The ghosts come out at night.
That’s what they all tell us at least. Whether it’s an old ghost story, and legend, or a talking head on a paranormal show, there’s something about a dark and stormy night that sets the table for an encounter. Reasons are sometimes provided. Pseudo-scientists, obsessed with explaining the paranormal using the idea of waves will talk about the sun’s radiation being lessened and how that allows other energies time to shine. Other will say that with the lack of light our other senses are heightened. The truth may be we’ve been told ghosts will come when the lights go out, and so we’re ready for them. Either way, there’s something about being defenseless, in your bed, that makes those shadows or creaks come alive and reveal the dead.
Maybe those sleeping moments are the reason. You’re subconscious and dream world bleed into reality and create hallucinations. Maybe you’re more awake when you’re asleep.
Over the years I’ve collected dozen of stories with two common elements; beds and ghosts. These are not moments of sleep paralysis or Old Hag Syndrome; they’ll be another post about those. Instead here are two stories of people who put their head on their pillow expecting a good night’s sleep, but something happened on the way to dreamland.
Jason is an eighteen year old son of Portuguese immigrants who have lived in the Fall River/New Bedford area since their arrival in America. Members of his family have had numerous experiences, including a ghostly kidnapping of sorts in a chapel near Isben, but Jason remembers what happened most in the second house they lived in when he was only ten.
The landlord told them the three bedroom apartment on South Main Street in Fall River had a history of “weird” things happening, but Jason’s father didn’t believe in that sort of thing. There had been reports by people living in the apartment of and neighbors had said things were found moved and there were sometimes noises coming from the kitchen when no one was in there.
For the first four months nothing unusual happened and the whole family ignored the cold spots that occurred randomly in the house. “It was summer, and sometimes you’d have to wear a coat in the kitchen sometimes,” Jason relates. He and his family were never sure what rooms would get cold or for how long.
It was Jason’s room that became the source of tension in the house. One night, around 1:00 in the morning, Jason got up to go to the bathroom. When he returned to the room the window was open. He remembered having closed it but shut it again and returned to bed. He tried to go back to sleep, but he opened his eyes again when he heard his window slowly opening again. He raised his head and there was no one in the room.
“I was too lazy to get up and close it, so I tried to forget it and went back to sleep.” He couldn’t though. As soon as he put his head back down, the window slammed shut. He sat up and watched as the window opened and closed four or five times while he watched. He ran out and slept on the couch.
Over the next few days he begged his parents not to make him stay in the room and they eventually broke down and moved his little sister in there. After a few nights she experienced the same thing and “flipped out.” Jason says he was young at the time and there might be another reason, but the family moved out less than a month later.
After arguing over where we would live, I decided in 1999 to move from Boston to Orlando, Florida, to be with my fiancé. Jenna and I were living on Park Drive in Boston with another friend of ours, Amy. Nothing had ever really happened in the apartment, although we would often have the feeling we were not alone or that we were being watched.
Also, Karma, Jenna’s cat, would attack the walls. I would photograph her when she would do this, but I never picked anything up.
After we loaded all my things into a moving truck we went to bed because Jenna and I were leaving in the morning to start the twenty-one hour drive to Orlando. Because my bed was packed, I slept on our comfortable couch. I was woken up at about four in the morning by a kiss on my cheek. At first I thought it was Jenna or Amy, but it seemed odd for either of them to come out and kiss me. Her face was right next to mine, close enough that I have kissed her back. I remember thinking my face was even still wet from the kiss. The only word I can use to describe her expression is bittersweet, like she was going to miss me but was happy for me as well. She had these intense, squinted eyes, like when someone you know is trying to send you a message without saying anything so other people don’t pick up on it. I turned to get a better look at her, and instantly she appeared across the room near the girls’ bedroom, like she was on a sliding dolly.
The girl now standing by their door was slightly shorter than either of them with her hair coming down off her shoulders. I could not make out her face, and as I was about to say hello, she turned to leave and disappeared.
Last week Tripping on Legends got the board back out. It has been years since I had used one, and maybe a decade since I had seriously used one to try and communicate with the dead. Natalie, on the other hand, had not used one at all.
Before we sat down and tried to talk to whatever was making itself known in her house, I felt I needed to give her some basics on the board. This sparked my memory of the experiences I had early one looking into the paranormal and some of the stories I had collected. Thought it might be time to dust some of them off to share with people again.
I was never really close to Kelly. I actually only knew her in passing and I would never have spoken to her. She was the head cheerleader and three years older than I was. When she graduated from high school she came back and became the assistant cheerleading coach and I would see her in the gym during practice or on the campus talking to old teachers. She was, from afar, someone who enjoyed life and gave back to the community she had gotten from.
While using the board with some friends, I was asked by a spirit to be given permission to come into the room. When I did, it said it knew me from high school. I asked her name and the spirit asked me to open up my freshman yearbook to page 17. It was the seniors. The pointer spelled out Kelly’s name, and she was the fourth picture in the first row on the page. I thought maybe it was a spirit just looking over my shoulder picking out a name a random until I got back together with an old girlfriend. She had been a cheerleader and once she asked me if I knew whether her old cheerleading coach, Kelly, had died in a car accident.
When people tell me stories of unusual things that have happened when they have used the Ouija board, I always ask the same question: Where did you get it? Most of the time the answer is a confused look up as they painfully search their past and then a shrug of the shoulders. I understand that. Ouija boards seem to be the last true artifact handed down from generation to generation. Anyone who has looked for on at their local store can tell you to look in the board game aisle of the toy store to find your new glow-in-the-dark board. You can find one at your local occult dealer, but the casual user won’t go to one except near Halloween. Instead, boards are found in the attic or basement of their parent’s or grandparent’s house. They are found where the boxes and dust of the house have collected, under a quilt, on top of old books, or next to the old game of Operation with the funny bone long lost.
We take them out and breathe life into them, sometimes asking the people who use to use the board about it, but more often not knowing the history.
Sarah know the history of her board, and the colorful path it took to her is as interesting as the events she witnessed with it. The board was made in the 1930’s. It belonged to her great aunt who lived on a farm with her brother and sister, Sarah’s aunt. There was a fire in the barn where she kept the board, but it was untouched although most of the other things in the barn where lost. When Sarah’s aunt left the farm she took the board with her, and years later it ended up with Sarah’s grandmother who didn’t use it. Sarah found it while cleaning her grandmother’s house and has used it since.
Sarah brought the board to a friend’s house who thought she lived in a haunted house. They talked to a while to “nice” spirits before something else spoke up. It spelled out, “DIE DIE DIE” and the temperature in the room dropped. They tried to move the plancette to Goodbye, but it wouldn’t move. The lights started to go on and off and furniture began to move. Sarah’s friend felt cold hands on her neck and began to scream. Sarah threw the board against the wall and everything stopped.
Sarah’s had other occurrences while using the board, usually harmless or amusing like the time they talked to Marie Antoinette who spelled out, “I want your head,” and then had a book fall on her friend’s neck, but the experience at her friend’s house has left her shaken. She has blessed the board, but is still hesitant to use it.
I’ve had some bad experiences with the board as well. Some have been discouraging and a waste of time, which I consider negative, but one was all out dangerous.
I had been dating a girl my freshman year of college who practiced Wicca, who I shall call Cindy. My roommates and I had wanted to use the board and asked her if she had any knowledge we didn’t. She promised to use some of what she knew to see if we could get anything stronger. I should start out by saying my dorm was the old Charlesgate Hotel, which is now apartments or condo or something. It is considered one of the most haunted buildings in Boston. I saw and experience several occurrences there, but this one was the most intense.
Cindy formed a circle using rope and invited each of us into it. As we entered she blessed us and had us repeat something I don’t remember. She also anointed us with a salt water solution she said it was for protection. When we were all in the circle she closed it and said another prayer. She then cleaned the board with more salt water, the whole time speaking softly under her breath.
We started to use the board and made contact with several spirits. Then a particularly strong spirit came on the board that I shall call Aza. I don’t remember the spirit’s real name or I might use it, although from what I heard I might chose a different name anyway. All I do remember was it had a lot of A’s, Z’s and B’s. After talking to us for a while, Aza told us she was a woman and that she was a witch from three hundred years ago. She surprised us by knowing a lot about us and some very personal things no one in the room would know about the others. She then said she wanted to channel.
Cindy was dead set against it and told us to get off the board and wash it. I was young and intrigued by it. I had never tried to channel a spirit before, and although I didn’t know the first thing about it, I was into doing something new. Cindy went through it step by step. All it really consisted on was deep breathing and opening myself up to Aza coming in. I was unsure what would happen to me, and Cindy didn’t know for sure. Aza might talk through me or just move my hands directly to the letters she wanted.
I started to feel a dull pain in my back and kept crouching over. I was getting really tired, and before I knew what happened, I was lying down. My hands began to rise off the floor, and when I tried to stop them I realized I no longer had control over my arms. I tried to sit up but couldn’t. I was paralyzed, but my hands kept moving. They started going for my neck, and my friends just watched, not knowing what was happening. As they tightened around my throat, my voice came back and I screamed for help. My friends had to pray my own hands from my throat. The whole time I could talk and tell them what was going on, but I couldn’t control my body. I fought against them, kicking and thrashing my arms to break their hold, and I was finally restrained because one of my friends was over two hundred and fifty pounds.
Cindy eventually started yelling at Aza to get out of me and saying prayers over me. Later she told me something about a spirit being able to take over a living person if they caused the physical death of that person, something that has been echoed by a few people I have talked to, but which other people tell me is not true. Cindy was finally able to get the spirit to leave by standing me up and propping me in front of a mirror. Aza, as it turn out, did not really want to be inside of a man.
A few months later a high school friend of mine who was there that night called me. He told me he remembered the full name of the spirit and had asked a friend of his who was into the occult and a practicing “wizard”. The man told him to never say the word out loud again. It seems we had made contact with a non-living spirit, something like a demon. He said that although it was probably not the demon herself, people who devoted their lives to her often took her name in ceremonies and that they were often practitioners of some pretty powerful black magic.
Read the story of Federal Government, another Charlesgate board story
A group of five of us had gone on an investigation that had proven somewhat successful. Although we had gotten no solid proof, there had been a history at the sight witnessed by one of us and I believe I made contact with something. Nevertheless, the lack of seeing a concrete apparition that night had left us a bit teased. We went back to Matt’s house and decided to use the board to try and get something.
It was pretty casual, and two people had fallen asleep by the time we got settled in. After a few spirits had talked to us, we got a man who claimed his name was Jay. Jay was very angry, and said he had been in the apartment for a few weeks because he liked watching Matt and his girlfriend. He was able to give a few details about things they had done over the past few days, and with each right answer, Matt’s jaw got closer to the floor. When talking about Matt and his girlfriend, Jay’s movements around the board were smooth and even. As soon as he started to talk about himself he got aggitated and moved quickly. He said he was going to stay and there was nothing we could do.
I had recently read in a book about an angry spirit that appeared to a woman who eventually brought in an investigator and a physic. In the story the physic had asked the spirit to ask for help from a friend or relative from the other side. He had said he was so mean in life he didn’t think anyone would help him. Someone eventually came and took him away. I was drawn to the story by a line the ghost said upon leaving; “She was the only one that could see me.”
I asked Jay to call to someone to help him. He said he didn’t like anyone and no one liked him. That was why he had killed himself. I asked about family and he got abusive to Matt, Jenna and I. I tried to calm him down and asked him to try at least. He told me someone was now with him. I asked him to reach out to that person, who he then said was his father.
Now, I try to be as skeptical as I can. If I allow my imagination to get the better of me, I can invent about anything. It is easy to say I just imposed a story I had read onto a situation. I can see that, but there was an added, uplifting aspect to the session. Jay never said good-bye. When I asked him to talk to his father, he said okay and the pointer stopped. I don’t just mean it stopped moving, it stopped in mid-spell. I was overwhelmed by a feeling that what had just happened was real, and I felt I had touched the spiritual side of my searches.
This was one of the first articles I wrote on Massachusetts Paranormal Crossroads, even before it was called that. Part of this appeared in Jeff Belanger’s Encyclopedia of Haunted Places and was “borrowed” by several other books. Charlesgate is where it all started for me, so it holds a special place in my heart.
Two things hit me upon reading the article. The first is that I hope my writing has become better since this was first published around 2002. Not sure I can say that’s true. The other is that so much of what I was putting out there about the building and its history was based on things I was told and information passed down rather than researched. I think that works sometimes. Natalie Crist of Tripping on Legends was going through the story and asked me questions about the dates and times things had actually happened. I had no answers for her. I don’t think I need them. So much of the legend of Charlesgate comes things that cannot be verified.
Before I left Boston, I took a haunted tour of the city that went by my old dorm. The person giving the tour retold my stories back to me, not knowing I was the one who had experienced them or at least had written them down. They were mixed and matched, with details added that had never happened. The Federal Government story was its centerpiece and almost none of the details were right.
In that spirit, I offer you the unedited original story.
The old Charlesgate Hotel is one of the most haunted buildings in Boston. Over time the building has taken on legend status, making it difficult to separate the truth from the mystique that surrounds it. It was built in 1891, supposedly by the Mafia, although there has been no connection between the original contractor and architect and organized crime. From the outside you can’t see the eighth floor, where some of the illegal activity was supposed to have happened. There are several areas that are boarded up or filled in, revealing hidden rooms that were once used but that you cannot see unless you follow the slight cracks in the wall. One such room on the sixth floor was the sight of a suicide. Walking through the halls, checking out the rooms and then comparing it to the original blueprints (on file at the Boston Public Library) shows many inconsistencies and points to potential areas of hauntings.
After serving as a hotel it was sold and sold again until it eventually became a BU dorm. The lore began with the influx of students. BU sold the dorms and it became a tenement, serving some of the worst tenants in Kenmore. At that time, students began to move in as well, often charged far more than the other people living there, creating an interesting mix of college kids and sketchy “adults”. Emerson College bought the building in the 1980’s and renovated it back into dorms, placing its foot firmly in the square and extending its influence in the city.
Some of the legendary spirits that walked the halls are very old. In the basement there are the spirits of horses that died when there were stables there. There is a little girl that haunts the elevator where she died. Often people had seances and weird things would happen, and more than once magic and black magic had been practiced in the dorm rooms. But there were other strange things that went on. Often at night there was scampering in the ceilings, too small to be people, but too big to be rats. There would be voices and light problems. Some student would see a gurney roll by their room.
Suicide plays a major role in the mythology of the building, often being the root cause of things that cannot be explained. In the 1970’s there was an alarm clock in a room where a supposed suicide had occurred that would go off at 6:11 am although it was not set. Another time 3 girls moved into a room on the 6th floor. Although each of them wanted the big closet upon moving in, they all had unusual sensations when they approached it, deciding it was better to let someone else use the closet. Research discovered another suicide in that closet. Once a student woke up to see a spirit hovering over him. The ghost was also seen by the RA who ran in to see why the student was screaming.
It was a hotbed of activity, and if you used a Ouija board anywhere in it, you’d get results (See the Federal Government story). One night we got an answer to some of the activity. We contacted a spirit that called itself Zena that would clearly write out answers to our questions and offered a detailed history of its existence. It was not a normal spirit because it had never lived, but was more of a spell that had been cast on doorways by one of the original builders to protect those inside. They saw everything and tried to help people and often communicated on the board as different people to make them do what they thought was right. They told me of a spell placed on me by someone that was later confirmed by two psychics who had no idea what I was going in for. It knew things only the people themselves would know, and made a believer out of more than one skeptic that would try the board.
After we left the dorms it was sold again, and one person who lives in the building says he never has had anything happen. I think back to a rule of Ouija boards though. If a spirit is on the board and it is not cleaned, and it is destroyed somehow, the spirit is said to escape. If there was something in those walls, I wonder what might have happened when they gutted the place out to make the condos.
Recently, while taking photographs for a new book coming out I evaluated some of the designs at Charlesgate. I had lived in the building for two years, but I had never noticed the faces, some obvious and other not so obvious, around the windows and in the rest of the metalwork. There were also scratches which appeared random, but upon zooming appeared to spell things out. Some of the expressions I found, hidden in the beauty, were “No Exit”, “Hell”, and “Gone”.