Well, I hope everybody enjoyed the annual thinning of the veils. Frankly, I’m Halloweened-out. At least from the mainstream version of it. Pumpkins. Candy corn. Miley Cyrus. Even the hooky-spooky stuff gets old. I guess it’s because we’re like the Addams family over here. Ghosts, growlers, gremlins, and Greys don’t phase us. Every day is Halloween.
The other night Lori and I were watching a paranormal show. Some homeowners were dealing with a demon in their basement. In Connecticut. Of course.
Connecticut has got some bad mojo. I’m no Nervous Nellie when it comes to the paranormal. I’ve witnessed my fair share of the unexplained. No joke. I don’t know if it’s because I was always open to it, or this unique birthmark, but I’ve been followed around by some freaky shit my whole life. And I’ve actually enjoyed it. Seeing a candle light itself has a way of bringing a little mystery back into life.
But something about the Connecticut brand. Really creeps.
We watched the priest performing the exorcism. He gets his toupee tugged on. Stuff starts to fly around. He feels hot scratches along his back, then gets doubled-over with what appears to be gas pains. Clutching at his guts, he keeps trying to send the demon back into the bowels of hell.
“Classic back-fire,” I explained, “Didn’t close up his circle and now the little bugger ricocheted into his bowels.”
“Listen to the arm-chair exorcist.”
“Hey, I might not be able to put up shelves, but I think I could perform a pretty damn good exorcism. The key to successful mediation is to establish rapport.”
“No problem for you.”
“Exactly. I think my way would work better than this old-school antagonistic approach. Why piss the thing off? Just thank it for whatever lesson it came to deliver then politely send it back to Hell to await reassignment. Look at this poor priest. He looks like he’s about to crap his pants.”
He kept at it though. Making the sign of the cross with holy water with one hand while grabbing his cramping pelvis with the other.
“That’s a weird place, Connecticut.”
“Uh-huh.” She rearranged her pillow. “You told me.”
“Did I tell you about the rollerskating rink?”
I wished I hadn’t. It’s a good story. That’s the trouble with being in a long relationship. You use up all your good stories.
Finally, in a tornado of dishes and drapes, Latin and lighting, the demon was gone. Everyone’s relieved. The terrorized family, the ghost hunters sent in to investigate, and the priest they called in–when they realized this was more that the ghost of Aunt Fanny on their hands– everybody hugging each other, rejoicing and so forth.
But I could have sworn I saw two glowing eyes looking in from the corner of the kitchen window. Nice.
“I love a happy ending,”
I looked over at Lori. She was out cold. Exorcisms make her sleepy.
Hey. I didn’t tell you guys about how creepy Connecticut is. Especially the roller rinks. Hold on let me turn the lights down…
Okay. My family was close friends with another Lithuanian family back in New York. They had four kids. One boy was my age and the girl was my sister’s. We basically grew up together, so we were sad when they moved to Connecticut, where they eventually built a house in the woods of Danbury, by Candlewood Lake. You know Danbury, where the first US trial in which demonic possession was used as a defense for murder was held.
Cozy old Danbury.
Anyway, we used to love to go visit them. They were my funnest friends and I have many happy memories. But I remember other stuff, too. Like the woods around their house. Something really bad dwelled there. I could feel it. Something evil.
Keep in mind, I grew up traipsing in the woods and parks of New York and loved nature. There was nothing creepy about quiet trees. But walking around those Connecticut trees, I’d see things from the corner of my eye. Get the feeling that somebody or some thing was watching. My arm hair was always brush stiff while playing and exploring in those woods.
It didn’t help that they lived next door to a guy that had blown his brains out with a shot gun. I also remember that we’d run across these abandoned homes. Old-timey clapboard shacks with the windows busted out, but all the furniture still inside. Pans still on the stove. Clothes in the closet. Even old boxes of cereal in the cupboards. Where did the people go?
My buddy and I would try to vandalize these old shacks, more than they already were, but one of us would always wind up getting hurt. On a nail or broken glass. Something would always abruptly end our fun. One time while bashing out an un-bashed window, he got stung by a bee as big as a fist. Right on his thumb. It swelled up really big. Our parents debated taking him to the hospital.
One day, while we were standing outside the shot-gun suicide house, talking about what a mess it must have been, a bottle broke between us. We were only a few feet apart, but neither of us could tell where it came from. We looked around for any neighborhood kids, but never saw anyone. We had a wide view through the woods, and never heard any leaves crunching either towards or away. Besides, it didn’t skip like it had been thrown. It just exploded. On the leaves.
Another night, we were sent out to get firewood, On our way back, I looked up and saw a hooded white face standing about fifty feet away. Mother of God. I dropped the wood and blurred through time and space getting to the front door. My friend hadn’t even seen it and he was climbing on my back trying to get through the door. So convincing was my panic.
I’ve scared myself with my imagination before. This was different. Too much time getting a good look at it. My eyes actually focused and there it was–a hooded, white mask-like face.
Even remembering it today, gives me the jeebies.
Anyway, all that stuff, as bizarre as it was, didn’t hold a candlewood to the Danbury rollerskating rink. That remains one of my creepiest memories. Ever. Not just mine. It’s in my sister’s Hall of Fame too. And there was nothing paranormal about it. Normal can freak plenty good.
One Saturday afternoon, the parents decided to drop us kids off at the local roller-skating rink. My sister and I had never been to a roller rink. We always went ice-skating instead. Okay, but this should still be fun. Hooray! We’re going rollerskating!
Yeah. But in Connecticut.
As soon as we drove up to the joint I knew it was going to be memorable.
The place was decrepit and dusty. Looked like it hadn’t been renovated since the forties or fifties. The people too. Everybody in the place was dressed like extras from an episode of Green Acres. Old-fashioned rural clothes. Coveralls. Red-checked flannel. Hats with flaps. Girls with dresses made out of patterns. Everybody slowly skating around with blank New England expressions. Real time-warp vibe.
I remember there was even a gumball machine that dispensed stick pretzels. How fucked-up is that?
Well, we get our skates and roll into the rink. I’m looking around. It’s really dark. The light has a root-beer amber quality. There’s just enough of it to avoid bumping into some Ed Gein skating the other way. Instead of canned pop music, there was a live organ playing some kind of Hokey Pokey funeral dirge.
I skate over to the other end of the rink. I see a sad pile of old toys arranged around a window. They’re all the scariest kind. Monkeys with cymbals. Homemade dolls. Ventriloquist dummies. Crude wooden trains. Mangy stuffed animals.
All set among sagging tinsel and dim Christmas lights. And not moved or dusted in thirty years.
Then I looked up at the window.
And saw where the organ music was coming from.
Behind thick, nicotine-stained glass, a hunched man sat playing the organ. I’ll never forget what the fucker looked like. Instead of trying to describe him I’ll draw him-
Yeah. I’ll take a hooded white face. Any day. My parents had spent a lot of time trying to convince me that Lurch was not real. Now it looked like that was just more of their lying bullshit.
Something about him being behind thick glass. It made it look like he was being kept in a room built especially to safely house him. So he wouldn’t break out and start eating hillbillies. Was he some sort of serial-killing musical savant?
The whole scene was disturbing enough, but seeing that ghoul behind glass was the crown jewel.
I skated over to my sister.
“I think you need to roll over to the organ grinder and get a good look.”
She did. It’s something that stays with her to this day.
And I’m sure she’s grateful to me for it, too.
Anyway, it shows that something doesn’t have to be paranormal to scare. There are plenty of terrifying things right here in the “real” world.
Like getting drunk and ruining your life. Nice and normal-like. And to be honest that scares me more. More than some Enochian demon growling from under my bed. Although, that still gives me a good jolt. You know, when it wakes you out of a dead sleep.
It’s good though. Reminds me to pray. When in doubt, shout it out.
Over the years, I’ve experienced so much strangeness, both supernatural and organic, that when it came time to ask an invisible higher power to relieve me of my alcoholism, it didn’t seem so far-fetched. I already believed there was all kinds of stuff out there. Some of it good. Some of it not so. So unlike some alcoholics coming into recovery, I didn’t balk at praying to stay sober.
Cracks me up. One guy told me that praying made him feel uncomfortable. Said he felt stupid doing it. The guy who pissed his pants at his sister’s wedding. Drank eleven beers before his probation hearing. You’d think he’d be comfortable with feeling stupid by now. He’s not yet. And still drinking.
No big deal. That’s where demons come in. Their main job is to scare everyone back to The Creator. One way or another. Everybody finds themselves praying. They’ll make sure of it. Turn up the heat until you do. And the way things are popping off these days, it looks like they’ve brought their A game.
So I don’t think there’s any need to push prayer on anyone. Suggest it sure, but to get a really sincere one out of somebody, there are experts out there.
And they are consummate professionals.
Post-script: While Googling “Demons in Connecticut” I came across this little tid-bit from the Fortean Times, “Across the state-line, in Fairfield County, Connecticut, an employee at a local radio station told me of druid-like gatherings, at night, in the woods surrounding Candlewood Lake, near Danbury.”