Ramblings of a Retired Ghost Hunter

When I was a kid growing up in Connecticut Ed and Lorraine Warren were very active doing lectures and slideshows around the state. Every year, around Halloween they’d come to Ridgefield and do a presentation in the evening at the high school auditorium. Most people now know them because of The Conjuring movies; The Conjuring 1 and 2, Annabelle, Annabelle Creation, Annabelle Comes Home, etc. and I remember all the stories the movies were based on because I heard them tell those stories. In person. In a dark auditorium. When I was about ten years old.

Yeah, my parents took a ten year old to see the Warrens. They need some kind of special parenting award for that.

So, I was about ten and sitting in the auditorium listening to audio tapes of people under demonic possession, and seeing pictures of this huge honkin’ Raggedy Ann doll (the real Annabelle was a Raggedy Ann) that would move around the house and leave notes for her owners in crayon when they were at work… I don’t think I slept at all for like three weeks, and even when I did sleep after that I slept with the lights or the TV on in the bedroom. FOR YEARS. It was also the year that the book The Amityville Horror came out. I had the paperback and read it – yeah, at TEN, and yeah, my parents bought it for me – the Warrens had George Lutz with them that year, and he signed my book. So, I had kind of a twisted childhood and a fixation on the paranormal from a young age. I followed the Warrens’ lectures and even went to some of their “classes” at the Carousel Gardens (a supposedly haunted restaurant which turned out to be as much of a hoax as Amityville in the end) as an adult. I had all their books and believed in ghosts and all that.

Let’s talk about Amityville for a second. Ronald DeFeo murdered his whole family one night, with a shotgun. Killed his parents and all his younger brothers and sisters. He later told the police and testified that he heard voices telling him to do it. Then the house was purchased by the Lutz family who had a failing business and three kids. Twenty eight days later they moved out and left all their stuff behind. That was in the 1970’s. Not too long ago they admitted that it was a great money-making hoax. Nothing happened in that house. Ronald DeFeo has since confessed that his lawyer told him to say that stuff about hearing voices. He’s in prison for the rest of his life anyway, he has nothing to gain or lose at this point by telling the truth. But the Warrens said it was “as close to hell as they ever hope to get.”

So, when I was almost 40 years old I moved to a different county in CT than I’d been living in most of my life. I was single, working full time, etc., and wanted to make some new friends more locally so I went on meetup.com and found some groups I was interested in. One of them was a ghost hunting group. I thought that sounded like the most fun ever. So, I joined. That was where I met my friend, Mary, who was the “medium” of the group. She could see and hear spirits and the things she’d relate back to the friends and relatives of those spirits was always perfectly accurate. We ran around cemeteries at night taking pictures and getting EVPs. We had websites and got calls from people who thought they had something in their homes. We spent long nights in homes throwing bottles of holy water around and lighting up sage and smoking ourselves out of the house. We did some of the most ridiculous things.

I remember one night we were in someone’s house and they’d been getting bitten and scratched and pushed down the stairs by unseen forces for weeks. We were there a bunch of times, saging and placing crystals and St Michael medallions, etc. One of the last nights we were there we were sitting at the kitchen table reading some Psalms and praying and whatever was in the house started banging on the walls – pounding – and the more we prayed the more it pounded. Eventually it stopped and we thought we were pretty cool. I started taking pictures around the house and didn’t seem to be getting the shadows or the orbs or whatever that I had been getting before. We went home. It was about four in the morning when I got home and started downloading the photos onto my computer. One picture in particular kind of stopped me short. It was in the living room, and I caught one of the windows in the picture. In the window there is a clear image of something – something pale with sunken eyes starting in the window at me from the porch outside. I guess that was my wake-up call.

So, back to the case where I got the picture of the face in the window…. We were a group (ship of fools, car of idiots) and we were led (and misled) by this older man named Richard. Richard was a Liabetic. Richard had Liabetes and it was not a treatable case. During the same night I took the featured image here Richard was taking pictures upstairs. Now, mind you there were a half a dozen people in the house that night, at least. So, the next day Richard tells us that he’s done the impossible, he has gotten a photo of a full-body apparition the likes of which has never been seen before and he’s gonna blow the top off the the paranormal community at some presentation come up in a few weeks. He shows us the picture. I look at it and realize what’s happened – he’e captured the image of another one of our group members in a mirror in the bedroom. It’s not an apparition, it’s Pete. I pointed this out to Richard – privately so he might be spared some embarrassment.

Richard really wanted that photo to be an apparition. Richard had already told a bunch of people about it and Richard wasn’t recanting. He told me he saw his error, agreed it was Pete and then effectively threw me out of the group. He forbid a couple of people in the group to speak to me and everything.

The photo he took was PETE.

Now, I’m kind of thinking that this may have been a blessing in disguise, not just because I don’t want to be associated with someone who would knowingly and purposely perpetuate a blatant fraud, but because of what happened next.

Have you ever seen the TV show, “A Haunting”? The very next case Richard took the group to was later featured on A Haunting. The title of that episode was “A Nightmare in Bridgeport”. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2410504/ The friend I mentioned earlier, the one who recently passed away (Mary) appears in the TV episode, and I believe that this was the case that pushed things over the edge with her, resulting in her possession. The episode also features Bishop Robert McKenna of Connecticut who was a cohort of the Warrens and was included on many of their cases which also included exorcism. He was in his 80’s by this time and actually got pushed down a staircase by the spirits inhabiting the house. Right before he was pushed, Mary heard a voice saying, “Priest better watching his ______ing step.” So maybe it was a blessing to me that I wasn’t there for that case, because I’m not sure in the end that I would have fared any better than Mary did.

So, where was I? Okay, right “Nightmare in Bridgeport” on that show A Haunting. That whole thing all started with a phone call from the leader of one para-abnormal team to another. This guy who actually had his own little ghost busting group realizes that his own childhood home, where his widowed mother still lives is haunted. He says he had some scary experiences there as a child but things were quiet until his father was at the end stages of Parkinson’s and started talking about seeing people in the house. Then the father died and the mother started being terrorized by something. He went in to do his own investigation and I guess things didn’t go so well, because he called the Liabetic to come in with his team. His team included Mary who was by this time pretty well known as a bona fide medium. Things got ugly fast. They called in the Bishop who got pushed down the stairs. Nothing worked. Apparently the Liabetic tried reading the Roman Catholic exorcism rites by himself while he sat on the couch chain smoking cigarettes. Meanwhile the demons in the house were watching them, going, “Wait, hold my beer….” After a bunch of attempts they were unable to convince anything to leave except the dude’s mom who moved out and left all her stuff there. To the best of my knowledge they still own the home but no one lives there.

Just after that things started getting really bad for Mary, financially and physically. She had to move herself and her two teenage kids in with her elderly aunt who had dementia. She couldn’t live by herself by that point, anyway, so it was either someone come to live with her or she’d have to go into a nursing home. She was Italian and the older she got the less English she used. And there was some weird stuff going on in that old farmhouse. I spent a lot of time there, but hung out mostly in the old barn behind the house, but that’s a story for another night. My (now) husband had to live there for a month of two, in the barn, and I stayed most nights there with him. My trips inside the actual house were few and far between.

I started thinking about it after a while; the fact that everywhere Mary lived there was something wrong with the house. I mean that in a spiritual sense, not necessarily a physical sense. She grew up in a house that creeped me out every time I drove by it and that was even before I met her. The house that she lived in with her husband had some kind of weird stuff going on (the former owner murdered his wife in what became the playroom. With an axe), then there was a little rental house in Devon and more spooky stuff there, and then finally the aunt’s house. I was never in that house before Mary and the kids moved in so I don’t know what it was like before. I can only say that it had its moments of being genuinely terrifying after. It occurred to me much later that it might not be that Mary kept choosing houses with bad spirits in them, but that those spirits might just have been attached to her. I really came to believe that after she passed just about two weeks ago. I went up to Boone to be with her (now grown) kids the day she passed. I stayed for the night since I live two hours away. I slept in her room. And there they were. I closed the door, changed into my jammies and lay down. No sooner was I in that bed than I felt them in the room with me. I paid them no attention other than telling them, “Not tonight”. I said a prayer and went to sleep. Two days later her daughter told me she’d seen shadows in the home. They’d plagued Mary her whole life and now they’re kinda homeless, looking for someone else to glom onto.

I related this to a couple of friends the other night while we were out at dinner. One friend commented that she’d probably have nightmares from the conversation. I sometimes forget that there are people out there who don’t have these kinds of daily experiences. As Bill Murray in Ghostbusters II said, “You’re scaring the straights!”

I still can’t believe how dumb we were. How amusing we must have been to those demons, who are actually fallen angels. Satan took a whole third of the heavenly host with him when he was cast out. They must have had a few good laughs at us out in those cemeteries, or in people’s homes waving sage at them.

The beginnings all seemed so harmless; using Angel Cards to get answers to questions on health and love and money. Using Divining Rods to see if there were any spirits in a house and where exactly they were. The Bible says a lot about not doing these kinds of things. There’s no gray area about it. But we invented a grey area for ourselves to justify what we were doing. The woman who led the first ghost hunting group we were in together is also deceased now. She called herself an exorcist, and she used a Ouija board. I believe it was a rather drawn-out cancer at a pretty young age just a couple of years ago. As for the Tarot and Angel cards…. who do you think is on the other end of that communication if God said not to consult witches, sorcerers or diviners? It’s not God’s holy angels that are passing along information to the people reading those cards. The angels that stayed in heaven with God are not going to rebel against his Word like that. So then….. who?

I remember the first time I tried an EVP recording. It was in a cemetery, late at night. I did the usual question thing for a while, then just left the recorder on top of a headstone for maybe an hour while I wandered off to take pictures and such. I took the recorder with me to the gym the next evening and put my little earbuds in as I got on the stationary bike. I practically peed myself I was so scared. I suddenly wasn’t sure if I wanted to hear anything on that recording or not!

I didn’t, by the way. Hear anything, I mean. But I was plenty scared. Which didn’t stop me from going out the next night to do the same stupid thing. There was a case in Middletown that we went back to again and again. One night a bunch of us went out to get Dunkin’ and when we got back the family plus the one investigator we’d left behind were sitting at the kitchen table, just paralyzed with fear – and we could still hear what they’d been hearing, which was the sound of furniture being dragged across the floor in one of the bedrooms just overhead. There was no one up there. And there sure were some scuff marks on the floor where it looks like the heavy dresser had been dragged around.

Moving furniture is a pretty common occurrence. I remember when I was in my late teens, maybe I was twenty by then but no older than that. I had an apartment in Westport and my friend, Linda was home from college on a break. Her parents were living in a rental house in Ridgefield because they’d sold their home and their retirement home on the Cape wasn’t ready yet. Anyway, it was a creepy house. Her folks were on the Cape for the weekend so I’d brought a bag over and was going to spend the night. We were in the kitchen and Linda was cooking dinner and I kept feeling like there was someone staring at me. After dinner we were hanging out in the living room and the storm door to the porch kept opening by itself from a latched position. Then the basement doorknob (just the knob, not the door) started rattling a little. She told me, “Oh, wait until later when it sounds like someone is upstairs rearranging furniture!” I got my bag and headed for the door SO FAST. I told her if she wanted to hang we’d have to do it at my apartment, and I’d wait outside in my car for five minutes for her or I was outta there.

Of course I didn’t know then what I know now, all I knew is that I was terrified and I wasn’t sticking around for any furniture moving nonsense.

One of the first things I remember hearing from the Warrens when I was a kid was that Ouija boards are very dangerous because they are “blind communication” and open doors to the demonic. Well, if that didn’t scare me nothing did. I remember going through the toy department in stores and going to the other side of the aisle to even walk by them. Yeah, they sell them in toy stores. Parker Brothers, I think was the manufacturer of the most popular one. They make them in pink now, too, because demons are fluffy and cute.

When I was in high school we had a British Lit class or something and we were reading the play, “Blithe Spirit”, by Noel Coward. I was psyched about this because the summer before I’d done the play with a local town theatre group, so I knew all the lines, and I was certain to get a good grade on it. The play, for anyone who hasn’t seen it, is about a widower who is remarried and he and his wife host a seance at their home and the ghost of his first wife comes back and hilarity ensues, etc. So, there was no Ouija board in the play, however my high school teacher thought it would be fun to bring one in for us at the end of the quarter for us to play with. I saw her take that board out and I freaked. I wasn’t participating, in fact I wasn’t even gonna sit in the same room with it. I got up and walked out. To the best of my knowledge nothing happened, but that doesn’t mean that invitations weren’t issued – just because something didn’t immediately take anyone up on them doesn’t mean they wouldn’t respond ten years later.

So, being so afraid of Ouija boards, you’d think I’d be smart enough to stay away from dowsing rods, right? Right? No. Apparently not. Dowsing rods are thin metals rods, with handles and they used to be used to find water or wells on property and that was called Water Witching or something like that. The theory is that the metal rods will react to certain energies, including spirit energy. So you can sit there with the rods pointed straight out and if there’s a spirit in the near vicinity the rods will move in your hands to point at it. You can also ask the spirit to cross the rods to answer a question with Yes, or push them apart to answer with No. Kind of like… a Ouija board, only with fewer options. I guess I didn’t see it that way when I bought my first set of rods.

There are so many little gateways to the demonic that we don’t even really think about because they’re dressed up pretty or cloaked in New Age Enlightenment. Tarot cards. Angel cards. Ascended Master cards. Dowsing rods.

In the Garden of Eden the devil came to Eve and asked her, “Did God REALLY say…?” He didn’t make a direct accusation at first, he just planted a seed of doubt in her mind, and then showed her something shiny. Isn’t he still doing that today? “Did God really say that you shouldn’t try to contact the dead?”

Yeah. He really did say.

To be continued…

My Books on Amazon