Living With the Paranormal: Culmination
A person’s life can be boiled down to a series of events. Some major, some minor. Some connected, some unconnected. It’s often difficult to know which is which. Sometimes it’s possible to see a pattern. And sometimes the apparent architect of that pattern seems to want to claim at least your sanity, if not your very soul.
My service in the Air Force was at an end, and I was preparing to move to Toronto a few months later. These and several other factors had caused my life to become quite tumultuous. A lack of harmony and/or an excess of chaos in one’s life seems to open one up to attack by entities that thrive on negativity, both human and otherwise. This tumult, I believe, seemed to draw the attention of the entity that had been following me since I was 15. When I moved from Travis Air Force Base to my buddy Kam’s place in South Lake Tahoe, I felt like it followed me.
Through the years, I’ve had multiple encounters with what seems like the same negative entity. The same feelings of dread, the same timbre to the noises I’ve heard, even just the same energy. It seemed to some degree fixated on me, and wanted to finally complete what it started those many years ago. In the months after the Darkness Falls incident, about which I wrote in my last blog entry, I felt more vulnerable; thus, it seemed eager to attempt to exploit my feelings of vulnerability.
From the moment I got in my car to start the drive from the base to Kam’s house, I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was fairly certain that it wasn’t anything to do with leaving the base, and I was also pretty certain that it had nothing to do with spending a few weeks with my buddy before I moved across the country to my parents’ house. It didn’t feel like simple anxiety. It almost felt like an external force - a slightly sickening, leaden feeling, and it simply wouldn’t go away.
The three weeks that I spent in Tahoe were a blur. The sinking feeling that I had in my gut only intensified in that time, to the point where I couldn’t sleep as normal. I played video games during the dark hours to keep me up so that I could sleep with the rising sun. Luckily, Kam was a blackjack dealer who worked the night shift at one of the nearby casinos, so all of his windows were blacked out, making daytime slumber a viable option.
Fear was my constant companion. At times, I could feel a sensation like someone’s finger only millimeters from the back of my neck. On two separate occasions, I heard a low grumble coming from Kam’s kitchen. Each time I checked, there was nothing to be found.
I asked Kam if he had ever had any odd or creepy experiences, and naturally he said no. Luckily for him, he’s not a believer in “that stuff”, so I was left to deal with these incidents by myself. I lacked the knowledge or experience to do an EVP session*, though in retrospect, I’m glad that I didn’t.
Soon enough my time at Kam’s place came to an end. My move to Toronto went ahead as expected, and by June of 2005, I was officially an expat. Two years passed fairly quietly. I had left the fear and apprehension that I had felt in Tahoe behind, it seemed. I suppose that the entity just didn’t have enough frequent flyer miles to make the trip in a speedy manner.
A different set of feelings had set in, however. You see, I had gone to Toronto to learn whether or not me and my then-girlfriend could stand to live with each other. If so, we were supposed to move back to the U.S. together and get married. This was originally only supposed to last six months. Two years had elapsed, and the second part of the plan didn’t seem to be happening. This lead me to start feeling out of place and useless. As a disabled veteran, I was unable to find a job, and since I was living in another country, I couldn’t go to school. I felt my life wasting away as I became trapped in a prison of my own making.
This despondency once again made me vulnerable. It wasn’t long before that creeping sense of dread with which I had become so terribly familiar over the years returned. It seemed most intense during the depth of night, with feelings of seemingly sourceless fear constant and ever-growing. The air around me seemed to vibrate with it, and it affected me in many ways. Sleep became elusive. People seemed to react to me differently than normal, less friendly and more apprehensive. Things started to happen that had no easy explanation.
When I would spend my nights playing World of Warcraft, I would often feel the presence of something right behind me. At first, I thought it may have been my ex, since the door to the bathroom was directly behind my computer chair. Whenever I would glance over my shoulder, though, there was no one there.
Often, when I would lay down to try to eke out a few hours of sleep, images would flash in the dim gray of my closed eyes. Normally when you close your eyes, you see a greyish nothingness. Sometimes, you can see a series of amorphous black and white geometric shapes. In these instances, I would see a grey and black nebula which would morph into hideous, otherworldly faces, one after the other. It created a fear so intense that it would make me feel too nauseous to sleep.
I was locked into this cycle for days. I would get a few fitful hours of sleep per night, and those hours were saturated by images of horror and butchery, much like when I was 15. It was then that I knew for certain that my enemy was back, and was stronger than ever. I could feel whatever meager mental defenses that I had built up over the years slowly eroding. It was building up to something.
Sibilant whispers began to form in the silences of my mind. Whispers that played on the fears left behind from being raised as a Roman Catholic. The scenes of butchery that had recently plagued my dreams were reminiscent of the typical images of hell that are rampant in the general Christian mythos. It was as if this entity was trying to build up my fear and replace it with anger for showing me these images. Anger that it was trying to channel into a challenge.
I feebly attempted to use the same method to fend it off as I had in my youth - that of an image of a shining suit of armor surrounding me formed by the residues of my former faith. I all but heard the entity snort with derisive laughter.
Anyone who knows me also knows that I have a stubborn streak a mile wide. The entity knew this, and shrewdly used it in its campaign to erode my will. If it simply stuck to these images of torture and pain, I would eventually have become numb to it as I found a way to reinforce my will, as I had done in the past. Therefore, what better way to break a person like me than to give me a cause to rally against by giving the ultimate middle finger to what my formerly religiously-oriented brain deemed the consummate evil?
Simply put, it wanted me to challenge the devil. It was persistent. Insidious. The words of the challenge would begin to form in my mind randomly. While I ate the food that tasted like ashes, while I attempted sleep that barely came, while I played games that brought me no joy. I knew in the depths of my being that if I gave in to this impulse, I would be irretrievably lost. I’d either go mad, or become possessed. But I was always able to stop it. Somehow.
It was at this point that my fear reached its peak; when I realized fully that to my mind, the myths were real. Though I had experienced incidents similar to these several times before, I suppose that I was holding out hope that they were manifestations of something else. Yes, I was hoping that it was mental illness, not… this. I was under attack by something that although I had been raised to believe was real, I had never truly believed could be. And the kid gloves were off.
I was pretty much done for. At my wit’s end, I started to cast around for help. My ex was no help, as she had shut down and more or less stopped interacting with me, which only deepened my sense of isolation and increasing my vulnerability. Her family was not particularly interested in paranormal occurrences, so they weren’t an option either. Out of desperation, I called my little brother, Matthew. I told him all about what had been going on in the last few weeks. I asked him what I should do. His reaction was unexpected.
"Isn't it obvious?" He chuckled.
"...No, apparently not. What are you talking about?" I asked, frustrated and perplexed.
"Well, it doesn't matter what we think. It's what we say and what we do that counts." he said. "If people were tormented or went to hell just because of what they thought about but never acted on, heaven would be empty and hell would be overflowing."
As soon as he finished his statement, a wave of calm washed over me. He was absolutely right!
"Thanks, Matt. I think you just actually saved my life." I said gruffly, gratitude and relief overcoming me. I'd never loved him more than at that moment in my whole life.
And so the tide began to turn. That same night, I felt the phrase start to form in my mind again. I shouted silently, “HAHA, F*CK YOU! YOU CAN’T CONTROL ME, AND F*CK YOU AGAIN FOR THINKING YOU COULD!!!”
The response was... nothing. Just silence. Wonderful, blissful silence. I almost couldn’t believe it. For that moment, my mind was my own again. That moment stretched on and on, until fatigue pulled me down into a deep and blessedly dreamless sleep.
It didn’t give up so easily. The following night, it tried again. It was much more forceful and intense, but so was my response. It tried to bully me, but was instead met with open ridicule, laughter and mockery. The night after that, it disappeared.
Within a week, my sleep patterns returned to normal. I was free again, and I had the feeling that it would be permanent this time.
I can only assume that I was no longer the easy mark that my pervading sense of listlessness and lack of direction had made me. These entities feed on fear and uncertainty, it seems, and I suppose that my denial of it had set it back on its proverbial heels. I hope that it didn’t find a new mark to vent its frustrations on, but who can say?
I’m keenly well aware that what I went through had the earmarks of several potential mental illnesses and psychological conditions, such as depression and schizophrenia. While on a trip to visit my family in the Bronx, I decided to make an appointment with the Bronx V.A. hospital's psychiatric department. I was 99% sure that what I had experienced was authentic, but an ounce of prevention, and all that... After talking to a psychologist for over an hour and a half, I never heard back from them. As far as the V.A. is concerned, no news is good news. As far as I know, I'm perfectly mentally healthy and stable. In fact, since December 2017, it’s been my honor to have been used as a healthy control in several V.A. studies on the possible genetic links to suicide among veterans.
Even the darkest times in one’s life can lead to positive change. In my case, this event spurred me to take hold of my life and make some hard choices. I moved out of Toronto and back to Tahoe with Kam, and started down the path that would lead me to fulfill the notion that I had while in Toronto, to go to culinary school.
The series of events that made me were a crucible that burned away many of my sources of fear and apprehension, especially of a spiritual and/or metaphysical nature. I know exactly who I am and what I stand for now, and it’s that sense of self that has been my ward against the darkness for over ten years. While at times I envy those who have their faith in a deity or greater power as a shield, I’ve found that faith in oneself is more than enough.
I’ve gone on to become a full-time paranormal investigator, in hopes that my efforts can bring a measure of peace to those afflicted by things which most people deride as ridiculous or absurd.
Stay tuned to this blog to read about me and my team’s investigations into the paranormal, since after having gone through all of that, I am now actively seeking out more situations that many people would run screaming away from!
*EVP = Electronic Voice Phenomena. This is when you make a recording of yourself asking questions of the ostensibly empty air, and review the recording later to see if any odd sounds or voices show up in the recording that weren’t present at the time of the recording. Pursuing these avenues by oneself is never a good idea. It seems to only increase the frequency and amplify the intensity of the strange occurrences, since if you’re creating an avenue of communication in the form of an EVP session or the use of a ouija board, you obviously want to hear more from them.
In 1997, my family and I moved from a 1,600 square-foot house in a nice neighborhood near Eastchester Road in the Bronx to a 1,300 square-foot... I hesitate to call it a shack, but that term wouldn't be too far off. It was a structure located behind a restaurant in Patterson, New York. A mere few dozen yards away from us was a ski slope, which we never set foot on. Overly athletic, my family is not.
I got a job at the Record Town in the Jefferson Valley Mall in, you guessed it, Jefferson Valley, New York. While working there, I met and started to date a gal named Jennifer. She had a sharp wit, and we joked with each other constantly. Unfortunately, she lived 20 miles away from me, so seeing her was difficult. Therefore, we spent much of our time together on the phone.
The phone in question was situated in the kitchen. It was one of those old 1980s phones with the extra-long cords that kinked easily. This nice, long cord allowed me to lay on the kitchen floor and chat with Jennifer for hours, much to most of the rest of my family's chagrin.
One evening, I was on the phone with Jennifer, and we were talking about some banal topic. My mother was sitting at the kitchen table doing a crossword puzzle. I recall very clearly how Jennifer and I were laughing at something one moment, then the next, I felt very strange. All of a sudden, I felt like my consciousness was shunted to the side.
Sadness. Deep, mournful, unfathomable desolation hit me like a fist in the gut. The next thing I know, I was sobbing with this alien emotion reverberating through me like echoes in a cave full of despair.
"Doug? What's wrong?" Jennifer asked, concerned.
"I... I don't know." My voice felt even, almost flat, despite the tears forcing their way out of my eyes.
"Why are you crying?!" She asked, the concern giving way to alarm.
"I have no idea." I replied in the same flat tone.
The funny thing is, the division between my partially-suppressed consciousness and the invading emotions was so sharp that I felt like a passenger within my own mind. My face was even relaxed, not contorted into the usual grimace of a person ravaged by emotions. I was sobbing with a straight face.
The onslaught lasted for about five minutes. It felt like a much, much longer stretch of time. Jennifer was freaking out all the while as I tried futilely to comfort her while also attempting to explain what was going on. Then, as suddenly as it started, it stopped.
All I know for sure is that after this all happened, I hung up with Jennifer, then stood up. My mother was still calmly sitting at the kitchen table, doing her crossword puzzle. I was so wrapped up in the strangeness of what had been happening that I'd forgotten that she was there.
"Mom? Did you hear what just happened?" I asked, relieved to have a witness.
She looked up from the crossword and gave me one of those patented mom looks over the rim of her glasses. "Something happened?"
Shocked, I briefly described what had happened to me five feet away from her.
"Oh, that. I thought she broke up with you or something. You need to find a reliable girl and settle down." She said pointedly.
I shook my head and went to my bedroom.
I couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened. I spoke with my brothers Andrew and Matthew, and Andrew said that it sounded like I was temporarily possessed by a tormented spirit. Wondering where one would have come from in this place, I asked my father if he knew anything at all about the prior residents. I was told that there was a house fire several years before we moved in. A family of migrant workers was living there at the time, and reportedly, two of them died in that fire. I don't know if that actually happened, but the feelings that had invaded my mind definitely seemed tortured enough to come from someone who had died such a violent, untimely death.
Why did this apparent lost soul choose me? I was happily engaged in conversation. My mental state was one of positivity and joy and contentment. Maybe this acted like a beacon. It hasn't happened to me again since then.
The Darkness Falls Effect
The strangest things can come from the most unlikely sources. In 2003, a series of odd occurrences in my life were precipitated by a ridiculous, mostly-forgettable horror film called Darkness Falls.
Typically, I don't really enjoy horror films. Blood and gore have never appealed to me, so films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the franchises Nightmare On Elm Street and Friday The 13th were more or less lost on me. Although, the remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre starring Jessica Biel's derriere wasn't half bad, though it was mainly her features that made the film bearable.
Then along came two films, The Ring and The Grudge, and the horror movie genre changed forever for me. Gore and explicit violence were replaced by a creeping sense of dread and palpable tension. Without turning this post into an examination of the evolution of horror films, suffice to say that I became more interested in them from the release of those films onward.
The trailers for Darkness Falls looked decent. They were shrewd with the timing of their release in the winter. Back then, that was when the typical post-summer blockbuster, post-Halloween cash-grab lull tends to happen, and content-starved cinephiles will shell out their hard-earned cash for anything that looks halfway decent.
One Friday night, me and a buddy of mine, Rich, decided to go check it out. After some typically contrived set-up, the first appearance of the monster occurred. It was a bit schlockey, and I should have been chortling over it. However, something about the combination of the creature's movement coupled with the wheezing, creepy sounds it made came together perfectly to stab the primal fear center of my brain. I could barely breathe as the scene played itself out. After it had, I told Rich that I had to step outside.
It took me ten minutes to sort myself out. Rich came out of the theater to make sure that I was ok. He was puzzled by my reaction, and frankly, so was I. I went back in, though, and finished watching the movie. Nothing in the rest of the film had anywhere near the same effect on me that the opening sequence did, but I came out shaken all the same.
I was living in a dorm in Travis Air Force Base near Vacaville, California, where I was stationed. I couldn't sleep. I was in my late twenties, and all too cognizant of the fact that this silly movie should most definitely not have had the impact on me that it did. But it did. I would close my eyes and see the fluttering blackness of the creature in my mind's eye. I could still hear the wheezing, gurgling sound that it made as it stalked its prey.
As a grown man in the military, I had to sleep with a light on for two solid months after watching that silly, frivolous movie about the frickin' Tooth Fairy.
To me, California had been utterly lacking in paranormal activity during my time there. It felt dead, no pun intended. I never saw or felt anything. I suppose that I had filled my time with swing dancing and dating and being deployed overseas, and I just didn't leave room for supernatural things. They didn't seem to find me, either. My mental defenses held up just fine. Until I had watched that movie, that is.
Something was different. I felt more open, vulnerable to outside forces that I had put up fortified walls in my mind against ever since that emotional invasion five years prior (I'll discuss my method for doing so in another blog post). I felt a presence in my room on several occasions. It felt negative, bordering on malevolent.
One night a few weeks after seeing the movie, I'd fallen asleep with my desk lamp on. I woke to the feeling of someone standing next to me. I saw no one when I opened my eyes, but when I looked down, I saw the corner of the bed a foot or so away from my feet being pushed down as though a weight was on it.
I should have been scared out of my mind. I wasn't, though. It was as if my sleepy brain said, "I can't do anything about it. I'm tired, I'm going to sleep."
And I did.
The presence gradually faded away after that, as if my ambivalence towards its big reveal robbed it of its power. After a week or so, it vanished.
It would be replaced a few months later with something much, much worse. That, however, will be the subject for the next post.
* * *
As soon as I saw the DVD for Darkness Falls, incongruously, I bought it. I then watched it every night for a week, until I was no longer afraid of this absurd, ridiculous Hollywood machination. I'd be damned if I let such a thing beat me down. Back then, it took around three to four months for a movie to transition from the theater to DVD, so by the time I bought it, I had already passed the time where that apparent entity held any sway over me. Better late than never, though!