Tuesday, May 27, 2003

The Presence at 4627, Apartment 6

By Minda Powers-Douglas

Four years ago, in 2000, I lived in a six-apartment complex in Moline, Illinois. When I first moved in a couple years before, I was in the “garden level,” more commonly known as the basement. Two years after that, one of the apartments on the top floor opened up. Deciding it was worth the extra cost to have a two-bedroom place, the cat and I (with the help of many relatives) moved on up, with the theme song from “The Jeffersons” running through my head.

All was quite peaceful for a long time. I loved the light blue wall-to-wall carpeting. It was such a nice light change from the basement level’s brown stained carpeting. I could also feel safe about leaving my blinds open whenever I wanted to. When I had moved into the garden level, my grandfather had warned me in his overprotective way that I had to leave them closed or people would be peeking in at me. After all, I didn’t know what kind of hoodlums would be out skulking around in the neighborhood. Oh, I forgot to mention that my grandfather and grandmother lived only a couple blocks away in this same hoodlum neighborhood! Which was actually made up of the elderly and quiet families.

Still, the upstairs was a nice change. I had a nice living room that connected to the kitchen. Down the hall from there was the bathroom and then the two bedrooms. Shakespeare, the cat, and I had plenty of room to enjoy and frolic in. We even had a deck off the kitchen sliding door! We were living large.

By the time we moved, though, my grandfather had passed away. I knew as I looked through the windows, especially at night that he would be happy that no more hoodlums would be able to peek in my windows unless they were really trying. And had ladders.

One day, months after Shakespeare and I had moved, I decided to dust and do that house cleaning thing. I admit it’s not my favorite thing to do. But as I was dusting, I thought I’d do a little rearranging of my knick-knacks and photos. I picked up a small double photo frame from my bookcase, dusted it off and decided to move it across the room to the other bookcase.

The photos in the small gold frame were of my grandfather, Alger “Curly” Bray, and his old country (or “hillbilly”) music group, the Buddies of the Airlanes. One photo was of him with the rest of the Buddies piled into a little wagon and acting like they were about to roll down a hill. A silly and very cute publicity photo. The other photo was very odd. When I had originally seen the photo, I had thought it was very cool. Someone had apparently tried to be artsy. The main image was of a man in shadow, my grandpa, wearing a cowboy hat. The camera had been positioned so that it was looking up at him, giving him a looming appearance. He was all in shadow, but if you looked closely, you could see he was smiling and goofing around. His hands were down, away from his sides and clenched into fists. On top of that, or rather under, whoever developed the photo has superimposed another very tiny photo of my grandpa between the feet and calves of the bigger image of him. It was an odd photo, for sure. But I had liked it.

As I was cleaning, though, and took another look at it, I said to myself, “You know, this is actually kind of creepy looking.” Shrugging it off, I placed it across the room. And that’s when the weirdness began.

That evening, sitting on my couch reading, I noticed a peculiar feeling. I felt like I was being watched. The loveseat I was on was located in the living room, which went into the kitchen past the archway. So I was almost even with the archway. I’d look up and see no one in the kitchen, of course. It was just the cat and me. And that’s another thing. Shakespeare, who was pretty close with me anyway, started clinging to me like crazy. If I was on the couch, she’d be on the couch pressed next to me–always on the side toward the kitchen. If I went into the bathroom, she’d follow me. Same with any other room. She often slept with me on the bed, but now she was vigilant about it. She never left me alone!

The creepy feelings continued. It got to the point that without even thinking about the photo anymore, when I felt watched from the kitchen, I would picture an angry person with clenched fists in my mind. Soon, I connected the two. I knew whatever I was sensing that it wasn’t my grandfather. We had had a great relationship, and he loved me very much. He would be the last person to want to scare me. So what was this presence?

I was never so bold as to call it a ghost. As a matter of fact, I was getting scared of it. Four years later I am working on starting a ghost club in my area, but at that time I was getting freaked out. It didn’t even dawn on me to ask it questions. I just wanted it gone!

At this point, the creepy feeling had been going on for about a week. I kept telling myself that it was just my imagination running away with me. I was just freaking myself out. There was probably nothing there, but I still ran like hellhounds were on my heels from the bathroom and onto my bed every night. The hallway felt skin-crawly, too. I felt like something was watching me from the hall at night but either didn’t or couldn’t come into the bedroom. Shakespeare, as always, kept watch by my feet. What I would have given to know what was going on in her mind.

After this amount of time, I was either building up what was going on in my head or whatever was in my kitchen was building strength. The bad feelings were getting stronger. I still didn’t call it a ghost. I called it “a presence.” Funny, I still do today. At the time I’d tell friends that there was a presence in my apartment. I’d try to act all brave, but anybody could see, I’m sure, that I was spooked. One friend recommended that I sage the place.

Sage. I knew one place for sure that I could get a bundle of sage: the new age store. So I walked in to the place I frequented, located the sage, and decided to put my shyness aside and talked to Dolores, the owner of the shop.

“Um, I have some kind of presence in my apartment. It hasn’t really done anything, but I get the feeling it’s angry,” I started telling her. Eventually I told her that it started after I moved a picture of my grandfather.

“Well, put it back!” she told me. I could almost feel the word “Duh” etching itself into my forehead.

Dolores also recommended saging the entire apartment while repeating a loving mantra. Sage is a very cleansing herb. It’s very powerful and effective. She also brought out of couple nice pieces of rose quartz, which is a crystal of loving power. I told her I’d take them both and the sage bundle. That very day I was going to sage the place.

Dolores had a theory about what had happened. She said that when I moved the picture, that I, in essence, had opened up a riff somehow that had allowed this presence through. I don’t know if this presence had been pent up in my apartment or was just happening by when the opening was created, but it got through. Since I was getting vibes from it, specifically angry vibes, it was most likely trying to communicate with me. Now I wish I would have tried to find out what it had wanted to say. Even at the time, I didn’t think it would hurt me. I just didn’t like the feeling of anger or watchfulness it gave off.

That afternoon after buying the sage, part of me couldn’t wait to get in the apartment and sage the heck out of the place. The rest of me was not so brave. I couldn’t believe I was actually scared to go back in my apartment! My wonderful apartment! I dawdled a little and ran some errands but figured I’d better do it before the sun went down. I didn’t want to have to do this in the dark of evening.

I carried the rose quartz with me around each room as I aimed the smoking sage to all corners of the rooms, windows and doorways. Even the closets. I repeated this mantra as I went: “Let love and light fill this space.” I went over every area thoroughly, with extra care at the places I felt the presence was located. I also saged the picture of my grandpa.

By the time I finished, the place felt pretty clean and smelled like I had been smoking something illegal. I was hoping that no one in the apartment would call the cops on me. I could just imagine trying to explain that I was not smoking pot but was actually ridding my apartment of an angry presence. Fortunately, nobody called.

After that, there were no more weird feelings. I didn’t feel watched anymore. Shakespeare was still clinging, but no more so than before the presence. We were back to normal.

Looking back, I wish I had investigated more. I live in a house with my husband now. I’ve had a few experiences here. We’ve written some of them off as old creaky house stuff. Some, though, led me to sage this place, too. Like the morning I woke up and couldn’t move. That was scary. It has only happened once, though. Thank goodness. Being watched is one thing. Being physically held down is just terrifying!

We’ll see how things go here. I now have the start of my own ghost hunting kit. An EMF detector, dowsing rods, a digital audio recorder and a digital camera. I’m visiting cemeteries more and more, hoping for contact. I haven’t gone at night yet, though, for fear of getting caught by the police and arrested. We’ll see, though. For now, I’ll wait for daytime ghosts to contact me.


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