The dark creatures that haunt our dreams and come to us as waking nightmares take many shapes or forms, but none is more evil nor dangerous than that which takes the shape of our own thoughts, and acts out its evil intentions through our own bodies.
When I was a little girl living in that haunted house, it appeared that I had escaped unscathed. I never heard the dragging footsteps across my floor at night, I never saw the ghost of the man who had murdered his wife in my room and hung himself in our garage. I was never attacked as my mother had been by the poltergeist that knocked her to the floor that day.
But something equally frightening and more dangerous visited me one late afternoon as I played dolls with my best friend in my bedroom. I cannot remember the exact details of what happened that day, but it was of such significance that I never forgot its occurrence. It had a profound effect upon my thinking and how I have lived ever since.
It came as a subtle suggestion as I played with my friend. An impulse to say something deliberately cruel and hurtful to her. I knew it was wrong. I knew it was mean. But I gave into that impulse nonetheless.
I was surprised by her reaction. How shocked and stunned she was. How she was physically repelled by my words and backed away. How she looked at me as if I was a stranger. As if she was afraid of me.
But rather than feeling remorse or regret, what I felt was a surge of excitement, of power and pleasure. I struck out again at her verbally, harder this, and she begged me to stop. But I didn’t stop, and as I continued, she began to cry.
The whole time I was doing this, there was no sense of empathy. She was no longer my best friend. She was this creature, a lab rat, and I was performing an experiment. How cruel could I be? How frightened would she become?
Yet beneath all this, another part of me reacted quite differently. It was shocked by my behavior. Mortified. This was not me! I could not believe that I was doing this, and could not understand what had come over me, or why I was persisting in hurting my friend. It was like a dark, evil twin had taken over me, and I was as horrified as my little friend by what was happening.
It was at this point that my feeling of moral outrage and dismay overcame the pleasurable feeling of power that had possessed me, and I shook it off. It was literally as if I had shook my head hard and threw off whatever had come over me. Then seeing my friend trembling and crying before me, I wrapped my arms around her and wept with her, and told her how sorry I was, and promised never to do that again. Sweet girl that she was, she forgave me, and we played together happily the rest of that day and all the days that followed, as best friends should, until we moved away.
But I never forgot that day. I like to think now that it was that sad, angry, stalking presence that haunted our house that tried, unsuccessfully, to inhabit me. And I think what saved me was knowing, truly knowing in my heart, that it was’t me. Even though it came in the guise of my own thoughts, my own actions, I did not identify with it. And because of that, I believe, I was able to eject it as “not me.”
I had a taste of what true evil feels like, with all its sense of pleasure and power, and I did not like it.
I was as repelled by it as my friend was of me that day. And to this day I have never deliberately, gleefully, sought to hurt anyone again.
That is not to say that I have never said or done horrible things that I regret when I was deeply angry, or hurt, or outraged by someone or something.
But never in the calculated, cold-hearted way I had done that day, merely to see how cruel, how hurtful, I could be.
Was I briefly possessed by an evil spirit that day? Or was it something else? The incident could be explained in several ways—religiously, spiritually, psychologically, even from a simple moral standpoint. Good versus evil. Right versus wrong.
I imagine the “mean girls” you hear about today who cyber-bully other girls to the point of suicide, the boys who go out on joy rides looking for someone to hurt, the rapists that feel pleasure and power when they assault others, or the serial killers that stalk their victims—all at some point in their lives felt an impulse to do something quite unlike anything they had ever done before. But rather than rejecting that impulse as “not me,” or “not who I want to be,” they consented to being that person. And the impulse became a compulsion that possessed them.
I write this now because I think it’s important to make a distinction between the supernatural or paranormal appearances that spook us and thrill us and give us those tantalizing chills, and the more “normal” appearances of evil that, if we consent to them, take up residence in our hearts and minds. That make us the “mean girls” and the cruel boys, the heartless con men, the conniving heart-breakers, the stalking predators or murderous madmen. That haunt our hallways and back roads and bedrooms, our main streets and Wall Streets, and all the places in-between.
It begins with a cruel impulse. And if we are alert and vigilant, that’s where it can end too.
What is evil incarnate, after all, but evil manifested, evil embodied, evil given a human heart and mind to haunt? Without that, evil is powerless.
And so ends my series of posts on true ghost stories, or would end here, except I have something further to ponder.
Do I truly believe this stuff?
Do I believe in ghosts and haunted houses and demons and spirit possession? In the supernatural and paranormal? In evil incarnate?
How does an intelligent, rational person explain all this?
How indeed. To find out, you’ll have to wait for my next, and final post, on this topic. On Halloween night.
This is Part V of an ongoing series leading up to Halloween of true life ghost stories, experienced either by me or by people I trusted.
You can read the full series of ghost stories at the links below.