WINNERS! WINNERS! The lucky winners of last week’s blog with Kathleen Brooks are: Cecelia Kelsey and Gwen DeGolier! Email me at: christie (at) christie-craig.com with your choice of Amazon or B&N for your e-book. Congratulations!
I am so thrilled to bring you my guest this week, I just can’t tell you! RM Brand is not only a friend, she is a wonderful author and a phenomenal producer of many promotional goodies like book trailers, book covers, and much more, including a new love of photography! She’s super duper talented, and I’m proud to say she’s done some beautiful work for me, including my upcoming The Cop Who Stole Christmas book cover! So, without further delay–and just in time for Halloween–take it away, RM!
Thank you for inviting me to be a guest on your blog.
I remember the first time I was moved by a story. I was nine years old, sitting in the Mann’s Chinese Theatre. The lights dimmed and the iconic intro by John Williams trumpeted as large text scrolled across the screen, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” From that moment, I was hooked.
It took me a while to understand why Star Wars had such an impact on me. Eventually, I discovered that what I loved about the story wasn’t the fantastic special effects or the epic battles. It was the characters. I didn’t realize it then, but the seed was planted that would eventually lead me to write stories.
I wrote a book last year, Specter, which I am re-releasing October 15th. The story is about a woman who uncovers dark secrets from her family’s past involving adultery, incest and the occult. With the help of a ghostly ally, Hettie unravels the truth of what really happened at Carrington Manor the night William Carrington went on a murdering spree and how it changed the course of her ancestor’s life, who was William’s lover.
The reason I wrote Specter was because my husband and I had a brush with the paranormal when we first moved into our apartment in October 2011. Mind you, I am a skeptic. However, that experienced changed us and made me look at life-after-death with a different perspective.
I will share my experience with you. You can decide whether it is truth or fiction.
A Skeptic’s Ghost Story
I collapsed on the bed, exhausted from a day of unpacking after a move into our new apartment in the autumn. My husband and I were grateful for the larger space, but the timing couldn’t have been worse.
We both telecommuted for companies located in Southern California. Our hours fluctuated based on client and internal needs. At times we worked late into the night. Trying to move while keeping our work commitments was, to say the least, overwhelming.
My two cats weren’t too happy about the move either, but that is to be expected since this was their third move in five years. The car trip from California to Texas was still fresh on their minds. As soon as they were brought out of their small kennels, they hid and only came out for meals and to take care of business.
I turned out the light and settled down for what little sleep I was going to get that night. It wasn’t long before I was out. My dreams were dark and filled with a sense of malaise I couldn’t quite define. I had no reason to feel uneasy, but something was nagging me to wake up. I cracked one eye open but all I could see was the black of night. Even so, I could swear that someone was watching me.
I chalked it up to tiredness and forced myself to go back to sleep. As soon as I was asleep, I could feel myself being pulled further into the dark maw, unable to stop it.
One of my cats hissed, which woke me up. My cat ran away as I turned on the lights.
Nothing seemed out of place. The half-empty moving boxes were piled in one corner. My desk and work computer was how I left it.
I searched for my cats and found one under a bed in the next room. Nephthys, my gray cat who considers me her human, was in a closet in the spare room. I turned the light on and cooed to her. She approached me, seeking comfort. I spent five minutes petting her (boy, does that cat love her head massages). That seemed to calm both of us down.
I stood and she slipped back to her hiding spot. I made a mental note to put a blanket down there tomorrow morning for her as I turned out the light.
Nephthys’ eyes were glowing, staring at something to my left. She let out a low growl and hissed. I turned to where she was staring, but nothing was there. I offered more comforting words, but she wasn’t buying it. To her feline eyes, something was there and she was not happy about it.
I shrugged, thinking that she had to be disoriented from the move. I knew from prior experience that cats don’t handle moving very well. So I returned to bed. By then my body was aching for sleep.
The next day I woke up feeling as though I hadn’t gotten a wink of sleep.
I went on like this for the next few days, waking up in the middle of the night to Nephthys hissing and staring off at nothing in the room. It got so bad that during the day when she came out to take care of business, she would dash from room to room and even began throwing herself against the wall. I was worried that maybe there was a chemical getting to her that my husband and I weren’t aware of.
I was in a deep sleep and woke up when I felt someone sit at the edge of my bed. I rolled over to reach out to my husband, thinking it was him but no one was there. I sat up and could feel the indentation on the bed. I turned the lights on, but it was gone. This happened to me a number of times.
I didn’t say anything to my husband. He suffers from night terrors that get rather physical at times, which is the reason we both sleep in different rooms. I didn’t want to worry him or trigger a night terror, so I kept quiet and went back to sleep.
I quickly forgot about it as the demands from work required all my attention. I was working on a proposal layout when suddenly I felt my chair pulled back. I thought it was Nephthys trying to climb up and sit on the top of the backrest like she usually does. I turned to scold her but there was no one there. By then I was getting irritated, because I had things to get done that required my full attention and this was distracting me.
This happened to me several times in the course of a few more weeks. By the end of the month, it was happening daily and I was experiencing the sensation of someone sitting on my bed almost as often. I kept telling myself it was because I was mentally exhausted from work and the move. Nephthys was the braver of the two cats and spent most of her time close to me rather than hiding like the other cat. However, her behavior was getting worse.
I was at my wits end when I received an e-mail from a dear friend who is a clairvoyant. I will call her Brenda for the sake of this article and to protect her identity. She mentioned in her e-mail that she had been thinking a lot about me and was wondering how I was doing. Mind you, I hadn’t been in contact with her for over a year. She goes on to ask if I am happy in the new place I moved to. She knew something had changed recently. I was taken by surprise, because she couldn’t have known that we had moved into a bigger place. In fact, not many people knew, not even my employer. It happened so fast.
The next question she asked chilled me to the bone.
“Are you being haunted?”
I read that question several times to make sure I wasn’t seeing things.
In the past, Brenda would tell me things about my grandmother, intimate things that no one but family knew. And there were things she said that only my grandmother and I knew. In truth, I never really took these things to heart because I am skeptical about this subject. Even so, I love Brenda. She has a good heart and caring disposition. I do feel that positive people attract positive reactions. And Brenda is a positive human being. So it was a pleasure to spend time with her, even if some of the things she told me were unsettling. I can’t explain how she knows them. She just does.
I kept the e-mail to myself, again to spare my husband any worry or cause him to have night terrors.
That evening when my nightly visitor came calling, I was armed with Brenda’s words.
“She will help you if you need her.”
I spoke my grandmother’s name, thanking her for all the love and care she gave me. She was a second mother to me, helping to raise me while my mother worked to support the family (my father died when I was eight months old). Abuela, the Spanish word for Grandmother, was the heart and soul of the house, cooking, cleaning and raising two kids while Abuelo (my grandfather) and my mother worked. She was my rock in many ways, a place where I could get comfort and love.
Maybe it was her memory and the emotions it conjured that made me feel better. Whatever it was, my room suddenly felt lighter. I could actually see the corners of my room in the dark where I could not before. The blankets were warm and inviting, like a tight hug.
I slept like a baby that night and felt great the next day. My husband, on the other hand, was brusque, sore and irritable. I figured the stress was getting to him finally, because he is usually even tempered. In time he would be okay, I thought. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Things seemed to return to normal for me and work was starting to let up. My husband was dealing with a particularly difficult project and was very upset. I told him he needed to take a day off and relax. He took my advice, but it didn’t seem to help at all.
We ran errands that following Saturday, arguing about something petty from what I can remember. My husband pulled up to a parking space and sat back. His expression worried me. We had been fighting constantly since the move and I feared he was upset enough that he wanted to call it quits.
He turned to me with tired eyes, stammering over his words.
I held my breath, afraid of what was going to come out of his mouth. I desperately love this man. If he asked me for a divorce, I would give it to him because his happiness means more to me than anything, even if it means letting him go.
“I don’t know how to tell you this,” he said. “I can’t even believe I’m saying it, but I think our apartment is haunted.”
I let out a sigh of relief. And then I laughed. I laughed so hard I could barely breathe.
We shared our experiences, realizing that we were both going through the same thing. He mentioned Nephthys’ strange behavior, someone sitting on his bed, and the chair pulled down to the point it almost knocked him back. He also mentioned feeling uneasy at night, like someone was watching him.
I learned that while our cable was being connected when we first moved in, my husband and the technician had a conversation about the prior tenant. Apparently, the person who rented the apartment before had rigged the cable so he could get service illegally. When the cable company was called out about the outside line and this very technician explained that the rigging was illegal to the prior tenant, the man became belligerent and even violent. He kicked the technician out and according to the technician, he feared for his life given that “his gun was in visible view.”
My husband insisted this was more than mere coincidence. Unlike me, he is a believer. “You need to call Brenda,” my husband urged. “We need to find out what is going on.”
I called her as soon as we got back home. She didn’t waste time in telling me that she was worried about us, that something wasn’t right about our new place. She didn’t know the specifics, but apparently my grandmother was coming to her regularly to tell her to warn me. Brenda believed that the prior tenant either practiced witchcraft or dark voodoo and through that a negative spirit had attached itself to our place. She warned it would only get worse. “You have to take back your space,” she said. “Tell that spirit it isn’t welcome and to leave.” She prescribed burning candles and keeping pictures of my grandmother in places that could be seen.
Usually I just shrug at that sort of thing, but I enjoy scented candles and adored my grandmother so I decided to give it a try. It couldn’t hurt, I rationalized.
A few days later, we both began to notice a difference. Even the other cat began coming out of her hiding place and Nephthys was settling down. But it was short lived.
Earlier that day I had experienced the chair pulling and Nephthys was particularly antsy. I felt uneasy as I went to bed and debated sleeping with the lights on, something I hadn’t done since I was a little girl. I won’t lie. I was scared.
Eventually, I fell asleep.
I was vexed with dark dreams, feeling something bringing me down. I fought it, willing myself to wake up. I did, but the nightmare was not over.
My bed began to shake as though we had an earthquake. I was familiar with the experience living through a number of earthquakes in Southern California, but when I got to my feet the shaking stopped. The room was pitch black. The air was thick and dank, like an old cellar that hadn’t seen light in centuries. There was a faint foul smell. I felt pinpricks on the back of my neck as though someone was standing right behind me.
I was tired. I was scared. And I was fed up.
I spun around to face whatever it was but nothing was there. I was shaking with rage.
“Leave!” I exclaimed. “This is my home, my family, my life and you are not welcomed in it. Get out. Now!”
My husband rushed into my room and flipped the lights on. I saw the worry in his eyes as mine began to burn.
He came to me and pulled me into his arms. “It’s going to be okay.”
They say words have power. Maybe they do, because those words slipped underneath all the frustration and fear to my very center. I not only believed them to be true, I knew they were true.
That was the last time we ever experienced anything strange in our apartment. In fact, we settled in and are now quite content.
We love this place. It’s big and cozy. Nephthys is sprawled out on the back of the chair like she usually is, letting me know occasionally that she wants her human to give her love. My husband is typing away in his office, working on another project for his job. I still have the pictures of my grandmother near, along with a few scented candles.
Not long ago we talked with the property manager and inquired about the prior tenant. Turns out that the person who lived here had to be evicted. They couldn’t go into the details, but when my husband mentioned the incident with the cable technician, the property manager’s eyes smoldered.
“That is one of the reasons we evicted her,” she said.
My husband and I looked at each other perplex.
“Her?” I asked.
She nodded. “She was the one on the lease, but her boyfriend, who was not allowed to stay kept coming back. She was into some weird stuff that I can’t talk about.”
“Witchcraft?” I asked the property manager.
Her eyes widened. “No, but it is like that. I think it’s called Santeria.”
For those of you who do not know, Santeria is an African-based religion similar to voodoo, originating in Cuba and Brazil. It has become quite popular over the years, particularly in the South. There are a lot of dark elements to that religion.
I had some personal experiences with Santeria after a beloved grand-aunt passed away from complications of cancer. I was very young when she died. She was my grandmother’s youngest sister, Carmen. Carmen was one of my favorite grand-aunts. We visited her plot often. In one of our visits, we noticed that symbols had been painted on the gravesite. Inside the flower canister was black wax left over from a candle. I still remember the look on my grandmother’s face. She was furious.
“Santeria,” she hissed.
I had no idea what that was at the time, but I didn’t care for the symbols or the black wax. “Why would anyone do this, Abuela?”
She turned to me and said, “Bad people think they can control the living by controlling the dead. They do not realize that good people who are strong in their beliefs aren’t fooled by such things.”
I guess she was right. Despite how evil people or even spirits might be, we control the environments we live in. We own our lives and our space by our choices. My husband and I took back our home, refusing to accept anything negative to hinder the warmth and the love we share.
I don’t know for certain if our experiences were real or not. It could have been exhaustion or stress that caused us to hallucinate these events. Did my grandmother really reach out to me to warn me through Brenda? Did my declaration scare off evil spirits? At the very least, I was reminded of how empowering love can be. My husband and I are happy, very much in love. Abuela is with me, in my heart where her memories are cherished and in my mind where her words of wisdom bring me peace.
Thank you for being here, RM! Fascinating story! Do any of you have a ghost story to share? Or are you skeptics, too? Two lucky commenters will win a copy of RM’s book! Good luck!
RM Brand is an author of five books. Her novella, Specter, was dedicated to her late grandmother, Rosa Maria Perez Beltran. Mrs. Brand produces book teasers and trailers for authors, which you can view here: http://www.rosabrand.net/gallery/brandsgallery/. She has a library of ready-made trailers for sale, which can be viewed on her site here: http://www.rosabrand.net/shop/. You can learn more about her work on her website at www.rosabrand.net. You can purchase a copy of Specter for Kindle (http://amzn.com/B009YBEGWO), Nook (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/specter-rm-brand/1113679005?ean=2940015895018), or other devices (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/249545).
Below is one of RM Brand’s featured videos available now.