At Least It Scared Away the Bear

"That time of the year again" has come a little early. Autumn can bring floating lights, shadows just out of reach, or flat out visions but I usually roll back over and go to sleep after a grumpy "go away." Lately, we've been trying to outwit a bear that manhandles the chest freezer in our garage (since emptied) and his attempts to lift our garage door -- I'll let that sink in a minute, but a loud THUMP followed by a distinct rapping on the downstairs window at 12:30a the other night had me rattled. I never get rattled. 

We let the dogs out after their frenzied barking -- nothing's outside (no bear). I double-checked the locks on the doors -- and found one open. It's never unlocked. After checking that the kids were asleep in their beds, I sat up and stared out the window until 2a.

I'm used to the lights. I'm used to the bear. I'm not used to something that expects an answer when it comes rap-tap-tapping on my window. And it wasn't even the first time.

The real story behind Annabelle

Annabelle at the Warren's Occult Museum
Passing an antique store in 1970, Donna’s mother couldn’t resist buying the large rag doll with round button eyes as a birthday gift for her college-aged daughter. Donna loved the doll, displaying it prominently in her bedroom of the apartment she shared with fellow nursing student, Angie. Days later, the women noticed something peculiar about the doll. After making her bed each morning, Donna would place the doll – legs straight out and arms to the sides – on her bed, when she returned in the evening, the legs and arms would be positioned differently. Limbs would cross or the doll’s arms would be folded in its lap. 

A week or so passed, and each day the doll would change its position from how it was left in the morning. Donna tested the doll by purposefully placing the limbs in crossed positions to see if they’d be in a similar state when she returned.  Not only did she find the arms and legs uncrossed, the doll would be found hunched over or knocked to one side. 

Eventually, the girls found the doll making a break for it in the front room; returning home one night, Donna and Angie discovered the doll sitting in a chair near the front door – kneeling. Other times, they would find it sitting on the sofa, and probably hogging the remote control. 

The doll started to leave notes around the apartment. Written in pencil on parchment paper, of which they had neither in the house, they found messages pleading for help, “HELP US” and “HELP LOU” were scrawled in childlike handwriting across the yellowed paper.

Thinking the doll and its antics were the trick being played on them by someone able to access their apartment, Donna and Angie began to mark positions on the doors and windows to track anyone coming into the room. Never finding evidence of a person entering the apartment, they began to get scared. 

One night, the women found blood on the back of the doll’s soft cloth hand – and three drops of blood on its chest. They decided to contact a medium to see if she could find an explanation for the odd occurrences surrounding the doll. The psychic told them a young girl had died on the property when it was simply fields to run in and no buildings had swallowed her playground in concrete. The girl’s name was Annabelle Higgins and was seven-years-old. Annabelle had decided she’d liked the rag doll and felt the students were able to relate to her, the psychic continued, so she had possessed the doll to be near them. The women called the doll Annabelle from that moment on and treated the expressionless toy as if it were a child. They felt it was no longer a plaything – it was a child in need of love. 

Lou, a friend of Angie and Donna’s, had never felt comfortable around the doll. While he couldn’t place why he’d rather be in a separate room from Annabelle, it turned out he should have listened to his instincts. Napping on the couch in their front room, Lou dreamed of the doll. Feeling himself wake up he looked around the room and then saw Annabelle at his feet. The doll began to climb up his legs, moving over his chest until it reached his neck. In his dream, he saw the soft arms touch either side of his throat and the horror of himself being strangled by the rag doll. Waking in terror, he knew the doll had to go. 

Later, while preparing for a trip the next day, Lou was alone in the apartment with Angie. Hearing noises coming from Donna’s bedroom, Lou suspected they’d finally catch whatever had been playing with the doll and discover who was behind the tricks on his friends. Quietly opening the door to the room, Lou saw nothing was out of place, except that instead of being in her normal place on top of the bed, Annabelle was lying crumpled in a corner. As he walked further into the room and closer to the doll, he felt a dark presence behind him. Spinning around to face the attacker, Lou fell to the ground as Angie ran in to find her friend bleeding. Peeling away the material of his shirt, they found seven claw-like marks on his chest, the scratches burning like fire into his flesh. Remarkably, the wounds healed completely within a day or two but they knew they needed help to deal with whatever had possessed the doll. 

Donna contacted the Episcopal Church who suggested they contact Ed and Lorraine Warren, the founders of the New England Society for Psychic Research. Ed, a demonologist, and Lorraine, a trance medium, were intrigued by the case and ready to help. After discussing Annabelle’s history with Donna and Angie, the Warrens determined that the doll was demonically possessed and not a simple haunting. They felt whatever had taken control of the doll had done so by emotional manipulation of the girls by telling them, via the medium, that it was the spirit of a child locked inside, thus giving the demon a way to enter the apartment. Feeling that Donna and Angie were in danger, the Warrens requested to take the doll away from the house for their own safety.  

On way home, the Warrens had a tussle with their back seat driver. The car stalled or swerved on curves, making the journey dangerous. Finally, Ed Warren removed a vial of holy water from his bag, sprinkling it liberally over the possessed doll in the back seat. The rest of the drive home was uneventful. At their home, Annabelle sat in a chair next to Ed’s desk though would often move to different rooms in the house, and even levitating when it first arrived. 

A special case was built for the doll and it moved to the Warren’s Occult Museum where she has remained quiet ever since. Or has she? The doll may be to blame for the death of a visitor to the museum. Hearing the story of Lou’s experiences with Annabelle, a young man taunted the doll by asking it to scratch him and banging on its case. Escorted from the museum with a warning to respect what he doesn’t understand, the visitor and his girlfriend left on his motorcycle for home. Not long after leaving the Occult Museum, the young man was the victim of an accident as his motorcycle ran off the road and hit a tree, killing him instantly.

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Who's that rap rap rapping upon my door?

The house is finally quiet again. 

A year ago, something was stirred up and December had its share of anomalies. Knocking upon the walls, small white lights in the hallway, and a Santa figurine on my coffee table shook its bell for several long minutes though there was no breeze - no shaking of the table - and no one around but me to witness it. Then there was the man at the top of the hill. We live along a busy route that winds around the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We're quite close to a government secret bunker, I hear helicopters daily, and not far from there is the site of a horrific airplane crash which in 1971 resulted in the death of 92 people. 

Ghosts have been reported along this road for years. A woman, dressed in a business suit and pulling luggage behind her has been witnessed on the road, and the ubiquitous lady in gray wanders the road - though I've haven't seen either of them. My ghost was unexpected. Jarring. After years of seeing weird stuff I was...startled. And then a little bit frightened.

Waiting at the top of the lane for my daughters' school bus, I had my head down and was reading a book. Raising my head, I saw a young man in his early 20s standing about five yards in back of my car. Wearing tan pants, a striped shirt, and sporting a wild shock of curly black hair, he stood with his hands on his hips and stared. At me. Our eyes met in the rear view mirror. I immediately turned around but no one was there. I know what I saw. I don't think he was from the plane crash - there was no young man of his description in the logs. 

A few days later, I pulled out onto the main road from our lane. There's a curve going north and it's a bit hard to see when cars come around, so we're always careful to not pull out too soon. That day, I pulled out after checking for cars and saw a black Scion-type car whiz past me. I jerked my car hard to the left and nearly hit a row of mailboxes. No car. And no sound. The forest had gone silent around me. 

A week later, the Santa figurine started to ring his bell. A month after that, Llewellyn Publishing contacted me about writing a book on haunted objects. I figured I had this covered.

What's haunting Paxton Manor?

Case file: 9.13.13
Paxton Manor, Leesburg, Virginia

The ARC of Loudoun had done a fabulous job promoting Friday the 13th at Paxton so the Wee Ghosties team was met with 19 explorers for our night amongst the ghosts of the manor. After a brief history of the large house and its first family by the staff, I did a quick ghost hunting 101 session on what to look for and some simple tools to use while investigating, focusing on dowsing rods, voice recorders, and paying attention to their own senses as their most valuable resource.

Breaking into three groups: Team Fun (mine), Team Rebel (Larry's), and Team Domination (LaMishia), each team entered the house five minutes apart so as not to interrupt EVP sessions and to spread out: one team upstairs, and two below. It's a large house but filled with false walls and mazes for the upcoming Shocktober event so sound bounces along the hallways and we were careful not to spoil another team's session.

For Team Fun, we utilized the voice recorder, compass as an EMF detector, laser pointer, dowsing rods, flashlight tag, photos and some video during the night. To get them familiar with the tools and to trust their own judgment, we started in the bar room, which had yielded some EVP results in the past for other paranormal investigative teams. Our first try at EVP came with a drain of the team members' batteries in her recorder and a mumble, but it's as yet not deciphered.

Team Rebel/Fun verrrrra late at night

We crowded into the shower on the second floor at 9:13p. For the Shocktober festivities, there is a dummy hanging from the ceiling. One team member moved past her to stand behind her, creating a slight swing and twist. The dummy continued to swing for far longer than physics is comfortable with. We noticed it moving many minutes later after our EVP session though the session didn't give up the ghost.

After midnight, Team Fun and Team Rebel moved to investigate a cottage on the property that was reported to also have activity. The staff member working until late in the night painting the 3D-effects told us of her experiences with what she believes is a young girl and two older men. In the Fun House, Team Fun did not get a solid EVP but while alone in the maze, did experience the flashlight responding to questions with the brightness of the bulb varying with each question or going completely out -- only to come back on after a few more questions. Team Fun and Team LaMishia had more interactive experiences in the Fun House.

Second attempt for shower EVPs
1:06a: Back in the Manor, we resumed our investigation. Visiting the Doll Room, so named for the collection of life-sized marionettes and smaller dolls, we began another EVP and dowsing rods session. Upon playback, we believe we have a voice saying "no" after asking if there were more than one ghost in the house.

1:45a:  We returned to the shower because it creeped us out and we're gluttons for punishment in a cramped shower. Initiating the EVP session, I also had the flashlight on to hopefully resume responses via the light. The flashlight came on as soon as we entered the shower. After saying, "Tell us something we need to know," it went out. Asking, "Is this Rachel Paxton?" the flashlight came on brightly. We believe we heard a response to my question "Is there something you'd like me to tell Matt?" 

2:06a: The night came to an end as our guests returned home. Thank you to everyone that participated in the Friday the 13th fundraiser for Paxton Manor, and we’ll see you Friday the 13th in June 2014!