*continued from part I

“Something’s down there!  Something’s down there!  Someone…I don’t know…it’s gone…it said my name…mom…it said my name!!”

We’ve all had one of those nights…a terrified child, a nightmare that seemed so very real…yes, I imagine most parents have had more than a night or two when a little one has come to their bedside with tears and fears.

Instinctively, I knew this was different, yet I said what I always do…calm down…it’s okay…it wasn’t real…you had a dream…there’s nothing to be afraid of…did you remember to say Jesus, Mary and Joseph when you were afraid?  Let’s pray….

Every parent wants to comfort a child who’s frightened, and it is an area, in our family, where we’ve concentrated great effort…eliminating fear.  I grew up with a steady diet of horror…most self-imposed through bad choices (films and books) and consequently spent a good deal of my life afraid.  Many, many years ago I abandoned that pursuit and the consequent fruit is great peace.  I’ve since been determined that my children not have that same experience.  They live very much in the real world, and while horror is not on the menu, they know all about special effects and fantasy, and greatly appreciate a variety of films that employ those techniques.   And they’re a pretty brave and hardy bunch of kids, not given to hysteria or wild imaginings.

So when the calmest, least flappable and most sensible of my children came to me in total panic, I suspected that perhaps something other than a dream was responsible.  I turned on the bedroom light and we began to talk.  He then told me that he knew it was wrong to take a soda without permission and that he shouldn’t have been up.  He knew he wasn’t supposed to be up after midnight watching a movie…pretty big admissions from a young man who really hates being caught at anything that’s less than honorable.  He seemed so honest and sincere…and afraid…it was hard to completely dismiss him, most particularly because he needed to be believed, or at least understood.  So I didn’t send him back to bed.  I listened.  And this is what he said (these are his words…he remembers it even now…he’s 16 years old and it’s all pretty clear):

I came downstairs after everyone else had gone to sleep, because I wanted to get a Dr. Pepper and watch Pirates of the Caribbean.  I went into the kitchen and got a soda.  I didn’t turn on any lights, because I didn’t want anyone to see the light on the stairway.  I sat on the couch and drank my soda.  That’s when I heard it…I heard footsteps coming from the other side of the house.  I knew they were footsteps because the carpet made a really weird squishing noise when someone walked on the plastic.  I thought my neighbor had come home and was coming over to get dinner, so I ducked down on the sofa, hoping he wouldn’t see me.  The footsteps stopped at the door and the door swung open, and I heard him walk past the sofa, but I didn’t look…I was still hoping I wouldn’t be seen.  As he passed by, I looked up, thinking I could maybe get up the staircase before he saw me, but there was no one there.  I continued to hear the footsteps in the kitchen, and then heard them coming back, but there was still no one there.  I was really, really scared so I closed my eyes as the footsteps approached the sofa, once again hoping I wouldn’t be seen.  And that’s when I heard it…right by my ear…someone said, in a whisper:   “Zachary…”  Just a whisper…I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman…I jumped up and ran up the stairs as fast as I could to my mom’s room.  I wasn’t sleeping.  It wasn’t a dream.  I heard it.  It was real…

There were so many details that just couldn’t be manufactured…the particular sound the carpet made when someone stepped on the plastic…he was so specific and so adamant that he was wide awake.  We decided that if he wasn’t lying then he had to be telling the truth…at least the truth according to his experience.  We weren’t there and so we (the adults of the households, all six of us) told him we believed him.  But we begged him not to tell any of the other children.  Children are very suggestible.  All it would take would be the insinuation that the house was “creepy” and we’d have a houseful of terrified children.  The rest of us agreed that we really needed to pray more and should probably call our parish priest and make an appointment to have the house blessed before someone else had a similar experience.  I think the men of the household were still a bit incredulous, but still…better a blessed house than not!

Unfortunately, we didn’t make the call soon enough.  A few evenings later, my teenage daughter had a similar experience.  This time it wasn’t just a matter of footsteps.  She saw someone…a young woman…on the staircase.  Very young, in a long-sleeved, high-necked dark dress, hair hanging loose…dark and wavy.  She was terrified, and hid her eyes as soon as she saw her, and immediately ran  across the hall to my room.  Now we had two frightened children and no way to convince them that perhaps it was just their imagination.  Zachary remained frightened, but never saw or heard anything after that first experience.  Meredith, on the other hand…from that point on, would regularly see and hear this young woman.  While upstairs, she heard her singing downstairs.  Approaching the staircase, she’d frequently see her at the end of the entry way.  She dreaded every trip up the big staircase, and for awhile, did everything she could to “not see” our ghostly visitor…

And there was Rylee, the baby.  Rylee was barely two years old and began experiencing night terrors.  It didn’t take long before I understood why.  Her crib was beside our bed, not far from the door that led to the outer hall and cloak room.  On at least three or four occasions, I would hear the handle of the door turn.  It didn’t open, but I would hear footsteps that came from the door to the side of the crib.  I would pray and tell “whomever” to leave my child alone…I prayed the St. Michael prayer continually.  I couldn’t bear the noises that I would hear, often praying that some other noise would drown out the sounds.  At least once, I perceived something in the room, by the door, but it was indistinct, unidentifiable.  The disturbance persisted and it was frightening…we needed a priest, and we needed one fast.

To be continued…