One thing I have found to be a constant among most paranormal writers, enthusiasts, and investigators I've met is an experience with a haunting. Most of us have had something happen to us as children or adults, and the shock of that led us into wanting—or in my case, needing—to know more.
My obsession with the paranormal began early. I'd been born into a religious but psychic family, and had dealt with clairvoyance in the form of prophetic dreams and other things of that nature since childhood. But these experiences brought a sense of wonderment; they were nonthreatening. When we moved into a haunted house in my preteen years, true fear suddenly entered my life. It was like living in a bad horror movie twenty-four hours a day.
Back then, I had no idea I could take back my power, set boundaries, and do a cleansing (or any of the other current widely known ways of dealing with spirits). I was a frightened child and could barely admit our house was haunted, let alone do anything about it. For three years I lived in mortal terror. Finally, my mother was awakened several times by an old man bending over her face in the wee hours of the morning. Up until then, she hadn't believed us, but after that, we moved!
Since those days, I've often wondered whether my spirits weren't actually more of a poltergeist event. Poltergeist phenomena are the "hands on" type of haunting, the word itself translating to "noisy ghost." Some believe the energy of a preteen can bring on the phenomena. Others believe negative feelings are somehow projected from the teen into the house. Still others believe those with psychic abilities come into them at puberty—about the age I was when this occurred—and they explode outward in all directions, wreaking havoc.
In my haunted house, we not only witnessed full-bodied apparitions, but loud crashes, rapidly moving knocks on the walls and ceilings that jumped around faster than a human being could make them, and footsteps shuffling on carpet. But the true horrors at that house seemed reserved especially for me. I was the primary focus of the haunting, and it was awful. I was touched by invisible hands, my bed sheets were scratched by unseen fingernails while I lay on them, and I was even locked in the bathroom with the door held shut by an unseen force. One night the entire family even witnessed a skeptic dumped out of a heavy, upholstered chair after he poked fun at the "ghost."
All of this formed my young and impressionable mind into a certain belief system. I didn't know what was happening, but I knew there was more out there than they were telling me! And so I became obsessed with hauntings; buying Llewellyn books, watching whatever programs there were, and in general focusing my life on understanding what had happened to me. Nor has this been a passing phase; this obsession has lasted a lifetime. I delved into other esoteric arts and sciences as well; palmistry, tarot, investigating the paranormal—literally all branches that could be considered even remotely connected with that first ghostly experience.
My first book, A Haunted Life: The True Ghost Story of a Reluctant Psychic, tells the story of that haunted house and my efforts to make sense of a lot of personal tragedy that followed. Had I brought something with me when I moved out? I wasn't sure, and to be honest, I'm still not.
My own ongoing paranormal experiences and stories from other like-minded individuals led to my latest effort. My new book is titled The Dead Are Watching: Ghost Stories from a Reluctant Psychic.
I can honestly say I am fascinated hearing what others have gone through with their own haunted experiences. Some people were total skeptics when they had their encounters with a spirit. Others had had several haunting events occur over their lifetimes, and weren't frightened by spirits any longer. Many times a loved one's spirit had returned after their death to let the family know they were okay. And some paranormal investigators simply went in search of just these types of experiences and found them.
Most of the stories in my new book stay with me even now, and I find myself thinking about them often. One of the most incredible stories is about a woman who had recently come through a scare with breast cancer. She had gone through treatment and her prognosis was good, but it still made her aware of her mortality as any such life-threatening event would tend to do.
She had taken a video camera to an old abandoned cemetery one fine summer day on a genealogical quest. She'd gone there in search of tombstones with the surname of her husband's family on them. When we met to talk about her story for The Dead Are Watching, she played the video for me.
The video opens with a blue summer sky. The scene pans across green grass and trees rustling in a slight summer breeze. The lady then begins a walk-through of the decrepit old cemetery, and as she progresses, she holds a sort of running commentary, narrating her surroundings.
"Here's a beautiful old stone, such a shame it's crumbling so badly. I can't even read the name." The video showed the headstone, long since abandoned. Then the lady speaks again.
"Look at this one, the baby died so young. That's so sad."
As I listened and watched her video, I became aware of a certain strange undertone, a noise barely audible below the rustling of the tree leaves. It was a scratchy, harsh, whispery sound. As the video camera scanned the baby's headstone, the whispering became louder—and it also became very obvious at that point that it was a voice! The muttering and whispering suddenly turned into a scream: "Get the baby!" It sounded very much like an old woman. The voice dropped again, and the scratchy, papery sound of an old woman talking continued. Rising and falling, first softly then louder, the voice droned on and on, almost as though someone were walking right beside the lady with the camera, desperate to get her attention.
The camera lady walked obliviously on, occasionally talking over the voice of the old woman. Several more times the old woman screamed, "Get the baby!" It seemed apparent that a long-dead woman was still in some frantic attempt to save a long-dead baby. The whispering and unbroken conversation went on and on throughout the entire video. I was in awe.
After the lady shut the scene off, I was truly speechless. "Do you realize that paranormal investigators spend entire lifetimes to get a few understandable, Class-A EVPs—only a word here or there, or, if they're lucky, an entire sentence? And you have an entire fifteen minute conversation!"
The woman nodded at me and said she only wished she had known someone was trying to communicate with her. We speculated on what may have happened. Perhaps a fire or some other extreme tragic event had wiped out her family, and this poor woman's spirit could not overcome her last horrifying moments of trying to save a child.
There are many other such stories in my latest book. Most are from average folks who have had something extraordinary happen to them, and they're trying to understand exactly what it was. For some of them, they realized the dead truly are watching, and their experience has started them on their own quest. I will never give up my search, and I hope you won't either.