Ghosts: A Word About Possession

I read a story today, a first hand account, which the contributor described as a daemonic presence. I wasn’t so sure:  it appeared to actually be a ghost or poltergeist. Scary, yes.   But  she was able to dispatch it with relative ease.  Usually such cases are complicated, and take a long time to sort.  It was with her only a couple of months, did no actual harm, and was got rid of simply with a blessed cross and being told to leave. Daemonic cases are much darker.  And they take a very long time and highly trained, specialized experts to dispel.

I’m clergy, and also worked in hospital chaplaincy for many years.  I’ve only once (thankfully not more!) encountered something I thought might well be a case of daemonic possession.

One day, I was called to the hospital ER. The Catholic priest was already present.  A patient had been brought in on a mental health hold: that is, he was considered “a danger to himself or others” and would be held at the hospital until a bed at a mental health facility bed became available.   These holds are quite routine, as a rule.  But this case was different.

In the room, three large male nurses were struggling to get the patient (who was scrawny and small) back into three-point restraints, out of which he had inexplicably slipped.  Once he was secured, I joined the priest and the patient in the room.

This patient was very, very strange. Not at all like any mental hold patient I’d ever encountered.  What was different about him?

  1. As described, his unusual physical strength
  2. His eyes.  I have never before (and hope never again) to see what so looked like “dead” eyes.  They were devoid of expression or humanity.  In clinical work we look for “affect,” or nonverbal signals that can be observed about a patient. This man had the strangest, scariest affect I’ve encountered before or since.
  3. The patient spoke in several languages (not gibberish: both the priest and I were well-educated and recognized Hebrew, Latin and Greek, among others).
  4. It felt cold around the patient, as it does around ghosts.  We spoke with him briefly. I left.  Frankly, I felt fortunate that something didn’t follow me out the door.
  5. It was an extremely uncanny experience for both me (an Episcopal priest) and for my Catholic colleague.

We both concluded this was no ordinary case of mental distress, but something paranormal, dark, extremely creepy, possibly daemonic – and convincing.  Maybe “you had to be there” – but trust me on this.

While many cases of possession have been debunked, there are also many that have not. William Friedkin, who directed The Exorcist, has recently filmed a real exorcist at work and he evidently found the footage quite compelling.  Here’s a link to more information about his experience:

For those hungry for more ghost stories, made-up as well as real, check out my ghost books:

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Mob Haiku: You’re In Good Hands

Our booth’s sign at the

San Gennaro Festival:

“Buy Protection Here.”


For more mob haiku:

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Ghosts: The Lawn Jockey (A Horror Story)

(from Death Be Not Loud: Ghosts, Haunts & Tall Tales for Restless Nights©by Jan Olandese)

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The Lawn Jockey  (Author note:  This is fiction, not a true account.  That would be awful 🙂

It was so perfect! The ideal color, and in such good condition! Clay had wanted one forever.  Look at him, extending a hand for your horse’s reins.  A bit of history, that. (Of course, Clay wanted a real antique, not a fiberglass copy from Sri Lanka).  Not for Clay the pink flamingoes, the bathtub Virgins (he was not Catholic) or those silly garden gnomes.

He’d nearly caused a four-car pile-up on the boulevard, he’d braked so hard.  There it was!  The very lawn jockey of his dreams.  He parked and crossed the street.  Estate Sale, the sign said.  Tables full of dishes and knickknacks, linens, even an ancient Electrolux vacuum cleaner, the hose coiled: an inert python.  The house, set back from the street; shuttered and quiet in the shade as its former contents were handled, perused, and carried away in Piggly Wiggly bags.  It squatted there, hulking, ready to pounce, thought Clay. But that was ridiculous, he lectured himself. (His sixth sense said otherwise, but Clay would have none of it).

The lawn jockey was white, dressed in riding attire, which had faded with the years. Once it had been crisp and brightly colored. Its left hand extended; it held an iron ring.  Sure enough, this statue had been used as a hitching post, thought Clay.  This was not the racially insensitive lawn jockey of the Uncle Tom-ish sort, but rather the “cavalier” style: a symbol of gracious living: mint juleps on the front verandah with the planters down the road, and the Methodist minister. It was taller than was usual:  quite nearly life size.  This made sense to Clay: a small one would look fine next to, say, a suburban tract home, but would be dwarfed by the mansions this one doubtless once graced.  He was drawn like a moth to a fire sale.  Clay found the man in charge.

“How much for the lawn jockey?” he inquired, as casually as he could.  (No sense overpaying, he thought, trying his best not to look overly eager). The man, who wore a Hello My Name Is nametag with ‘Derwin’ scrawled in black Sharpie, smiled and scratched his head.

“Oh, you mean Mr. Smith?” he replied. “That’s what we call him,” he added with a grin.  “Let me just look him up in the inventory list,” he added, scanning a price sheet.

“Seems like they have him down for… naw, this can’t be right. It says here if the buyer covers the moving cost, this item’s free of charge.  Thing is, you can’t return him:  we’re closing the house up, so sold is sold.”  He added,  “‘Course, if you decide you don’t like him you can always pass him along.  People just love these things.  I’ve never understood why.  They kinda give me the willies.”

Clay was ‘way too delighted either to consider those words or to contemplate gift horses.  He was also totally (and if I may say so, quite unwisely) deaf to his sixth sense, which screamed “No! Bad!”  Thus it was that Clay immediately took the deal.  Later he came back with a pickup truck from Home Depot.  He drove to his small cottage in Jacksonville, and after careful consideration, placed Mr. Smith up front, right there, by the mailbox.  This way everyone who drove by would see it.  Clay knew his neighbors would be positively green with envy.

He was exhausted, though.  What a lot Mr. Smith weighed.  Clay had needed his hand truck to move it (he’d almost thought “him!”) out of the truck and into the right spot.  Clay went back to the house for a sweet tea. Thirsty work, this moving.  Later he returned to sit on his porch swing and admire his acquisition. What a stroke of luck!

Ouch!  Damn, er dadgummit, he’d got a splinter from the porch railing. He’d kept meaning to sand it down.  He bled a little, and a drop or two fell onto the old wood.  Heck. He went in to see to his wound and ended up before the tv, bingeing on Unsolved Mysteries.


The following day, Clay slept in.  This was unusual for him, but then so was acquiring a statue.  He wrote it off to the excitement of his purchase and poured himself his morning mug of Nescafe and French Vanilla Coffee-Mate.  He brought some letters to the mailbox and took a moment to admire his new acquisition. But wait. Could it be? Mr. Smith looked as if he’d been polished! Somehow, less faded. His mouth, which had been expressionless, formed the beginnings of…could it be a smile?  Clay liked to think so.

Clay went off to do his weekend errands.  It felt good to see Mr. Smith in his yard.


When Clay returned, he thought he’d been pranked.  Some folks couldn’t resist, could they? Mr. Smith had been moved. He now stood, helpfully reaching for the reins, halfway between the house and the street, about ten feet from his former placement beside the mailbox.  But after a quick perusal, Clay saw that no harm had been done.

Clay took his groceries inside. He went to the stove heat up some weenies and beans for lunch when, quite unaccountably, the gas flame shot out from under the burner.  It licked the edge of his sleeve, which, being polyester, caught fire.  Clay ran to the sink and turned the faucet with his other hand.  Ssssssst, ouch! Looked like he’d got a bit of a burn on his wrist.  This was odd though.  It felt as if the flame had somehow been . . . reaching for him.  Ah, he shook his head.  His imagination. His mom always told him it’d get the best of him if he didn’t stick to business.

Clay went outside to water the petunias and phlox in his window boxes.  He took a damp rag to go over Mr. Smith when he noticed Mr. Smith appeared to be wearing a brand new coat.  The old one had faded to a pale dusty rose.  Now it was a brilliant vermilion.  His riding pants were crisp and white, no longer yellowed and scuffed.  His boots, polished ebony.  His face looked … fuller.  Rosier?  Hard to say, but the entire effect was one of overall … satisfaction.

Maybe someone had taken to Mr. Smith and was touching him up while Clay was otherwise occupied.  He smiled to himself.  Maybe it was that nice Mrs. Hummel from down the road. She was such a dear. Often bringing pound cakes round to the neighbors, and extra zucchini and tomatoes when her garden ripened to overload.  And so kind to those kids, Hans and Grethe from ’round the block:  always had cookies for them.  Yes, it must have been Mrs. Hummel.  (Clay’s sixth sense had shouted itself quite hoarse by this time.  But Clay tuned out and had clicked his mental remote to something pleasant, as was his habit).


Clay took his latest library haul out to the porch swing; time to read.  This trove included a collection of ghost stories. He adored these but never read them at night: that would be far too creepy and he’d surely have trouble sleeping! No. Sunny days only.  He grinned and got comfortable.  He had just finished F. G. Cottam’s Dark Echo and had been quite terrified: it was so realistic, and eerie.  And Andrew Taylor’s The Four Last Things: that Canon Youlgreave, brrrr.  Clay loved a good shiver but tended to worry long after the book had been placed back on the shelf.

Today, let’s see.  M. R. James?  Yes, perhaps “O Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad.”  Boy, that was a dark one, all right. Shows what happens when you dig around where you shouldn’t.  Some things should stay buried.  Count Magnus, for instance, why on earth did that silly professor go and tempt fate by hanging round that tomb?  He’d asked for it, hadn’t he, said Clay to himself.  Hmmm.  People just didn’t heed the warnings.  He reflected: maybe today, no horror tales. He chose a cowboy book instead.


That night Clay was hand-wrapping his custom fishing rod.  He had spools of colorful thread in orderly rows on the kitchen table.  He was focused on this work when he felt a sudden, scalpel-sharp stab of pain in his hand.  Yikes, what had happened?  He looked up and saw a large fishing hook embedded in his palm!  How on earth had it got there?  He was so cautious with his fishing tackle.  “A place for everything and everything in its place” was his motto.

But no time to wonder, his hand was bleeding like a sonofabi … gun.  Clay’s mom had taught him never to swear. That the devil would get him if he did.  For luck he’d always cross his fingers and thank Jesus for reminding him, any time he caught himself starting to say a bad word.  Yes.  Clay was nothing if not careful.  Which was why this injury was so unsettling.  Clay just couldn’t work out how it happened.

He went to the bathroom and after carefully extracting the hook, he disinfected the cut with some antiseptic spray and then bandaged it well with gauze and adhesive tape (the cut was too deep for a bandage from the Walgreen’s box). He briefly thought about popping over to the urgent care clinic but decided to pass.  The doctors, while nice, were always from someplace foreign: he had a hard time deciphering their thick accents and frankly, the one in the sari quite put him off.  Why didn’t she just blend in, Clay wondered. Ah. Well.  It wasn’t for him to say, maybe she was just homesick.

As Clay was getting ready for bed that night, another strange thing occurred. His electric toothbrush gave him quite a shock. Yes indeed.  He felt a huge jolt.  Afterward, he fell, and was unable to move.  He felt sore, but not unhappy. His mind was frozen in place, stuck in a single groove, like a phonograph needle on a scratched LP:  permanently contemplating which ice cream he would buy tomorrow and whether to get the store brand Neapolitan or use his Starbuck’s coupon for Chocolate Chip Cappuccino.

Had Clay had the capacity as well as the motivation to take a peek out his front window just then, he would have noticed something quite curious.  Mr. Smith was now at the front door. His hand was held out as if, instead of visitors’ horses’ reins, he was reaching for the doorknob.  The lawn jockey was now most definitely smiling, and his red lips were slightly parted, to show a row of even, razor-sharp little snow-white teeth.  The tip of his pink tongue could be barely discerned by the close observer.

Photo: by Amanda Wray

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Ghosts: Chilling True Ghost Stories!


Readers, here’s a link: about ghosts, belief in them, and true stories! Have a look!    “These chilling real ghost stories will make you believe!”

Source: Chilling Real Ghost Stories | Reader’s Digest

For those hungry for more ghost stories, made-up or real, check out my books:




Ghosts: A True Ghost Story from Nova Scotia (reblog)


A fascinating true ghost story, from the fascinating files of Cold Spot Paranormal:

True ghost stories — Cape Breton, Nova Scotia: “The house was like one you’d read about in a book, well over 200 years old and it was beautiful…

via Cape Breton Ghosts: Little Girl On The Banister — Cold Spot Paranormal Research: Ghosts Haunted

For those interested – below please see the  link to my nonfiction book, About Ghosts, and my fictional ghost story collections:  Death Be Not Loud and Rest In Fleece.

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Mob Haiku: It’s A Stretch

Lenny Abs worked out

so often he became known

as the Bodfather.

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(Reblog) Ghosts: Highgate Cemetery! From The Deep Blog

The second most haunted place of the world in my World’s 5 Most Haunted Places In The World blog series…!! The North Gate Cemetery, England…!! There you go readers… 2. The North Gate Cemetery, England: Situated in North London, This is just like watching a horror flick of Alfred Hitchcock in reality. By the time dusk […]

via Existence Proofs: 2/5: The North Gate Cemetery,  England..!!  — The Deep Blog

This was a great, shivery read!  Have you ever been to a haunted cemetery?

Photo:  By JohnArmagh (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Mob Haiku: The Modfather

Santino always

wore the latest:  from nineteen

seventy two.

Photo: By Daniel Hartwig [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

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Ghosts: Haunted Locales

Did you know that a place itself (without a house or other building) can be haunted?

Many years ago, my spouse and I bought a wooded acre in Maine, and built a house there.  There was a bit of the property that always felt creepy to us and to others who visited.  No reason for it: it was near the road, not isolated, and the area was quite scenic.  Yet I (and others) would walk around that  part of the property rather than be there and get the feeling of being observed by something unfriendly.  This bit of the yard abutted one room of the house – and that room was never a comfortable place.  I can’t explain any of this except assure you that I and others experienced the same weird feeling there.

Here is another example, from my book, About Ghosts:  A Useful Handbook:

The following is a series of odd events that happened to a friend and I one night, back in our college days.  It may fall into the category of haunted places. We were driving around an area in the north section of the city, which had been laid out for a housing development that was never completed. There were sidewalks, curbs, street lights and power poles, but no buildings.

My friend said that the location had an odd reputation in local urban lore.  People who went there at night would be fine at first, then they’d begin to feel edgy.  The place would become progressively more frightening (without anything actually happening) and then, when people tried to leave, there would be difficulty.

We laughed but indeed, shortly we began to feel nervous. We decided not to press it and turned around. The car battery, which had been trouble-free, began to sputter.  We were barely able to restart the vehicle and when we did, we left posthaste. There is no accounting for the increasingly icy, scary feeling of that locale.

The place to this day, decades later, remains undeveloped, and this in a city which has experienced massive growth.  No other bare land in the vicinity remains.

Have you ever been to or heard about a haunted outdoor place?

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