To Follow is the True Account of Christopher Paul, who wonders to this day, decades later, What He Saw…
Just for the record, I’d like to state that I’m not the person who usually writes this blog. I’m just a guest star – sort of like Barbie Benton on an old episode of Fantasy Island. Or The Love Boat. She was on both – a lot. But this blog is about horror, and as bad as Barbie Benton’s acting was, she just doesn’t qualify.
I considered a number of potential topics to explore here – mostly about movies, such as analyzing the film Alien as a haunted house film set on a poorly-lit, decrepit spaceship instead of in a poorly-lit, decrepit domicile – but then I decided that it might be better to speak from personal experience. I’m going to tell you about something that happened to me, a long time ago. It was when I was very young. and it was the only time that I believe that I saw a non-human entity – although there was that weird guy on the subway this morning…
I was about five-years old. My grandmother had taken me with her to run errands – the bank, the supermarket, etc. One of the stops was at the house of this woman she knew. The woman was a seamstress, and my grandmother was having some sewing done – having my grandfather’s pants hemmed or something. When we arrived, my grandmother started conversing with the woman, and we ended up standing there for some time.
I started looking around, but there was nothing there to interest me, so I quickly became bored. Then, another woman arrived, who also had some business with the seamstress. She wasn’t alone. A little girl was following behind her. I couldn’t get a look at her face, but she was about my height, so I assumed she was about my age. She wore a bright red woolen coat, like a pea coat. She had straight brown hair, neck length. I seem to remember a brown hat, like a beret, but I’m not certain about that detail – it might have just been her hair.
The three women were gathered like hens, busily and contentedly chatting about whatever it is that grandmother-types chat about. So, deciding that I would get some of my own mojo going, I walked up to the little girl and said, “Hi!” That was when she turned to face me. . .and I received the shock of my young life.
Her face was not human.
It had all the right parts, but it was unlike any face that I have ever seen, before or since. She looked old, and when I say old, I mean old – not like an 80-year old, or even a 100-year old. She looked the way I would imagine a 200-year old to look. Her face was lined with deep wrinkles, but they were strange wrinkles, running vertically down her face. And her eyes – they were too small, and round, and very dark. It sounds like a cliché, but the word “beady” comes to mind. Years later, when I saw Jaws, a line spoken by Quint, describing a shark’s eyes –“dead eyes, like a doll’s eyes” – would remind me of hers.
I was taken aback, but I had been taught well by my parents – I had been told that when one encountered a person who was disabled or somehow deformed, one should simply treat them like everyone else. So, rapidly recovering from my initial shock, I said, “My name’s Chris. What’s yours?”
There was no reply. The girl just stared at me, her strange eyes boring into mine. What’s more, she did not look happy. Her stare was angry, a venomous stare filled with malice. At that point, I backed off, stood by my grandmother’s side, and watched this girl, who never spoke a word, from a more comfortable distance.
When we finally left, I asked my grandmother, “Grandma, what was wrong with that little girl?” My grandmother looked at me, puzzled.
“What little girl?”, she replied.
“The one who came in with that other lady. She had a weird face!”
“Christopher, that lady was alone!”
“No she wasn’t There was this little girl in a red coat following her. I tried to talk to her, but she wouldn’t say anything, and her face was all wrinkled and weird-looking!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
And so it continued, all through the ride home. I couldn’t understand how my grandmother could have failed to notice this little girl – particularly given her unusual qualities. Also, she was wearing a bright red coat – how could my grandmother have failed to notice her presence? Her eyes weren’t that bad!
When we got back to my house, I told my mother the story. My grandmother, however, was still mystified. “Vera,” she said to my mother, “I don’t know what he’s talking about! There was no little girl!“
I stuck to my story. My mother, most likely in an effort to appease me, said, “Well, maybe Grandma just didn’t notice her.”
“But what about her face? What was wrong with it?”
“Maybe she had been in a fire,” she responded diplomatically.
And that was the end of it.
I still don’t know what I saw. A ghost? Perhaps the spirit of a dead daughter or sister? Or was it something more exotic – something we would call a demon, or an alien, or an interdimensional entity of some sort. And why was it following that woman? Was it sucking her life energy out of her like a psychic vampire? I wonder to this day. . . did that woman sicken and die of some horrible illness soon after I saw her? And that nasty stare the “girl” gave me, like a vicious wild animal. . .I now believe I understand why she seemed so angry. She was unhappy that I could see her. She did not want to be noticed.
It is said that children and animals can see things that adult humans cannot. Anyone who has owned a pet has likely seen their cat’s gaze following something unseen through the air, or their dog barking and growling ominously at a corner of the room, a corner which to our eyes contains nothing at all. Children see and hear things beyond normal human ken as well.
Although I never again saw anything like what I saw that day, I had a few later experiences where I believe, to this day, that I was in the presence of something, some kind of other, something not human. I’m not convinced that all of these things which people think of as ghosts are truly the lingering spirits of the departed. For example, there are “recordings” – cases in which non-interactive ghostly images are seen performing the same action repeatedly, such as descending a staircase. These, in my opinion, are not actual hauntings at all, but simply a kind of naturally-occurring hologram, most likely due to the presence of flowing water running through crystalline rock strata beneath the site of manifestation. In the case of interactive hauntings, I think that in many cases, they are some form of interdimensional entity that extracts a sort of enjoyment out of deceiving us, making us believe that they are our dead Aunt Harriet, but all the time laughing at us. This is a theory originated by renowned paranormal investigator John Keel, author of The Mothman Prophecies, who referred to it as “the Trickster phenomenon”. I think they might feed on our heightened emotional states – fear, happiness, sadness. Maybe they attach themselves to individuals and affect their brain chemistry, causing mental issues such as depression, then feasting on our misery like vultures on a rotting carcass. Remember that one epithet for Satan is “the Great Deceiver”, and another is “the Prince of Lies”. And no one – to my knowledge – has ever gotten good advice out of a ouija board.
And sometimes, sitting in the dark, I wonder. . .do I have some little imp following me? Do you? Do we all?