950s. He looked like he could have fit in on the set of Stand by Me with his white t-shirt, too-short jeans and Chucks.”

“Stop it,” I said, recognizing the outdated clothing as a signature mark of the Black Eyed Kids.

“I know, it was unsettling and confusing. He mumbled something again and I said, ‘Kid, I can’t hear you. Do you need any help?’ I was still walking towards him, and I got within about ten feet of him when another boy steps out from behind the trees.”

“Oh no,” I said quietly.

“Yeah, it startled the hell out of me. I think I said something like, ‘What the hell is this?’ The other kid, the one that came out from behind the tree, said to the ground, ‘Hello, sir. Can we use your phone to call our mom?’”

“No, no, no,” I said, groaning. “Are you for real with this, or are you pulling my leg?”

“No, I’m dead serious. I’ve been to the ParaCon events, I’ve read the stories on CreepyPasta (http://www.creepypasta.com/). The second that kid spoke, I knew exactly what was happening. And if the creepy kid on the ground was Will Wheaton in Stand By Me, then this out-of-the-woods bastard was Kiefer Sutherland.”

“What did you say to him?” I asked. “Or, I mean, did you just turn around and run away?”

“That’s what terrifies me the most about the entire experience. I didn’t react at first. Somehow, I couldn’t. It was as if I were watching it happen to me. The boy on the ground tilted his head up a bit, but I didn’t look at him. I had my eyes on the older one. He looked like he was maybe fourteen. He hadn’t looked up, he was still staring at the ground and said, ‘My brother’s had an accident, sir. I’d like to call our mother. May I please use your phone?’ He reached out one of his hands and then took a step towards me. That snapped me out of my daze. I didn’t want that kid anywhere near me.

“I backed away a couple of steps and held my hands out in front of me. I said that I hadn’t brought my phone on the run but that I’d be happy to jog back to the road and knock on a door so someone could call for help. I don’t know why I was holding up a facade like this was all normal, but something inside told me to play it cool.

“The older kid started shaking his head back and forth slowly then goes, ‘Sir, we won’t be allowed in. Please, let us use your phone.’ All of a sudden it occurred to me that there might be more of them there in the woods. I wanted to turn and look behind me, but I was terrified to take my eyes off those two freak shows.”

“Oh God, I hadn’t even thought of the possibility of more of them,” I said, horrified.

“I’ve spent so much time thinking about that day, about those few moments. Sure, the kids were weird and dressed oddly, but, I mean, the terror I felt is almost indescribable. The evil emanating off those kids, or whatever the hell they were, it was real. My reaction was primal.”

“How did you get out of there?” I demanded, peeling the wrapper off of a chocolate.

“I was backing up slowly and the older boy kept walking towards me, still staring at the ground. I kept my eye on the little one, but he was sitting still. ‘Look guys, it’ll take me ten minutes tops to get back to that neighborhood. I’ll grab some help and be right back,’ I said. Then I was about to turn and sprint the hell out of there when the little one looked up.”

“The eyes,” I said, shaking my head back and forth.

“Those eyes,” he agreed, leaning down to scratch Artie’s back.

“All black?” I asked.

“Yeah, completely. When you read about it, or see those drawings or Photoshopped pictures of the Black Eyed Kids they really look creepy. But, I still haven’t been able to find one that shows what they actually look like. The kid’s entire eyeball was black. He looked like a totally normal teenager, but his eyeballs were black.

“They weren’t shiny, they didn’t have a glow or anything, they were just completely and totally black, like they’d been replaced by dull marbles. I for sure screamed. The older one started walking forward quickly and he looked up too. Same thing, black marble eyes.

“Then he goes, ‘Sir, my brother has had an accident. May we use your phone?’ I just turned and ran. I don’t even remember getting out of the woods, I was back out on Cliff Road sprinting for my life. I ran over the bridge, crossed over Washington Street and ran straight into Maugus. It was the first place I came to that was filled with people and I just ran in the door then bent over with my hands on my knees sucking wind. I’m sure everyone there thought that I was a lunatic.

“A waitress came over and asked if I was alright. I just nodded and took a seat at the counter. I drank two cups of coffee and sat there for maybe, I don’t know, forty-five minutes before I was able to muster the courage to go back outside and run home. Thank God Noah was still there, he usually plays tennis Saturday mornings with a friend of ours, but the woman had cancelled on him.”

“Who’s Noah?” I asked.

“My husband,” Eric replied.

“And what did he think about all of this, I mean, you told him, right?”

“I think he was pretty skeptical of it all, but he could see how freaked out I was. He suggested that I take a shower and then the two of us head back out on Cliff Road to see what we could find,” Eric said and then picked Artie up to sit on his lap.

“Which you certainly refused to do,” I said, firmly.

“Of course! There was no way I was going back out there!” He insisted.

“Have you gone back since?” I asked.

“Hell no,” he said, scratching under Artie’s chin.

“Just to play devil’s advocate, here. Do you think there is any chance that you maybe – “ I began.

“Got punked?” He finished for me.

“Well, yes. I mean, considering your experience in the paranormal and the fact that you knew about these Black Eyed Children, maybe your mind was ready for it and these kids, were like, just playing a sick joke.”

“Yup, by that evening I’d convinced myself of exactly that. I know that was what Noah thought too, and by the next morning we were actually joking about it. He leaves for work early and that morning he left me a little post-it note with a smiley face drawn on it with huge black eyes.”

“Funny,” I commented, smiling.

“He’s a wise-ass,” Eric chuckled. “Over the next week I just convinced myself that it had all been some post-Halloween prank by a couple of asshole kids. I went from feeling embarrassed, to amused, to impressed by how they had managed to pull off the whole creepy scene.”

“So is that what you think it all was? A couple of terrifyingly brilliant pranksters?” I asked.

“No. That’s not what it was, at all. It was two Black Eyed Kids and they locked in on me for some reason and this past year has been a fucking nightmare.”

“Oh no, please don’t tell me these things are real,” I begged.

“Liz, they’re real. It’s all real. I mean, I don’t know about bigfoot or the whole cryptozoology thing, but all the paranormal stuff  you’ve heard of? It’s real and I have seen very few examples of it being positive.”

“Did you see them again” I asked, referring to the kids and ignoring his statement about all things paranormal. I was freaked out enough as it was.

“I saw them two more times,” he replied. “Almost exactly a week after my run, on that following Saturday, Noah and I were headed back from dinner. We pulled onto our street and the headlights flashed on the two kids, just standing in the neighbor’s yard across the street from our house.”

“What in the fuck?” I demanded.

“They were just standing there, staring at the ground. ‘Look at these two kids, what are they doing out so late?’ Noah said, sounding worried. I fucking flipped out. ‘Noah, it’s them!’ I literally screamed, ‘Drive, just drive!’ He didn’t, he pulled into our driveway and cut the engine. I was about to have a fucking panic attack and I told him so. I begged him not to open his door, and he looked at me like I was having some sort of mental breakdown. I suppose I was, but it was for good reason.

“He told me to calm down and just stay in the car. He was going to ‘go have a ‘chat with the youngsters and tell them to scram,’ and yes, he really talks like that. He’s a ninety-year-old trapped in a forty-seven-year-old’s body. At any rate, he opened the door and I clamped down on his arm and pleaded with him to close it and drive away. He wrenched his arm out of my hand and told me to pull myself together.

“He got out of the car and turned to walk across the street to the neighbor’s yard, but he stopped short. I yelled to him, ‘What? What the fuck is it? Are they there? Where are they?’ He just stood there looking up and down the street for a minute then turned to me and said, ‘They’re gone.’”

“Oh, God,” I said. “That is almost worse than if they had just, like, bum-rushed him.”

Eric nodded his head in agreement and said, “It took him a while to convince me that they were actually gone. He kept saying that they must have run back through the neighbor’s yard, but I knew that wasn’t the case. I felt like a paranoid fool, but I knew I hadn’t seen the last of them. The next morning I woke up with my first headache.”

“Oh no, so that part of the lore is true?” I demanded.

“Well, in my case it was, anyways. Not everyone gets sick after they’ve encountered these kids, believe me, I’ve done the research. But I was one of the unlucky ones. The headaches came first. The one that happened after we saw them in our neighbor’s yard lasted for three days. It wasn’t bad enough to stop me from going about my day, but it was ever-present and nothing touched it. I couldn’t get rid of it.

“Noah finally convinced me to go to the doctor that Tuesday afternoon, and she suggested that the migraine was stress induced and gave me a prescription for 800mg Advil. I didn’t bother filling it. I knew it wouldn’t help. And, at any rate, that first headache was gone by the next afternoon.

“Then Noah had a business trip. He had to go to Austin for two nights. He’s an engineer and they have an office down there and – well, nevermind that has nothing to do with anything. Anyhow, he went away for two nights, the Wednesday and Thursday night after we had seen the kids in the neighbor’s yard. He was worried about leaving me alone. He did believe that I’d seen something that frightened me, but I suspect he also believed that I was having some sort of mid-life crisis. He suggested that I reach out to Biddy and tell her what I’d seen, but honestly I was too embarrassed at that point to tell anyone else.

“You know what I thought, really? I wondered if maybe I was losing it a little. I’d been ghost hunting for years and nothing had ever really scared me. Sure, EVPs always gave me the creeps and there were a couple experiences in those abandoned lunatic asylums we’d traveled to for investigations that scared me. But other than that, I was a total bystander. I was the documenter. The recorder of everything. It kept me at arm’s length, know what I mean?”

I knew exactly what he meant, I just nodded my head and sipped my cooling coffee.

“Yeah, well, I bet you do,” he said with small laugh. “Your interviews let you just dip a toe in, huh? I guess I thought that maybe it had all caught up to me and that, after having witnessed so much and filled my head with that darkness, I was sort of, I don’t know, I guess I thought it was some sort of late onset paranoia.”

“Who could blame you for that?” I asked. “The very little that I know about the things that Biddy was able to document terrifies me and you were right there alongside her. I would think something might be wrong with you if you didn’t eventually become a little paranoid.”

“That’s true, I suppose. I wish that had been what was happening to me, that I’d just stuffed all the scares down for years only to have them burst out in a mess of paranoia. But no. The kids were real. The first night Noah was away I was an absolute basket case, I had two extra couple of beers and slept in our guest room because it had only one window and is located at the back of the house. It somehow gave me a sense of safety.

“When I woke up the next morning and nothing had happened, I again thought that I’d indeed had a stress response and some sort of paranoid delusion. That day was normal and so was the evening. Then, I was walking up to bed that night and I was about halfway up the stairs  when behind me I heard someone knocking at the front door.

“I froze. I just stood there, completely still, hoping that I hadn’t heard what I’d heard and if I did that whoever had knocked would just go away. It was about ten o’clock at night. Who the hell would be knocking at our front door?”

“Oh my God, my heart is literally racing right now just hearing this,” I blurted, crinkling another candy wrapper.

“I was in an immediate state of panic hearing that knock at the door. It was overblown and irrational. I knew those fucking kids were out there, I just fucking knew it. I just didn’t know what the hell to do about it. I’d read all the stories, I knew you weren’t supposed to let them in, and of course I wasn’t going to let them in. I needed to get them to stop coming around. I needed to get rid of them. I almost wished for a gun.”

“Oh, shit!” I whispered.

“No, obviously, I would never, I was just cornered and fucking overcome with irrational fear. I waited there for a few moments, who knows how long, it felt like forever, and then the knocking, well more like banging on the front door came again. I almost jumped out of my skin, but at least it startled me out being frozen in fear. I stomped back down the steps and looked out through the peephole.

“There they were. The little one was at the door, the older one was standing about ten feet behind him on our walkway. Both were, of course, staring down at the ground.

“‘Get the fuck off my property!’ I screamed at them through the door. ‘I’ve already called the cops!’ I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s what came out.”

“I would have been rocking in the corner terrified,” I replied.  

“Believe me, I wanted to, but once I confirmed that it was actually them out there I didn’t want to take my eyes off of them. What if they tried to break in? What if one of them came around to the back porch? I couldn’t remember if I’d deadbolted the back door.

“Our house is old, we have these two long, thin windows on either side of the front door. After I yelled at the kid I heard him say, ‘Sir, can we come in please? My brother and I must call our mother. She will be very concerned.’

“I know I sound like a complete and total lunatic, but I screamed, ‘Get the fuck out of here, I know what you are.’ At this, he leaned over, looked in one of the side windows and tapped on the glass. I was filled with a terror I have never felt before. I jumped back, but immediately looked out the peephole again. The younger one had stepped back from the window and was still looking at the ground. But the older one, I could just make him out in the front porch light. He was looking up at the door and I could see the light reflected off of his black eyes.

“All of a sudden I was calm, it was like I’d pushed the panic away and knew what I had to do. Loudly, but calmly I said something like, ‘I’m not opening the door for you. I will never let you in. You must leave my property now, you are not welcome here.’ This made the younger one look up at the peephole. He stared at me even though I know he couldn’t see me, but he did, he stared at me for an agonizingly long time and then he turned back to his ‘brother’ or whatever the thing was. The older one nodded his head and the younger one walked towards him, once he’d reached him the older one turned away from the house too and they walked back down the front walkway, took a right at the street and I watched them from our side windows until they were out of sight.”

“But then what?” I demanded. “I mean, it is real then, it’s all real? They found you and came to your house and you saw their eyes again. How did you sleep? What the fuck did you do?”

If I’m being honest here, I was almost outraged at him. I mean, how could he come to my house and tell me that these things were actually real? I’d heard and accepted a lot, trust me. Aliens, ghosts, even those fucking things that Peyton claimed to have in her basement. But Black Eyed Kids? Jesus Christ Almighty. I mean for the love of all that is holy, how could this be?

“I grabbed my car keys and cell phone, sprinted for my car and got the fuck out of there,” he explained, almost defensively. “I called Biddy immediately and told her what was happening and she told me to check into a hotel and she’d come see me first thing in the morning.

“She calmed me down, told me to get some sleep and advised me not to call the police, which I had been considering. They certainly couldn’t help and anyhow, and she pointed out that I wouldn’t want to endanger anyone else by exposing them to those things.”

“Oh no, I hadn’t even thought of that,” I admitted.

“Yeah, me either,” Eric agreed before taking a deep breath. “Biddy showed up the next morning with her psychic friend, Jane, who gave me a reading, which was pretty disheartening. But ultimately it was good to know what I was dealing with and that things were going to get a lot worse before they got better. The three of us put together a plan, which included having a priest to the house to perform an exorcism as well as having a medium come to place protections all over the property. Biddy also reached out to a Voodoo practitioner that she knew from New Orleans. The woman came up straight away and performed a ceremony over me and Noah.”

“Whoa, wait a minute, Voodoo?” I said surprised.

“Yes, well, no one is sure what these kids are really, so Biddy thought it best to pull out all the stops. If they are demons, then the priest would get rid of them. Some sort of entity? Then that’s what the medium was for, and the voodoo? Well that was a ‘cover your ass’ move. Once Biddy mentioned to the Voodoo practitioner what we were up against, the woman’s response let her know that we needed all the help we could get.”

“Thank God for Biddy,” I said.

“Amen,” Eric replied.

“But how did it get worse?” I asked. “If all these people worked to protect you, then what got worse?”

“See this scar?” He asked, leaning down so that I could see the top of his head. He looked back up at me and said, “The headaches didn’t go away. The migraines got so bad that I couldn’t leave my bed for days. My doctor ordered an MRI since I’d never had an issue with headaches before, and it showed two bright spots on my brain. Two good-sized dots, like eyes.”

My own eyes instantly filled with tears and I felt sick to my stomach, “Oh, Eric, no,” I managed to say.

“Oh, don’t worry. It was nothing good old-fashioned brain surgery couldn’t take care of. And it wasn’t cancerous, thank God. But if we hadn’t caught it those two bright spots would have eventually done me in.”

“Thank God,” I said, dumbly because I didn’t know what else to say.

“As far as I’m concerned I got off pretty lightly. You’ve read some of the other accounts from people who’ve been chosen by these so-called ‘children,’ right? If I hadn’t known Biddy, if she hadn’t leveraged her network so quickly, then I could have been in for years of health issues. That seems to be their calling card.”

“So, you think you were chosen, that they sought you out specifically?” I asked.

“Definitely,” he said firmly.

“The people that read your blog, they know this stuff is real, right? You’re clear on that?” He asked, looking hard at me.

“I don’t know, really. I think people read it for entertainment. But yeah, I mean, I get emails all the time from people asking if I’m just making these stories up or if I’m actually interviewing people,” I explained.

He nodded his head and put Artie back down on the ground before saying, “I think you need to make it very clear that not only is this story true, there are stories like it all over the country. There’s a reason the paranormal has become so popular. It’s not just because of all the ghost hunting shows or the internet. Things have been ramping up since the seventies. The only thing that we know for sure is that we have absolutely no idea what the things we call ‘paranormal’ really are.”

“You sound like Biddy,” I commented.

“That’s because we spent years working together trying to figure out what the hell is going on out there and all we have is evidence that there really is something happening and it can be dangerous. You know what happened with her and Poe. These, so-called, Black Eyed Kids found me. Nick Sayre is fucking obsessed with his Ouija board and that shit is going to get him or his family killed, or worse.

“Over the years, the people who we’ve hunted ghosts with have committed suicide, had horrible accidents, suffered from deep depressions, alienated their loved ones, become obsessed with chasing bumps in the night. And yet, can any of them say they’ve ever really accomplished anything or moved the field forward? No. We have EVPs, blobs of light caught on film, the occasional apparition, scratches in sets of three on our backs, personal stories, and a fuck ton of people scurrying around in the dark, every single one of them certain that they will be the one to piece it all together.”

“I guess that about sums it up,” I said. “So we’re just a bunch of assholes chasing this distraction and we’ll never get anywhere.”

“No. We might be a bunch of assholes, sure, but there is something out there that wants us to keep looking and it gives us tiny little breadcrumbs that lead to nowhere. Whatever it’s plan is, whatever it wants, it’s working. There are more people looking into the darkness than ever before.”

***

I waved to Eric from the doorway and ushered Walter and Artie back inside. I checked my phone and saw that I’d missed a call. Jenn, my old home invasion poltergeist acquaintance had left a message. She’d heard I’d moved to the neighborhood and wanted to drop off an housewarming present. In her message she invited herself over for a coffee and tour of our new home.

I found myself smiling at the idea. It would be nice to do something so normal and neighborly. With everything that had been going on at the house I’d sort of dropped out of my little social scene. I began to call her back when I heard Kat babbling from upstairs, awake from her nap. I’d have to reach out to Jenn later and invite her over, but not until we got back from Nantucket.

We were headed back to the island for a week’s vacation. I was thrilled to get away from real life and onto island time. The house we rented had a washer and dryer, which was good, because I hadn’t done laundry in, I don’t know, two weeks maybe. I just couldn’t make myself go back into the basement. Not after I’d seen that shadow behind the boiler.

unnamed-1Lord help me, they are the the bees knees. Once upon a time I lifted a bag of laundry and my back got really, really pissed off. I was able to talk it down, assure it that we were young, springy and totally capable of moving forward. Things were cool for a bit. We fought once in a while, but I’m sort of an alpha and I got pretty cocky. Now, six years, five moves, two marathons and two kids later, that shit’s come home to roost. My alpha ass is relying on nerve pills and sleeping face down on my kitchen floor. But I have a story. One that frightened me to my core. I will share it,  but this medicine makes me fuzzy and interview transcription is not a fuzzy headed game. Don’t worry, I’m still the alpha, mother fucker, and my uppity back will feel my wrath. Give me a week. The black eyed kids can wait. They’ve been waiting all along…

587-79Before I share this next story, I have to tell you that my husband’s name is Chris. He’s given me the go-ahead to use his name, though he never really told me not to, and it’s not like most of you don’t know us anyway. Besides, I will get too agitated if I have to keep referring to him as “C,” and so will you. The poor man was actually with me for this interview and he is traumatized. Which means, it’s gonna be a good one. So, on with the story.

The night started as a simple weeknight dinner at The Cottage with Chris’s collegue Chad and his wife, Emily. Chris and I were running about five minutes late and as I panned the bar area I spotted the Hayes couple immediately. Emily wore a kelly green sheath dress with gold Jack Rogers. A little bit of my ever-present social anxiety disappeared.

Trust me, I know that, at least socially speaking, I am a thirty-seven-year-old eighth grader, but I just like to feel as though I fit in. I was wearing bright pink sandals with a navy blue, sleeveless dress with scalloped edges. A stack of mismatched gold bangles and a pair of big gold beaded earrings completed my go-to cocktail party outfit, and it seemed a safe bet for this dinner. Chris worked with Chad, whose family had recently moved to Wellesley, and I didn’t really know what to expect from the couple. In small town fashion, I’d actually met his wife, Emily, at Perrin Park, though we’d only spoken for a few minutes.

We ordered drinks and made small talk by the bar about kids and neighborhoods while Chad went to check on the status of our table. Emily was fun to talk to and I immediately felt at ease around her. Whereas I typically dread the couple-on-couple dinner date because it so often felt like a blind date mixed with a job interview mixed with a marriage therapy session, I was already thinking that I might have found a new friend.

After only ten minutes of conversation I was planning to invite her to my squad’s next playgroup. She seemed like she might fit right in, and as any mom knows, if you are lucky enough to find a playgroup where everyone has roughly the same vibe about parenting, you do not upset the apple cart (or apple sauce squeeze-pack box, as it were). A free-range parent among helicopters will absolutely kill the vibe and vice versa. Our little playgroup had a sip wine and if they keep interrupting us while we’re talking turn on Paw Patrol vibe.

We hung at the bar for about fifteen minutes and when we were seated the conversation turned, as it so often does, to explanations of how everyone ended up in the suburbs with kids. Chad and Emily had met at Michigan State, she was from Ohio, he from Indiana. I tried not to spaz out and scare them away, but I just LOVE mid-Western people. LOVE them. They have a calm, reasonable assurance about themselves and a spot on sense of humor. Just about every mid-Westerner that I have befriended has unfolded like a rare buy-all-five-items Stitch Fix. In my experience, they have a refreshing lack of neurosis, a fantastic sense of humor, knowledge about interesting things like pontoon boats, and wild college stories.

I tried my best not to fan girl out. Chris started talking some sports ‘n such with Chad and the conversation split, with Emily and I discovering just how compatible we were and the guys talking about, well, I don’t really know what. Emily informed me that after college she and Chad moved to Manhattan, where he worked in Real Estate and she in some finance something or other. They had their three children in the city, Michael, her now seven-year-old, Benjamin the five-year-old and Margaret, the baby, coming in at three years.

After Maggie was born Emily wanted out of the city. She explained that ultimately it was the never-ending public restroom lines that did her in. She couldn’t take it anymore. After having her third, she was always scouting out the next bathroom and lived in fear of wetting her pants.

I had found my soul mate. I had to play it cool.

“I think you’re my soul mate,” I told her, after taking a huge sip of Chardonnay.

“Don’t jinx us,” she replied, sipping red wine. “Give me your back story.”

So I told her about our post college move from upstate New York to Boston, our slow crawl from Brighton, to Brookline, to the Back Bay, then finally to Beacon Hill and then, our inability to hold onto the dream. I glossed over the many careers I’d had, and she actually shrieked when I told her that I was a former librarian. Chad tried to break into our conversation to find out what was so thrilling and she actually shushed him and then peppered me with questions about librarianship.

I had a warm and fuzzy feeling that just grew and grew throughout the dinner. These people were funny and they laughed and drank and told interesting stories. We’d found new friends! New friends!! My friends are really just about the most important part of my life. I realized when the girls were babies that if we were going to survive parenthood, then we needed to establish a solid network of solid couples for Chris and I to lean on and find a way to laugh at the craziness with. We found those people, and here were two brand spanking new friends to add to the circle. I had to stop myself from asking the waiter to take a photo of the four of us.

We were eating dessert when Chris asked, “How long have you guys been here in town? A couple months, right?”

Chad looked at his wife and replied, “We’ve been in Wellesley about four months and we’re already on our second house.”

“How?” I asked, looking between them.

“You think our move was complicated?” Chris commented. “Wait until you hear what these guys have been through.”

I waited expectantly, but they just exchanged a sideways glance and looked back Chris and I.

“Was it that bad?” I asked.

“It was pretty ridiculous,” Emily confirmed. “We were only in the house for about two months when we called our real estate agent and asked her to find us a new home,” she paused and drained her wine glass. “It just became un-livable, we tried to make it work but we couldn’t.”

Chad nodded his head in agreement. Chris and I waited for further explanation, but when none came I demanded, “What was it? You can’t leave us hanging like that, was there fecal matter in the water or something?”

Chad snorted and a little bit of his vodka tonic came out his nose. Emily laughed and said, “I wish it had been as easy as shit in the water. No, it was just – ”

“We had ghosts,” Chad blurted.

“Chad!” Emily growled, thoroughly annoyed. “They’re going to think we are crazy.”

“Oh, shit,” Chris said in anticipation of my freak out.

“Shut the fuck up!” I declared, slapping my hand on the table. “You seriously moved into a haunted house?”

“Yes,” Emily admitted, embarrassed.

“I must know everything!” I practically shouted.

This cinched the deal, I was in friend love, and I didn’t care who knew it.

Chad looked at his phone, it was around nine o’clock, “We have to relieve the au pair,” he said. “How late do you guys have the sitter tonight?”

“Until ten thirty,” I answered.

“Why don’t you come over to the house, it’s just around the corner. We’ll have a drink and tell you our ghost story and I can show Chris that new grill we were talking about.”

Chris started to decline the offer but I put my hand on his arm to stop him and said, “We would love to!”

As we followed the Hayes’ car out of the parking lot Chris grumbled, “Let’s hope you didn’t just sign us up to swing.”

Stop it,” I said, tisking and rolling my eyes.

 

 

***

 

The Hayes’ au pair was waiting in the family room when we got to the house. She was a tall, thin, leggy blond with a huge smile and bright green eyes. One look at this girl and I was ready to shove Chris out the door and into the car.

 

Emily introduced us to Alison, the twenty-year-old girl from Denmark. After shaking hands Chris enthused, “I’ve always wanted to travel to Europe.”

I had to stop myself from saying, “Settle down; we are not getting an au pair.”
Of course, the hubs has never given me cause to worry. My aversion to au pairs is about my own insecurities, paranoia and fear of aging. I simply don’t want to be replaced with a newer, less bitchy model. So I certainly wasn’t going to move a newer, less bitchy model into my home for the same reason I don’t stock Oreo cookies and Parliament Lights in the house: temptation.

Anyhow, gorgeous Alison filled Emily in on the kids’ evening activities then excused herself to her suite above the garage. The guys went to the backyard to see the aforementioned grill while Emily and I headed for the kitchen to pour drinks. We walked through the cozy family room with its overstuffed sectional couch (grey) and colorful throw pillows. Family photos decorated the walls alongside framed kid’s artwork.
“Wait,” I said, following Emily through a set of double doors. “When did you guys move in?”

“About a month and a half ago,” she replied over her shoulder.

“How are you this settled? We’ve been in our house for a couple months and I’m still using a moving box as a night table.”

Emily waved off the comment, “Half of our stuff was still packed in the basement of the old house. The move was easy.”

I just made an affirmative noise. Two moves, with three young children in less than four months. How had she managed all of this? The rooms looked freshly painted (white on white, all of the color in the home came from artwork and accents). The floors were newly refinished (in a dark chocolate colored stain).

When I stepped into the kitchen it instantly became my favorite place in the whole world. The cabinets were a gleaming, glossy navy blue, set off by white walls and countertops. A large center island, and a long farmhouse style table (above which hung a crystal chandelier) completed my new happy place. I saw a hand towel draped over the oven’s handle that read, “It’s not drinking alone if the kids are home.”
I pointed to it and asked, “Alright, can we go steady?” Emily laughed and we set about pouring drinks.

As I happily watched her pour some peanut M&Ms into a big navy blue and white striped bowl I said, “OK, I’m going to come clean. I blog about ghost stories in Wellesley. I am a total freak.”

No,” Emily said in excited disbelief.

“I do,” I admitted, hoping this didn’t end the magical night. “You wouldn’t believe how haunted this town is.”

“Oh, I believe it,” she said. “You can totally tell my story on your blog, it’s a doozy. I used to love watching those reality T.V. ghost shows. I can’t anymore. That shit is real and it is nothing compared to what we went through.”

I couldn’t believe it. First of all, hashtag soul mates. Second of all, I’d never had a haunted friend before. It was amazing. I asked her if I could record the story (fate allowed that I’d left my little digital recorder in the car) and she enthusiastically agreed.

 

***

 

 

We met up again with the guys on the deck and each of us sank into one of four (navy blue and white striped cushioned) lawn chair set cozily around a circular table on their patio. Chris shook his head when he saw me set the recorder on the little garden stool between Emily and Chad’s seats.

“Don’t worry,” I assured him. “I’m sure it won’t be that scary.”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Chad said ominously. “I haven’t slept through the night since we moved to Wellesley.”

“None of us have,” Emily agreed.

“Shit,” Chris said, surrendering to his fate. “Then we’re going to have to call an Uber because I’m not listening to this sober.”

“Deal,” I agreed then asked, “So what the hell happened?”

With her wine glass gripped between her hands, Emily began, “We bought a brand new house off Cliff Road. When Chad found out he could transfer to the Boston office we had, like, one weekend to come up here to find a house. We needed to buy a place in time for the school year to start for Michael, so we wouldn’t have any time for renovations prior to moving in, and most of the houses we saw definitely needed work. Then we saw the house. It was pretty much only framed, but we looked at the plans and it seemed like it would be perfect.”

“The lot was huge,” Chad chimed in. “Big backyard surrounded by woods.”

“I was never really, like, jazzed about the place, but I figured that was because when we saw it, it was basically a construction zone,” Emily continued. “It seemed like the ideal; a quiet neighborhood, bedrooms for everyone and then some. The five of us had been sharing one bathroom in the city. We were moving for space and suburbia. The house had three and a half baths, it was luxurious.”

“Was it a tear down?” Chris asked, referring to the town trend of demolishing smaller homes to build larger, more modern digs.

“Yeah, there had been an old ranch style house on the property that the developer took down in order to build the house.”

“We moved in the middle of August and I knew by the end of our first day there that something wasn’t right,” Emily confessed.

“I thought it was just the stress of leaving city life and diving into suburbia,” Chad said in agreement. “But it was undeniable, from the first time we stepped foot in that house, something didn’t want us there.”

“Like a bad vibe?” I asked.

“No,” Emily explained. “More than that. Weird things started happening right away. The day we moved in I was unpacking kitchen stuff while Chad and the movers were unloading the truck. The kitchen opened up to the living room, so I guess you would call it a “great room.” The boys were on the couch watching a movie on the iPad and Maggie was toddling around, bugging them every once in a while and playing with her Paw Patrol figures [See what I mean?!? She’s perfect for our playgroup.] I was unwrapping our wine glasses and happened to look out one of the kitchen windows when I saw Maggie walking through the backyard towards the woods. It took a minute to realize what I was seeing. I snapped at her brothers about opening the sliding door that lead out to the porch, but they seemed as surprised as I was. I rushed out to get her and walked her back to the house. I asked who’d open the door and she said it was the ‘pretty lady.’”

“Oh fuck,” Chris said, before draining his glass.

“What pretty lady?” I asked.

“That’s what I asked,” Emily said. “Maggie told me that a lady in the yard opened the door for her. It fucking freaked me out. Our movers were there, but they were a group of young guys. I was thinking that maybe there was a weird neighbor around. I mean, we were technically in a neighborhood, but the house was basically surrounded by woods.”

“We had an alarm system installed the next day,” Chad interjected.

“I insisted on having cameras installed too,” Emily continued. “I was so freaked out. It was, like, a total culture shock moving out of Manhattan and into this huge, secluded house. When we were in the city, listening to our neighbors stomp around overhead or overhearing their arguments through the vents used to aggravate the hell out of me. But this house made me miss that claustrophobia. I couldn’t keep track of the kids unless I gated half the house off. It was just too drastic of a change. Our apartment was tiny. There I couldn’t have lost one of the kids if I had tried.”

“We had this huge two car garage,” Chad said, putting his arm over Emily’s shoulders.

Tons of storage space. Anyway, I was stacking boxes with Kevin, one of the movers. We were taking loads from the truck and stacking boxes on one side of the garage. We were in and out, you know, passing each other as we went back and forth. On one of my trips from the van I slipped on the floor and almost dropped the box. Someone behind me said, ‘Nice catch, man.’ I thought it was Kevin. I put the box down and turned around to say something but Kevin wasn’t there, I was alone. I walked out of the garage and saw him coming out of the truck with another box.”

“Oh dear,” I said quietly.

“I didn’t mention that to Em, I tried to convince myself that I’d just imagined the voice. But, I heard it a few more times before we got out of that house.”

Emily nodded her head in agreement and said, “The next morning I was sitting at the kitchen table making out a list of stuff I needed to pick up at Target. This is weird, it’s hard to explain without sounding stupid, but I took a sip of my coffee, went to write something down then heard one of the kids call to me so I turned around to yell back to them. When I reached for my coffee cup again it had been turned around so the handle was facing away from me. I went to grab the handle while I was looking back at my list and my hand just grabbed at air.”

“No way,” I said, goosebumps tingling my arms.

“That was the calm before the storm,” Emily continued. “I’d say little weird stuff like that happened for about a week or two,” she looked at Chad for confirmation and he nodded his head. “Then I was on our back deck once, the house had this two level deck in the back yard and a wrap around front porch in the front, which were totally beautiful, but I never wanted to spend any time on either of them, there was something, like, off-putting about that yard.

“Anyway, I was dragging some pots around on the deck in the back trying to decide where I wanted them when someone banged on the underside of the porch, seriously, like, right beneath my feet. The top level was probably, I don’t know, five feet off the ground? It was so loud that I screamed. The two older kids were at school, and Maggie was inside for her nap. I had the baby monitor with me in my pocket. I backed towards the sliding glass door to go inside and all of a sudden the baby monitor went crazy with loud static and those beep-boop noises you hear when you put two walkie-talkies too close to each other.

“I had the worst feeling I think I’ve ever had in my life – well up to that point anyways. I ran upstairs to Maggie’s room as fast as I could and yanked her door open. I just ran over to her crib and grabbed her then ran out to the car and went to J.P Licks on Central Street. I called Chad to tell him what happened – “

“Yeah, I was glad you got right out of there, but so pissed that you hadn’t immediately called the police,” Chad interrupted. “I thought we’d missed the chance to catch whoever was sneaking around outside the house.”

Emily glanced over at him and said forcefully, “I called them from the ice cream shop and met them back at the house. One of them walked around the property while the other checked out the house. Then they asked to see our video footage. In my panic I had completely forgotten about the cameras we’d set up around the outside of the house after Maggie walked out into the back yard by herself.”

“Did they catch anything?” Chris asked. I looked over at him, I knew he was hoping it had been a person doing the porch banging.

“Nothing,” Chad said. “Well, the cameras didn’t catch a person, but when we watched the moment the banging happened, you could see Em jump up and scream and run into the house, and then there was a sort of glitch in the recording. It got staticy for a moment before returning to normal.”

“Fuck,” I said quietly.

“After that, I hated the house,” Emily insisted. “After only two weeks I was constantly looking over my shoulder. Obsessively checking the door locks and windows. I didn’t let Maggie out of my sight and I could tell that the boys were a bit nervous too. Michael began coming into our room in the middle of the night. He insisted that he heard someone banging around in the attic.”

“That fucking attic,” Chad chimed in.

Emily looked at him and repeated, “That fucking attic.”

I felt Chris’s hand tighten on my own and glanced at him, I knew he shouldn’t be listening to this, but this story was too good to abandon.

“What was in the fucking attic?” I asked.

“I’m going to need another drink,” Chris said. Emily started to get up but he motioned for her to stay seated. “I’ll get the refills, kitchen is through there, right?”

Emily began to protest but I said, “Let him go, he doesn’t want to hear this part.”

“Smart man,” Chad said, “I’ll come with you, I don’t like this part either.”

We watched the guys walk inside and I had a twinge of regret, I didn’t know if I wanted to hear this either.

Emily said, “Your husband is really sweet.”

“He is,” I agreed. “He’s my favorite. Now quick, what happened in the attic?”

She smiled and began, “So, the house was freaking massive. Way too big for us. Each of the kids had their own damn bedroom, and then there was our master and a guest room to boot. The third floor was an unfinished attic that the developer said he’d come back to finish for us when we were ready. The door to the attic was right next to our bedroom, it lead to a full set of stairs to the upper floor.

“When we looked at the plans for the house I thought the attic would make a cool office someday but once we’d moved into the house, there was something absolutely repellent about the space. I never even wanted to open the door, let alone climb those stairs.

“So when Michael started to complain about someone stomping around in the attic in the middle of the night, I had no desire whatsoever to check it out. I sent Chad. He wasn’t particularly psyched about going up there either, but he did, and of course, he didn’t find anything.

“This happened a few nights in a row and then I just gave in and said Mikey could sleep in his sleeping bag on our bedroom floor. Then one night the stomping woke me up. I tried to wake Chad but he was sound asleep and so was Mikey. I didn’t want to wake him so I tiptoed out of the room and stood in front of the attic door, just listening. There wasn’t any noise, but I had this, like, overwhelming urge to go up there.”

“Nope,” I said.

“Well, right, I mean, totally. But, this feeling completely overwhelmed the fear. I put my hand out to turn the doorknob and it turned itself. I felt it slip under my hand.”

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” I said before draining my wine glass.

“Even worse,” Emily continued, “Was that as I snatched my hand away from the door knob someone, or something banged really hard from the other side of the door. I screamed and woke everyone in the house. Chad ran out into the hallway in his boxers all disoriented.

“I told him that someone was in the attic. I ran into our bedroom as he swung the attic door open, and I grabbed my cell phone and herded the kids into Maggie’s room and locked the door. I called the police, but before they arrived Chad had already come downstairs to say that he hadn’t found anyone up there.”

“What did the police do?” I asked.

“They looked around the entire house and even searched the yard and they didn’t find a blessed thing. They were wonderful, I mean, they didn’t make me feel like I had overreacted at all, but they couldn’t really give us any answers either. It was the second time we’d called 911 since moving into the house and they suggested that perhaps we were just hearing the new house ‘settling.’

“I didn’t buy it for a second, but what could I say? ‘No Officer, it’s definitely a ghost, could you please call the exorcism team?’ All we could do was be embarrassed and thank them. But the next day I got a padlock for the attic door and prayed that would be the last of it.”

“But it wasn’t,” I guessed.

“Not by a fucking long shot. Oh good,” she said, brightening. “Here come the guys.”

I smiled at Chris as he sat down and he just shook his head at me and handed me a fresh glass of wine.

“Thanks,” I said, accepting the drink, knowing that I owed him big time for making him listen to this terrifying story.

“You owe me big time,” he said as he sat back down and asked, “Did I miss the worst part?”

“One of them,” Emily said apologetically. She turned to Chad and said, “I just told her about the attic, when we had the police come.”

Chad took a sip of his beer and replied, “That night sealed the deal for me, I had the alarm company back out and had cameras installed everywhere. I was convinced that we had some insane neighbor who was screwing with us. I mean, I tried to convince myself that was what it was. But how the hell could I protect these guys from something I couldn’t see?”

“That’s awful, man,” Chris said.

Chad nodded his head in agreement, “We were all on high alert, and nothing really happened until – “

“The book club,” Emily finished for him.

“Shit, right!” Chad said enthusiastically. “That woman, what the hell was her name?”

“Colleen Barron,” Emily answered, rolling her eyes. “I’d attended the fall kick off for the neighborhood book club a week after we moved in and, like an idiot, I signed up to host the September get together. I’d figured that it would motivate me to pull the house together quickly.

“We were in pretty good shape, on the first floor anyway. The kid’s rooms were coming together slowly, and we still had a ton of boxes in the basement, but on the surface, we were pretty settled in. I couldn’t back out of hosting because we’d experienced a few weird things, so I had to just buck up and do it.

“About ten women came from the neighborhood, we were supposed to discuss Primates of Park Avenue, but everyone just ended up chatting and drinking too much. Honestly? It was great, I felt more like myself than I had since we’d moved. I even dared to think that maybe everything we’d been experiencing had just been, like, stress induced.

“The evening was wrapping up and these two women hung behind at my kitchen island. Once everyone else had stumbled out, one of them, Colleen, said, ‘Please don’t think I’m a wacko, but, I am a psychic medium.’

“My heart fucking dropped. She seriously popped my denial balloon with that crazy ass declaration. I just knew what she was about to tell me. I mean, I didn’t exactly know, but that’s what popped right into my mind when she said she was a psychic – ‘She knows about the ghosts.’

“What did she tell you?” I asked, enthralled by this story, but wanting Chris to call an uber immediately. I had to pee but I didn’t want to go inside alone, and I didn’t want to have to ask anyone to come with me either.

“She tiptoed around the issue by asking me how our move had gone and how we were settling into the house. I asked her to just cut to the chase, you know? What did she know? She said that the second she walked into the house she’d noticed a shadow lurking at the base of the staircase. It watched her the whole night and when I asked her where it was at that moment, she said ‘it’s gone back under the porch.’”

“Fuuuuuuuck,” I said slowly.

“Yeah. Then she went on to tell me that there was a woman there too, whom she’d spoken to in my bathroom. This ghost woman was so confused about the house that it was hard for Colleen to completely understand what had happened to her but she knew that the woman hid in the attic most of the time. Apparently there was also a man who sort of lurked around outside and in the garage and he was super angry. He had some sort of connection with the woman.

“She warned me that there might be more going on in the house but that the dark shadow under the porch was blocking her from seeing the full picture. She also said, ‘I really don’t like those woods back there, honey,’ referring to our back yard. I wanted to know how the fuck this could be happening in a brand new home, and she pointed out that there had been a house on the property before ours. It had been torn down to build our home.

“Then the other woman, Becky, the one that had stayed behind with Colleen, chimed in and told me about this website, diedinhouse.com. They said I should start my research there,” Emily said before taking a sip of her drink.

“I’ve checked that site before every single move!” I exclaimed.

“What in the hell is diedinhouse.com?” Chris demanded.

“It tells you who’s died in your house,” I replied, trying really hard not to follow it with ‘Duh.’

Chris looked at me as if seeing me for the first time, “I can’t imagine what goes on in that head.”

I rolled my eyes, and asked Emily, “Anyway, you checked the website and what came back from their search?”

“A murder/suicide,” Emily replied.

“What?” I demanded. “How is that possible?”

“The owner of the company, the guy that started the website, he actually called me. He left a message on my cell phone saying that one of his employees brought my search results to his attention and he asked me to call him back.”

“Nuh uh,” I said in disbelief.

“Yup. When one of their background checks turns up something particularly nasty, like a murder or a meth lab, he calls the client personally. He said it’s only happened a handful of times but he wanted to walk me through the search and, get this, ‘point me in the direction of some further research strategies if we planned to move forward with the home purchase.’”

“What did he say when you told him you were already in the house?” Chris asked.

“He was silent for a moment then suggested that I still do the research in case ‘anything came up in the future.’” Emily laughed, mirthlessly.

“Ok, so did you start packing immediately?” I asked.

“No, but we should have,” Emily admitted. “I followed the guy’s advice and did the research. Apparently, there was a man and a woman who lived in the original little ranch house on the property. In the winter of 1967 the man lost his mind, tied his wife up in their family room, stabbed her to death and then hung himself in the basement. But before he hung himself, the newspaper delivery boy came to the door to collect his dues for the month. The guy was covered in blood when he answered the door and killed the kid to keep him quiet. He carried the boy’s body out to the woods before he hung himself.”

“We asked a few of the neighbors if they had ever heard anything about the murders but none of them had lived there long enough to know anything about it,” Chad said. “We did find out that the home had been a rental property since the seventies until it was bought to be redeveloped. One woman in the neighborhood had lived there for about ten years and she told us that the renters had turned over constantly. No ever lived there for more than a year as long as she could remember.”

“What did your developer say about all this?” Chris asked leaning forward.

“You don’t have to disclose deaths in Massachusetts,” Chad answered with an angry laugh.

“I thought there was at least a seven year rule,” I said.

“Nope. Trust me, we talked to a lawyer, sellers do not have to disclose if there have been deaths on a property,”

“That sucks, man,” Chris said. “How did you get out of it?”

“We’d only been there for a little over a month, we were going to take a hit moving so quickly, but Em wanted nothing to do with the place.”

“I tried to get a couple priests out to bless the place, but I just didn’t have any luck,” Emily said, defensively.

“What was the final straw?” I asked.

The couple exchanged a look, Chris took a huge gulp of his beer and I leaned forward in my seat.

Emily began, “We were just trying to digest the information about the deaths in the house and figure out what to do. There was weird shit happening, like, constantly. I was climbing the stairs one night on my way to bed and when I looked up I saw a shadow hovering at the top step. It was fucking huge. I had to go up there to get to the kids, but I was so scared I couldn’t move. Eventually it just, sort of disappeared, well, not disappeared, it was almost like it got sucked backwards.”

“No way,” Chris said quietly.

“We heard walking in the attic, too,” Chad added. “Always around the middle of the night. One Saturday morning I finally made myself go up there to take a look. No one was there, but I found a pile of our stuff in one corner.”

“We’d been misplacing things since we moved in the house, or, at least that’s what we thought,” Emily explained. “Sometimes they would show up randomly in another room from where we’d left them. The kid’s sneakers behind the bathroom door, or my keys in the fruit bowl – usually, it was easily explained away. But some stuff actually did go missing and it was so annoying. We tried to blame the kids for it, but they swore they hadn’t been taking things.”

“Yeah, so… the pile in the attic,” Chad said trailing off.

“Shut the fuck up,” I said, excitedly. “The things you lost were in a pile in the attic?”

“Yes. The door had been padlocked, no one had been up there since that freaky night but there was a pair of my sunglasses, one of our remote controls, a few plates, and, what else?” He asked Emily.

“A couple toys and there were some books that I know I hadn’t unpacked from the boxes yet,” she confirmed.

“Yeah, I would have been out of there immediately,” I said.

“Right, well, that was scary, but that wasn’t what made me call the realtor,” Emily said slowly. “There was this one night. The kids were asleep and we were watching television in the living room. I thought I saw something, like, out of the corner of my eye outside near the sliding glass door.”

“I’d noticed it a few minutes before,” Chad affirmed. “But I looked out and nothing was there, so I tried to ignore it so we could have a normal night for once.”

Emily continued, “Right, I mentioned it, but sort of dismissively. I felt the same way, I just wanted to drink a glass of wine and zone out watching Game of Thrones.”

“You truly are my people,” I said.

“For Pete’s sake just let them finish the damn story,” Chris pleaded.

Emily smiled and continued, “I was making a comment about needing to get curtains for the sliding glass door when we heard a light tap-tap-tap at the front door. It was so faint, but we both heard it, and we froze.”

“I muted the television and we listened in silence before it dawned on me to go take a look on the computer to check out the camera feed from outside,” Chad said.

“Yeah, and I followed him,” Emily went on. “I didn’t want to be left alone, I had this feeling of, like, overwhelming anxiety.”

“So I grabbed the laptop from the kitchen and we sat back down on the couch. I pulled up the camera feed for the front and back doors and it was clear – no one was out there. We watched it for a couple of minutes, reasoning away the noise we heard, when all of a sudden someone started banging on the front door,” said Chad.

“It was so loud I jumped and nearly knocked the computer off his lap,” Emily went on. “It startled us so much that it took us a moment to see, or, I mean, not see what was on the computer screen. Someone was banging on the front door but there was no one at the front door.”

“It was the damnedest fucking thing,” Chad affirmed. “My brain couldn’t catch up with what was happening. I sat there like an idiot listening to this banging and staring at the computer screen. It was impossible. Then all of a sudden it stopped. Silence.”

“That was even worse,” Emily insisted. “We didn’t move, we just stared at the computer screen and waited.”

“Then it came to the porch again, to the sliding glass door. I thought the glass was going to shatter it was banging so hard. Em ran upstairs to grab the kids and get them in one room and I stayed downstairs and called the police and told them someone was trying to break into the house, even though I knew that wasn’t what was happening. I didn’t know what the fuck I was dealing with. So the cops came again and walked through and around the house, and again they didn’t find a thing,” Chad said with irritation.

“Right, but this time they really checked the backyard near the tree line” Emily said. “One of the officers, this older man, he went into the backyard while we were talking to the female cop in the kitchen. When he came back, he was acting, I don’t know, like, strange. I even asked, ‘what is it, what did you see?’ He wouldn’t answer me, he just shook his head.”

“Yeah and I totally saw him exchange a look with the other officer,” Chad affirmed. “The next morning, Em called our real estate agent and asked her to show us everything on the market.”

“What did you tell her?” I asked.

“I said that we didn’t like being in such a remote spot, that it was too much of a culture shock for us, moving to the suburbs from the city, blah, blah, blah. I told her we wanted a smaller, older house in a more populated neighborhood. I tried to play it off like we were a picky couple from Manhattan. We looked at a few places and I called the owner of diedinhouse.com to do a personalized records search for me, and we landed in this house,” Emily explained, pointing to their home.

“It was built in 1933, was not constructed upon Native American burial grounds, and, according to public records, no one has ever died on this property. We are the fourth family to occupy the home,” Chad concluded as though reading from a report.

“But what about your other house?” Chris asked. “How’d you get rid of it?”

“After we moved our things out, I finally found a Unitarian minister to come over and bless the property,” Emily replied. “We put the house on the market and it sold in about two months to a family relocating from Connecticut.”

“And nothing followed you from that house?” I asked.

The couple did that sideways glance at each other again and then looked back at me.

“Aaaaand, that’s where I tap out,” Chris said. He put his drink on the side of his chair and took his phone out of his back pocket. “I’m calling an Uber, and then I’m going to wait in the driveway. Chad, man, that shit is fucked up, but I will see you tomorrow in the office. I’ll swing by to grab my car in the morning.

“Emily, you have a lovely home, we need to have you over soon and get the kids together. Peace out,” And with that he stood, shook Chad’s hand, gave Emily a kiss on the cheek and turned to me. “See you out front in ten minutes.”

We all watched him walk around the side of the house and I said, “OK, so what followed you here?”

“It wasn’t just the dead people at that house, there was something else, something dark. That medium from the book club said so too. Em thinks the murders and the suicide attracted something to the property and it might have latched onto us.”

“What’s happened at this house?” I demanded.

Emily glanced at Chad, “Nothing major, just stuff out of the corner of my eye, you know, weird feelings. It could totally just be, like, posttraumatic stress. But Alison said she saw something from her window the other night, and – ”

“I have someone that I can put you in touch with,” I interrupted, thinking of Biddy. “She knows people who can get rid of these things.”

“We would really appreciate it,” Emily said. “I mean, this house has a totally different vibe, but I just want to be sure.”

“I would feel the exact same way,” I said, wanting to get out of there, immediately. “I’ll call this woman first thing in the morning and have her get in touch. She will know exactly what to do.”

 

***

 

I followed the couple inside and placed my wine glass and Chris’s beer mug into the sink. I asked to use the restroom, said good-bye to the traumatized couple and met Chris in the driveway just as the Uber was pulling up.

“Sorry,” I said a bit sheepishly. I knew he was pissed, and it was totally called for.

We crawled into the black Suburban and turned to our cell phones. I was searching for Biddy’s contact information when it hit me

“Oh shit,” I said, realization dawning.

“What now?” Chris demanded.

“It’s nothing. I just forgot something,” I replied, my hand at my neck. I’d taken off my blessed St. Benedict medal when I was getting dressed because it didn’t look right with my outfit.

“There’s no way I’m sleeping tonight,” Chris complained.

“I know, I’m sorry, but, it’s fine. Everything’s going to be fine,” I said, trying to convince myself.

7858dab6-9685-4f2c-8163-6a5d696e91b7We moved into our house. I didn’t know I had a dream home until I moved into this one. It’s in an incredibly populated neighborhood, and yet, there is wildlife. Coyotes in the neighbor’s yard, chipmunks up the wazoo and more bunnies than could possibly be safe. Though, you know my prepper obsession and I bet those little hoppers would be good eatin’ during the zombie apocalypse.

Bunnies, chipmunks and squirrels – fine. But there are snakes. Little snakes and big snakes. Black snakes and snakes the color of the grass.

My cousin-in-law (who just so happens to live only five doors down from our new little bungalow) is from New Orleans and her parents live in a suburb of the city. Her father woke up to get a drink in the middle of the night, put his bare foot on the floor to get out of bed, and STEPPED ON A SNAKE. He stepped on a freaking snake. I’ll give you a moment to run around the room waving your hands in the air screaming “NOOOOO!!” like me.

A snake. On the floor. In the bedroom. In the dead of night.

The older I get the more aware I am of my own weaknesses. I know that I could survive worse, but I don’t know who I would become after stepping on a snake in the dark. From that point forward I might have to wear my knee-high Sorels twenty-four hours a day. I might have to build a house on stilts, everything inside whitewashed so that nothing could go unnoticed. People might get sick of me warning them about this horrible thing that could happen to them in the middle of the night. I might wear a headlamp at all times and carry a walking stick to test the ground before I took a step.

Please don’t think me flippant. I am aware of the hellish things we do to one another. Sometimes it’s easier to worry about the little things. Things that are really neither here nor there and will probably never even happen. I can’t consider the real terrors around us if there is any chance of making it through the day. Lord, help me I can’t even look at the news, Twitter, or Facebook lately because when I do, I can’t stop crying. The real monsters in our world have awaked more monsters and there seems no end in sight.

Bedtime floor snakes are improbable. Ghosts are an intriguing distraction. And Aliens? Well, that shit’s fucked up.

From: fbeacon1973@verizon.net

To: ghostsintheburbs@gmail.com

Dear Liz,

I work at Town Hall across from the main branch of the library. I’ve walked past your “ghost stories wanted” flier for months now and have finally mustered up the courage to contact you. Though my tale does not contain ghostly apparitions, I do believe that it falls into the paranormal realm. I have been visited by extraterrestrials since I was a little girl and have been taken several times. I assure you that I am not mentally ill and that my experiences are real. I feel compelled to tell you my story so that you may document these occurrences. Would you consider meeting me in the library? I spend most every weekday lunch in the periodical room. I do hope you’ll consider meeting with me.

Sincerely, Frankie Beacon

Well, I thought after reading the email, Why not?

Truth be told, I’ve never been all that interested in aliens. I’ve heard plenty of sighting stories on paranormal podcasts and seen them reenacted on the History Channel, so I know a little bit about the topic. But these tales always felt a little too vague for me. Like, I saw lights in the sky then I lost the time for a few minutes and now I think I have a chip in my earlobe. Worse are the psychic healers who claimed to contact their “sky friends” for career or nutritional advice.

I have to admit that I feel the same way about tales of Bigfoot encounters. Witness stories always boil down to, “We heard loud noises, then something threw rocks at us, then we were scared and we left the woods.”

Don’t get me wrong, if I found myself gazing up at a U.F.O. or getting hit by a Bigfoot-thrown rock I would definitely lose the time and run away too. But that kind of scary story just isn’t my cup of tea. In spite of all that, something about this woman’s email intrigued me, and I love visiting the library, so I emailed her back to set a lunch date.

***

The Wellesley Free Library’s periodical room is a window lined happy place. There you can find both current and back issues of all your favorite magazines and newspapers and even borrow those magazines and newspapers for free. Or you can enjoy the atmosphere and catch up on celebrity gossip, devour the chilling drama that is our current political experience, or find recipes and outfit ideas as you sip coffee (I’ve said it before, and you know I’ll say it again, you can enjoy hot beverages *and food* in the library).

It was a bright summer morning when I entered the periodical room. With my Linden Street sandwich in hand I scanned the room’s tables for a woman who might look like she had been abducted by aliens and I walked right past Frankie. She stood and gave a small wave and motioned me over to her table.

Whereas I had been looking for a nervous nail-biter, makeup free with sensible shoes and the pale glow a town office job might grant, Frankie was the polar opposite. She had straight, light brown, shoulder length hair with a nice little swoosh of bangs. I’ve always wanted bangs, and they’ve been an immediate mistake every damn time I’ve tried them out.

Frankie wore a long-sleeved navy blue and white striped St. James shirt with coral capris. A thick stack of gold bangles encircled one thin wrist, and she wore gold boat shoes on her feet. If her email address gave away her birth year, then she was about forty-three years old, though I would have pegged her around thirty-five. Her face was more striking than pretty, and it had a light tan, as though she’d spent the weekend on island.

I walked back towards her and we shook hands. I noticed her wedding rings immediately. On each side of a massive diamond solitaire sat two eternity bands set with beautifully bulky diamonds. We took seats across from one another at a table, unwrapped our lunches (a Starbuck’s latte and a Honey Special on a wrap for me, and a veggie packed homemade salad with grilled chicken and a water bottle for her) and we made some small talk about our excellent library before I took out my digital recorder.

“Ok,” I said, with a smile. “So what’s all this about aliens?”

Frankie considered me for a moment and glanced around. In the room with us were one older gentleman sitting in a leather chair in the corner, and a couple of college-aged girls at a nearby table, with headphones in their ears and heads bent down over laptops.

I realized Frankie was getting cold feet. All of a sudden I had an overwhelming urge to know this completely normal-looking woman’s tale of alien abduction.

“Look,” I said, attempting to keep her from bolting. “I’ve had three women tell me that they conjured the ghost of their dead friend and used her spirit to grant wishes like a genie. I know a guy who obsessively uses the Ouija board and talks to dead people. There’s a woman here in town that is looking for an exorcist to cast a demon out of her daughter. Trust me, whatever your story is, it takes a lot to freak me out.”

Frankie smiled at me and shook her head as if to clear it. She placed her two, perfectly manicured hands flat on the wooden table and said, “It’s not just about the aliens, it’s complicated.”

“My two older kids are in school until three o’clock and I have a babysitter for the little one until two-thirty. I’ve got time,” I assured her.

Frankie nodded her head then began, “There are a lot of ways to control people,” she motioned to her aluminum water bottle. “Take water, for example, who the hell knows what they are pumping into it. I collect rainwater and purify it, it’s all that I drink.”

I couldn’t think of anything to say, but I wished I hadn’t brought along my Starbucks latte.

She noticed my hand grip the caffeinated treat a little tighter then said, “Look, they’ve convinced you to spend a fortune on that drink. It’s just a little indulgence, right? But how do you feel when you go without it? They’re floating all these fancy terms like “sugar addiction” and “caffeine addiction” to distract you from what they are really getting you hooked on. Sugar addiction my ass. Do you have any idea what’s really in that drink?” She demanded.

“Well, it’s just soy milk,” I began dumbly.

“Don’t even get me started on the soy,” Frankie pushed herself back from the table, her gold bracelets jingling. She gathered herself and continued, “Look, I’m sorry. It’s not your fault. It’s not any of our faults, but they,” Frankie pointed at the ceiling, making me look up and wonder what problem she had with the reference area on the floor above us. “They taught the government everything they know.”

“Frankie,” I said, trying to hide my annoyance by unwrapping my sandwich. The last thing I felt like doing was speaking to a hardcore conspiracy theorist. “I’m not following.”

“Sorry,” she said again, pushing her perfectly sweeping bangs back from an incredibly wrinkle-free forehead. “It’s just that I am relieved to have someone to talk to about this. Not many people want to hear it.”

“Well, I’m grateful that you want to share this with me,” I said, not feeling at all grateful. “In your email you mentioned that you first encountered aliens in your twenties.”

“Well, yes, the first time I actually spoke to an alien I was about twenty-three, but I’ve been visited since I was a girl. They’ve always been here, watching me. The house I grew up in is over by the Wellesley Country Club. I still live in that neighborhood. When I was little I spent most afternoons sneaking around the golf course, playing by the tree line. That was where I first became aware of them.”

“How did you know they were there?” I asked.

“I noticed the whistling first,” Frankie said. “Soft whistles, three at a time, just barely audible. I first heard it when I was playing around the golf course. But then it followed me home. If the whistling occurred and I happened to be with someone else, only I could hear it.”

“That’s strange,” I said simply.

“It’s one of the ways that they communicate with each other. They can speak our language, but they are so much more evolved than we are.”

“Then what?” I asked, taking a bite of my sandwich.

Frankie sat back in her seat and stared at me, her icy blues maintaining eye contact for far too long. My internal stranger danger alarm went off as shrill as my two-year-old’s time out clock, but I tried to hold her gaze as I chewed my apparently alien-influenced food.

“I’m getting a seriously skeptical vibe from you right now,” she said quietly.

“No, I’m sorry if I am putting off that ‘vibe,’” I replied, putting down my coffee. “Look, I’ve never met anyone who has actually encountered an alien. Basically, Signs is my only real point of reference.”

“There have been hundreds of documented cases from around the world – of both sightings and abductions. The effectiveness of their cover up is insane. You talk about it and automatically you’re labeled a nutjob,” Frankie paused. “Have you heard of Barney and Betty Hill?” she asked.

“The names are familiar,” I said, wracking my brain.

“Theirs is the most famous, the most documented case of alien abduction,” Frankie began. “It happened in New Hampshire, south of Lancaster. They were driving home from a vacation at Niagara Falls when Betty thought she saw a shooting star, but then she realized it was moving upwards. They pulled into a rest area to walk their dog and watched as the object moved closer and closer to them. As it grew near, they could see that it had all these multi-colored lights.

“They were sufficiently freaked out, got back in the car and attempted to drive away, but the sky object in front of them got closer and closer until it hovered in the air directly in front of and above their car. Barney stopped the vehicle, and, rather incredibly, got out and used his binoculars to get a better look at the thing. He regretted it immediately. He panicked, got back in the car telling his wife they were about to be captured and turned around to drive away. Then the Hills lost the time,” Frankie said, her eyebrows raised as she sat back in her seat.

I hadn’t realized that I had been holding my breath and leaning far forward. I took a breath, and asked, “Is that it?”

“I wish that was it,” Frankie said with a loud, barking laugh that startled me. “Oh no, there was more, a lot more. They got home that night around dawn, totally freaked out. Their clothing was torn and there were weird markings on the car trunk, and these markings? They drove their compass bananas.”

“What about the dog?” I asked.

“The dog?” She asked, genuinely perplexed.

“Yeah, their dog, was it ok?”

“God, I don’t know,” Frankie said in utter annoyance. “But another problem was that Barney had a strong feeling that he’d been diddled with, though he couldn’t find any evidence.”

“Diddled with?” I asked, wondering if that was some sort of alien term, and still wondering about the dog.

“You know,” Frankie said, gesturing to her crotch. “Diddled with.”

“Oh,” I said, suppressing a giggle.

“The Hills actually reported the incident to a nearby Air Force base. Then, about ten days after the event, Betty began to remember,” Frankie whispered, causing me to lean forward again. “You can go online and listen to the accounts that Betty and Barney gave under hypnosis. Apparently, the aliens walked the couple around the spaceship and spoke with them before they got started on the medical examinations. The recording of Betty’s panicked voice, begging one of the aliens not to stick a needle in her naval cuts through you like a knife.”

“No way,” I said, disgusted.

“Scientists, researchers, a ton of government officials – they all took this couple seriously. Enough to spend a lot of time and money documenting what happened to them.”

“Who were these poor people? I mean, why them?” I asked, thinking this sounded a lot more like an urban legend than a “well documented” alien abduction case.

“The Hills were very well-known in their community. Betty was a social worker and Barney worked for the Post Office. They were active Unitarians, belonged to the NAACP and he sat on the local board of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. These were normal people, with no reason to call that sort of attention upon themselves,” Frankie explained.

I still felt doubtful and nodded my head. Actually, it wasn’t so much doubt as it was the feeling that she was peppering me with details to sell me on this story. I’m married to a real estate broker. Trust me, I know when someone is trying to sell me on something.

“It wasn’t just that,” Frankie continued, eyebrows raised. “The aliens told the Hills that they were from the zeta reticuli system.”

“Pretend I don’t know what that means,” I replied, annoyance surfacing.

“It’s a binary star system in the southern constellation of Reticulum,” Frankie said slowly, her own annoyance coming through. “But that’s not what matters, what matters is that we didn’t discover the zeta reticuli until 1969. The Hills were taken in 1961.”

“Ok,” I admitted. “That’s weird, and a little creepy.”

“Look, I’m not even doing their story justice, Google it when you get home. It will make for unsettling reading.”

“I already find it very unsettling.”

“You mean if it’s real, “ Frankie replied, sitting back and folding her arms over her chest.

I was beginning to feel like I was in some sort of debate and it was not at all enjoyable. What the hell had I been thinking meeting with this woman? I knew from my podcasts that these alien people always got their panties in a bunch if you didn’t immediately freak out when they told you aliens were real.

“Well,” I stalled, not wanting to offend her, but also wanting out of the conversation.

“If the Hill’s story was the only case, then I would be skeptical too,” Frankie pressed on. “If I hadn’t seen these things with my own eyes, I wouldn’t believe it either. But whether you want to believe it or not, aliens exist and they have a plan in place. No, not only is it in place, it’s in motion,” her bracelets jingled again as she pointed a finger at the tabletop.

Her salad sat untouched in front of her, and frankly, that irritated me. I wanted to enjoy my lunch and instead I felt like I was scarfing down my sandwich in front of an angry college professor. Besides that, if she really had a story I wanted details and not some generalized rant, so I asked, “You said that aliens have been visiting you almost your entire life. What happened besides those whistles you heard?”

Frankie took a long sip of her rainwater (which forced me to suppress a gag) and began, “I heard the whistling and other noises in the woods around the golf course. You know how when you walk down a forest path you hear things skittering away from you, chipmunks and squirrels and such? Well, I would hear the skittering, only it wasn’t going away from me, it was coming towards me, but I never actually saw anything or anyone.

“It felt like I was being watched constantly. One night I woke up around two in the morning. I had that feeling of being watched, and for some reason, something made me look over at my window. That was the first time I saw one of them,” she paused, dramatically.

I just stared at her and took a sip of my delicious, addictive latte, unwilling to keep dragging the story out of her.

“It was an alien, though I didn’t know it at the time. We stared at each other for almost a full minute and then he turned away from the window.”

“What did he look like?” I asked, imagining a green being with big black eyes set in a ball-shaped head. I wondered for a moment how I might react to such a thing and decided it would be with rage, not fear. I haven’t the time for that shit.

“He looked like,” she again took a long freaking pause before continuing, “He looked like a muscle head. You know the type? Like a bouncer at a college bar. He had jet black hair and looked almost human, but his forehead and eyes were larger than they should have been.”

“How do you know this wasn’t just some weirdo Peeping Tom?” I asked.

“My bedroom was in the attic,” Frankie explained.

“Oh,” I said, dumbly.

“Yeah, it was pretty scary. I desperately wanted to believe it was a dream, but then it happened again the next night, only there were two of them silently looking in on me. I actually threw one of my stuffed animals at the window and screamed for them to get out of there. They just slowly turned away from the window and disappeared into the darkness.

“The third night I was ready for them. I had my dad’s camcorder and my Polaroid camera. I tried to look like I was sleeping and then the second I had that feeling of being watched I jumped up and screamed, ‘I’ve got you creeps!’

“But it was just the one with the dark hair again. He gave this awful smile, he didn’t have any teeth,” Frankie shudders, remembering. “Then he turned away like he had the other times.”

“Did you tell your parents that there were men looking in your window at night?” I asked.

“No, I knew they wouldn’t believe me,” Frankie said, sensibly. “That’s why I tried to get them on film.”

“Did you record them?” I asked.

“No, they can’t be recorded,” she explained, shaking her head. “When I reviewed my film, it was just a shaky shot of my window and the audio of me yelling.”

I just nodded, feeling disappointed but not surprised.

Frankie nodded her head back at me, “I know, I was bummed too. After that I didn’t see them anymore, but over the next few years every once in a while I would get that feeling again, of being watched. I saw the black-haired guy once on the sidelines when I was playing field hockey in high school and then again near the stage at my college graduation.”

“No shit?” I said.

“No shit,” she confirmed. “Both times the shock of seeing him almost stopped me dead. He looked exactly the same. He wore the same outfit and his face had that same flat affect. Then after college I moved back in with my parents for a couple of years while I got my Masters from Babson.”

“What did you Master in?” I asked, curious.

“Accounting,” she replied.

“Cool,” I said, taking another bite of lunch.

“Nothing happened the first few months, but then one night he came again. Only this time, he came inside.”

“No,” I said, having to forcefully stop myself from saying ‘that’s what she said.’

“Yup. I woke up just like I had all those years before with that creepy feeling and as I turned to look at the window he was coming through it. Not like, crawling in through the window, he was gliding through the wall and window, as though they weren’t even there.

“I scrambled back toward my headboard and looked around for anything that I could use as a weapon. He was gliding towards me really slowly, so slowly that I had time to realize that I didn’t have anything to fight him with, so I stood up on the bed and I think I said something ridiculous like, ‘Let’s go mother fucker!’” With this, Frankie actually cracked a smile.

“Atta girl!” I said with a laugh, surprised by her bravery.

“If you were cornered like that you’d do the same,” she said confidently.

I disagreed, but asked, “How the hell did he react to you?”

“He gave me that awful toothless grin again then said, ‘Frankie, Frankie, calm down, I’m just here to talk.’ I stayed there, standing on the bed with my back against the headboard as he explained who he was and why he’d been watching me since I was a little girl.”

“Fuck,” I said.

“Yeah, it’s one thing to have seen this guy when I was little and then think I spotted him a couple other times in my life. I could explain that away to over-active imagination. But this man was in my bedroom, calmly telling me that I was one of the ‘different ones’ and that’s why they were interested in me. That’s why I hadn’t been taken.”

“Different how? And taken where?” I demanded.

“That’s exactly what I asked,” she said. “He told me that we are all being studied and that some of us are different. When confronted, those of us who don’t automatically retreat, those of us who instead take a stand, we are the ones they want to learn more about. He said that he needed me to cooperate.”

“That doesn’t sound good,” I said, taking the last bite of my sandwich. Frankie’s salad still sat untouched.

“It wasn’t good, but at least I can’t remember all of it,” she said, sadly.

“What the hell happened?” I asked.

“He told me that he was going to bring me to the ship where my mind could be examined. They were willing to manage my memories so that I didn’t have to recall the events, but I had to agree to go with them. I told him he could fuck off, that I wouldn’t go anywhere with him,” she paused.

“What did he do?” I asked, hoping she would say he just melted back through the wall again.

“He didn’t say anything for a moment, then he put that gross smile back on his face and told me that if I did not cooperate he would kill my parents and my cat and then kill me. I told him to fuck off again. That he’d have to kill me first to get to my family and he said, ‘No, Frankie, you’re not listening. If you do not cooperate, I will kill you last. Your parents and your pet die first. Then you get to die.’”

“Oh God, so what did you have to do?” I asked, not wanting to know.

“I cooperated. The last thing I remember is stepping off the bed and having him take my left hand in his. His hands felt like fine grit sandpaper. It was repulsive.”

I asked, “You said you can’t remember all of it, but what do you remember?”

“Not much,” Frankie admitted, looking up at the ceiling. “I remember being super cold, like shaking freezing, but I also remember being blisteringly hot. I remember what I think was a mirror and seeing a distorted reflection of myself in a black room sitting on a steel bench next to an extremely skinny man. He was holding onto my upper arm, really tightly, and he was, like, swaying back and forth. Weird other flashes came, but I didn’t remember all of it right away, they came back over the next few days.”

“The morning after it happened, I tried to convince myself it had been a dream. Then I got into the shower and that’s when I first noticed the marks on my upper arm,” Frankie pushed up the her shirt sleeve and pointed to a cluster of three marks on her right arm. They looked like little blue tattoo dots patterned as the three points of a triangle. “I think the alien made these marks as he was holding my arm, studying me.”

“Did you ever see that guy again, the window guy?” I asked, really really not wanting to believe this story.

“Oh yeah, he comes around every once in a while to tell me things, or ask me things. I’ve lost memories several times over the years, too. It is pretty awful, actually. He always visits when I am in a really stressful time in life. Like when I was getting my Masters degree, or when I moved to California for a while on my own, the night before a big interview, things like that. That’s part of the data they are trying to gather, the way we all react to different types of stress.”

“But, why would they want to know that?” I asked.

“They’re trying to figure out how to take us out for good,” she said.

“Take us out?” I asked.

“Yes, there’s an end date,” Frankie said.

“To what?” I demanded.

“To this,” she motioned around us. “They’re gathering data so they can most effectively end us. All that nonsense you hear about aliens abducting people to study our biology? It’s bullshit. They created us, they know exactly how our bodies work. And anyway, all they would have to do is study a couple of our bodies if they needed to understand our biology. No, they are studying what will most effectively bring an end to all of us without having to take out the entire planet. The first time they tried was with the big flood, but it didn’t work, a small faction helped us to survive.”

“Big flood? Do you mean like Noah’s Ark?” I asked, feeling myself about to fall down a deep, deep rabbit hole.

“Yes, exactly. They created us and then lost control. We became too aggressive. We are the perfect killing machines, we are too smart for our own good, and we can adapt to anyplace, anything. We survive too well. Then anytime we get a new piece of technology, we warp it into something that can be used to war with each other, or them,” Frankie was whispering now, leaning towards me.

“Well, why don’t they just kill us all?” I asked.

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you, they lost control of us and already tried that once and failed. We survive to well, heal too well. We are really hard to kill. Think about it, we can send one another into battle and then we know how to heal ourselves if we get hurt so that we can go back out and fight again. There are too many of us now, so they’ve changed tactics.

“We are on our way to destroying this planet and they won’t allow that. They created everything here. Look at every other species on this planet, how did human beings make such a huge jump mentally and emotionally speaking in evolutionary terms? It doesn’t make sense. But that’s besides the point, they’re developing a way to exploit our greatest weakness.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“They’re studying fear,” she replied. “It’s something that they don’t have. They evolved differently, they didn’t have to fear being chased by a bear or eaten by an alligator. They realized that, for us, fear is an incredibly strong emotion and they are studying how to use it against us. They abduct certain people to study how and why fear is triggered and then they study people like me who react with aggression rather than fear.”

“Fear,” I repeated.

“Just look at the news,” Frankie insisted quietly. “It’s starting. I mean, it’s already started. The most brilliant thing they’ve done is to push the fear of germs and disease, because, you know, we’re killing the effectiveness of antibiotics by overusing them. And once we do that, a lot of us will die off pretty quick once there’s a bad cold and flu season.

“They influence the news too. You know how everyone complains that there’s only bad news and fear based mongering now, and of course the internet is theirs and theirs alone.”

“Brilliant,” I said, meaning it.

“Isn’t it? They are very patient, and really, the way things are going, they only need to wait a couple more decades. Look at what we’ve turned religion into. Look at politics around the world. We take good things, powerful ideas and then twist them and create division, hate, fear. You see how it’s all escalating,” she sat back in her seat. “Once we’ve gone and taken ourselves out for the most part, they’ll come through in one final sweep, to take out the final survivors.”

“Maybe another flood,” I said.

“Or a bad cold and flu season,” she agreed, those damn eyebrows raised yet again.

“Are you even allowed to be telling me this?” I asked. “I mean, they threatened to kill your entire family.”

“I can’t keep it anymore, it’s too much,” she replied. “I don’t care what happens to me.”

“What about your husband?” I asked, my eyes flickering to the immense diamonds on her left hand.

“I can’t burden him with this,” Frankie said.

“But what about me?” I demanded loudly, making one of the college girls look up from her laptop and over to our table. “What if they don’t want me to know?”

“You’ll be fine,” Frankie said. “Things will wrap up soon anyways.”

I just stared at her.

“Wait, do you have children?” She asked, as though the idea had just dawned on her.

“Oh, you’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” I snapped.

***

The rest of the day I was absolutely terrified to look up at the sky. I kept Kat securely strapped on me in her front pack and sat Max and Joey in front of the television after school. I wouldn’t let them outside to play. When they complained about it I lied and told them that I’d seen a snake in the backyard. I’d deal with the fallout from that lie later.

It wasn’t until my husband got home from work that night, when I was having a glass of Chardonnay and telling him all about Frankie’s aliens that I began to realize just how far down the rabbit hole I really had fallen with her.

You know, crazy disguised as conviction can be very compelling. After spending just a little over an hour with Frankie, I’d spent the rest of my day terrified. Looking over my shoulder, questioning everything that I’d ever known to be sure, because this woman was so convinced of something so outrageous that she was able to convince me of the same.

Maybe crazy is too strong a word, but Frankie certainly wasn’t grounded in reality. But, then again, am I grounded in reality? I’m grounded in my reality. My reality is one of a safe, non-alien-abduction childhood. I live in a secure home with my family; I lock my doors (most) nights and think that’s enough to keep the bad guys (and snakes) out.

That’s my reality. But what if there is another reality?

I woke up around two o’clock that night. I don’t know what woke me. I got up and checked on the girls, then went downstairs for a glass of water. The dogs followed and asked to go outside. Icy terror filled me for a moment at the thought of letting them out under the immense night sky. Then I shook it off, opened the back door and forced myself to step out onto the porch with them.

I saw stars and sky through the dark trees above me. No aliens. No circular craft. No big-eyed muscle heads watching me from the branches above.

I thanked God for my quiet life of shuttling tiny people to and from get-togethers with other tiny people. For picking up dog poop in the back yard. For feeling bored and tired in the afternoons and going to the same restaurant on a date night every Wednesday. I thanked Him for my family and my friends who will surely intervene if I ever wander too far down a conspiracy theory void.

I called to the dogs and opened the door to let them back in. Just as I was about to step my smug ass back into my supposedly safe and secure home I heard three low whistles behind me. They were so soft that I would have missed them had the night not been so quiet.

 

The next Wellesley tale is a bit out of my area of expertise… I have excuses up the wazoo for why it’s taken so long to transcribe the interview, but really, it made me super freaking uncomfortable, and writing it sort of freaks me out. You know how crazy can be entertaining? Or unsettling? Or off putting? Well, sometimes crazy is compelling and it makes you question your take on reality. 

I’m shooting for a Sunday post. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, try the Ghosts in the Burbs podcast in iTunes or Stitcher. 

Have a happy holiday weekend. Be safe and kind to one another. And, um, who is that old lady standing behind you? 

Gotcha. 

e09994b3-0603-4a5c-b5b7-5d6c6b22ad7fWe are having some work done on the new house. It’s nothing major, but whenever I get an update on the renovation timeline from our contractors, I hear Tom Hanks and Shelley Long laughing and whispering “two weeks” in my ear. In the meantime, all five of us (and the two dogs) are holed up at the Residence Inn, or as I like to call it, The Grand Cluster Fuck. The family logistics are a mind numbing, patience testing time suck, but I did manage to go out for a walk with a real live ex-paranormal investigator recently.

I met her at the Wellesley Wonderful Weekend Picnic in the Park. It was a fever dream of bouncy houses, ice cream trucks, toy carts and wild children hopped up on sugar and the freedom of knowing their parents won’t yell at them in public in front of all their neighbors. We ran into friends and set up our blankets near one another. Snuck some wine in to-go cups and chased each other’s kids around, trying really, really hard not to lose one of them again this year.

I ran into Nick Sayles (Ouija board creeper) with his wife Maeve and their son. It was a touch awkward. He congratulated me on our newest addition, and his wife cooed over Kat, confessing that they had been trying for another baby.

“You can borrow this one whenever you like,” I told her.

“Don’t tempt me,” she said.

“Hey, wait here,” Nick instructed, then disappeared into the preppy crowd. I made small talk with Maeve, asked after her best friend Jenn (poltergeist woman), and discussed our move and the house renovation.

C was off with the two older girls in the candy-themed bouncy house and I was sweating my ass off with Kat in the front pack. As we chatted, Maeve’s son kicked her in the shin over and over saying that he wanted ice cream which made me want to go get the biggest ice cream cone I could find and eat it in front of him while describing how incredibly delicious it was.

Finally, Nick reappeared with a woman I’d seen around town. She is one of those people that I share a schedule with. You know the ones? I see her every single time I go to Whole Foods. We get coffee at the same time and use the same dry cleaner. At any rate, we were un-introduced acquaintances and we smiled at each other in recognition.

“Liz, I wanted you to meet Biddy,” Nick said.

“Hi Biddy,” I said, holding out my hand for a shake. “You’re my errand partner.”

With a laugh she replied, “That’s right! I see you all over town.”

“Biddy used to be on our team,” Nick said.

It took me a moment to understand what he meant, and then it dawned on me, “Oh! Your investigation team, cool,” I smiled at them, but immediately felt suspicious of this woman. Who would want to spend extra time with Nick?

“Biddy was our Case Manager and Researcher, but she decided that the job didn’t suit her any longer,” Nick gave a forced laugh and clapped Biddy on her upper arm.

The awkward gesture made me flinch and Biddy’s stony reaction caused further social discomfort. We all stood for a moment, exchanging glances and I broke the silence and said, “Well, it was great to meet you, Biddy, and to catch up with you all, but I’d better go check in to see how C is doing with the girls.”

Nick nodded his head and Maeve smiled. Biddy asked, “Are they by the bouncy houses? I’ll walk that way with you, my daughter is waiting in line to climb the Special Ops course and I should check in with her.”

“Great!” I replied, meaning, no thanks.

“I didn’t leave paranormal investigating because it doesn’t suit me,” Biddy explained as we walked away. “I left it because it is dangerous. People like Nick think they have all the answers, but the truth is no one knows what’s out there. The only thing I am sure of is that it’s nothing to play around with.”

“I would love to hear some of your stories if you ever wanted to talk about them,” I said. “I write a blog, and -”

“Nick told me,” Biddy interrupted. “I would be happy to talk to you about the reality of ghost hunting. Do you walk?”

This question threw me for a moment because I was walking right alongside her. Then, I realized what she meant and nodded my head.

“Good, let’s meet up for a walk around Lake Waban, at the college. Do you know the path?” Biddy asked.

I did. Biddy suggested a date and we exchanged numbers so we could text. We said goodbye and I watched her walk over to an adorable teenage girl with a long blond ponytail. Biddy high-fived her and clapped her hands as the girl launched herself into the obstacle course.
***

 

 

On the appointed day and time, I left Kat with a babysitter and drove over to the Wellesley College campus. It had undergone its annual spring transformation. Lush plantings of all shapes and sizes blanketed the grounds, while wise old trees rolled their wise old tree eyes at the undergrads, having seen it all and then some.

I was well acquainted with the path around Lake Waban, but the healthy greenery disoriented me so much that I missed the entrance to the parking garage and had to wind around for a few minutes before I found my way back. Let’s be clear, it was a case of foliage disorientation – not “mommy brain.”

Once parked in the strange garage (the structure reminded me of Chinese wok), I strolled along a campus pathway towards the lake. You know, I loves me some background research, but Lake Waban, the body of water we intended to trek around, is a secretive little minx. And by that, I mean, several Google searches didn’t produce much information about the big puddle. I did find an article from the college newspaper that a nearby pond (Paintshop Pond) had been used as a dumping ground for a paint factory. Lead snuck it’s way into Lake Waban, and the college footed a hefty environmental clean up bill for the contamination.

A bit of forest, Wellesley College, and a handful of homes surround Lake Waban, and a path skirts it’s shores. The day that Biddy and I took our stroll, a sickly layer of greenish yellow pollen coated the lake’s serene surface. It was late May and it felt like the trees and whatnot had sneezed all over everything.

I was feeling optimistic. I’d put on the Moving 15 (not to be confused with the Freshman 15, the Winter 15, or the I Need to Cut Back To Just One Glass of Chardonnay a Night 15), and this walk felt so “active lifestyle” of me. I’d even worn workout clothes and sneakers. The exercise hadn’t been my idea, but that was neither here nor there.

I was staring out at the water when I heard my name called. I turned to see Biddy approaching in patterned shorts (J Crew) and a navy blue polo shirt with a popped collar. She wore pink slip on sneakers that looked like they might be Vans and her medium length coffee brown hair was pulled back into a high, bouncy ponytail.

She pushed her Wayfarers up and said, “Hey! I hope you weren’t waiting long, am I late?”

“Not at all, I just walked down here,” I replied.

Biddy’s long, toned legs traversed the distance between us at quite a clip and I began to worry whether I would be able to keep up with her on our walk. I also felt like a dope for getting all Sporty Spiced out and I coveted her crisp shorts and a preppy polo.

“Let’s do this,” Biddy said, and we headed down a paved walkway, past a little hill of tall grass that lead us to the lake’s footpath.

I fell in step alongside Biddy and did my best to match her pace. I had to hold my digital recorder up in front of us and felt like a reporter in an eighties superhero movie. After chatting a bit about her daughter (fifteen, at Wellesley High School, straight-A student, lacrosse/volleyball/swimming) and Biddy’s job (human resources director at a large consulting firm in Waltham) I finally asked her how in the world she got into ghost hunting.

“I don’t really seem the type, do I?” She mused.

“Not really, no,” I said as we walked across a long wooden bridge over a buggy, but picturesque marshland. I continued, “But the field does seem to attract type-A’s.”

“I come across as a type A?” She demanded.

“Well, I mean, you just seem like you’re a get it done sort of person,” I replied, a bit out of breath.

“I’m just fucking with you,” she said glancing over at me with a smile. “I know I come on a bit strong, and I agree. There’s something about ghost hunting that attracts strong personalities. I mean, look at Nick.”

I made a sound of agreement, saving my breath.

Biddy explained, “I grew up in a haunted house in upstate New York. It was a classic haunt, some residual stuff and a little intelligent interaction. We had slamming doors, disembodied voices, and one apparition, an old woman in overalls. I saw her a handful of times and we heard footsteps on the creaky floorboards all the time. Nothing too scary.”

“That registers to me as very scary,” I said.

[Side Note: For clarification, ghost hunters and paranormal researchers classify four different types of hauntings. A residual haunting is one that is sort of like one of those online gifs that play over and over. Like a bulldog on a skateboard, or a sleeping cat falling off the couch. Only, instead of a cute video set to replay itself, a residual haunting is suspected to be a place memory. It might be a traumatic event or something important that happened in someone’s life, and it plays in a loop – think Daryl Hannah in High Spirits .

A step up from this is the intelligent haunting. In these cases, there is a supposed spirit interacting with people. A ghost may tap or move items in an attempt to communicate, or frighten. Then there poltergeist hauntings, which appear to be tied to an individual who unknowingly provides telekinetic or emotional fuel for the beings. Finally, there are demonic hauntings. It is widely accepted in the paranormal community (and in many religious ones, too) that the goal of a demonic haunt is to break down a person’s will so the demon may eventually possess the haunted person.]

Biddy continued, “Don’t get me wrong, there were freaky moments, but my older sister and I shared a room and nicknamed the ghost Old Mrs. McDonald to make light of it. It didn’t frighten me so much as make me want to know everything that I could about the paranormal. I probably read every book in the occult section of our town library three times. My sister and I would go to Blockbuster and study all of the video cases in the horror section, of course my mom would never let us rent any.”

“When did you start actually looking for ghosts?” I asked.

“In college. I joined a club called the Upstate Ghost Hunters. We mostly sat around and drank Milwaukee’s Best and told each other urban legends and tried to pass them off as our own stories. But we did manage to investigate a few haunted places. We broke into an old abandoned factory and that was the first time I ever captured an EVP. It was the most amazing thing that had ever happened to me up to that point.”

“You grew up in a house with an overall-wearing grandmother ghost,” I said in disbelief.

“Right, but this was different. It was hard proof that something was actually happening. It couldn’t be explained away by an overactive imagination or wishful thinking.”

I was completely out of breath at this point and unable to say more than a few words at a time. We were walking through a particularly tree root laden area and I said, “What did the EVP say? Uh-oh, OH! WHOOOA!”

And then I went full on, ass-over-teakettle and landed awkwardly on my side. By some small blessing I was still clutching my voice recorder, and, by some small curse, it captured every little detail of the mortifying moment.

After much fussing and assuring that I was fine and that my skinned knee and elbow didn’t hurt one bit (truthfully, they burned like a mother fucker and I had blood all over my shirt and soaking through my sock), I caught my breath, brushed my hands off and started laughing.

“That was exciting,” Biddy said in an unsuccessful attempt to stop herself from laughing along with me. I couldn’t even respond I was laughing so hard.
Finally, I said, “I think I am going to wet my pants,” and I had to run back behind some Rhododendrons to pee.

“Alright,” I said, popping back through the foliage. “Can we try this again, but at a slower clip? I haven’t the coordination for power walking.”

“Of course!” Biddy said, “Sorry.”

“Don’t apologize, I am a total spaz,” I replied. “Before I took that epic digger, I think you were about to tell me about the first EVP you recorded.”

“Yes, right. We were investigating a factory and my friend, Kim, and I wandered upstairs to this huge open room. We walked to its center and turned on our recorder to do an EVP session. We asked the usual questions, you know, ‘what is your name, do you know what year it is, can you give us a sign of your presence.’

“At first, all we got was silence, then I said something like, ‘My name is Biddy, can you say my name?’ and something responded. It said ‘Bridget.’ That’s my real name, Biddy is my nickname.”

“No way,” I replied.

“Yeah, it was amazing. Whatever responded was intelligent,” she said, tapping her finger on her temple.

“That’s more than just an accurate response,” I reasoned. “I mean it knew something about you specifically.”

“That’s right, and we caught another EVP that night. I asked it where I was from and it gave me my street name, Hepplewhite Drive. That’s not really a common name, it was very specific.”

“But how could some random ghost in an old factory know these things?” I asked.

“That was just the beginning. I think that was the night that I really opened up and it took the opportunity to jump into my life.”

“What did?” I asked.

“The supernatural,” Biddy pointed to two swans floating on the water not far off shore.

“Nasty animals,” I commented. “My husband grew up on a lake and a swan drowned their neighbors dog. Stood on him and flapped his wings to keep him under water.”

“Horrible!” Biddy replied. “Do you have a dog?” Biddy asked.

“Two,” I replied. “Westies, little white terriers.”

“Be careful if you bring them out here, actually anywhere in town. A coyote just got a dog off Weston Road. Those things are vicious.”

“So I’ve heard.”

We continued walking and I asked Biddy what she had meant by letting the supernatural in the night she recorded the EVPs.

“I think I made myself a beacon. I was primed and ready, having grown up in the haunted house and then having studied the paranormal so thoroughly I could have Mastered in it. I knew just what to look for, and I think that’s what made it look for me.

“After that night I could capture EVPs pretty much anywhere I went. But they were random, for a while anyway. My little ghost hunting team started to actually experience things. A door slammed in a home we were investigating when we asked the ghost for a sign of its presence. A ball rolled across the floor in an abandoned hospital supposedly haunted by children ghosts. It took me a very long time to realize that these things only happened when I was around; the team never had much luck when I didn’t go out on a hunt with them.

“After college I moved to Boston, and left those friends behind. I worked in the city for a couple years and met my husband. We got married, had our daughter and moved out to Wellesley. I didn’t do any ghost hunting when Alice was really little, though I would occasionally do some EVP sessions. I did one session in our house, right before we moved in, and I caught a voice saying, ‘Biddy’s home.’ I found it reassuring.”

“No, no, no,” I blurted. “That is, in no way, reassuring.”

“I know that now,” Biddy said forcefully. “But, at that time anyway, I was still under the impression that there were harmless ghosts just sittin’ around, waitin’ for the opportunity to talk into my voice recorder. That they had nothing better to do than answer my questions with one word responses and say things like ‘Get out,’ and ‘Help.’”

“What changed?” I asked.

“Well, once Alice was in school full-time, I needed a project. So I went and put together a ghost hunting team. One of my friends was really into it, she loved the whole thrill of it, and then another friend’s husband was a techie guy and liked gadgets, so the three of us sought out haunted places and explored them.

“Eric, the techie guy, made a simple website and posted some of our EVPs and videos. We were good and word sort of got around about us. We began to get emails from people with haunted houses. People who wanted us to document the activity and people who wanted us to talk to their ghosts and ask them to leave. For several years, I travelled all over New England doing just that.”

“What were some of the scariest things you saw?” I asked.

Biddy glanced sideways at me, “You’re really into this stuff aren’t you?”

“Scary ghost stories? Yes, I love them,” I replied.

She considered a moment, and then said, “Ghosts, or whatever they are, moving objects or slamming doors, or appearing one way or another is startling, and it is impressive. The EVPs can be chilling, depending upon the circumstances and the message being conveyed, but above all else, the most terrifying things that I encountered were the shadow people.”

“Eek,” I said dramatically. “You’ve actually seen a shadow person?”

“Several,” Biddy affirmed. “The very first time that I encountered one I was doing an investigation in this house in Vermont. The family had five kids; one of them had special needs, a little ten-year-old girl with Down syndrome. There was some freaky stuff happening in the house, mostly poltergeist-like activity, but the reason the parents reached out to us was because the little girl had been playing with a child ghost, who was warning her of the ‘angry men.’

“On top of that it seemed that everyone in the family was having health issues. Dizziness, nausea, fevers. The parents were at each other’s throats, but they could discern that it wasn’t really them fighting with each other, they were being influenced. Oppressed.

“I honestly wondered if maybe there was a drug problem in the family. But we interviewed friends and neighbors and everyone seemed to be on the same page, even their pastor. He was the most adamant that we investigate the house. So we did.

“I was sitting in a chair, getting a feel for the home. I used to do that, before we brought in all of our gadgets and started the investigation. I liked to get a lay of the land, a sense of the home, you know, its vibe. I was sitting there quietly and something walked past me, a bit too close to my chair. It brushed my shoulder, kept walking and went through the doorway to the kitchen.  At first I thought it was one of the guys on my team. I was annoyed, actually, because I liked to have at least a few minutes to myself in the house.”

“When did you realize it wasn’t a team member?” I prompted.

“When I turned to the doorway to ask what they needed,” Biddy stopped walking and put her hands on her hips and stared into the trees. I stopped too. We were in a heavily wooded part of the trail, just able to glimpse the lake through the thick tree line.

I swatted at the gnats gathering around us and asked, “What? Did you just see something?” If I had to jump in that damn lake to get away from a shadow figure you can bet your ass that I would do it and I would drag Biddy along with me in a lifeguard hold.

“No, no,” Biddy replied with a small smile. “It’s just that this stuff, stays with you. It’s hard to shake, and that night changed my life. That night, I turned to the doorway and there was a figure standing there, as clear as day. It was the outline of a man, but it wasn’t the outline of a man, because it wasn’t a man. It was huge, at least seven feet tall, and it was so still.

“For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out what was so off about it, and then I realized, it was the arms. The arms were a touch longer than a person’s, just long enough to not be right. And the torso was a little bit short. It was like a mimic of a man.”

“What did you do? What did it do?” I demanded.

“Well, I stood up and took a step toward it, almost willing it to be only a trick of the light. And when I took a step forward, it did too. I fell back into the seat and then scrambled out the front door,” Biddy laughs and shakes her head. “It wasn’t my proudest moment as a paranormal investigator. I had a reputation for being tough as nails, but that thing? It had an almost predatory vibe coming off of it. Like a coyote waiting to pounce.”

“Did you have to go back into the house?” I asked.

“Oh yeah,” Biddy replied. “Sorry, we can keep walking,” she motioned for us to continue on the path. “The team was excited, this is what we had been looking for, right? The problem was that it had been looking for us too.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“These things, I mean no one can know for sure, but it is suspected that they are ancient. Some people refer to them as elementals. You can find people who can cast them out, but they are so powerful that there are no guarantees, and once they see you, you can’t be unseen.”

“How the hell did this thing end up in that home?” I asked.

“I only have theories and they are mostly concocted from recurring coincidences. There are certain constants. Suicide, drugs, mental or sexual abuse, the Ouija board, Reiki, occult practices. Dark stuff. You know, I spoke to a Catholic priest once who had visions. He had seen demons doing the same moves that we call yoga in order to conjure dark power.”

“Uh uh,” I said.

“Yeah,” she confirmed. “In the case of this family, once we dug deep enough, we found out that their teenage son had been messing with Tarot cards and had gotten his hands on an occult book that had a spell in it to conjure a succubus.”

“Cut it out,” I said, shocked.

“Nope, he wanted to call up a sexual demon. Fucking teenage boys,” Biddy said shaking her head. She had a great way of really wringing out swear words for everything they were worth. ‘Fucking’ came out ‘fuuuh-king.’

She continued, “The home was ripe for the taking, the parents were pretty stressed out, you know, five kids and all, one of which had special needs. They were not at all religious, and had absolutely no protection whatsoever. And to top it off, they lived in a home that was over ninety years old.

“All of these things, taken one by one, wouldn’t necessarily amount to anything, but together? Together they created an environment that lead to very dark paranormal activity.”

“Well, I would think that trying to conjure a female sex demon would be enough to do you in,” I commented.

“Not necessarily,” Biddy replied. “You could go home and do that today, but chances are good it would be just play acting for you. I think that house had some darkness attached to it, the people were stressed, sad and negative, and the boy’s intention was very strong. He didn’t manage to conjure a sex demon, instead he caught the attention of the shadow people. And one of those shadow men followed me home. Or, I should say, it met me at home.”

“Fuck that,” I said.

“Yeah, I felt so irresponsible, and my husband was pissed. I think before he saw actually the shadow figure for himself, he thought this ghost hunting was just some eccentric hobby for me. You know, ‘the little lady needs something to work her mind.’ Just as long as it didn’t disturb his ability to leave for work early every morning and know that I had everything under control on the home front so he could relax and watch television in peace when he got back home at night, then I could do whatever I wanted.

“But then Andrew saw the shadow man. I was at that Vermont case and when I got home he was waiting for me in the living room. I used to get home late, at like five in the morning. I’d stay up to get Alice off to school and then go to sleep for a few hours. Usually, he’d be asleep when I got home, but the second I walked in and saw him waiting, I knew something was wrong.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“He had been asleep when he was startled awake to feel the sheets being pulled down around him. He said it felt as though two people were pulling down on the sheet on either side of the bed. At first he thought maybe it was Alice and me messing around with him. Then he woke up completely and realized what was happening. He could barely breath; the sheet was so tight across his chest. Then he noticed the thing at the foot of the bed. It was the shadow figure, standing there, motionless.

“Andrew said he was struggling so hard that he was unable to speak. He was terrified that the thing was going to get to Alice. The figure leaned over the bed and didn’t actually speak because it didn’t have a mouth, but somehow Andrew heard it say my name. Then all of a sudden it was gone and he could move. He jumped up, checked on Alice, found her sound asleep and sat outside her doorway until he heard my car pull in.”

“Please tell me that is the only thing that happened in your house,” I begged.

“Oh no, that was just the beginning. I met him the following night. I had what I thought was a nightmare about a shadow figure leaning over me in bed tapping on my shoulder. Just tap, tap tapping. It had these dull yellow eyes. Not what you see in horror movies, they weren’t glowing or anything. No, they were a sickly yellow, clouded. When I woke up I could barely move my arm. I went into the bathroom and took off my shirt. My shoulder was completely black and blue,” Biddy pointed to her left arm.

“Lord help us,” I said.

“I told my husband about the dream and when I told him about the yellow eyes, he lost it. He told me the thing that had pinned him to the bed had yellow eyes, but he had left that detail out because it had frightened him so much.”

“Don’t even tell me,” I said. We were just a little more than halfway around the lake, and I wanted, very badly, to be back at my car. But all of a sudden the thought of that weird parking garage terrified me. I wondered if Biddy would walk me to my car.

“The good thing,” Biddy continued relentlessly, “was that I didn’t wait a second to get help clearing the thing from my house. I knew we were in deep trouble and I reached out to several people who I knew could help us. Working together, they were able to banish it from the home.”

“Who were they?” I asked, wanting full contact information – names, numbers, email addresses, twitter handles – just in case.

“A psychic that I met at one of our investigations brought along a Wiccan priestess and after they came through I had a local Catholic priest bless the house and leave us with holy water and salt so that I could periodically cleanse the home.”

“And that did it?” I asked skeptically. “That got rid of the thing?”

“From my home, yes. From the rest of my life, no.”

Heaven above, what do you mean?” I asked.

“For one thing, it just fired me up about ghost hunting. I became obsessed, and I think this is part of their attack. Hanging in the shadows, so to speak, letting you glimpse them, so that you become obsessed. That sort of obsession is the beginning of oppression. Also, I think they give you things,” she explained.

“Give you things?” I asked, picturing a shadow figure holding a bouquet of dead flowers in his freakishly long arms.

“Well, it’s more like some of their abilities, or thoughts, rub off on you. Like, how since college paranormal activity would amp up when I was around? I think they’d been around me for a long time, letting me hear and glimpse things so that they could draw me in.

“It was more than intuition, it was like I knew when something was about to happen in a home. I knew to go to the attic or the basement. I knew which questions to ask so that I would get an EVP. I would know which person to press in a case, which one had opened the door to the darkness.”

“Psychically?” I asked.

“Not really, no, just strong feelings that were always right,” she answered quietly. “I began to get deep into the whole paranormal world. I spoke at conferences and taught how to record EVPs. I freaking showed thirteen-year-old kids how to contact ghosts. I would do anything to take that back. What is their next step after EVPs? The Ouija board? Tarot cards?

“Look,” Biddy said, stopping again. “I am not trying to brag, trust me, I am not proud of my past or what I opened people up to, but I was a real heavy hitter in the paranormal field. When I am shopping in Boston, and sometimes when we are away on vacation, people still recognize me and want to tell me their ghost stories.”

“Why did you stop?” I asked. “I mean, if a shadow figure in your house makes you more curious than frightened, what could possibly have happened to make you stop?”

Biddy took a deep breath and blew it out, then began walking again. She said, “I’ve never told anyone this.”

I wanted to say, well, let’s go ahead and keep it that way. But what came out was, “Uh oh.”

“Other ghost hunting teams began referring the really dark cases to us, the ones they couldn’t handle. I was feeling one part badass, one part curious, and one part fraud. I knew that I had absolutely no idea what I was actually dealing with, but I was in way too deep and didn’t know how to back out. My marriage was falling apart, Andrew hated the fact that I was still ghost hunting after I brought that thing home with me. He was terrified and I should have been too. But I was too arrogant to be scared and I had convinced myself that I had it all under control.

“On top of that, I had become consumed with catching voices on the digital recorder. Everywhere I went, I tried, and I was almost always successful. But then I began to capture the same voice everywhere I went.

“It was a pleasant-sounding man’s voice. He was always a bit matter of fact in his answers, kind of like a British man, without the accent. I would typically get one to three word responses to questions. He told me that his name was Poe,” she explained.

“Nope,” I replied, matter-of-factly.

“Well, right,” Biddy agreed. “There was this one time, at a haunted house over in Cambridge, I was doing my initial sweep of the house, sitting quietly and getting the vibe before anyone came in. I took out my recorder and asked if anyone was there with me. I rewound the recording and when I played it back a deep growly voice came through and said, ‘Ah, Bridget, Poe told us about you.’”

“Fuck,” I whispered.

“It was a full sentence, class-A EVP. Clear as day, intelligent and communicative. It was the Holy Grail, and now that I had it, I wished I’d never seen a digital recorder.

“The voice startled me so much that I actually dropped the device on the ground. As I bent down to pick it up, I felt something walk past me, brushing my shoulder. I knew it was the thing that had followed me home. I knew right then that it had never left me, that it was Poe. That it always had been Poe, and I knew I was in deep trouble.

“I slowly sat up, and looked across the room. He, it was there. Staring at me, and it felt like it was almost, amused. Like it was saying, gotcha! I know now what people mean when they say that they were frozen in place. I literally could not move a muscle. Those yellow eyes, God help me, they were evil.” She stopped talking and began walking faster.

My knee hurt and I was trying to keep up, after a moment I said, “Biddy, slow down.”

“Sorry, I’ve never talked about this before. I’m a little anxious,” she said, slowing.

“I can’t imagine why,” I replied sarcastically.

“I don’t remember walking to the front door and out of the house, but there I was and there was my team all around me asking me what was wrong. ‘What happened?’ They wanted to know, ‘should we grab the camera equipment?’

“I walked past them got into my car and drove to a McDonald’s. It was the brightest, most alive place that I could find at that hour. I sat there for a long while drinking dishwater coffee and then I went home and woke my husband up. I apologized for getting involved with these horrible things and asked him to forgive me.”

“And that was it?” I asked. “That sounds way too easy.”

“No, I had to have that psychic team and the priest back to the house three times. Poe found his way back in. It was small disturbing things that let me know he’d returned. I’d glimpse a shadow in a mirror, or have my eyes closed in the shower as I rinsed shampoo from my hair and I would just know that something was standing right in there with me waiting for me to open my eyes.

“We even ended up moving, to a smaller home in a busier neighborhood. We had a more wooded yard before, now houses surround us. I know enough about these things to know that they want to isolate you, keep you in fear and keep you in turmoil with your loved ones. I work hard to do to live peacefully.”

“But wait, how the hell did you end up working with Nick?” I asked, confused.

“It was a real fucking lapse of judgment,” she said in annoyance. “He started working with Eric, the techie guy from our team, and weaseled my email address out of him. I wasn’t working at the time and Nick insisted that all he needed was someone who could do research and run a background check on families before the team went in and did their investigation.”

“Why would you agree to that after working so hard to get away from it all?” I asked, incredulous.

“It was stupid,” Biddy admits. “But, honestly, I had spent my life in that field, I had amassed such knowledge, and it felt silly to waste it. I figured it would be harmless to do a few property records searches and interview neighbors and such.

“You know, I worry about Nick. He’s too fucking sure of himself, and let’s just say that he is way too cavalier with that damn Ouija board,” Biddy paused, choosing her words. “I’ve seen first hand what this stuff does to people. It is oppressive. Check their family lives, check their medicine cabinets – you won’t find a lot of carefree happiness there. And then there’s the whole what-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg thing.”

“I don’t follow,” I said, confused.

“Well, do people look for the darkness or does it seek them out? Some people think that only depressive, or angry Goth types are drawn to the supernatural. Or only people bent towards magical thinking or prone to depressive or dark thoughts encounter ghosts and demons.

“But then, what about the random housewife who experiences sleep paralysis and sees dark figures in her basement? How about the four-year-old little boy who says there’s a ghost under his bed who tells him things no four-year old could possibly know? What about those people? If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that there’s no certain paranormal “type.” Anyone can be affected, and, on the flip side, there are even some people who, no matter how hard they try, can’t experience a thing.

“The only fact we have is that we don’t know. We really don’t know what the hell the thing we call ‘paranormal’ really is.”

I followed Biddy across a narrow stone bridge that lead us back onto the college campus. It was humid and my knee hurt and I was scared. We actually walked in silence for a while. I considered what she had said and how she could possibly know whether or not that Poe thing was gone.

As we approached the parking garage, Biddy said, “If something takes a liking to you, just know that there are no guarantees. I still have a lot of contacts and I can put you in touch with powerful people who know how to bind negative energies. But doors do not close. They just don’t. Are you doing anything to protect yourself when you gather these stories?”

My hand went to my chest, to my necklace.

Biddy noted my movement and said, “Good, but you should pray for protection too, and make sure you are constantly checking in on your intention. Curiosity? Fine. Wanting to tell people what it is really like to have a brush with the paranormal? Good. Just don’t get too sure of yourself.”

Biddy considered me for a moment, making me quite uncomfortable, then asked, “Did you really see a little girl spirit standing behind that woman with the haunted sailor’s valentine?”

It took me a moment to catch up, but then I realized she meant Pam. “Yes,” I admitted. “And a little blond girl ghost is -”

“Never really a little blond girl ghost,” Biddy finished. She furrowed her brow, “You’re probably fine but you’re Catholic, right?”

“Well, I grew up Catholic, but -” I began

“Then you’re Catholic,” she said, forcefully. “Go to church for goodness sake and take your family with you. It is fine that you are doing this, just do it to warn people, don’t do it to answer some deep dark question about whether or not we are alone in this world. Trust me, you don’t want to know the answer.”

 

***

 

I had the babysitter for Kat until I needed to pick up the older girls at school. When I got home, after showering and applying antiseptic and large Band-Aids to my battle wounds, I made a disappointing cup of Keurig coffee and headed down to the hotel lobby.

I sat with my laptop and Googled Biddy’s name. Countless webpages appeared and dozens of articles referenced her name and expertise. There were images of her on conference hall stages; microphone in hand, PowerPoint slides looming behind her. I had been talking to paranormal royalty and I hadn’t known it.

There was a website devoted to her strongest EVP captures, I listened to a few and then stopped. These were not the made for TV ghost hunting show EVPs. These were recordings of clear voices, responding directly to complicated questions.

I decided to listen to the recording of my interview with Biddy. I wanted to get a jump on transcribing the conversation. I popped in my ear buds and listened up to my to my epic stumble. Amused embarrassment washed over me as I heard Biddy’s are you sure you’re all right’s and my breathless reassurances.

Then I listened to us laughing about the fall.

Only, it wasn’t just us laughing. There had been someone else there with us, laughing at my expense. His laugh was soft and pleasant, almost British sounding, but not quite.

 

 

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We are relocating again, from one Residence Inn to another Residence Inn located closer to our new home. Turns out the one hour and fifteen minute commute isn’t ideal with toddlers, a baby and two dogs. It’s so tricky, in fact, that we are giving up a two-bedroom hotel suite for a studio just to avoid the hellish traffic. So please, forgive me, but I will publish the next ghost story (about an ex-paranormal investigator from Wellesley who has a word of caution for anyone considering dabbling in the field) next Friday. Let’s plan on a bi-weekly story for the next month.

In the meantime, I am beginning to receive some truly disturbing stories from readers. Several of which have chilled me to the core. I’ve been granted permission to publish one of these stories. You all know that I have a bee in my bonnet about Ouija boards. The following tale backs up my fear, and then some. Here it is, in one reader’s own words. She wishes to remain anonymous and I’ve removed identifying information, but if you would like to discuss the situation further, or if you’ve had your own similar encounter, please message me and I will put you in touch with her directly. She (and I) consider this a true cautionary tale.

*******

“Hi Liz,

I wish you had given me that Ouija board tip back in 1985 when I had just graduated from XXX.  I was just at that age where I had picked up so many bad habits that I just couldn’t move back in with my parents, so I did the next best thing, I walked down the street and moved in with my grandmother.  My grandmother ran a boarding house (think Lackawanna Blues) and she was kind enough to let me move into a tiny room off of her kitchen and pay her $100 a month.  My parents lived on the opposite end of the street in XXX, NY.  I had been fascinated with Ouija boards, and had started playing with one in my apartment before I graduated.  The fact that I had called forth an 18th century ghost that kept cutting off my TV, turning my lights on and off and drove my cat crazy wasn’t enough to deter me.  Nope.  The fact that my boyfriend (now husband) left my apartment at the crack of dawn one morning because he said a lady in old-fashioned clothing was standing over the bed and staring at him didn’t deter me either.  The fact that one night I was up late and saw this same woman with her hand on my bannister peering from the top step into my bedroom (like do I know you?) which made me scream, kick my door closed and play Prince songs until well after the sun came up still didn’t deter me.

Nope, I played with the Ouija board in my grandmother’s house.  Now remember this was a boarding house where people rented actual rooms.  People had lived and died in that house and I could remember at least three of them off of the top of my head.  There was Mr. XX who died of old age.  There was XX who died of cancer in his 30’s and I remember this kid XX who I grew up with – he rented a room from my grandmother with his girlfriend and they had a baby who died of crib death.  I remember all of these things.  So needless to say when I played with a Ouija in that particular structure all hell broke loose.

I really don’t like to talk about it but strange things happened from my bed constantly shaking, to knocking on the walls.  Someone who looked just like my grandmother would walk into the room (my room was right off the door to the basement), go downstairs into the basement and I would come out later only to see my grandmother sitting at the table cutting up vegetables.  Round about this time my grandmother was starting to get Alzheimer’s.  I tried my best with her but she would forget where she parked her car and sometimes she would forget to eat.  My parents told me that they would take care of her and that it was time for me to move out.  My coming and going at all hours was inconsistent and I was too self-absorbed to be of any real consistent help.

Round about this time my sisters had moved out of the apartment that they were sharing upstairs from my parents (it was a two family home) and I was more than happy to high tail it from the ghosties that I had conjured up in my grandmother’s house.  I threw the Ouija board away…I think…I actually don’t remember what I did with it, but I’m pretty sure that I tossed it.  I moved into the apartment, never touched a Ouija and my boyfriend who was now my fiancé told me that I better not ever touch that shit again.  I agreed.

The bad thing was that even though I had walked away from the house and the Ouija, my grandmother couldn’t get away from it.  My mother used to tell me that my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s had gotten really bad, she couldn’t remember anything and she had taken to drinking beer.  My grandmother never drank the entire time that I knew her but now she would get her tenants to buy her cases of beer and she would drink it non-stop.  I stopped by to visit her a few times but she didn’t remember who I was and she had adopted this really creepy laugh that was NOT the woman who helped to raise me.  One time my mother said she came by to bring her dinner (my Mom took care of her every day, bathed her cooked for her etc.) and she said that my grandmother came to the door scooting her butt along the floor and walking like a crab.  C’mon the woman was 90 my mother said it freaked her out completely.  I never told my parents about my Ouija games at my grandmother’s house and I can’t help but feel complete guilt about what I might have possibly let into her home.  I sometimes think that something from the Ouija possessed her and I live with an immense amount of guilt whenever I think about it.  My grandmother was a devout Catholic, she had just gotten old.  Eventually she passed away and I just hope that she went someplace peaceful.  My parents sold her house and it was flipped a couple of times.

About two years ago, I had just come from visiting my father (my Mom had died about 12 years prior and my Dad had remarried), I was in the car with my sister and I slowed down at the corner to look at my grandmother’s old house.  There was a little girl standing in the vestibule.  She was cute as a button and waving at us through the glass door.  But there was also something else.  A BEING… he was standing there with his hand on her shoulder and scowling…he had this hideous, monstrous frightening scowl.  It’s really hard to describe because he looked almost animated and he was wearing all black.  The little girl was still waving and my sister said to me…”Do you see that shit?  He’s not human, THAT IS NOT HUMAN!”  Eventually the little girl turned and opened the door behind her to walk back inside.  That thing was latched onto her back and slowly followed her inside.  Whatever I let into that house is still living there… and it just tears me up to know that it might be still hurting others.

You said that everyone has at least one ghost story and this one is mine.  Don’t know if you can use it, it’s short, but I have never admitted to anyone how playing with a Ouija board effected both me and my loved ones.  Playing with something like that opens a portal and if you don’t know what you’re doing you can let any damn evil ass demon or ghost into your life.  My children are now 22 and 20 and I told my sons that if anyone brings out a Ouija board around them to call me and I will come get them right away.  I told them that as children and 1x I did have to get my oldest when he was in elementary school and he was spending the night over a friend’s house.  The whole family was playing with a Ouija and he called me with a shaky voice.  I jumped into the car and brought him home.  I don’t play that shit…not after what I’ve seen can happen first hand.”

 

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“You have an unnaturally high tolerance for this stuff,” C told me as we drank wine on our patio.

The kids were in bed and we were enjoying one of our last evenings in our backyard. We’d sold the house, quickly, and bought another even quicker. We were moving across town to become a “Bates Family.”

I studied our garage, held together only by termite carcasses and a prayer, it’s ancient siding warped from the heat of a grill that someone had placed too close. That, I actually found amusement in, but when I looked down to the patio beneath us humor left me. It’s crumbling concrete was so cracked and uneven that the girls’ knees were a perpetual bloodied mess. There would be no love lost for this home. We’d cut our teeth on suburban living here, but the past two years had been a never-ending renovation. Before us, a lovely couple had owned and raised their children in the home, they just hadn’t had the time or ability to care for it properly.

So, instead of tallying up the cost of digging up the patio and annihilating the garage, I was able to take a deep breath and enjoy a glass of wine with C on the shitty patio that was now a really lovely couple moving in from Brookline’s problem.

As ever, I was acutely aware of the five neighboring homes that overlooked our backyard. Their dark windows judged us, making note of our second (third) glasses of wine. It was late October and we were talking Halloween, my very favorite holiday. C wasn’t as big of a fan, he thought I was desensitized, thus his comment about my tolerance level. I argued that I was a total chicken when it came to anything remotely frightening happening in real life, but that I just liked a good, safe scare. I was, however, beginning to wonder, if I was a bit of a weirdo.

That afternoon I’d brought the kids to the playground, taking advantage of the last mild days before the weather turned, and a woman recognized me there.

“You’re not the one who writes that blog, are you?” She asked, holding her hand out to introduce herself.

I confirmed her suspicion and my girls played with her son for a while. I didn’t get the feeling at all that she thought I was weird, she was totally cool, but this interaction, in general, sort of freaked me out.

People were actually reading the stories that I was collecting. Of course, my friends were supportive, and my mom seemed to get a kick out of ghostly anecdotes. But neither of my sisters would read them. One wouldn’t even attempt it, and the other had to stop after she read about Jenn and what her family had been through. She basically implied that she thought what I was doing was demonically influenced. The term “spiritual warfare” was used.

That stung a little.

I had been paranoid about looking into the darkness and seeing more than I could handle, but maybe what I should have been worried about was spreading darkness to others. Was it a bad thing to be collecting these stories and disseminating them through the blog? Should these stories be kept in secret, spoken quietly in whispers among acquaintances so that they turned into “friend of a friend of a cousin in law” tales?

No. There was something here that was more than just a scare. I had my theories. I was beginning to suspect that maybe ghosts were a red herring. What if it was all something more? What if it was all tied together, as something that had the ability to present itself as anything that it needed to in order to drive a wedge (like between Becky and her husband) or distract (like Nick), or terrify (like Lilith’s possession), or consume (like Peyton). It was all adding up to something darker than dead people trying to communicate.

I’m getting ahead of myself. The suggestion by a family member that I was somehow promoting evil ways through this little project of mine had really gotten under my skin, and C was trying to look at it another way.

“You have to understand that this stuff isn’t for everybody. You know I can’t even read your blog, it’s not that I don’t want to, it’s I just that won’t sleep,” he reasoned.

“I know, I understand why you can’t read them, but it felt like I was being accused of, I don’t know, being, a devil worshipper or something,” I said in a pout.

“You know that’s not the case,” C reasoned. “Your being a devil worshipper has nothing to do with collecting ghost stories.”

 

 

 

Things had begun to snowball – in a good way – with the blog. I had received quite a few (nineteen!)  emails. Several were inquiries wishing to verify whether or not the stories were actually real. A few messages asked that I name names or at least addresses. But a couple emails contained stories. Real ghost stories from people in Wellesley, and Weston, Brookline, the South End of Boston, even one from New Hampshire.

These stories were all eerily familiar. Or, I should say they had a familiar rhythm.

“I woke up in the middle of the night and my Aunt Melissa was sitting at the edge of my bed. It was impossible, she had been in the hospital being treated for a heart condition. I called my mom the next morning and told her about it. Mom told me that Auntie M had passed away the night before.” (Brookline)

“When I was little I used to play with this ‘imaginary friend’ Rocket. I remember him, he wore the same striped shirt all the time and liked to play with toy cars. My parents still tell stories about me and my imaginary buddy. I  never told them that Rocket had only one eye. One day I overheard a neighbor tell my dad about a little boy who used to live in our house, he’d had an accident and had fallen off the back steps, impaling himself on a pipe that was stuck into the ground. He’d died. His name was Robbie but they said he was always running around and loved going fast so he would never walk. They nicknamed him Rocket.” (South End, Boston)

“I know that our house is haunted. I hear footsteps at night and the front door opens by itself all the time. The weird thing is that you would think the dogs would run out, but they don’t. Whenever it happens we find them upstairs, in my daughter’s bed, curled up next to each other. It’s like they are hiding.” (Weston)

The stories have a simple thread, that I think you could miss if you were looking too closely at the details. Or trying to prove that none of them are real, just a figment of the imagination.

It’s distraction. Whether through familiarity or fun, fear or intrigue, anger or worry. When I consider the stories I’ve heard, the emails I’ve received, the books that I’ve read, distraction is always present. From one’s life, from loved ones, from reality. The question was, who was doing all this distracting? And why?

 

 

 

Enough of that and on to the story. I received an interesting email from a woman named Beth, a retired guidance counselor. She used to work at our high school, and has lived in town for thirty years, having raised two children in her home on Cedar Street in the (Fiske Elementary neighborhood). She lives in adorable Cape Cod style home with her husband, Allen (an accountant). Her house is haunted, and it was the first haunted house that I’ve ever been to, as far as I know.

In Beth’s email she mentioned that she knew my daughter’s teacher and was interested in sharing her story with me to see if I could offer any insight. She invited me over for mid-morning tea.

I accepted.

 

 

 

“Liz?” Beth inquired, opening her screen door. “Come on in!”

Deep smile lines fanned out from Beth’s eyes and her forehead was deeply grooved, the lines appeared hard won through years spent in the sunshine. Freckles had matured into sun spots and dark circles under her eyes hinted at exhaustion. Her dark brown hair was cut in an excellent pixie that suited her tight little runner’s body. She had on a blue pin-striped button down with adorable cropped khakis and crisp white keds. Actually, “crisp” summed up her look quite nicely.

“Hi, Beth! Thanks so much for having me,” I replied, stepping into her foyer. It was painted a pretty sky blue and there were ocean prints on the wall. I took my shoes (grey tretorns) off and placed them to the side of a multi-colored braided rug.

Beth motioned for me to follow her to the back of the house. We walked through the kitchen (white beadboard cabinets and grey granite counters, clean as a whistle, though the surfaces were a bit cluttered with ocean-themed knick knacks) and stepped through sliding glass doors to a winterized back porch.

In keeping with the beach-themed home, two white wicker chairs and a wicker love seat held cushions covered in a navy blue fabric patterned with sea shells, starfish and coral. Side tables held lighthouse lamps. On a coffee table sat a navy blue lacquered tray, holding a teapot, two white mugs, and a ceramic fish shaped sugar and creamer set alongside a little plate of oreos.

Oreos! I hadn’t had an Oreo in years, and I’ll be damned it they didn’t appeared to be Double Stuf.

Beth told me to grab a seat and we each took a chair opposite one another, me looking out the porch windows towards the backyard and Beth facing the sliding doors. I asked if it was alright for me to record our conversation, she nodded her head but looked a bit unsure.

To distract her I commented on the coziness of her home and its aquatic accents.

“You’re sweet,” she replied. ”My husband, Allen, and I just love the ocean. We take a week in Eastham on the Cape each summer.”

“There’s nothing like the beach,” I said.

“We’re moving soon,” Beth said. “As soon as the house sells.”

I nodded, I had made note of the For Sale sign when I pulled up to the house. “Are you moving to the Cape?”

“We plan to, yes. Allen is able to work remotely, so we intend to buy a little cottage in either Brewster or Eastham. But we’ll see,” she said, getting a bit shifty eyed.

“Both are such cute little towns,” I replied, eyeing the cookies. “Have you had much traffic?” I asked, referring to interested buyers.

“We have, but no real offers yet. Our agent assures us that it won’t take long. I hope that she’s right.”

“Well, your house is charming, and you are close to Fiske. A family with small children would be thrilled to live here,” I said.

“I hope you’re right,” she said. “There’s the issue of cemetery, but it’s not as though we have a view of it, like some of the houses on this street.”

Well, she was right on that point. Their house did not overlook the cemetery, a small hill across the street blocked the view of it’s tombstones.

“Your property is lovely,” I assured her. “Back here it  feels like we are in the middle of the woods on the Cape,” I said, motioning to the pine trees surrounding us.

“From your lips to God’s ears,” Beth replied. “Here, let me pour you a cup of tea. Please, take a cookie, too.”

I enthusiastically took a cocktail napkin (navy blue with white starfish) and dug in. I actually, Mmmm’d, then asked, “What kind of a ghost story do you have for me?”

“I don’t know if you’ll think I’m mad,” she said.

“I’m not here to judge. Actually, I am hoping that you don’t think I’m a weirdo for wanting to hear your ghost story,” I replied.

“In all honesty, I’m relieved that you’re here, any insight you might be able to offer would be so appreciated,” she said then sipped her tea.

“I’ll do my best,” I replied then shoved an Oreo in my mouth. Sweet heaven above, why had these ever fallen out of my life?

Beth took a moment, then said, “This house is haunted, or maybe I should say, I am haunted.”

I swallowed and managed to ask, “You mean this house is currently haunted?” I’d forgotten how the dark chocolate cookie part of the Oreo sort of got stuck in between one’s teeth. I tried to quietly use my tongue to create enough suction to get the treat unstuck, while contemplating leaving the home immediately.

Beth’s eyes began to tear up, she said, “I’m sorry, this is hard to talk about.”

I took a quick sip of my tea to wash away the delicious Oreo and said, “I understand,” though I knew that I didn’t understand. At all. And hoped to all things holy that I never would understand what it’s like to be haunted.

She took a breath and wiped her eyes and said, “ I don’t know what came over me, I am not a crier. I am just exhausted, and not myself. You came here for the story, where shall I begin?”

“What happened first?” I asked, reaching for another cookie.

“Barbara’s party, that’s what started everything,” she replied, placing her mug on the table. “My good friend, Barbara, well we’ve called her Barb since we were in high school, had a big bash for her fiftieth birthday, at the Four Seasons in Boston. Her husband hired a band and it was such a fun night. It reminded me of when we were all young and attending each other’s weddings. Barb has a psychic who attended the party.“

“Has a psychic?” I asked.

“Barb’s consulted this woman, her psychic, since we were in our early twenties. She almost uses her as a therapist. I had always considered it a bit silly, but it was really none of my business and Barb swore that this woman, Milena, was truly gifted. She trusted her for every major decision in her life. Barb claims that Milena predicted when she would get married, how many kids she would have and when it was the best time to put their house on the market.”

“Freaky,” I said, sipping my tea and forcing myself to wait a few minutes before grabbing another cookie.

“In all honestly, I’ve always thought so too. How could you trust a stranger to tell you everything that was going to happen in your life and why would you want to? Besides that, over the years, as they’ve gotten to know one another, I’m certain that Milena could make some pretty accurate educated guesses about Barb’s life and pass them off as predictions.

“That was what I used to think, anyhow,” Beth said, shaking her head.

“And now?” I prompted.

“Now I respect that there are things that we simply can’t understand,” she replied.

“What happened at that party?” I asked.

“Barb’s husband hired Milena for the night to do readings for the party guests. He rented a little side room at the hotel, right off the ballroom, where she set up a table to do these readings. I had no desire, whatsoever to have a reading. I go to church, I’m not going to judge what others do, but the bible clearly states in Leviticus, ‘Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out.’”

“But, you did have a reading?” I asked a bit unnerved. People who are able to recite bible verses (or can remember phone numbers off the top of their head) always unnerve me. I blank out when someone asks how old I am. My sieve-like mind is suspicious of these memory master types.

“Barb dragged me to the room, she insisted that I consult Milena about my upcoming knee surgery. I’m a runner, have been all my life, and I had some torn cartilage in my knee that had to be corrected. Quite naturally, I was having a great deal of anxiety over the procedure. I knew that it was necessary, but I was terrified that I would never be able to run again if anything went wrong.

“Barb wanted Milena to predict the outcome of the surgery. She said that the woman would even do a Reiki technique with me that could ease some of the anxiety,” Beth said.

“Uh uh,” I mumbled with a mouth full of cookie.

“I know,” Beth said, putting a hand up. “Now I know what a horrible idea it was, but it was a birthday party and we were all a little tipsy from too much Champagne. So I did it. I went and had a reading, but I insisted that Barb come with me. Milena told me a bunch of nonsense about the surgery going well and how I would be surrounded by love and light.”

“That seems to be the catch-phrase,” I said.

“Good heavens, isn’t it? I can recall all of that positive vibe mumbo jumbo but then Milena asked me to close my eyes and imagine myself in a peaceful forest, walking along a path that lead to a beautiful waterfall. I complied, but only to appease Beth. But the strangest thing happened. As I was imagined the forest and the trail leading to the waterfall, I lost the time,” Beth said.

        “So you must have been more than a little tipsy,” I said with a laugh.

        “No, no, it wasn’t that, though, now I understand that the alcohol acted as a sort of catalyst, but Milena managed to somehow hypnotize me. I don’t think that is exactly what it was. I was under, that’s for sure, and when I was, that woman introduced ideas into my mind. Barb said they were mostly ideas about health and wholeness, but that Milena said several times that when I returned to consciousness I would be open. Open to the possibility of health and wellbeing and open to the possibility of more.”

        “More what?” I asked.

        “More what,” Beth repeated with a small sigh. “I’d heard Barb go on and on about Milena and her predictions for years, but what I didn’t know was that Barb had discussed me and my life with Milena as well. When I pressed Barb to find out what exactly she had told Milena she admitted to saying that I was a bit ‘set in my ways.’

        “I believe that Milena decided that once she had me in a trance, she would not only Reiki me into some sort of advanced healing, she would open my mind to otherworldly possibilities. It was a complete and total violation.”

“I’ll say,” I agreed imagining one of my friends discussing me with their psychic. Lord, help me, I had to stop that train of thought immediately.

“I didn’t ask Barb about what happened that night until about mid-way through the following week. We play tennis together on Wednesday mornings, and,” Beth sat back in her seat. “Frankly, this is where I have to admit that I have anxiety about being candid about this experience.”

“Don’t be silly,” I prompted, wishing I could just get her to loosen up a bit. Barb was right, Beth did seem tightly wound.

Beth took a breath and said, “I knew the night of Barb’s party that something followed us home from the hotel. It took me a couple of days, but by the time our tennis date came along, I had pieced things together. I knew that it all had something to do with that Milena woman.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“The night of the party my husband drove us home, he doesn’t ever have more than one drink, so he was fine to drive. We were in the car and I thought that maybe the bubbly had gotten the better of me because I felt a touch disoriented. We were listening to the radio and I distinctly heard Allen say my name. I turned and said, ‘What?’ and he just told me he hadn’t said anything. That happened three times, only the third time I could tell that it wasn’t Allen. It sounded like him, but Allen wasn’t the one saying my name.”

“Who -” I began.

“I don’t know, I still don’t know who or what it is,” Beth said. “I blamed it on the loud party and the champagne. I figured that my ears were adjusting. But when it woke me up that night at three o’clock saying ‘ElizaBethBeth’ – that’s what it calls me – I knew that it wasn’t my ears adjusting.”

“No,” I said, reaching for another Oreo.

“Oh yes, that was just the beginning. The next day was Sunday and we went to Church as usual. I brushed aside what had happened the night before, but it left me a bit, disturbed, to say the very least. I began to feel strange as I climbed the steps to St. Paul’s entrance. I stumbled a bit as we walked through the doorway and then, again, I lost the time for a moment or two. When I became aware of my surroundings again I was sitting on the steps outside and Allen and an usher were standing over me discussing whether or not to call an ambulance.”

“Oh no,” I said, draining my mug and placing it on the table.

Beth leaned forward to refill the cup and said, “It really was the darndest thing. I actually startled them when I asked, ‘What happened.’ They explained that I sort of folded when I walked into the sanctuary. My husband lead me back outside by the arm and this kind usher noticed that there was a problem and followed him out to see if he needed help.

“As I stood back up the usher said, ‘You gave us a real scare there, ElizaBethBeth.’ I heard him. I know that is what he said. I immediately asked, ‘What did you call me?’ He just looked startled and Allen jumped in saying that we should really head back home. When we got in the car I asked Allen what the man had said and my husband told me the man had called me Beth. He had told the man my name.”  

“Freaky,” I said, glancing out the storm windows behind Beth. The wind had picked up causing the pine trees to whisper as they swayed. “What do you think happened?”

“Well, again, I tried to explain it away by too much champagne the night before. My husband did too, ‘You have a good old fashioned hangover,’ he joked. ‘What you need is a little hair ‘o the dog that bit ya.’ That was the very last thing that I wanted.”

“Do you really think that man called you ElizaBethBeth?” I asked.

“I think that it makes me hear or see or perceive things the way it wants me to. So, no, I don’t think that man called me that name, especially considering his reaction. I think it wanted me to hear that name, so I did.” Beth replied.

“Ok, so you’re hearing your name, well, not your name, but a weird version of your name called. What else?” I asked, reaching for another cookie. Only, the cookies were gone.

Beth looked down at the plate. “Here, let me go get more treats.”

“No!” I said, a little too loudly. “I mean, no thank you, I really shouldn’t have any more and I am a nervous eater, so please, go on,” I did want more cookies, but, even more than that, I did not want to be left alone.

“So that was Sunday. The Sunday after my mind was opened. The next couple of nights were carbon copies. I would awake to my name being called. Then, of course, I couldn’t sleep. So I blamed the shadows on lack of sleep.”

“Shadows?” I asked.

“They were, or I should say, are always just outside my periphery. It’s unnerving, I will be folding the laundry or making my coffee in the morning and I’ll see something out of the corner of my eye and will be certain, positively sure that someone is standing almost behind me or in the corner of the room. But I never actually see anyone.”

“I don’t at all mean to dismiss your experience, it’s just that, what if exhaustion coupled with the power of suggestion may have gotten you a bit jumpy,” I said, as delicately as I could.

Beth sighed and crossed her arms over her chest. She said, “I would have thought the same thing if the tables were turned and you were telling me this story. I agree, these things that I’ve told you so far could be explained by exhaustion and paranoia.”

“I didn’t mean to imply that you are paranoid, I -”

“Of course not, this is why this is so hard to talk about. I know it sounds too fantastic,” Beth said.

“I’m sorry, I was hoping that might be the easy answer because if it’s not, and you are hearing your name called and seeing shadows standing near you, then, well, life is more terrifying than I ever could have imagined,” I said.

“Yes,” Beth agreed. “It is terrifying.”

“You had several unnerving days, and nights, and then you mentioned that you met up with your friend for tennis?”

“I did, yes. I asked her what had happened that night. I didn’t tell her what had been going on with me, but I just said that I must have drank too much because I couldn’t remember what had happened during my so-called ‘reading.’ She tried to laugh it off, but I pressed her, and she told me that Milena had put me under and had put ideas into my mind. Or rather, she had opened my mind to ideas and anything else that wanted to visit.”

“Were you so pissed?” I asked, then said, “Sorry,” referring to my swearing.

“Don’t apologize, I was pissed. I couldn’t believe my ears. Barb made it seem as though it was nothing to be concerned about, that Milena had only been trying to help me with my life. I neither wanted nor needed help with my life. I hadn’t even wanted to speak with Milena, let alone have her New Age nonsense affect my mind.

“I was so angry that I had to leave. I left Barb right there on the court. I took a shower at the club and when I was throwing my damp towels into the basket one of the young girls who works at the gym walked past me and said, ‘What a violation.’

“I was startled, I looked right at her and said, ‘What did you say?’ She looked just as startled as I felt and replied, ‘It’s been nice outside lately, I hope that you can enjoy the day.’

“I rushed out of there. I hadn’t misunderstood her. She may have said, ‘Enjoy the day,’ or something equally as benign, but I heard her say ‘What a violation.’ She was referring to Barb’s stupid psychic meddling.”

“Yeesh,” I said, sipping my tea because I didn’t know whether to think this woman was having a psychotic break or a demonic oppression.

“I am well aware of how ridiculous this sounds. I used to scoff at the idea people seeing ghosts or claiming that their homes were haunted, I thought it was an attention seeking ploy. I was a guidance counselor at the high school, you know, for years. I’ve encountered a lot of damaged children and their broken parents. More than I care to remember.

“I’ve heard a lot of excuses for poor behavior. I’ve listened to people blame the weather on why they were such a bad parent or the economy on why they hit their kid. I have always been grounded in reality, but…” Beth trailed off.

“But this was different,” I said.

“Yes,” Beth confirmed. “It started happening more and more. I would hear someone say something that they hadn’t said. A barista told me to repent, the woman who cleans our house said, ‘There are forces we don’t understand but must respect,’ after I handed her the check for the month. Each time I reacted to these interactions, the responses let me know that I was the one with the problem. Then things began happening at home.”

“What things?” I asked, feeling like a sitting duck in this home that was either inhabited by a demon or a crazy lady.

“Besides the shadows, there were other signs. Things that Allen noticed too, not just me. There was one night, when we were out on the back patio,” Beth motioned to a door at the side of the screened in porch. I looked over and saw that past this door were several wooden steps leading to a brick patio with a table, chairs and grill. “We were grilling chicken and having a glass of wine when that door began to slam. Not one time, three times. It would sway open slowly and then slam. Open then slam, open slam. It was so hard that I thought that the glass would break.

“I am embarrassed to say that we just stared at it and watched it happen. Allen made a comment about the wind, but there was no wind. It was one of those heavy, humid August nights.”

“I would have gone to a hotel,” I said.

“I know, it sounds absolutely nutty, but we weren’t ready to acknowledge what was happening. We ate dinner and talked about anything and everything but that door and the voices I had been hearing.”

“So you were pretty open with Allen about what you were experiencing?” I asked.

“Oh, of course. We started dating when we were just sixteen, I can’t hide a thing from him, and he wouldn’t want me to,” Beth said.

“What does he think of all of this?” I asked.

“At first, he thought that I was just, having some sort of ‘episode,’ but then, after I had my knee surgery, he believed me.”

“What made him change his mind?” I asked, wishing I had let her go get more cookies.

“When I got home from the hospital after surgery I had to sleep in the living room. We rented a hospital bed to help me with sitting up and reclining once I was was home. I was on a high dose of pain medication, which I hated, but it truly was necessary, especially in order to endure the physical therapy. I believe the pain medication was the catalyst. It somehow blew whatever door Milena had opened in my mind wide open.”

“You know,” Beth said, crossing her legs. “I read that they did a study, whoever ‘they’ are. They did a study with patients who needed the same knee surgery that I had. Only half of the participants had the surgery done, the other half did not. They put those patients under and lead them to believe that they were having the surgery. Even made incisions on their legs to make it appear as though the surgery had taken place. All of the people who participated in the study, both those who’d had the surgery and those who had not, had the same success rate in healing. It was the ultimate placebo effect. Isn’t that crazy? Basically, a fake surgery is just as effective as a real one. Over a year of following these patients, there was no difference in their recovery.”

“Did you know about the study before you had the surgery?” I asked.

“No, I of course not,” she replied, shaking her head. “If I had known, I wouldn’t have had it. I’ve run 23 marathons in my life. I am good at mind games.

“I think that is why this whole thing had thrown me for a loop. I have always been in complete control. Even when I had the blues after my children were born. I willed myself out of them. I can’t make all of this stop, that’s why it is so frightening.”

“You said things got worse after the surgery. In what way?” I asked.

“Yes, sorry,” Beth ran her fingers through her short hair and picked up her mug. “I was loopy from my medication and sleeping by myself downstairs. I fell asleep each night in front of the television, something I hadn’t done since I was in college,” she said smiling.

“I believe that it was my second night home, that I woke up in the middle of the night. The television was off, though I didn’t remember turning it off. Anyhow, I woke up because my bed was inclining my itself. I awoke and was sitting upright. My knee was throbbing, well, that is putting it lightly. It felt like needles were being slowly stabbed through my leg through the back of my knee.

“It took me a moment to come to, I think that’s what it wanted – to wake me up fully and really have my attention. By the time I was done breathing through the pain, and coming to my senses I realized that I wasn’t alone.”

“Who was with you?” I asked, wondering if it was totally out of the realm of possibilities to just get up and walk out the front door. I mean, so what if it was awkward if I ever ran into her at the Whole Foods.

It was there, right behind the bed. I could feel it. But I couldn’t do anything, my knee was tortuous. I was breathing in, through my nose, holding it for a minute and then breathing out through my mouth to manage the pain. It’s an old trick to beat a muscle spasm or side stitch,” she nodded her head like a mother giving me age old health advice.

“And then?” I asked, wanting her to just get on with it.

“It was very quiet. Once I was able to get through the worst of the pain, I reached for the television remote, hoping to turn the TV back on for distraction. I checked the time, three o’clock. I still had two hours before I could take my medication. I had to gather myself.

“Allen had arranged a nice little bedside table next to me with everything that I might need overnight, water, cough drops in case my mouth was dry, a protein bar, the television remote. When I reached for the remote control it slid out of my reach.

“I yanked my hand back, After a moment the television turned on by itself, to Fox News. I never watch Fox. It was blaring. So loud it hurt my ears, and then it was off before I could try to reach for the remote again.

“My heart was racing so fast that I was afraid that I might be having a heart attack. As I sat there, trying to decide what to do, the bed began reclining itself. ‘Stop it!’ I yelled in a panic. The bed stopped and began to incline back up.

“Then I heard my name, or at least, what it calls me.” Beth said.

“ElizaBethBeth?” I asked.

“Yes. It started as a whisper, it was behind me and then in the corner of the room. Then under the bed. I screamed at it, ‘What do you want from me? Leave me be!’ And I heard it laugh,” Beth wrapped her arms around herself. “No, laugh isn’t the right word, it chuckled, as though it were making fun of me. Then I heard the front and back doors open simultaneously. I was completely helpless, I was moving slower than toast and my knee was excruciating. I began screaming my husband’s name.

“As I did, the doors slammed shut and then the television turned on again and then off. My cell phone rang and I just kept screaming for Allen, praying that I could wake him up. He’s an incredibly heavy sleeper. I used to have to literally kick him in the shins to wake him up when it was his turn on the weekends to wake up with the kids.”

“Did he hear you?” I asked.

“Unfortunately, yes,” Beth replied. “It gets what it wants, and what it wanted that night was for me to wake Allen up and call him downstairs. He was disoriented from waking up from such a deep sleep. I heard him begin to descend the stairs and then, I heard him fall.”

“No,” I said, sad and frightened for this poor woman. “What the hell happened?”

“He tripped. Actually, he said that he had been pushed. That it felt like someone had taken both of their hands, placed them on his lower back and pushed. Hard. He was only about half way down the steps when it happened and he flew forward and slammed his head on the wall so hard that he blacked out for a few moments.

“They were the longest minutes of my life. I was in the bed, basically trapped. The pain in my knee had become unbearable. I was calling his name. Lord have mercy, I thought he was dead. He wasn’t answering me. I ended up getting out of bed and using the walker at the side of my bed to slide myself down to the floor, the entire time it felt as though someone was standing just to my side. Watching. Refusing to help me. I slid myself along the floor with my arms, calling Allen’s name. When I finally reached him he was stirring a little so at least I knew the poor man wasn’t dead.

“Eventually, we managed to pull ourselves together. Allen was fine, just disoriented from the fall. He was able to carry me back to bed, and, luckily, I hadn’t done any real damage to my knee. He sat next to me in a chair for the rest of the night. Every light on the first floor blazing, a channel was playing a Frasier marathon and we watched until the sun came up. We weren’t able to talk about it then, but in the morning, we tried to devise a plan.”

“What did you decide to do?” I asked.

“We decided that we had to call Milena and have her to the house. She had started this ridiculous mess, she had to come clean it up,” Beth replied.

“You trusted her to help you?” I asked.

“I trusted that she knew what she had done and she should know how to undo it,” Beth said, refilling her mug. “She agreed to come to the house, to do a ‘clearing.’ I called Barb and insisted that she be there too. Milena had a whole explanation for doing what she did, a whole lot of bullshit as far as I was concerned. Excuse me, please, for cussing. But that’s just what it was. She walked throughout our home, burning sage and spouting off about love and light, then she had me sit down with her so that she could ‘clear my chakras.’”

“Ugh,” I said.

“I was completely skeptical as well, but I had to try something. Even if what she had done had been some sort of placebo effect and my husband and I had psyched ourselves up into a paranormal frenzy, well, we had to try to un-psych ourselves.” Beth replied.

“Is that really what you thought?” I asked. “That you were just somehow imagining these things.”

“No, it wasn’t. But I was holding onto a glimmer of hope that Milena was just an extremely talented charlatan.”

“Was she?” I asked.

“No. She was an incredibly inept and in over her head phony.” Beth replied. “I could tell that she was really nervous as she was doing or trying to undo what she had done to me with her chakra clearing. Afterwards she confessed to having consulted with a more ‘advanced soul’ who had warned her that some doors, once opened could not be closed.”

“I’ve heard that,” I said, thinking of Casey Cotton and her demon buddy, Zila.

“Yes, well, apparently, the door that Milena opened was one of those doors that cannot be shut,” Beth continued. “We were cautiously optimistic the following week. Allen was, of course, sleeping next to my hospital bed on the living room couch, but everything was quiet for a few days. We were beginning to let our guard down, and then all hell broke loose.

“It started up again when I was sitting out on this porch. It was about a week and a half after my surgery and I was beyond stir crazy. I set myself up on the loveseat and was reading a book. These storm windows weren’t up yet, so it was all screens. It was early September, a little before seven o’clock, so it was dusk. Not dark out, but getting there. I was reading and listening to the pines in the wind when I heard a sort of snuffling snort. I looked up, it had come from that way,” Beth motioned to the windows beside us.

“Uh uh,” I whispered, nervously glancing at the floor to ceiling windows to my left.

“I looked out, and couldn’t see anything. It had taken me a great deal of effort just to get myself into the seat. I couldn’t just jump up and run back in the house. I was staring out the windows, listening as hard as I could and then something came right over close to the house, right beneath the windows. It began to scratch on the siding. Maybe it was an animal, but I don’t think so. I could feel that it was trying to frighten me. Trying to make me feel every bit as trapped as I was,” Beth said. “Besides, I’ve never heard a dog sound like that before, it almost sounded like a big pig snorting around the ground.”

“What did you do?” I demanded. I was seriously getting freaked out and rather pissed that she had invited me to her den of horrors.

“I got up as best as I could and walked back into the house, as I was slowly maneuvering to step over the little lip of the sliding door there was an enormous crash behind me. I almost fell, but I caught myself on the door frame. I fully expected to turn around and see that something had crashed through onto the porch.

“But when I turned around, there was nothing. Except, on the screen we had in that window,” Beth motions to the top of one of the windows. “There were three long rips.”

“Rips?”

“Yes, tears,” Beth holds up three fingers bent into what looks like a claw and drags them downwards.

“Are you saying that they looked like animal claw marks?” I demanded.

“That’s just what they looked like,” Beth confessed.

“But that is like, I don’t know, fifteen or twenty feet up. How could that be?” I said, incredulous.

“I don’t know, but it was,” she said in a small voice.

I was beginning to get a touch agitated by this woman and her story of hobbling around the house being harassed by some sort of nickname-giving demon.

“But, if Milena had done a cleansing, then everything should have been over,” I reasoned.

“It was far from over, I continued to feel trapped here, by whatever it was outside and I was still having blackout moments. I sent emails that I don’t remember writing. Horribly inappropriate emails. I had to have Allen take the computer out of the house.”

Interest peaked, I asked, “What sorts of inappropriate emails?”

“I sent a rant to my book club that basically listed the faults of all nine members. I called one woman a simpering fool who wouldn’t know foreshadowing if it bit her on the ass. It wasn’t just emails, though, I made phone calls too. I fired every single person who has worked on this house over the past thirty years. Our landscapers, the garbage service, the handy man, our cleaning ladies. The worst though was the selfie,” Beth shook her head and actually started to tear up.

“Selfie?”

“I sent a -” she paused, composing herself. “I sent a topless photo to my husband’s business partner.”

“No!” I declared, trying desperately not to break a smile.

“It was the most terrible thing that has ever happened to me in my whole life. I was so humiliated. I still am humiliated.”

I had to take a moment to compose myself before I was able to say, “I can only imagine.”

“There have been fantastical moments, but it is the day to day harassment that is wearing us out. It’s the being startled awake in the middle of the night, the footsteps following us down the hallway, the doors slamming closed by themselves. The subtle things are so much worse than the full blown terrors.

“I get lulled into thinking that everything might be quieting down and then something pulls my hair as I am drinking tea in the morning and I spill the hot drink all over myself.”

Again, I fought the urge to smile, I mean, at least this ghost had a sense of humor.

“Do you think that moving will make a difference?” I asked.

“It’s the only thing we have left to try,” she replied.

“Forgive me for asking, but I have to assume that you’ve been to a doctor about this, yes?” I asked, feeling like a jerk but thinking that this woman might be the first certifiably crazy person I’d ever met in my life.

“Of course,” Beth said defensively. “I consulted with a psychiatrist and a psychologist. I even went to an alternative therapist that Barb recommended. He took one look at me and told me that I needed a six month cleanse and that his schedule was too full at the moment.”

“Right, sorry that I asked, I just wanted to be sure that if anything could be done medically, then -” I stammered.

“No, I know, it sounds like I am riding the crazy town express,” Beth waved off my discomfort.

“Again, forgive me, but what if the move doesn’t work?” I asked.

“That’s just it, isn’t it?” Beth replied with a sigh. “I don’t know how to fix this. What else can I do? I really screwed up. I knew that I shouldn’t have spoken with that psychic, I just had a gut feeling, but I ignored it because I didn’t want to offend my friend.”

“It can’t be unfixable -” I began.

“But that’s exactly what it is,” she said, nodding her head. “Unfixable. Doors can be opened, by doing things that we shouldn’t. But they cannot be closed.”

“Beth, if I’m being completely honest with you, I have to say. I don’t think that moving is going to help you.”

“What do you suggest?” She asked.

“Please, don’t take this the wrong way, but, maybe it’s time to bring out the big guns. Have you spoken with your priest? About the possibility of oppression, or even -”

At that moment, the doorbell rang. We just looked at one another, neither of us moving even the teeny tiniest muscle. After a too-long minute, it became apparent that Beth was terrified. She couldn’t move.

“It must be FedEx,” I said, trying to convince both of us.

“We aren’t expecting a package,” Beth replied in a whisper.

I was overwhelmed and frightened and when I feel like this I tend to react with anger. I am more of a fighter than a flighter. Just ask the guy dressed as Jason from Friday the Thirteenth who jumped on the back of the haunted carnival ride my sisters and I were on. My ten year old self knocked that mother fucker right to the ground.

But, I mean, what the hell? This damned woman had invited me to her fucking house for Oreos and a good old-fashioned demon possession tale. I felt like my kids had been invited to a playdate only to have the other mother tell me that her children had a bad case of Hand, Foot, and Mouth.

I said, “Oh, for fuck’s sake, Beth, it’s the mail,” I stood and stomped to the front door all amped up on terror and annoyance.

I grabbed the front door handle and swung the door open, only to find, no one. Nothing. I looked out to the little tree filled hill across Cedar Street and felt the wind push my hair back from my face.

I heard footsteps behind me and felt Beth standing right next to me. Nice fucking personal space, I thought.  I said, “We must have taken too long to get to the door.”

When Beth didn’t say anything I spun around, about to snap at her again, but, she wasn’t there.

“Beth!” I demanded, a panic attack on the rise. I would have sworn that she was right behind me.

“Who’s at the door?” Beth called from the screened in porch.

“No one,” I said, quietly.

“Liz?” Beth called and began walking towards me.

“Yeah, sorry,” I replied. “No one is there.” I had my back to the open doorway and was facing Beth. I didn’t know which situation made me more terrified.

Beth stopped next to the stairs and said, “I don’t think we should be talking about this anymore.”

“You were just right behind me,” I said.

“No, I wasn’t,” Beth replied.

68b44387-00bd-4101-a78e-b961b936ec0dWe move in two days. We bought an adorable little house across town, dangerously close to family and good friends.

It is a good move. It is an exciting move. But it is the very first move I have coordinated completely by myself for four people. I thought I had things under control, but then I spent twenty minutes on the phone today with the nicest man from Xfinity Comcast. I wanted to cancel our service, but he just couldn’t manage to access our account. It wasn’t his fault. We don’t have Xfinity Comcast cable service. We have Verizon cable service.

Needless to say, things are fraying a bit at the edges.

I interviewed a woman named Beth some time ago, and she had an incredibly frightening story. So, on top of running through all of the moving to-do lists at night, I can’t sleep because my experience in Beth’s home was my first real paranormal experience. It left me a little, cracked. So far, with these interviews I’ve been able to explain things away. Tom’s actions were just a sign of mental illness. Mail knocked to the floor wasn’t a ghost cat, it was just a breeze. A trick of the light made me see something that wasn’t there at Pam’s house. Creeper Nick’s prediction of my pregnancy, just a mind-fuck.

But in Beth’s house, I actually felt something that I can’t explain away. And if I can’t explain it away, then this ghost stuff might actually be real. Not that I don’t believe the people that I have been interviewing, I just hadn’t ever experienced anything remotely paranormal myself. Though there was that time that I watched  a scary ghost story show on Fox when I was about ten years old then went upstairs to my room and when my sister came into the room behind me I was so terrified that I sort of hallucinated that she was a ghost woman wearing a long white dress and started screaming and couldn’t stop until my mom and dad ran upstairs and had to kind of shake me a bit to get me to stop screaming… Do you see why I shouldn’t be dabbling in all of this?

I am transcribing the interview with Beth now. It requires a bit of extra tweaking and commentary, so it is taking some time. I will post the story by Friday at the very latest.