This piece originally appeared in LONDON Magazine, London, Ontario, in the October/November, 1982 Issue as the second of a series highlighting local interest in supernatural occurrences. RGL

    Things that go Bump in the Night

    Tales of demons, spirits, ghosts and hauntings in London

    RG Liberty

LONDON, Ont. - Have you ever thought about why thousands of Londoners lined up for blocks to see the movie "The Exorcist?" Or why so many of its viewers were deeply disturbed by it? What was the fascination with the film "Poltergeist," seen this summer in London, and, for that matter, all films preoccupied with occult or hostile supernatural experiences? Might the fear these subjects inspire be quite a different sort than that of imminent physical harm or natural disaster? I suggest that it's fear of a special sort of Unknown. I'll state further that there are such things as ghosts.

I realize that many will laugh outright at this assertion or shake their heads in disbelief that anyone could be stupid or politically suicidal enough to make it in the first place. But consider this; in 1981 there were upwards of 5000 reports of incidents attributed to ghostly manifestation throughout North America, according to exorcist and demonologist, Ed Warren.

If one has the effrontery to assert that ghosts exist, one might as well put it on the line and state that there also such things as demons. Who in his right mind would risk his name and reputation by openly reporting his belief in the existence of discarnate entities? Well, Pope Paul VI, for one. He said:

"Satan's smoke has made its way into the temple of God through some crack. This came about through an adverse power his name is the Devil. . . We believe that some preternatural thing has come into the world precisely to disturb to suffocate the fruits of the Ecumenical Council." (June 29,1972).
This is as open an admission of the existence of inhuman spirits as one can hope to find. If one can accept the word of a Pope, a man whose business it is the spiritual world, one must accept that there are different types of spirits. Admittedly, many would view the statement of a Roman Catholic Pope as containing biased truth, but many others, with no traditional religious beliefs, will, nevertheless, profess a faith in such things as spirits and demons. Studies about these phenomena are going on in many American and Canadian universities and being taken seriously.

"There are two types of spirits that are encountered in true haunting situations," says Warren. "One is human; the other, however, is inhuman. An inhuman spirit is something that has never walked the earth in human form."

Ed and Lorraine Warren have spent over 35 years investigating hauntings worldwide and have been lecturing on the subject of demonic and ghostly oppression for the past decade. They lectured to a full house in London's Alumni Hall recently and effectively opened the eyes of a number of skeptics to the dangers of laughing too smugly at what they refuse to believe.

When people think about spirits or ghosts at all, they picture them lurking around in musty attics or basements of old houses or in cemeteries in a misty, vaporous state, moaning and lamenting their fate. But the commonly accepted theory held by psychic researchers is that spirits or apparitions need physical energy to manifest. This energy is either "borrowed" from the bioenergy of living beings, the energy aura of humans, or from the natural electro-magnetic discharges in the atmosphere.

How ghosts manifest is one thing, but how they look is an entirely different matter. Why are some ghosts headless or disfigured? Says Warren, "The spirit's appearance depends on how that particular spirit determines to project itself in its own mind. This is why encounters with earth-bound spirits are not always easy-going, passive affairs.

"Tragedy comes in many forms," says Warren, "often accompanied by violence, and an individual's last thoughts tend to dominate the mind of the spirit after physical death. Thus, the ghost will often manifest as a grotesque spectacle, representative of the manner in which it died. Furthermore, an individual who meets with a tragic end often carries a negative attitude into the afterlife."

This is the common explanation for the two types of ghosts, real ghosts and not inhuman spirits, which are historically called the Gray Ghost and the Poltergeist. It is believed by experts that a person dying a violent or sudden death experiences a psychological split in the conscious/subconscious dichotomy which makes up the total personality.

The gray ghost is the traditional weeping spirit sighted most often where it lived in life. It is believed that this is the conscious part of the mind, the part with no memory or drive. These are the harmless spirits one reads about that haunt the places they knew in life.

On the other hand is the poltergeist. This is believed to be the subconscious part of the individual. The part with the memory of life and the energy, or bioenergy of that life, but without direction or purpose. Hence we read about these spirits causing physical damage to the living; levitating and throwing objects, and sometimes people, with no apparent rhyme or reason. Poltergeist manifestations are more spectacular than other manifestations simply because of their destructiveness.

The poltergeist may be trying to draw attention to its plight through these antics. Some experts in psychical research theorize that the gray ghost and the poltergeist have to be reintroduced to one another in order to reform the complete human spirit. In this way the total entity can leave the earth and go wherever spirits go when physical life is suspended.

The gray ghost, in the opinion of members of the British and American Societies for Psychical Research, is often unaware of its death, or refuses to believe it is dead. This accounts for the thousands of reported sightings or hauntings in and around locations familiar to the ghost during life. Many psychics and mediums attempt to make the ghost face its death with the hope that it will no longer be earth-bound. In many instances the same method is used with the poltergeist with satisfactory results.

So, then, here we have two methods of freeing ghosts from their earthly ties. But, what happens if the ghost doesn't want to leave? The first thing to do is ask the question, Is this really a ghost we're dealing with or is it something else?

And then there are demons . . .
Demons are lower forms existing in the spiritual hierarchy. They are base, harmful and terrifying entities that plague mankind whenever the opportunity presents itself. Many of the first books printed in the English language dealt with demonology. References to demons can be found in ancient Greek writings, as well, of course, as in the Bible.

"The inhuman spirit often identifies itself as the devil," says Warren. "And then, through physical or psychological means, proves itself to be just that. I have been burned by these invisible forces. I have been slashed and cut; these spirits have gouged marks and symbols on my body. I've been thrown around rooms like a toy, my arms have been twisted up around my back until they've ached for weeks. I've incurred sudden illnesses to knock me out of an investigation. Physicalized monstrosities have manifested before me threatening death, ruin of my family and afterlife torment. But, whatever I've witnessed has been suffered far worse by the clergy who must challenge the demonic."

These inhuman spirits like to masquerade as ghosts of people who just want to sit and talk to the living through Ouija boards, seances, automatic writing or whatever. They weasel their way into a home as harmless little ghosts like Casper and once in; they cause incredible and malicious damage to both body and mind. What do they want with human beings? To possess and destroy them. The book and movie "The Exorcist" was based on a case in 1949 of a teenage boy who allowed a demon to enter his house and then his body simply through playing with a Ouija board.

Some of the more ghastly things done by these inhuman spirits include strangulation of the victim, burning, biting, slashing, levitating people and smashing them against walls and ceilings, destroying religious objects, screaming blasphemies against God and Christ, attacking children and babies, tearing doors from their hinges and throwing them at people, possessing members of a family and in some cases, causing death if the possessed is not exorcised successfully.

Inhuman spirit manifestations usually start out like ghostly hauntings. There will be the sounds of footsteps, moaning, creaking, things will vanish then reappear in a different part of the house and sometimes the demon will show itself to the haunted in some not too terrifying form. But the tell-tale sign reported in all demonic manifestations is knockings. The spirit raps, taps, knocks or pounds three times in succession, a conventional sign of an inhuman presence.

Once the demon has gained entrance into a home it begins to show itself for what it really is. Witnesses have described them as "blacker than black" like a hole in the world in the hulking shape of a semi human. Ed Warren has thousands of hours of tape recordings of his exorcisms. In one he confronted a demon to describe itself. The demon had been oppressing and sometimes possessing a woman named Mary, then in her mid fifties, since she was eight years old:

Warren: Describe yourself to me.
Voice: No! (A crucifix is then set in place near the woman, followed by agonized screaming by the possessing .spirit.)
Voice: I must in truth tell you what I look like. I am wicked - and ugly looking. I am inhuman. I am vindictive. I have much gross hair on my body. I am burnt. I grow hair. My nails are long, my toes are clawed. I have a tail. I use a spear. What else do you want to know?
Warren: What do you call yourself?
Voice: (Proclaiming.) I am Resisilobus! I am Resisilobus!
If it weren't for the fact that Mary was under siege for over forty years by this demonic being and was constantly subjected to physical violence and torture, the preceding conversation would sound ridiculous. In fact, taken out of context, it sounds quite comical! A tail, indeed! But the sheer evil of the entity and what it represents effectively stifles any laughter from this corner.

Stepping up from the slime of demonic oppression, let's take a look at some slightly more subdued, yet equally spooky hauntings. These deal with traditional, familiar ghosts.

There are as many stories of ghostly manifestations around the world as there are towns and cities. One famous haunting took place right here in our fair forested city of London.

Beatrice Simms lived on Colborn Street in London for years until she was forced to sell and move to Toronto. She swore she would one day return to the house she loved so much. Unfortunately she died in 1967 before she could revisit her modest three-storey house. Here's where the fun begins.

The old house changed hands a number of times until Ken Davis and his family moved in. Davis and his wife had three small children, the youngest being a six-week old baby. Sometime in September of 1967 some odd things began to happen in their home. Doors and stairs creaked, footsteps were heard where no one could be seen walking and disembodied voices called out in imitation of the two children. Obviously the baby couldn't talk yet. The manifestations occurred several times a week for five months.

The family dog would sit and stare for hours on end at something Davis and his wife couldn't see. On Hallowe'en of that year the dog disappeared and was never seen again. Shortly thereafter the family budgie and two of the children's goldfish died for no apparent reason. Soon afterwards the regular baby sitter refused to sit with the children alone in the house. Then she stopped coming altogether.

The family could hardly blame the baby sitter for abandoning them. One day when the Davises were out shopping the sitter heard the baby laughing in its carriage downstairs while the sitter was making the beds upstairs. She decided to go down to see why and how a six-week old infant could be laughing. She was stopped dead in her tracks by the sounds of heavy footsteps climbing the stairs. There was nobody on the stairs. The sitter took the other two children and hid under the bed until the parents returned.

On other occasions footsteps were heard walking through the house, following the opening of the locked front door, moving to the back porch where the footsteps ended and the sounds of a rocking chair were heard. There was a rocking chair in the back porch. But the door to the rocking chair was also locked!

Finally Mrs. Davis was told of Beatrice Simms by a neighbor. She learned of Beatrice's desire to revisit her old home. "After that I sort of took a friendly attitude to this whatever-it-was in the house," said Mrs. Davis. She began to talk to the ghost whenever its presence was felt. "You could feel someone watching. You knew something was standing there by the railing at the top of the stairs," she said.

At one point Mrs. Davis blew up at the spirit and told it, "Go on, get out of here. I don't want you around anymore!" Apparently this worked. Whatever the presence was, it took the hint and the manifestations stopped. The Davises were left in peace and the present owners of the house have reported no unusual manifestations, aside from the occasional creak and groan. But, of course that's just the old house settling on its foundations, isn't it?

This is only one reported haunting in London. There are many others. We're sure if you keep your ears open you'll catch the occasional whisper in a restaurant or a bar about a house out on Base Line that has trouble keeping its doors closed and its lights on. Somebody might tell you that the Eldon House has a ghost or two. Or you might come across an old house somewhere in the city one foggy night that will send a chill down your spine. And what about those houses ' that go up for sale every six months without any explanation to neighbors? A Realtor's delight!

Take a drive out to the Roman Line one night when there's a full moon and listen for the ghostly cries and gunfire from the old Donnelley place where almost an entire family was murdered and its home burned.

Or, if you're feeling really brave screw your courage up one night this fall and take a bottle of wine and a collection of the works of Edgar Allen Poe, along with a warm blanket and search out a quaint little cemetery in or near London. Then just settle back with your wine and book and spend a few hours listening to the voices and convince yourself it's only the wind - nothing more.

There are such things as ghosts. If you haven't seen one, count yourself lucky . . . and if you meet someone who has seen one, try to convince him it was just his imagination and see what happens. You may become one of the convinced. And if not, his certainty will nevertheless haunt you.