I live in terror of appearing naive, silly and unintelligent, and nothing makes you appear in such an unflattering light with more intensity than psychic predictions gone wrong. If you tell the world that you’re developing psychic abilities, the first reaction of most people is to snicker or to tell you, with great condescension, “that’s nice, honey.” My own mother typically responds to my hit-and-miss skills with “you’ve always had quite a fantastic imagination, haven’t you?”
So it hurts to have been so wrong about something I believed was destined to happen. The story goes like this: there are two houses near me, one which went up for sale before the other one, which happens to be next door. I “fixed my intention” (I know, very New Age, very barfy lingo from the 1970s) on the first house before the one next door put out a sign. However, that house was way out of our price range, not to mention that no one will loan me money with the scarlet “Short Sale” emblazoned across my chest. So anyway, I tried to forget about it. When the house next door to that one hit the market, I thought perhaps I had been wrong about the house I originally wanted; this one was older (1948), unbelievably retro with all original fixtures, paneling, kitchen, and so on, and was located on one acre of land with room for a pond for my husband. It was perfect!
On our first visit to the house, I noticed that the owner was a good Catholic: there was a little, brass Holy Water font by the front door, and later I would see that crucifixes were nailed above the bedroom doors. I was immediately hit by the sense that someone was with me. It was like walking through an electric force field or entering a highly magnetized environment. Paranormal investigators know what this is: someone attempting to manifest or communicate. In certain rooms of the house, the feeling of heaviness was almost unbearable. The living room was so alive with energy that I had to step back into the hallway. I was sure that the woman who used to live there had passed away in the living room, and quickly; either a stroke or a heart attack. The bedrooms felt peaceful, as did the office or craft room. The bathroom was fine . . . but then we arrived at the back, to the master bedroom, all the emotions were there, intense and invasive. I looked through the closets, and the former occupant’s clothes were there, as were her husband’s. Nothing had been given away or packed up. In fact, her belongings were everywhere: boxes of Christmas decorations, knick-knacks, and craft supplies.
This entire time my husband was wrinkling his nose, because he smelled something so offensive, he could hardly bear it. I noticed it too, but assumed it was old, stale perfume. My husband identified it as the “smell of death,” and I worried that this would kill any possible deal or agreement, so I reassured him that the smell would dissipate. However, that weird, sweet, chemical odor was so pungent, I couldn’t really imagine it dissipating quickly. I wondered if there was mold in the house, or if truly it was the scent of decomposing flesh. If you’re like me, you’re willing to overlook anything if you want the vintage house and the acre of land. Smell of death? No big deal!! Creepy vibes in two main areas of the house? No worries! It will all dissipate, right? Rotting wood on the back porch? Rotting wood on the roof? No problem! Just a few termites, maybe some water damage . . . neighbor so close he can watch you eat breakfast without binoculars? That’s OK, I’m sure he’s super nice!
I will put up with pretty much any imaginable inconvenience in order to nest in an historic place that hasn’t been updated, remodeled or “re-imagined”. However, in this case, I think I might have been fooling myself. I was dangling the promise of a pond in front of my husband, and if he thinks he gets a pond, he is more likely to overlook any issues a house may have, including spiritual ones. In any case, the house fit anyone’s definition of ‘haunted.’ As a good ghost hunter, I looked up information on the address and found the name of the former owner: Catherine Smith (names have been changed). It wasn’t much to go on, because she has one of the most common names imaginable in English. I meditated on who she might be and then tried to let it all go. That, of course, is when all the weird stuff started happening.
I was driving, thinking about food, when I was struck with intense emotion coming from the back seat. I knew immediately that it was Catherine. She was upset. She was crying. She was confused. I had been wandering around her house, and she didn’t know why. She had been polite, but it made no sense to her that Ty and I would be in her home without an invitation. But that’s not why she was upset. She still lived there in her mind, and didn’t understand her present condition. Why did everything seem so strange, so unmoored, so beyond her control? I started to speak with her out loud: “Catherine, you have passed away. I can’t help you. You’ve always been a good Catholic, so you know how to speak with God. Please talk to Him. He will explain what has happened to you, and He will rest your soul.” I went on like this for awhile, until I realized that the emotional charge in the car had dissipated, and there was, in its place, a peaceful, calm feeling. My sense was that Catherine had received the message.
That weekend, we drove up to the cabin. I was trying to take a nap on Saturday, but since I was obsessed with that house, it was nearly impossible. Just as I was drifting off, I experienced what I can only call a “vision,” since I was not yet asleep and still aware of my surroundings. I saw a wood door open, and then I saw the woman that opened it: she had the most wonderful smile. Her hair was pure 1950s, undulating waves of chestnut brown and bangs that curled under. She was wearing a sheepskin or buckskin coat, beige or whitish, with a fleece interior. Her face was impressed in my mind much like the other, few times I have “seen” a ghost: a clear, visual impression of a particular person with all the details crystal clear. There was no dream fuzziness or mutability; I can visualize her face right now with no difficulty whatsoever, just as I can “see” the ghost at Olivas Adobe, who turned out to be the matriarch herself.
I grabbed my trusty iPhone and started searching obituaries. I found Catherine Smith’s obituary in the Ventura County Star. The woman in the upper left hand corner of the obituary had EXACTLY the face of the person who had appeared to me moments earlier. However, the description of Catherine wasn’t an exact fit for the property we had just seen, since it made no mention of her living in Camarillo, but rather Canoga Park; however, her grand kids went to school in my neighborhood and her mortuary was the only one anyone does business with in Camarillo. Although I couldn’t prove it, it seemed that I had enough evidence to state with confidence that she was the woman that lived there. The only problem was, I was unable to understand who had lived there for the last two years. Catherine passed away in September 2011, and the house looked as if she had occupied it until recently. There were those nagging details that didn’t add up. I could not conclusively prove that the Catherine I had spoken to in my car was the same woman who had lived in that house; and if she had lived there, had she died a very long time ago?
This is where I went wrong. Did I help someone named Catherine ‘cross over’? I believe that I did; however, all I knew about her was what I read in the obituary. It bothered me considerably that I could not connect her definitively to that house. If Catherine did not live in that house, then how did she find me? Where did she come from? I had to rationalize all this, force it to ‘make sense,’ so I decided that in exchange for my spiritual assistance, Catherine was going to let us live in her house, without knowing exactly which house in this general area had been hers. Did I have any evidence at all that she intended to do this? Nope; it just seemed right in my head that she would want us to live there. It was a good story.
But that’s all if was: my invented outcome for something profound that had happened with a spirit, who–for whatever reason–reached out to me. I don’t know for sure where Catherine came from, but this “deal” I concocted was based on my desire to live in a cool, old house. I ignored the inconvenient facts: I hadn’t proven that Catherine actually lived in that house, and the house itself felt so oppressive in certain places that I was actually scared of moving there (although, I attempted to rationalize that, as well: I won’t be scared once we move in all our furniture and pets). In addition to all that, I now wonder if something demonic might have nestled in areas of the home. After all, the crosses over the doors and the putrid smell could be pointing in that direction . . . but I don’t want to ‘go there,’ as people say.
This morning, I had a feeling of dread as I scanned the California Moves website. I found “my” house, scrolled down the page, and saw those terrible, awful, catastrophic words: SALE PENDING. In less than two weeks, someone scooped up that house. It’s gone. Why did Catherine NOT want us living in her house? What possible reason could she have? I had to derail this train of thought, because it was clearly not leading to a logical station. My fantasies had spun out of control.
Psychic skill is real; of that, I have no doubt. We can receive information in a paranormal fashion, and spirits can seek us out for a variety of reasons; thousands of years of human experience attests to that. The issue is what we, as human beings subject to desires and fantasies, DO with the information we are lucky enough to receive. Are we careful in our research, cautious in our conclusions, and slow to create patterns where none may exist, or do we jump in and create a story that fits our needs, hopes, desires or (in my case) obsessions? I may not ever understand all the details of what happened with Catherine; however, I most assuredly should not have created an elaborate, self-serving narrative about it. I need to accept such moments of grace for what they are and be happy that I might have been of some assistance.
The other lesson is equally as important: make sure your research yields correct information and don’t make assumptions. If all the facts don’t fit, you have more work to do. Yet another important lesson, one I should have learned well by now: do NOT ignore those initial impressions, even–or especially–when they do not match what you want. There was something dark and unsettled in the house. I can’t define it, but do I really want to live in a house with my eyes wide open at 3:00 AM, wondering what is scratching at the walls and dragging itself down the hallway? Someone was protecting herself from something in that house. Do I really feel prepared to inherit that? Do I truly want to deal with fearful, oppressive energies that have oozed and seeped into the walls?
All the rest is the relentless, selfish promptings of my ego trying to get what it wanted. Maybe Catherine knew that what I thought I wanted would have been bad for me.
Perhaps it is yet another blessing in disguise.
Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD/PHW