When I was sixteen I received a very unusual gift from a neighbor who claimed to be a practicing warlock. The neighbor, whom I'll call Mr. Jones, was in his daily life an attorney with a wife and two sets of twins. (The twins were proof enough to me at that age that the neighbor was a warlock.) His gift was a pedigreed poltergeist, who I promptly named Pandemonium. At the time I had no idea how prophetic that name would be. Pandemonium, while invisible to the naked eye, arrived with a parchment scroll tied in a ribbon, announcing his lineage.
I explained to my family that I had a new pet, and even though they would probably never see him, Pandemonium would live in my bedroom, which was a converted garage and my personal haven. I had decorated my room with an antique red velvet ball-and-claw sofa, a couple of fake Tiffany lamps with real fringe on the edges, and several Mick Jagger posters. As far as I was concerned, I had the coolest bedroom of anyone I knew and certainly the most exotic pet.
Pandemonium and I communicated telepathically. I was able to ask him to make the fringe on the lamp swirl and do a few other tricks, like turn on the TV or the vacuum cleaner, but like a spoiled child, he would never do anything if anyone else was in the room. One day I complained out loud to Pandemonium that there wasn't much use to having a poltergeist if no one else knew he was around except me. Mistake. Big, big mistake.
That night at around three a.m. I was awakened by the sound of my mother's voice yelling through the house,"What in the world is going on around here?" I went into the living room to find out why my mother was up in the middle of the night, and she said she had suddenly woken up and found every light in the house on and all of the doors and windows wide open. She wanted to know if we kids were playing a joke on her. When we told her we hadn't done it, she called the police. The police came but didn't find any signs of forced entry. Nothing was missing and everyone was okay, so they eventually left. I had a very bad feeling in the pit of my stomach that I knew who was responsible for this.
I went into my room and had a long chat with Pandemonium and told him that it wasn't funny and he'd better not do it again. But Pandemonium didn't listen to me. The next night, at three a.m., it happened again. When it happened the following night as well, I realized I needed help. My mom did not believe that an invisible ghost named Pandemonium was playing tricks on us, and her patience was wearing thin, as was mine.
I made some phone calls to find out how to "banish" Pandemonium from our home. One of my teachers gave me a wooden cross and a copy of the Lord's Prayer. I bought some candles of special colors and some special incense, and wrote a prayer with all the wisdom of a neophyte pagan. That night, as the moon rose, I sprinkled salt in the four corners of my bedroom for protection, lit my candles and incense, recited the prayers, and set Pandemonium's pedigree on fire, banishing him from our lives forever. Not knowing if it would work or not, I stayed up all night to see what would happen at three a.m. Nothing happened and I couldn't have been happier.
I never heard from or saw Pandemonium again. After that incident it was years before I would even dare to read my horoscope in the newspaper. I had witnessed firsthand the mysteries of the occult and decided to stay as far away from the occult as possible.
Is there life after death? Is there a spirit world? Can spirits intercede on my behalf? Like many young people, I heard various opinions on these subjects. Although I wasn't sure about a lot of the finer points, I felt I had reason to disagree with the black-white, psalm-singing-for-eternity, hell-fire-damnation- forever opinion that my parents expressed. Besides, I knew our house was haunted. So did my sister.
The downstairs was as boring and normal as anyone's house. The upstairs was haunted. It, or perhaps I should say "they," were something I had always lived with upstairs: ghosts. Our upstairs ghosts had quite a repertoire for the unseen: footsteps (often the tip-toe of a child), doors closing or opening, and sometimes even turning on a light. All of which were quickly followed by a clatter of footsteps going down the stairs: ours.
I would always tell Mother about these noises and her answer was always the same: squirrels. Discussion on this, as with any other subject, was futile. It was just as useless to argue the likelihood of a squirrel opening a door as to point out that the only squirrels likely to be living close to our house would have to live upstairs, as there were no large trees within hopping distance!
Eventually, my sister opted to move upstairs and claim a room of her own. The room she chose was not known for ghostly phenomena. So far as I know, her move was uneventful, and she soon went away to school. Then it was my turn. I was a full-fledged teenager by this time, the room I chose was the lesser of the two remaining evils, and the only one with a closet.
The other room, "the study," was where the footsteps came. It had a perpetual chill to it and really unpleasant images. The room I chose had perhaps more dramatic phenomena, but less often, and ... it had a closet. It was a closet that sometimes did interesting things, but a closet nonetheless....
It was fun getting the room ready! I got to choose paint and fabric and even carpeting! When it was finally ready, it was a confection of peach, lime, and hot pink: a teen dream with no room for ghosts.
Meanwhile, I had begun to pursue my interests in psychic phenomena by using a Ouija board and table-talking with my best friend. (This was about all that was easily available in those days.) My other interests were art and literature, and I had recently "discovered" and become quite enchanted with Oscar Wilde. I frequently summoned him by Ouija board, and considered him a friend.
I had not been ensconced in my new quarters for long when trouble started. The footsteps stayed in the other room, but there was a definite air of hostility in my room. No slamming doors, just a black smothery feeling of something hovering that was strong enough to wake me. I tried a night light, I tried "positive thinking," I tried playing Donovan music, I tried asking, I tried telling it to GO AWAY! I constantly reminded myself that a "spirit" cannot hurt a person. Despite this, it seemed to grow more menacing. Yikes!
Finally, one night in desperation, I thought that perhaps if I couldn't get this "thing" to go away, perhaps another spirit could! So I called Oscar. "Oscar! Oscar! Can you please make this leave me alone!" I did this silently, of course, but ... it worked! No black smothery thing! Just a warm feeling, and I felt I could see Oscar sitting in my rocking chair laughing. I slept soundly, and it became a nightly ritual to summon (or ask) Oscar to watch over me.
Perhaps it was my imagination. Perhaps ... but then one morning my mother asked me if I was having trouble sleeping.
"No," I replied.
"Well then, are you sitting up at night reading?"
"No," I replied.
"Well, you're doing something because I hear you rocking off and on all night long!"
"Ah!" I replied, "it must be squirrels."
She never mentioned it again.
This may sound silly, but I've always been very good at reading body language, and sometimes it seems as if I'm actually reading people's thoughts. Call it intuition, call it sensitive observation, I have no preference. It's even easier with animals because they lead less complicated lives and don't hide behind words. I get along very well with creatures. It must be because my family always had cats and dogs when I was growing up.
When I was either fifteen or sixteen I had a tremendous crush on one of my brother's friends. My brother was a year and a half older than I and only one grade ahead, so we interacted often, in and out of school. A group of his friends and mine were hanging out at our house one afternoon. I was thinking about how much I wished I could go over and touch this guy. But I was way too shy, and I had never even told him I liked him.
All of a sudden our little black cat, Midnight, jumped up on my lap and put her wet nose against mine and gave me this kind of knowing look. Then she hopped off my lap and went over and started purring loudly and rubbing up against the guy's leg, just getting very friendly and cuddly. In my mind I asked her, "Give him a kiss for me."
Immediately she climbed up in his lap and draped herself over him shamelessly. I willed her to go ahead and do it. After a while she put her sweet little wet nose right up in his face. Then she turned and gave me this little glance, as if to say, "See, I did it for you."
I think she read my mind! That's what I mean by cat telepathy.
The Devil Made Me Do It
Michael E. Morgan
It was a perfect night for the things that go bump. A crisp October wind kicked up its heels, howling through the trees for a full moon to rise. The sun had already crept below the horizon. Darkness was soon to follow. It was Halloween. Fleeting thoughts of witches, warlocks, vampires, and werewolves danced in my head. I didn't believe in that stuff, you understand. That was reserved for the late-night horror buffs. Actually I was thinking about a costume. It was six o'clock. I was on my way home from work and still hadn't confirmed which party I was going to attend.
Several parties were under way in the neighborhood. The real question still remained. Which party would have the most chicks, food, and fun? My final choice was easy. I would go to Todd's house. Todd's place was a no-brainer. His parents were out of town on business. This meant more freedom and loads of fun, two important ingredients for this evening's festivities. Todd was also class president, an iron-clad guarantee for lots of chicks.
By the time I arrived home, showered, and combed my hair, and then went shopping, most of the good costumes were sold out. So I arrived with only a black mask and cat's whiskers.
Todd planned a special surprise. While everyone gathered around the punch bowl acting like a bunch of desert vultures, Todd's voice shouted like a trumpet over the noise, "Before you begin to realize the punch has extra punch, you all have to go on a trip." The crowd groaned restlessly. Then Todd began to explain, "Everyone must collect a number of items listed on your invitations." Oh God! Now we were on a scavenger hunt. I wasn't exactly against the idea. But it did dampen any plans for chumming with the girls.
As Todd began to explain the rules of the game, I wandered into the kitchen. I was already hungry. No way was I going out without a snack. I passed by the kitchen and through the serving doors. I knew Todd would cater the party because he didn't "do" food. Money was also no object. His relatives came from old European blood and were stupid rich. Two long tables stretched along the hallway. Crêpe paper and decorations covered several intriguing lumps begging for a peek. My grumbling stomach couldn't resist. The large lumps turned out to be huge glass bowls full of steak tartar. Yeah, that's right, raw meat. Yuck!
Chuckling to myself, I thought, "Maybe his old European blood is from Transylvania. Well," I continued quietly to myself, "I don't intend to grow fangs any time real soon. So I'll have to settle for the carrots, celery, and dip." With a drinking cup full of dip and a pocketful of rabbit food, I was now ready to take on any challenge.
By the time I re-entered the main arena of the living room most of the others had already left, leaving me teamed up with Maryjo, the nerd from seventh-period social studies, and Billy Thornton, the geek from math class. They looked at me with their puppy dog eyes, expecting perhaps that I had their next bone. "Come on! Let's go. The rest are way ahead already," said Billy. Then Maryjo grabbed me by the arm, pulling me toward the door.
"Whatever," I said dispassionately. This was starting to depress me. First, the food was so ripe it still needed to be shot and cooked. And second, I was cavorting about the neighborhood with people who could try out for one of David Lynch's flicks. I took the crumpled list from Mary- jo's clenched fist. My response was almost instantaneous. "Huh! This is a joke. Right? It's impossible. Look! Check it out." I continued persuasively, "There is a pink-and-black polka-dot baby umbrella, a woman's red-laced high-top shoe for the left foot. Oh, and here is a 78 vinyl of Nelson Eddy singing 'I Am Calling You' from some dumb movie. Oh come on! Give me a break. We have to get a Barbie and Ken doll dressed up as surfers. Todd has to be kidding!" I blurted out finally.
Then Maryjo pleaded, "We could find them if we really try." Billy nodded in agreement.
Then I retorted, "There is no way to find these things in this century, let alone tonight!" I didn't know which was worse, the list from hell or my group, who really believed they could find the artifacts from another world. While hours passed, my precious chumming time was devoted to turning the neighborhood upside down. Meanwhile, I tried to convince them. This was nothing more than an incredibly cruel joke played out by our jerk of a class president.
On the other hand, I had to admire Maryjo and Billy's tenacity. They held out for more than two hours before they conceded to my logic. Upon our return, we discovered a new wrinkle. As I suspected, most of the others had quickly realized the truth of Todd's sick humor. They returned early to chow down and party hardy. I wasn't too far-off about the main course, though. Many got sick and went home early, placing the proverbial Halloween stake in the heart of Todd's party. I had to agree our effort saved us from a bellyful of agony. The rest split up and went home frustrated. But I felt that the night was still young and full of mischief.
I decided to check out Rick's place. As I walked in, the music played low and slow, feeling like a lullaby. Everyone looked briefly at me standing in the door, but they quickly returned to their conversations. Rick appeared suddenly from the kitchen with some brews under his arm. Distributed on several small tables there were bowls of half-eaten popcorn, potato chips, and pretzels, with some strewn on the floor below. Rick sauntered toward me. He extended a can of beer that was already open and said, "Here. You look like you could use this more than me."
My body flopped onto the sofa with a sigh. "You got that right. It's been a night from hell."
Rick smiled. "Excuse me, buddy. But isn't that what this night's all about?"
I chortled. "Yeah. I guess you're right. So what's going on around here, anything to rave about?"
Rick's expression suddenly changed. His mouth up-turned into a sardonic grimace. "Well, actually old buddy, we were just waiting for someone like you to show up. We needed some new life to add to this party. If you get my drift."
I blinked innocently. What did he mean by that? Meanwhile, I figured if I waited long enough he would tell me. Nonchalantly I glanced around for any female prospects, while I tried not to look too desperate.
Rick's fingers wrapped a firm grip on my shoulder as he also looked around the room. Then he clamped down on my shoulder several times as if he was giving me a cue of some sort. Then Rick started again. This time he addressed the group like a carnival barker. "Now here we have a real treat for you folks. That's right. I invited old Mike here to offer one of his many feats of entertainment. So, Mike ... go ahead and show us what you've got up your sleeve tonight."
Staring at Rick, I poured out as much ferocity as I could and grimaced back at him. I was in no mood to be a clown. All I wanted was to quietly disappear into a corner with a good-looker and get lost in her favor. While I tried repeatedly to back off from Rick's persistence, he just wouldn't turn loose. He kept badgering me to do something.
Now I'm not really sure what happened to me after that. But the worm had definitely turned! My frustration converted to fury. Something dark welled up inside me. While I looked away, trying to ignore him, I noticed that my mud- encrusted hiking boots shed their skin from the hunt. A nasty little chuckle bubbled up as I thought about that ridiculous red shoe. Then the lazy atmosphere plunged with the sound of glass breaking on the tile floor. A momentary bright red plume captured my attention from Rick's smoldering fireplace. No one else seemed to notice. The whole night rolled together into this moment, filling my otherwise blank mind with mischief.
I arose slowly from the sofa almost simultaneously as Rick took his seat. I looked around the room once more. Then I began, "You want some real excitement? Why don't we do something that really matches this evening's flavor? Let's bring the real master of ceremonies to join our little group. Let's call up the Devil. Okay? What do you think?"
I didn't expect any takers, actually. But to my surprise, everyone thought it was pretty kinky. Now I had opened my mouth and put my foot squarely into it. Everyone moved closer to the edge of his or her seat waiting for the magic to begin. I confess, I was at a loss. I had started something I didn't know how to finish. "Well," I thought to myself, "it's only a gag, right? So what the hell. I'll just make it up as I go along."
Then Clark shouted from the back of the room, "So, how do you call up the Devil? Do we have to get naked?" Then he giggled.
Lorie responded sarcastically, "Shut up, Clark. Michael reads about this stuff. He'll know what to do." My face flushed.
Then Greg chimed in and challenged me, "So what about it, Mikey? Show us what you've got."
"It's simple," I said. "You just have to call his name three times like you mean it."
Then Rick joined in, "So what's his name, sport? He's got to have a name. Right?"
"Yeah. He's got a name. You all know it, too. It's Lucifer."
"Okay! Let's do it. This is really razor, man," Linda added enthusiastically.
I decided to offer a bit of serious concern, adding more to this already melodramatic practical joke. I said, "Listen, guys, are you sure you want to do this? You have got to be serious, you know?" While they sat erect and poised, privately I was thinking, "What a bunch of jerks."
Then uproars of excitement rattled the room as everyone yelled in unison, "Yeah, let's get it on!"
"Okay. On the count of three. One ... two ... three ..."
"Lucifer ... Lucifer ... Lucifer!"
A solemn silence fell over the room. Suddenly Rick's front door blew wide open followed by a cold gust of wind. The fireplace burst into a roaring blaze and everyone began to sing in unison, "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the flaming of the lord." The room fell dark as the flame receded. All sat in a daze. I was shocked and horrified. A hideous presence moved before me and whispered into my ear, "Don't ever call upon me unless you are truly serious."
I jumped from my seat and declared desperately, "Well? What do you think? Did you hear yourselves singing?"
No one responded except for Linda. She sat closest to the door.
"Did someone forget to close the front door? I'm freezing in here."
"Greg, what about you? Didn't you see the flames shoot out of the fireplace just a moment ago?"
Greg shook his head negatively. "Sorry, Mike. I don't recall that or anything else for that matter. So this was a joke, huh? Michael, you're the greatest. What a player."
Everyone started to laugh as the rest joined in. All slapped me on the back with cajolery. But I wasn't pleased. I realized I was the real fool. I could hardly believe it. I realized no one knew what had just happened. This hapless joke was on me. I staggered to lean on the wall near me while Rick called out for another round of fresh cold beer. I was dazed and confused. Nausea rippled through my stomach. I went pale when I thought about how easy it had been.
I made up my mind then and there that I would never fool around again. I was a bigger fool than the rest as I realized the awful truth: The Devil made me do it!
Before joining the staff of the Bryn Melyn Community for Adolescents, I had spent my adult life as a soldier in the special forces of the British Army. That rigorous training left little space in my consciousness for anything mystical, magical, or spiritual. If I couldn't perceive it with my five senses then I paid no real attention to it. But I knew deep down that it has always been a "sixth sense" that has gotten me out of the tightest situations. With all that macho stuff behind me, I was now working on a part-time basis with the most challenging human beings I had ever met. Tommy was one of Bryn Melyn's teenagers, and we were alone in the middle of a Welsh mountain wilderness picking berries for survival.
Tommy, like many of the kids at Bryn Melyn, had been expelled from every children's home where he had ever lived. At the age of seventeen things looked bleak for him. He had just come out of juvenile prison and he hated himself, the world, and everybody in it. At Bryn Melyn, after months of being unable to engage in any positive activity, Tommy announced to his caretakers that he wanted to learn survival skills. The staff jumped at the opportunity to allow him to move forward, and so I was recruited for the job of teaching survival skills to him in the wilderness on a one-to-one basis.
On the first day, we walked twenty-seven kilometers and on the second we pushed it to forty kilometers. Tommy was pleased with himself. I took some photographs so that he could look back on his achievement with pride. Having shared some hardship and considerable achievement, and within that common bond of interdependence, Tommy spoke to me for the first time that night around the campfire about his life. He told me that if he ever went back to prison he would hang himself-he hated it and life so much.
The training ended, Tommy went back to his more normal and negative existence, and I took another job away from Bryn Melyn. The film I'd taken on the trip remained in the camera, the way half-finished rolls often do, and much time elapsed before I had the pictures developed. Then having lost touch with Tommy, the photographs were put in the back of a drawer and forgotten.
Some time later I learned that Tommy had reoffended and gone back to prison. Whilst in prison he committed suicide. I was saddened that I had lost touch with him and that I hadn't attended his funeral. Things felt unfinished between Tommy and me, and I regretted not having said good-bye to him in some way.
More time elapsed. The photographs remained in the back of a drawer at home, and I changed jobs again-this time to join the full-time staff at Bryn Melyn. One winter's night at home, my daughter, Sam, went to a cupboard to pull out some recent holiday photographs. As she took her pictures out of a box two others fell onto the floor. They were the pictures of Tommy and me in the mountains. What made this seem strange was that minutes before Sam went to the drawer, I had been talking about Tommy to her and about his tragic death.
I felt I should do something with the photographs, so I took them into work the next day. I was busy at work; the photographs got stuck into a drawer and once again I forgot about them.
Some time later a visiting social worker was waiting in my office for an appointment with somebody else. He asked if he could have some paper to jot down an address while he made a call to his office for directions to his next appointment. As I pulled a new notepad from the drawer for the visitor, those same two photographs fell out on the table in front of the social worker. He looked surprised and then asked if it was Tommy in the photograph.
"Yes," I replied, somewhat perplexed both at the sudden reappearance of the photographs and at his inquiry.
"I used to be Tommy's social worker," he said. "It's such a pity-I was talking to his mother recently and she has no photographs of him at all."
"Please take them," I replied, "and send her my best wishes and condolences for her loss." So the photographs went to his mother.
As I spoke my sixth sense cut in again. None of this is accidental. Tommy badly wanted his mother to have those two photographs-especially because he was a success in them. I also needed to complete my experience with Tommy, and this was the way. The social worker was pleased. I was pleased. And I know, or at least my sixth sense knows, that Tommy was pleased.
When I was in the seventh grade, I took a bus to school that actually picked up and took kids to two different schools. A friend of mine on the bus went to the other school. One day he told me that he bought a voodoo doll at some psychedelic shop out of town during winter break. He also told me that it looked just like one of the other kids on our bus. The kid was dark skinned and had a little afro, just like that doll.
A few days later I went to my friend's house to look at the doll. It did look like the kid on our bus. We both wanted to do something to the doll to see if anything would happen to the real person. We decided to do something minor, so we cut off all the doll's hair to the point where the doll was bald. Honestly, we didn't think it would work.
The next day, the weirdest thing happened. When the kid stepped onto the bus, his head was completely bald. My friend and I were shocked. We thought it might have been a coincidence.
That same day after school I went over to my friend's house again to look at the doll. We wanted to try one more thing on the doll to see what would happen. This time we pierced the doll's left ear and put an earring in it.
The next day the weird thing happened again. When the bus came to the kid's stop, he stepped on as usual, but something about him was different-he had an earring in his left ear.
Coincidence or Voodooism? You be the judge.