Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sean Paul Murphy, Writer
Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Sacred Ground to play on the Black News Channel

The Black News Channel, a new 24/7 national cable news channel with a mission to look at today's issues and events from an African-American perspective, acquired the rights to broadcast my award-winning documentary Sacred Ground: The Battle For Mount Auburn Cemetery.

Sacred Ground: The Battle For Mount Auburn Cemetery is a feature-length documentary about a group of community activists and family members battling a Methodist church for control of historic Mount Auburn Cemetery. For years, Mount Auburn Cemetery was the only place in Baltimore where African-Americans could be buried. It is the final resting place of lightweight boxing champion Joe Gans, the first African-American world champion in any sport, and numerous leaders in the early civil rights movement. It is a registered historic landmark that had fallen into such horrifying decay that bones littered the ground and weeds covered all but the highest monuments. It is a tale of grave robbing, grave recycling and every other terrible thing that could possibly happen in a cemetery.

The film follows Lu Moorman, president of Preservation Alliance, an independent group of activists and family members, and her attempt to wrest control of the cemetery from its stewards, Sharp Street Memorial Church. Dating back to 1787, Sharp Street Memorial Church is one of the first African-American Methodist congregations. It was once the most influential African-American church in Baltimore, but its numbers have dwindled over the years and its financial resources have waned. The then pastor, Rev. Dell Hinton, appointed her father, Rev. Douglas Sands, head of the cemetery. They, too, had a plan to restore the cemetery with the help of Morgan State University, but who could ultimately be trusted to speak for the generations buried beneath its soil?

David Butler, Lynda Meier and Deborah Murphy
The film was directed by David H. Butler, and written by yours truly. We both produced it with the assistance of the trusty Lynda Meier and my lovely wife Deborah Lynn Murphy. However, the film couldn't have been made without the assistance of everyone who shared their time and their stories. This was an activist piece. We began this project with a simple goal: To point a spotlight at the deplorable conditions at the cemetery to compel its owners, and the local government, to take action. For a while, it seemed like we helped. A new wall was built around the property, and the grounds were being maintained by prisoners. Sadly, conditions are now once again on the decline. 

The Black News Channel went live on February 10th and will soon be widely available. Check your cable listings now. If you don't see it, call your cable provider and request it immediately.

I cannot give you any specific times when they will be airing Sacred Ground, but the network has acquired the rights for an entire year. I suspect there will be multiple screenings. Hopefully, exposure on the Black News Channel will increase awareness to conditions in the cemetery.

Check out the trailer:

Be sure to check out my memoir The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God, published by TouchPoint Press. It is my true story of first faith and first love and how the two became almost fatally intertwined. (And keep an eye out for my upcoming paranormal thriller Chapel Street.)

Here are some sample chapters of The Promise:

Thursday, February 13, 2020

My Family: The Public Suicide of Frank Kostohryz

My 2nd great-granduncle Frank Kostohryz
A friend of mine has a complaint about genealogy.

She claims that single people get no love in genealogy. That genealogists only care about people who marry and have children. To prove her wrong, I am going to tell the story of one of my second great-granduncles, Frank Kostohryz, a single man who it seems also felt he never got the love he deserved.

I never heard of Uncle Frank until I began working on the family tree. One afternoon, I was going through an old family photo album with my grandmother Rita Rosenberger Protani Pollock and she pointed out a photo of him. Frank was the brother of her grandfather. She remembered him. She said he was good-natured and spoke English very well. He was a tailor. She said he made a great deal of money -- by our family standards -- making uniforms during World War I, but he also suffered from hard times. She said he had to live with the Little Sisters of the Poor for a while.

That's all I got about him -- just about two short sentences. And, since he never produced any descendants to track, I left it at that. But there was more to Frank. Much more.

Skip ahead about fifteen years. My genealogical research had to take a backseat to my work on Chapel Street -- a paranormal novel about a family, much like my own, plagued by a long series of suicides. When you have multiple suicides in your family, you tend to wonder if it was somehow genetic. My research on the family tree seemed to detect a strain of depression on my mother's maternal line. As a result, to add some realism to my book, I set the origins of my novel in the Baltimore of my Bohemian immigrant ancestors.

While I was writing the book, I found a 1907 story on about Uncle Frank in Baltimore's German language newspaper. Despite three years of high school German classes, I couldn't make out much. I do have my trusty German/English dictionary, but I didn't have time to translate it. I put it aside until I finished the first draft of my novel. Then, rather than translate it myself, I simply posted the newspaper story on Facebook and asked if any of my German-speaking friends could translate it for me. One of them did. The news shocked me -- and creeped me out.

The story said that Frank had gone to a nightclub at the harbor frequented by a former girlfriend and shot himself.

WTF? There I was writing about suicide in my Bohemian family only to find out that one of those very relatives shot himself....

Before we go any further, let me give you some background on poor Frank.

Frank Kostohryz was born in Bernartice, Bohemia, on 16 May 1876, the son of Jan Kostohryz, a master blacksmith, and his wife Anna Cunat, the daughter of a farmer.  He was one of nine children.  Four of those children died before the age of three. Frank himself was named after an older brother who had recently died at the age of two. Yikes. Not a promising start, if you ask me.

The Kostohryz house in Bernartice.
Frank came to Baltimore in 1889. He was not the first member of his family to arrive. Frank's older sister Mary Kostohryz arrived in Baltimore in 1883, where she met and married a man named Vaclav Klima. Frank was followed by his older brother, Jan Kostohryz, my 2nd great-grandfather. He and his wife Maria arrived in 1892.

Just as my grandmother Rita remembered, Frank worked as a tailor. He can be found in the 1900 Federal Census of Maryland living with his sister Mary and her family in a typical East Baltimore row house at 523 North Castle Street. What my grandmother didn't tell me was that Frank fell desperately in love with a woman sometime around 1897. Sadly, the love of his life ultimately rejected him and married another man, leading ten years later to the newspaper story I referenced above. Fortunately, more of the details were revealed in a couple of English-language stories.

Here's the first story from The Baltimore Sun, dated 27 June 1907:

Frank Kostohryz Wrote Her Of
Ending His Life.

     Mrs. Mary Klima, 523 North Castle street, has asked the police to help locate her brother, Frank Kostohryz who, she fears, has committed suicide.
     She received the following letter from him yesterday:
     "Dear Sister: I can stand it no longer. I have been thinking of taking this step for the last 10 years. Don't blame me for what I intend to do. I bid you the last good-by. She is to blame more than I am.
      "The Lord only knows how I suffered because of my love for her. I have never done anybody any harm and can't see why happiness is denied me.
     "See my foreman, Mr. Link, at Schloss; two days' pay is coming to me.
     "Lovingly, Frank."
     Mrs. Klima said last night that her brother had loved and lost about 10 years ago. The girl who jilted him married another and is now living in East Baltimore. Since that time her brother, who is a tailor, has often referred to his bitter disappointment. Last Sunday he told her life was not worth living.

Here's a follow-up story from The Baltimore Sun, dated 28 June 1907, which also featured a photograph:

Threatened To End Life Because
Girl Jilted Him.

     Nothing has been seen or heard of Frank Kostohryz since Wednesday morning, when he wrote to his sister, Mrs. Mary Klima, 523 North Castle street, bidding her goodby and saying life was not worth living and intended to end it all. He told sister he was driven to take his life by sorrow over a sweetheart who jilted him 10 years ago and married another.
     Kostohryz had boarded with Mr. J. Smelzel, 706 East Baltimore street, for two years.

The story finally played out in this article from Der Deutsche Correspondent, dated 3 July 1907:

I will not translate the story. Let's just cut to the chase: Frank did not die. He was taken to University Hospital where he was nursed back to health.

What happened to him afterwards? I don't know in any detail, but apparently the inner demons that drove him to that self-destructive act where satiated by the mere attempt. I don't know what kind of psychological or spiritual assistance he received, although I suspect a truly devoted sister was a key factor, but he did not kill himself. Although it seems he never found a new love and married, Uncle Frank lived another thirty-six years before dying of pneumonia on 17 November 1943. Here's the final newspaper story about him:

      KOSTOHRYZ.--On November 17, 1943, FRANK, aged 66 years, beloved son of the late John and Anna Kostohryz.
     Funeral from Frank Coach and Son Funeral Home, 900 North Chester street, Saturday morning at 9:15. Requiem High Mass at St. Wenceslaus' Church at 10 o'clock. Interment Holy Redeemer Cemetery.

My grandmother Rita was twenty-three-years-old when Uncle Frank finally died. Her Bohemian family was pretty close. She obviously knew about this story, but she decided to keep it secret from me ninety years after the event. That's perfectly understandable. There is a stigma attached to suicide which is not associated with any other form of death. No one wants to talk about suicide -- even the attempted variety. I doubt very much Frank would like this sad incident to define his life either. He would undoubtedly prefer my grandmother's brief biography -- that he was a good-natured guy, who did well financially and spoke English well. But I'm glad I found out about this incident.

In my family tree, Frank was a mere shadow. His essence as a human being was originally reduced to a few dates and two descriptive sentences. Now I, and posterity, have a much more rounded portrait of him. He was a man of great passion and sorrow. In many ways, we are kindred spirits.

More importantly, Frank is a great object lesson on suicide. It is not inevitable. One moment of madness does not condemn a person to that fate. Many people who attempt suicide and survive manage to put the impulse behind them. I hope Frank's story will provide hope to others wrestling with this issue.

Frank might have loved and lost, but he found a reason to keep on living.


Frank Kostohryz, in his later years.
Click here for more of my genealogical blogs:

Check out my memoir, The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God, published by TouchPoint Press, if you want to read about how closely my life paralleled Frank's life.

Here are some sample chapters:

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Haunting of 21 St. Helens Avenue, Part 17, Marion's Tale, Pt. 2

Four Generations of women.
Was something spiritual passed down the line?
My upcoming novel Chapel Street was inspired by my experiences growing up in a "haunted" house at 21 St. Helens Avenue* in the Northeast Baltimore neighborhood of Lauraville. This series of blogs will provide an oral history the actual haunting that inspired the book. This entry consists of the second half of an interview with my niece Marion.

Marion differs from my previous interview subjects because she never actually lived in the house.  However, her interview deals with the issue of supernatural gifts, or unusual spiritual sensitivities. Until I began this series of interviews, I didn't realize that many women in my family believe they have psychic or paranormal gifts. I believe these sensitivities might provide a partial explanation for the intensity of the haunting we experienced. However, it is not the whole story since other people who make no such claims have had intense experiences....

Here is part one of the interview: The Haunting of 21 St. Helens Avenue, Part 16, Marion's Tale, Pt. 1

Here's a clip from the interview.

SEAN: I don't know if I asked you this already, but do you think it was one thing or multiple things in 21 Saint Helens?

MARION: I don't know, because I've always had it. So unless it was something from early on, I don't know. It's not like there was a point where I consciously thought it was cool or anything, and it didn't start at Grandmom's house either. So I'm not sure if it's just all the women and you in the family kind of have this or not, I don't know.

But to your other question about -- did you want to ask it again?

SEAN: Do you think, based on your, you know, perceptions, that there was more than one thing in the house? Second part of the question, if there was more than one thing, do you think any of them were human?

MARION: I think there was one major Entity that was nonhuman that was seeking probably souls, so on the demon spectrum. I do think that there were also potentially human ghosts that were -- had not very much power. I was also kind of under the impression that there were -- yeah, that there were a number of human ghosts that were basically stuck there and were at -- like, being forced there by the Entity. But I don't know if there was more than one, like, demon, other than the one main one. But I think there were probably originally human ghosts there, too.

SEAN: Well, you know, a number of people died there, and whatever was there, was there before we got there because it was there when we got there.

MARION: Right.

SEAN: They say with demons they’re presence is usually a result of either unintentionally calling a demon, i.e. with like a Ouija board or something or playing with the occult, or sometimes it's an object associated with the occult or associated with the Entity, or a place where there was suicide or lots of death or violence. And a number of people died there, but it didn't seem -- I am missing one death certificate, but other than two of that might have been victims of possible falls, but other than that, it didn't seem like there was murder or suicide in that house.

MARION: Right.

SEAN: So I would tend to think, then, maybe someone, maybe not even someone living in that house, may have been involved in occult practice or something. Because --

MARION: Yeah, I mean, I guess it depends on if it's just in that house versus in other houses, too, or in other houses in the whole neighborhood. Does keep going back to the same places in that house, so it does have some connection geographically to the house. I don't think it's necessarily associated with objects, although when we moved out of the house, we were kind of quickly trying to get rid of things that were in the house, like furniture and things like that. But I think there's still a couple pieces of furniture, but I don't think it necessarily was tied to any of those objects. And it was there before other kind of occult activities may have happened in the '80s. So I don't know, it was just there.

SEAN: Yeah. I would say that, yeah, it seemed to me right now, before the Ouija board incident, the haunting mainly seemed to be centered in the closets on the second floor.

MARION: Right.

SEAN: And then after the Ouija board thing, there was a lot of activity upstairs. Unfortunately, Dougie was not there. Dougie did not experience anything, and I'm not surprised, because I didn't experience anything for over ten years. So Dougie did not experienced anything. Mark experienced stuff, and that was prior to the Ouija board.


SEAN: From what I'm hearing now. So something was already upstairs.

MARION: Sometimes the stuff is so mundane that you and Dougie might have been experiencing it and you didn't know it.

SEAN: The only thing that could be a false memory to me might be the organ, which is why I don't jump on that, because I do kind of remember hearing it play, like a single note once, but I'm not sure whether it could have been actually someone playing a single note --

MARION: Right.

SEAN: -- or you know, I just heard these stories from I guess Mark and Laurie, and just imagined it. But the rest of the stuff that happened to me firmly exists in a place in time that I can identify.

MARION: Yeah. But things like misplacing something, that could have happened and you wouldn't necessarily have noticed. You may have just thought you were slobby or something.

SEAN: Yeah.

MARION: Or if you think that there were people in the house and there wasn't anyone there. When I was really little, I always remember there being lots of people in the house. So there would be no way for me to remember if any of those were not real people.

Natalie, Marion, Emily
SEAN: Was this you in your original note or did Natalie say she always felt that there were other adults there and just assumed they were family friends?

MARION: I think Natalie said that, but I always thought that, too. But everyone who was older than a kid is an adult in my memory.

SEAN: Yeah. So what's your overall thoughts regarding all this and how it affected you? But before we go there, are you still having the dreams?

MARION: I do periodically have dreams about the house, but the entity's not in it. It's usually I'll have a dream where the house is empty and we have to go back in and get something. Or like, it oftentimes is like somebody ran inside and we have to wait for them to come out or something like that. When we left, I often would get dreams even when we were -- even after Grandmom had moved out, where it was kind of saying things like -- not necessarily saying things but impressing on me like, Oh, you'll be back. Sure you're leaving now, but you'll be back. So I will not go back there. 

But yeah. I think a lot of the times now if I have a dream about that house, it often is at the same time as, like, it's a new setting for a stress dream because your brain always likes to come up with new settings for those. The entity's not in it. But I'll have dreams with other kind of things in them, but not that one.

SEAN: Now, in your letter you sent me, an e-mail, you say sometimes you will actually see in a room there'll be people and some will be real and some won't be real?

MARION: Yes. Yeah. Like I think it was at maybe Beth's house, there was somebody that was walking downstairs, standing on the stairs, looking at the party, walked away. That person wasn't really there.

SEAN: Did you tell Beth?

MARION: I think so, and then they said like, oh, yeah, that'll happen. Like, that's not the first time they've heard that one before.

SEAN: Oh, okay.

MARION: But usually if I see any ghosts, it's kind of like the corner of my eye or I'll look at it and it will be kind of like a smoky wisp thing that is kind of similar to those other things, what I said when I was really little. That I might see head on, but most of the time, you know, if there's a ghost there, it's more like the feeling of one, or if I'm remembering it, like, oh, yeah, there was somebody standing right there.

SEAN: Now, do you get the sense that they're trying to communicate with you in any way or that they're aware that you can see them?

MARION: Yes. I think that's what it is. Is for some reason, I must be more visible or something to them. If there is a ghost there, they always kind of seem to come over to me. Maybe it's like -- I don't know. I've kind of thought about it, maybe it's just they are kind of excited to see that somebody can kind of see them. But a lot of times, they're just more residual ones anyway that are kind of just attracted to me for some reason. A lot of times, like a place will feel kind of hostile, and then once they come and check me out, it kind of is not hostile anymore.

SEAN: Do you have the ability to turn that off?

MARION: Um, I do -- like, I did practice -- they used to kind of follow me. And that happened to me when I was in college around that same time as everything else happening, where I would have a dream about this ghost who was walking up and down these stairs, and she asked if she could follow me around for a while because she couldn't get out of these stairs. And so I was like, oh, sure, and then she was in real life following me around. And that is around the point where I was kind of like, I have to figure out how to make it so that they don't follow me anymore. So I do have some mental tricks to make sure that they know that it's okay if they see me, it's okay if I see them, but they can't come with me.

SEAN: Yeah. That's unadvised, to allow them to come with you.

MARION: Right. Well, that's what I kind of had to practice in my subconscious. Because things -- you know, a lot of times I'd get those dreams and stuff, but I think it's when I'm sleeping, it's because I don't really have that conscious ability to be able to stop it. So once I figured that out, it's not so bad.

SEAN: So I just want to make a point, is that you felt the thing -- the Entity, you believe you were feeling the Entity away from the actual house itself?


SEAN: You could feel its influence on you?

MARION: I could, yeah. And it made me feel like really crazy. Like, I was afraid I was going to go crazy.

SEAN: Now, obviously you know where I'm going now. This is sort of the fundamental question that started this investigation. Do you think that in any way, the Entity could be responsible in part for Laurie or Mark's death?

MARION: I can kind of -- I'm keeping my mind open to it. Obviously I don't want it to be a thing like mental illness is caused by supernatural things, but I did always kind of feel like, if I thought about it too much, that I could actually go crazy. So I could see you getting a couple of people tipped in the direction of being a little bit more insane, like triggered in that way. So potentially, maybe with Mark. Although, I mean, he had a host of problems. But I mean, that stuff does get triggered. 

And if it is able to visit you when you're sleeping, I guess you could continue to experience it outside of the house. Also if you have this constant feeling of oppression, that can kind of -- if she was -- with Laurie, was experiencing that, that could also kind of give you some tendencies, probably, toward suicide. But I don't necessarily think it was there when she did it. It may have affected their mental state possibly, but I wouldn't -- there's no way I could scientifically test it, though.

SEAN: Yeah, well, that's my impression, is that it left a sense of oppressiveness, which according to the recent information I got regarding Mark and his experiences from one of his friends about his experiences up in that room and the voices he was hearing, and the voices were feeding his paranoia.

MARION: Yeah, right. I could see if you have that inclination to have some mental illness, that would be a weak point, that it would definitely be able to influence that.

SEAN: Did you feel that --

MARION: So potentially.

SEAN: Did you feel that it was trying to influence you towards suicide or other --


SEAN: -- madness?

MARION: I always kind of felt like I could go crazier if the Entity wanted me to. I always kind of felt like that. I also would get kind of feelings of like, oh, you think this clairvoyance stuff is kind of cool, right? Like, don't you want to know more? Don't you -- you know, basically like if you pay a little bit more, you could get more out of it. Which is stuff that I had never really thought about as being potentially influenced by the Entity until fairly recently where I -- yeah. Where it was kind of like, it was giving me a little taste of stuff for curiosity's sake, and I would like -- if you want to the really good stuff, though, you got to pay to play.

SEAN: So what's causing this reevaluation? Is it the blogs, is it the interviews that's causing you to reevaluate your own experiences?

MARION: Yeah, it's the interviews. A number of years ago, I was researching the house, because I was working for a cultural research management company and I had access to deed research and stuff like that. So I had always been interested in the house and I have done a lot of background research for it, and I had always thought for years that it would be really great if somebody collected an oral history of people's experiences with it. 

But then the more I've been thinking about my kind of everyday activities, the more I kind of think about how much of that was influenced by the Entity. Since I always had those dreams, it always felt like that was the real thing, but I always kind of felt like since I didn't actually live in the house, that no one really would have accepted that I was having real experiences with it since I wasn't living there.

SEAN: I really felt I put this Entity in a box, and sort of ignored anything that didn't fit my preconceived notion of how I experienced it. But you know, I've really tried to come into this with an open mind, and it is changing my feelings. For example, for me to think that there is more than one is a big leap for me.

MARION: Oh, really?

SEAN: Because I just thought I only experienced one thing. And it's funny though, I would, like you, say because of its strength and/or size, I assumed it was male, but it really wasn't male. You know what I mean?

MARION: Right. Yeah.

SEAN: It had a perception of maleness to me but it was not male. And I will say, I never saw it, it never spoke to me, but it would react to things I would say.

MARION: Right.

SEAN: But once I realized it would react to things I would say, I just wouldn't address it anymore, for the reasons you expressed earlier that interacting with it was empowering it. So I just stopped interacting with it.


SEAN: So once again, it's a science, and I look at it this way. If there is indeed a spiritual dimension, and I believe there is, if you look at 100 percent of that spiritual dimension, and hundred percent of our dimension here, the overlap between the two is probably less than .0001 percent. So we are looking at it in a totally dark way. Our ability to know what is going on in that realm at any given moment is essentially impossible for us to figure out what is going on.


SEAN: No matter what your religious world view is. Because even if you believe the Bible's right, that everything in the Bible's correct about these entities, there is so little in the Bible, you know what I mean?


SEAN: If you put all those passages together, it's not going to explain everything that people who've lived through -- what we lived through -- need to know. Particularly the why. We do not have the why.

MARION: Yeah. And usually religion seeks to answer the why questions. But science doesn't usually, so that's why it would be very difficult to apply scientific principles to that type of thing as well.

SEAN: And also it seems that the Bible, the possessions are almost always involve people and not places. But it seems to be pretty common that demonic entities will inhabit places for one reason or another. But that's not necessarily the whys and wheres. Is it bound there or does it want to be there? Suppose you're an Entity like the one in the house. This is something that is probably timeless in a real sense. If it could go anywhere, why would it want to stay at 21 Saint Helens Avenue?

MARION: Yeah, I know.

SEAN: To me, that's very puzzling. I would at least go to the Bahamas a couple weeks. Then again, sometimes it was absent. But that doesn't mean it was absent from that area. It may have just meant it was at one of the other houses.

MARION: Yeah, or it just was absent from one person. Because if a lot of it is psychological, you know, if you're on a hiatus, it doesn't mean that it is necessarily on a hiatus. But it does seem to be very attracted to that location, which is kind of strange. Because I really would have thought that it would follow us out of it.

SEAN: Yeah. And also it seems as though it is attracted to that location, and people are saying it was everywhere in the house, that there was no clean place. It did seem particularly attracted to those closets, and also the closet in, as you kids would call it, the Hell Hole. And I'm wondering if that's just because it appears as a shadow thing to people. Maybe because it is a shadow, it stays in the dark. That's why there's less activity during the day.

MARION: That hallway was really dark, though, and it wasn't in the hallway. Well, there was that closet in the hallway that was creepy, I guess.

SEAN: Yeah.

MARION: Well, and the bathroom was really creepy, the closet that was part of it in the bathroom, and that wasn't dark. And it was a sun room, for ding dang's sake.

SEAN: Yeah. But I mean it seemed like it was mainly in your mother's room. That was her room. You know, in that main closet there. But as John said, everyone was always looking at that door when they were in that bathroom.

MARION: He's right. I never took a shower in there because then I wouldn't be able to watch the door or watch the closet. You'd have to have your back to it.

SEAN: Yeah. Well, I tell you what, thank you for your appearance. Is there anything else you would like to say?

MARION: I don't know. There's going to be lots of things that I wrote down or whatever, but I think that's the general gist of it.

SEAN: Okay, well, great. Thank you very much, and we will talk later. I'm turning off the camera.

Here's another clip from the interview:


*21 St. Helens Avenue was the original address of the house when it was built. The street name and number changed over time, but I use the original address to protect the privacy of the current owners.

Additional blogs about the haunting:

Below you will find some uncorrected sample chapters of the book. I can't guarantee how long the publisher will allow me to keep them posted.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Best Movie of 2019: Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

I am not a huge Quentin Tarantino fan.

I appreciate his work. I respect his work. If I'm flipping through the channels and I land on one of his films, I'll probably watch it. That said, I do not love his work. I often found their brilliance matched by their self-indulgence. More importantly, not of his films have ever really engaged me on an emotional level. To me, they were simply insightful genre deconstructions loaded with pop culture references. Tellingly, I do not own any of his films on Blu-Ray. But I'll buy this one.

That surprises me.

When I first read that Tarantino was going to do a film about the Manson murders, I remember groaning audibly. I was once a voracious reader of true crime. I read quite a bit about the Manson murders, and the last thing I wanted to see was another historical rewrite from Tarantino along the lines of Inglourious Bastards. However, as the film went into production, I began to consider it more favorably. I had long doubted the narrative prosecutor Vincent Bugiliosi put forward in his bestseller Helter Skelter: that the murders were simply the act of a mad cult leader trying to start a race war. But the murders were not random. They were about revenge. They were meant to send a message. Sharon Tate and her friends died for being at the wrong house at the wrong time. The Helter Skelter motive was a convenient device to avoid showing how deeply Manson and his family worked their way into Hollywood.  (If you'd like to know more about that, check out the Charles Manson's Hollywood series on Karina Longworth's podcast You Must Remember This.) Perhaps, I thought, Quentin Tarantino could get to the true heart of the matter.

He didn't. And I'm glad he didn't. Instead, he delivered something much better. The two-hour-and-forty-one minute film barely touches on Manson. Throughout the bulk of the film, Manson and his followers are little more than an ominous shadow on the horizon. Instead, the film concentrates on the friendship between a fading TV star, Rick Dalton, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and his stuntman/ gofer Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt. While Booth seems perfectly satisfied with his place in the world, Dalton fears for his future as Hollywood's taste turns from the 1950's style pretty boys to embrace a hippie culture he doesn't like or understand.

How does any of this relate to the Manson murders? Well, Dalton happens to live on Cielo Drive in Los Angeles, right next door to the house rented by director Roman Polanski and his pregnant wife Sharon Tate, played wonderfully by Margot Robbie. If Charlie Manson represents the dark underside of the counter culture, Robbie's Sharon Tate represents the naive promise of the hippie movement. She moves through the film like a delightful ray of sunshine, all the while filling the viewer with dread since we all know her fate....

The pace of the film is leisurely as we slowly get to know Rick and Cliff. Rick had a promising film career but finally made a name for himself as the star of a TV western. Now, his series is gone and his film career has stalled. He finds himself reduced to playing guest star spots on other people's shows. Cliff, on the other hand, is content to be Rick's gofer. He certainly has the time to do so. His career as a stuntman has stalled because of rumors that he murdered his wife, despite the official ruling that it was a tragic accident.

One of my problems with the later Martin Scorcese films was his over reliance on Leonardo DiCaprio as his cinematic alter ego. I'm sorry, but I never thought DiCaprio, while a fine actor, possessed the necessary weight and gravitas for those serious roles. However, DiCaprio is perfect in this film. He magnificently embodies the colossal self-doubt and arrogance of a star in decline. And Brad Pitt more than matches him step by step. His Cliff Booth is easy-going and loyal, and more than a little wise, but also hard as a rock. There isn't an ounce of fear in him. He isn't intimidated by Bruce Lee or even the Manson Family.

Here's the Bruce Lee fight scene:

In perhaps the tensest sequence in the film, Cliff gives on of the Manson girls a ride out to the Spahn Movie Ranch, where he once worked as a stuntman. Cliff doesn't like what he sees. Fearing the owner George Spahn, played by Bruce Dern, might be a prisoner, he insists on seeing him and refuses to take no for an answer.

Slowly, the film ominously rambles toward the night of 9 August 1969 when four members of the Manson family decided to pay a call on Cielo Drive. I'm not going to tell you what happens, but I must admit it left me with a smile. In fact, I found myself smiling throughout the entire film. The reason this film topped my list for 2019 has nothing to do with art. I simply enjoyed it the most. It was a great time at the movies.

In addition to the great performances, the film benefited from a fine and insightful script and assured direction from Tarantino. One of my main criticisms of Tarantino's work is his susceptibility to cultural self-indulgence at the expense of the story. This, however, was the perfect vehicle for him. This film IS essentially an examination of culture. It allowed Tarantino to freely indulge his film homages and references in a way that enhances and forwards the story.

Still, perhaps what gave me the most joy watching this film was the way it evoked the period. I was only a child in the sixties. I certainly didn't grasp all of the nuances of the culture at the time, but everything about this film, the costumes, art direction, production design and music brought me back to 1969. It felt so real and authentic. I loved it.

A must see.

Film Appreciations:

Once Upon A Time in Hollywood
Apocalypse Now
Runaway Train
The Legend of Hell House
Emperor of the North
The Hospital

TouchPoint Press will be publishing my novel Chapel Street in July of 2020. Check out some sample chapters below:

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Haunting of 21 St. Helens Avenue, Part 16, Marion's Tale, Pt. 1

Marion and her mother in the living room
of 21 St. Helens Avenue, circa 1987
My upcoming novel Chapel Street was inspired by my experiences growing up in a "haunted" house at 21 St. Helens Avenue* in the Northeast Baltimore neighborhood of Lauraville. This series of blogs will examine the actual haunting that inspired the book. This entry consists of the first half of an interview with my niece Marion.

Marion differs from my previous interview subjects because she never actually lived in the house. She only remembers spending a few nights there when she was very young. That said, she did spend a great deal of time at the house over the years.

This interview details a phenomenon I didn't anticipate when I began this oral history. My first book, The Promise, or the Pros and Cons of Talking with God, detailed my ability to hear the voice of God after my religious conversion. God often told me of future events that came to pass. Only one didn't -- and that was the subject of my book. What I didn't realize until now was that other members of my family were experiencing similar phenomenon by different means.

My mother claims to have heard repeatedly from a guardian angel, even before moving into 21 St. Helens Avenue. The angel would warn her of impending tragedies. My sister Jeanne claims that her first encounter with the entity at the house awakened a clairvoyance in her. I haven't had a full interview with her yet, so I do not know the parameters of her "gift." My niece Marion seems to have inherited a similar ability from her mother. That's what she talks about here, and how it intersects with events at 21 St. Helens Avenue.**

To my knowledge, none of my relatives sought this ability. It is just something they had.  It seems to be an inherited trait. My mother says one of her grandmothers -- she doesn't remember which one -- was said to be "born under the veil."  Medically, that means the child was born with part of the amniotic sac covering its head or face. According to folklore, babies born in this manner often have supernatural gifts. I am not endorsing this folklore. However, the number of people in our family who claim to have had these experiences seem to fall outside of any statistical norm. And it seems something worth exploring in relation to the events at 21 St. Helens Avenue.

As I said in an earlier blog, I believe experiences between people and spiritual entities are often transactional in nature. Although I no longer believe any of us triggered the entity out of some dormant or inactive state, I do believe that the intensity of the activity one experiences might be a result of how attuned the person is to the spiritual realm. This interview is an examination of that theory. Although Marion never lived at the house, her sensitivity allowed the entity to loom large in her consciousness.

Here's a clip from the interview.

Forgive me for the quality of the clip. I talked with Marion in a Google Hangout and filmed her off my computer monitor. If anyone has a better idea how to record video interviews remotely, please leave a comment below. My niece Emily transcribed the interview. It has been edited for clarity.

SEAN: So Marion, you have the distinction of being the first person we're interviewing who did not actually live at the house. But you did spend a lot time at the house during your life, is that not correct?

MARION: That's correct.

SEAN: Yes. How many nights would you say you spent at that house?

MARION: Emily and I spent the night when we were really little I think a couple of times. I really only remember maybe twice.

SEAN: And when you did spend the night there, where did you stay?

MARION: We stayed in the master bedroom. I would sleep on the left side of the bed, so facing the closet.

SEAN: Yeah.

MARION: And Emily would sleep on the other side, on the floor.

SEAN: Was your grandmother in the room with you at the same time?

MARION: She was. She had like a single bed, so we would sleep on the floor.

SEAN: You slept on the floor? They didn't have the other bed there?


SEAN: Now, can you tell me your first impressions of the house and any experiences you had there?

MARION: When I was really little, I don't remember being terribly creeped out, but as I got older, it got a little creepier. Like, I remember when I was really little, we would play outside a lot, we'd play out in the front yard. Grandmom had these big yew trees in the front yard and we'd kind of like play around in there. This would be me and Natalie and Emily playing around in there and go under the porch, and I was always a little creeped out down there, and so I was really happy when she tore out the yew trees, for some reason.

We used to play like hide and seek in the house, we'd play in and out of the closets and stuff like that. I do -- Natalie brought up in her interview -- as disclosure, I did watch all of the videos, so hopefully they didn't taint my memory. But Natalie and I used to play a lot, like kind of hide and seek stuff where we'd pretend that we were sleeping on the landing, and when we got older it was kind of creepy when we kind of found out the family lore, or the neighborhood lore about the former owner dying there.

But it was always kind of a cool house when I was really little because it was really big, there were lots of places to hide. But it was once I got older that it kind of took a turn for being really creepy.

SEAN: Now, why would you say --

MARION: It was especially after the house was renovated, when Natalie moved back in. The living room for instance, was closed off, and it got kind of more alcoved shaped rooms, and that's kind of when it started to get a little creepy for me.

SEAN: Why would you say it was getting creepy? Were you aware of the stories at that time or is this more organic?

MARION: I know that we would occasionally kind of refer to the house being haunted, but I was kind of used to it, so it wasn't necessarily out of the ordinary. It just felt like it got darker. It seemed like there just weren't enough lights on. To get into the living room, for instance, I used to play in there a lot when I was really little, but then I kind of would have to like hold my breath to go in if I had to get something out of the living room. In my memory, it's always really dark, as opposed to when I was really little, it was kind of just like a normal house.

But I did know that it was supposed to be haunted, and we all kind of agreed that it was haunted, but we also had kind of had an understanding that we're not really supposed to talk about because if we talk about it, then it will make it stronger. So we would just not really talk about it.

SEAN: Now, did your mother tell you anything about the incident which sort of kind of drove her and your father from the house?

MARION: She told me about it when I was I think like a senior in high school or something, so it wasn't until I was a lot of older and had already kind of expressed that feeling uncomfortable in the house and having some experiences. But she never went into a lot of detail. She kind of just alluded to like -- she would refer to being in there and a creature coming out of the closet.

SEAN: This was the Hell Room, right?

MARION: I'm sorry?

SEAN: This was in the Hell Room.

MARION: Yes. And also we usually always called it the Hell Hole, so I can switch my jargon if you like, but...

SEAN: The younger generation called it the Hell Hole.

MARION: Yeah, so there you go. There's a little cultural change there.

But yes. My understanding was that she was in that room with my father when she was still pregnant with me. A creature came out of that closet, like one of the closets that's in there, and scared them out of the house. And she was never -- she didn't really go into detail about whether it was a dog-like creature or a cat-like creature, but I do know that it had red eyes. That's the story.

And Natalie later talked about -- I overheard her talking to one of her friends about seeing red eyes in that closet, too, but I never saw anything. I never saw any red eyes in the closet.

SEAN: Okay. So eventually you started having some sort of experiences of your own, correct

MARION: Correct.

SEAN: Could you tell us about that and how it happened?

MARION: When it came to things that I actually witnessed while I was awake, there would be things like constantly hearing footsteps upstairs. Basically no matter what floor you were on, I could always hear footsteps upstairs, sound like furniture was moving around. There was always kind of like a light murmur like there were people talking. I would always just kind of hear that going around in the background, and it was always better if there were a lot of people talking because I wouldn't hear it as much. If I, like, went up to the -- to the third floor, I think one time I went up there to get -- there was a lot of -- Grandmom used to be in a makeup club, Jafra, and so I would go in there and get some of the makeup for it to give to my friends, and so that was in your old bedroom. So when I went up in there, I would always kind of see stuff out of the corner of my eye and hear things that kind of sounded like shuffling or like sheets moving around, is kind of what it sounded like.

SEAN: You say you've heard furniture moving, but did you ever and not necessarily see it move, but become aware that it actually did move, or was this all just auditory?

MARION: It was just auditory. I never saw it move, I just kind of heard it. It sounded like somebody was upstairs kind of like pushing tables around or something like that. But I never went up and looked for it or said anything because, again, we're not really supposed to talk about it because that would make it stronger.

And kind of later, I think in 2005 or 2004, I was a freshman at MICA, and I had a friend who wanted to have sound effects for a project, for an art project, and she wanted to get sound effects of people walking on wooden floors. But we didn't really know anybody who had a wooden house down by MICA, and I was like, Hey, my grandmother has a house that has wooden floors, so we could go over there. So we went over there and it was kind of -- it was at night, and I told Grandmom I wanted to do this, and she was like, Okay, why don't I go to the store and you guys can stay here. I'll be like an hour or something like that.

And so as soon as she left, the house got really dark looking. Like, it seemed like none of the lights were on anymore. It just kind of became this, like, impending, just scary kind of malicious feeling. But I was like, that's okay, I'm wearing a cross necklace, it will be fine. And so I was just like, okay, we'll go upstairs, we'll go in the front room, which I think is what you're calling Room One, the one with the --

SEAN: Yeah, Bedroom West. It's where Pops used to sleep, right?


SEAN: But he was already gone, he had already died.


SEAN: Okay.

MARION: Yeah. But I decided to go in that room because I always felt like that one was the least creepy room. Basically I didn't want to be kicking around in that master bedroom. I think Natalie was still living there so I didn't go in her room either. But so we were just kind of walking around in there, just taping our feet walking on the floor, and we could always kind of feel like there was something, like, right behind us. And I was like, that's okay, we'll just keep going, we'll get the sound effects. I think I even said out loud, like talking to it, "We're just here to get sound effects. We're not really doing anything else."

So we walked around and she could hear like banging in the middle of the room, but I just thought it sounded like someone was on a bed, like shuffling sheets around. And so we were like, okay, we got all the sound effects. We'll just go downstairs and we'll listen back and make sure that it's okay.

And so when we went downstairs and we were listening to it, it just sounded really strange, the tape that we had made. There was like this bad hissing noise that kind of sounded like it was, like, trying to come through the tape. It was really, really scary sounding, so we just turned it off. And then Grandmom came home, and all of a sudden, like the clouds lifted and it was just like a normal empty house, and it was perfectly fine. And my friend was really creeped out but I was like that's not that abnormal for here, and we just went on our way.

So that was one -- that's kind of a long story just about a thing that I actually witnessed there. But most of the times when I would have experiences in the house, they were more psychological rather than actually ever seeing anything.

SEAN: Okay. Now this is something that I want to explore here. You claim to have some sort of clairvoyance.


SEAN: As your mother also claims. And your grandmother claims, if you've seen the interview, that had an angel that would warn her of things also.


SEAN: Which is another kind of clairvoyance, if you ask me. I'm assuming your clairvoyance is something more inside you going out, that's more internal, but in the case of your grandmother, it was definitely something external coming in. And I also had similar experiences as well. I guess you would call it in evangelical Christian circles, "word of knowledge," where you get, like, a couple words, something, you know, messages, messages from God or the Holy Spirit. And this was not something we discussed amongst ourselves at all. Most people didn't even know until I wrote my book about it, The Promise or The Pros and Cons of Talking to God, now available in most quality book sellers everywhere.

Baby Marion with her late aunt Laura
MARION: Always be plugging.

SEAN: Yeah, always be plugging.

So this is kind of a thing that has kind of surprised me as we started this journey of looking through the house and talking about the history. But so can you tell me how this kind of manifests itself in you, but also around what age it was and when it started?

MARION: So like what age the clairvoyance started?

SEAN: Yeah.

MARION: Or what age that Grandmom's house started getting into me?

SEAN: Well, let's say the clairvoyance first, and then Grandmom's house getting into you.

MARION: Okay, I think the most memorable, early memory of it would be I was five or so and I was in our house, sitting at the table. It was the middle of the day or something. I may have been four because I think it was -- I may have been in kindergarten or something. My mom was reading the paper and I was on the opposite end of the table, and I looked down, and on the table, across the whole table were these, like, weird kind of like wispy smoke, steam things coming up, like about 25 of them. They were about three or four inches tall. They were just kind of rising off the table. And I said to my mom, I was like, What is all that? And she was looking at and she's like, I don't see anything. And she saw that I was kind of freaking out, and she was just like, Uh, it's probably just a guardian angel or something. But I think we both kind of -- because my mom doesn't refer to that event, too. We both kind of saw it as like a -- well, it wasn't necessarily a guardian angel, but it was some sort of, kind of like a weird spirit that I was seeing, but there were multiple of them. And they were these really strange shapes that kind of looked like the -- is it caduceus? Is that what it is?

SEAN: What's that?

MARION: It kind of looks like a staff with, like, snakes around it. But then it kind of turned into this, like, human figure. It was very strange.

SEAN: So there was a human figure with it or you just saw the staff with the snakes around it

MARION: I saw -- it was sort of like a staff with snakes around, and then it turned into, like, kind of a human figure.

SEAN: Now, male or female?

MARION: You kind of see -- you have weird things that you imagine when you're a kid, but that one always kind of stood out as like a real thing that had happened. And then after that, I would see -- like, maybe starting around that same time, when I was six or so, I would see these weird like water droplets that would form in doorways and windows. And I would see it fall to the ground and I'd hear it splat, and I'd go and try to touch it and it wasn't wet and the doorway wasn't wet either.

And the first time it happened, I went and got my parents to come check it out because I thought that the ceiling was leaking, but it ended up not -- there was nothing there. And I still see that. Like, that still periodically happens. But then I recently have kind of kept an eye out for it because that's usually around -- if I see that, there's usually some other kind of ghost that I will encounter. So that was kind of an early manifestation of that, too.

This stuff is really trippy, and I don't really talk about it very much because it's pretty weird.

SEAN: Well, I'm glad you're taking the time to tell us, because I think anyone looking over at the entire phenomenon would have to look at our family and these kinds of experiences we had. Which for example, say it's not active with the people who are there now. It may be because they're not like us, like this.

MARION: Right.

SEAN: They might not have had these kind of previous paranormal or religious type of experiences. So did this mature in any way? Now, do you see ghosts and spirits or do you see like human -- do you see like ghosts or do you see spirits? And by ghost, I'm defining ghost as like human spirits.

MARION: I would say all of it. Like, I don't normally see them head-on, but I can kind of see them out of the corner of my eye, or I can kind of basically take a mental picture of it and then refer back to it and see them that way. Sometimes they're human. They're not always human.

Again, this is all kind of trippy and you know, I don't really talk about it very much, but yeah. And it has gone through various periods of being stronger or kind of being in a hiatus, but it's active still. 

In fact, I was just at Josh's parents' house. I saw a thing there, too. And I kind of told Josh about it, and he was like, well, okay. He believes me, obviously, but he's kind of used to it.

Josh and Marion
SEAN: Well, Josh has had a lot of experiences like this in his past.

MARION: Yeah, he has.

SEAN: Now, did this give you any sort of foreknowledge or warnings, or anything --


SEAN: Okay. Give me an example of that, if you could.

MARION: I could usually -- I would oftentimes get a weird -- like a dream that would kind of tell me that usually, like four months from now, somebody was going to die. Usually it would be older people, so it wouldn't be that surprising. But usually I would have like a dream where a relative that I haven't seen for a while comes and talks to me, or I would have a dream where -- like with Uncle Butch, for instance. Before he died, I had a dream that he drove over to our house and said that he was really happy now and he was -- his legs didn't hurt anymore. And then -- but he obviously eventually died, but it was kind of a weird sort of vision rather than just a dream.

So I would get kind of foreknowledge that usually like a relative was going to die. I think I got foreknowledge of Emily when she was getting sick the first time, too. I would -- I can oftentimes have a dream of a place before I've been to that place and know what's going to be there.

SEAN: I think your mother has that, too --

MARION: Yeah, she did.

SEAN: -- as well. So you have this predisposition. How does it end up reacting with the house?

MARION: I often would get nightmares of Grandmom's house. Like, when I was really little, I would get nightmares all the time. But once I got older, I was kind of paying more attention to what the nightmares were, and I was trying to write them down, too. And they were always Grandmom's house, and it got stronger and stronger, that I would eventually see a thing that's following me around. It would be this, like, dark, kind of black hidden thing with like a cloak that would like follow right behind me or be right in front of me.

SEAN: Did it have eyes and a face?

MARION: Yes. It had yellow eyes, which I thought was extremely strange, because I've never before or since seen anything like that. It was a face, like I could understand it was a face because it had eyes, and it sort of had, like, a chin and everything, but it wasn't a very -- it didn't look like one of my dead relatives or like a ghost. I understood it as something much worse.

SEAN: Could you attribute any sex to it? Male or female?

MARION: Um, not really, no. It was kind of an amalgamation. I think it was trending more male, but that might just be its kind of power, kind of had more of a male-ish tone, but I didn't get the feeling that it was a ghost, so I didn't get the feeling that it was like a human. So it didn't necessarily need a gender.

SEAN: Okay.

MARION: But in these dreams, it would just follow me from room to room, always be right behind me. It would get worse and worse, and it started getting really, really bad because I couldn't sleep at all.

SEAN: Where did it get worse? 

MARION: Oh, it was when I was dorming at MICA***, Maryland Institute, is what they call it. But then it would keep me up all night. I would never get a full night's sleep. I tried to run away from it in my dreams. I tried to run to the parts of the house that were newer, but then it eventually was able to seep into all those places. I'd try to run into the backyard, and then the backyard would be transformed into this huge like expressionless face, which is really trippy. But it was always this Entity that was like also there. And so yeah, and so I dreaded sleeping because it was always going to be this nightmare.

SEAN: Now, did you get the sensation that this was a guided nightmare, that it was something interacting with your mind --


SEAN: -- or whether it was internal?

MARION: I thought it -- because for a while -- I mean, because you know dreams are supposed to be your subconscious kind of working through problems or something like that. And I kind of wrote it off as that for a while, but them it really seemed like it was something that was coming to me in my dreams, like an outside thing.

SEAN: Did it ever speak to you?

MARION: Yes. Well, a lot of times it would kind of just be hinting at, because I knew that it wanted something from me, but then sometimes in the dreams, I'd be like hiding somewhere and I'd close up a room and I'd hide in it. And then I would hear my mother's voice calling me to go outside and I'd go out and I'd see that it was it and I'd close the door again.

SEAN: So it was like mimicking your mother's voice?

MARION: Yeah. So it would mimic -- yeah, mostly my mother's voice. I also had this other dream that I was in the master bedroom and I had the door latched and something was trying to get into it, and it ended up being this horrible creature that was like made out of bones, like these gristly bones, and it smelled like rotting meat and it was just trying to get underneath the door in the master bedroom. And so that's when I kind of started being like, okay, there's something bad about this closet. Like, in real life, I was really -- I was always really afraid of that closet, eventually. Because I mean, that's what the dream was doing, too.

SEAN: So were the dream centered around the closet? W as the center of activity for it?

MARION: Sometimes it was the closet. A lot of times it was the attic. Like the Hell Hole or Hell Room, according to whatever generation you're in. Yeah, so those were kind of in my head, were the main epicenters. So it was usually this, like, huge gaping stretching mouth that was sort of the house, and it would have all these awful yellow teeth and lighting and all this kind of like horror movie stuff. But I was not influenced by horror movies for it because I was too afraid, ironically, to watch horror movies when I was a kid.

SEAN: But you never saw any sort of thing like that at the house itself on St. Helens Avenue?

MARION: No. I never saw the Entity. That's what I've been calling it. I've never actually seen it firsthand when I was there. It might be because I never really spent the night. Like I said, I could kind of hear things, I could feel things. There was like a blackness that would kind of be pervasive, but I never saw it, but it was always very clear inside my head.

SEAN: Now, you heard furniture move in my room as well, right?

MARION: Yeah, it was -- because like I said, basically everywhere you were, you could always kind of hear something thumping on the ceiling. But when I was actually in your room, I could hear like shuffling. Like something kind of being dragged around, like scooting.

SEAN: Yeah.

MARION: Like cloth, basically.

SEAN: Because I am reasonably certain that while I was still there, after my initial very active time that, through prayer, that room was sealed off. It's interesting that I left there was activity up there again.

MARION: Maybe it was just sealed off from -- well, this is speculation -- obviously, it's all speculative, but maybe it didn't -- maybe it was just sealed off from you.

SEAN: Yeah. Because other than between the mid to late '80s, when I considered it at its peak, up until the very last day, it was very quiet around me. It was still bothering people all around the house. It was just quiet around me. And I really feel bad about that because I assumed it was dormant, not doing much.

MARION: Right.

SEAN: I'm sure it was still there, but I thought it was back into a nuisance stage.

MARION: Right.

SEAN: But it never was in a nuisance stage. I haven't interviewed your mother yet, but from the beginning with her, there was no nuisance stage. It was full blown. Which is one of the reasons I'm not afraid of triggering it, because I don't think it needs to be triggered.

MARION: Right.

SEAN: And I'm not sure it can even be cast out because it seems like it potentially exists in more than one house there. If you got it out of that house, it would still be just eight feet away.

MARION: The other thing too is that even though we didn't live there, at Raspe Avenue, we would have a lot of weird stuff happen, too, that would be classified as poltergeist activity there. Like light bulbs would be unscrewed randomly or things would be flipped upside down, or things would just go missing for days at a time and then show up in a really prominent place. One time when I was in high school, because I used to do painting -- I was doing painting class, and one time I was in the basement, and I was trying to paint this still life, and this ladle that I had set up, every time I looked over at it, it would be facing directly toward me, which is annoying when you're trying to paint a still life because it's supposed to be still.

SEAN: Yeah.

MARION: So I'd keep moving it back, trying to put it in the same place, and then every time I looked over, it would move back. And then -- just like in a half second, it just kept happening over and over again. It was really spooking me out. But I mean, like --

SEAN: You didn't actually see it move, but you would like turn away and it would be moved?

MARION: It would be in the matter of me looking at my easel painting and then looking back again and it had moved. And it wasn't like it wasn't like on a wobbly table. It was on cloth, it wasn't like slippery or anything like that. And so it was kind of like, well, okay, there's another kind of poltergeist thing. And my teacher noticed that I painted that one really badly, too. So he was like, it looks like it kept moving around when you were painting it.

I recently have been also thinking about, during the time when I was in a dorm at MICA, we had a lot of ghost stuff there, too. Like, we would hear stuff on the ceiling, we'd hear paper shuffling around. I'd get this sense of foreboding. All my friends, all our roommates, would hear -- like, it sounded like one of our roommate's rooms being ransacked when there was no one in there. There would be like this sound -- it sounded like someone dropping a ball, like (makes ball bouncing sound) over and over again, all night long. So much to the effect that our RA who lived underneath us near the end of the year came up and he's like, What is happening? Why do you guys keep doing this? We're all like, That's not us. It's been happening this whole time. 

SEAN: Many people heard that then? It wasn't just you?

MARION: No, it was not just me. No, everybody heard it. It was really strange. So I've always kind of thought, well, that's just because there's ghosts everywhere, but thinking back, some of those kinds of things are things that we would hear at Grandmom's house. And so I wasn't sure -- and this was around the time when I was getting the really bad nightmares, so I'm not sure if it was, like, influencing me there to the point that we were getting kind of poltergeist stuff there too.

SEAN: Well, that was going to be my next question. Do you think that the poltergeist activity was possibly the Entity?

MARION: It could have been, yeah. I hadn't ever considered it, but I've been thinking about it recently, and especially with some similar attributes of things moving around upstairs when there's no upstairs, it's just a roof.

SEAN: Yeah.

MARION: And the fact that it's always happening when I'm around and not when other people are around is kind of problematic, too, for other people.

SEAN: So it did not happen around the other people?

MARION: It was when I was there. So no one else would say, Oh, man, when you were gone, something was totally knocking stuff over in your bedroom. It was always when I was there, everybody was hearing it happening in somebody's bedroom.

SEAN: I'm not an expert and there's no science here, but they say one of the key ways you can tell whether it's a demon or a ghost is if it moves with you. If it goes other places with you it's a demon.

MARION: Right.

The interview continues here: The Haunting of 21 St. Helens Avenue, Part 17, Marion's Tale, Pt. 2

Emily, Jeanne and Marion
Here is a clip from the interview:


*21 St. Helens Avenue was the original address of the house when it was built. The street name and number changed over time, but I use the original address to protect the privacy of the current owners.

**Subsequent to this interview, my niece Natalie mentioned that she also experienced clairvoyant events. She did not mention them in her initial interview, but hoped to discuss some of them in her upcoming interview about her mother's death.

***Charles Immler, Sr., the son of the first owner of 21 St. Helens Avenue, also attended MICA. So did Walter Bohanan, of 23 St. Helens Avenue.

Additional blogs about the haunting:

Below you will find some uncorrected sample chapters of the book. I can't guarantee how long the publisher will allow me to keep them posted.