Archive for November, 2013


When I walked up to my little cabin, I noticed that the door was ajar by a couple of inches. My natural instinct was not to turn around and lock myself in the car, but to walk in. It’s hard to describe the feeling as I stepped on the glass shards of what was my kitchen window and saw a shattered picture on the floor; then I noticed the sagging, ripped blinds and the short-wave radio face-down on the table, where I know it wasn’t before. Things were missing, oddly out of place, disturbed, moved, wrong . . . I felt a wave of sick panic and dread. I finally walked out and called the police.

They were in no great rush. It was, after all, just another break in of a mostly empty cabin. Our fault, really; we should be there more often. My thoughts ran along this track: we deserved this; it’s a sign from God that we have too much, that we are spoiled materialists; why do we have a cabin if we only show up once every two months or so? Then, again, you deserve this, Kirsten. Your fault. The accusations were relentless. I called the glass guy and almost cried as I set up the appointment for him to replace the glass. I saw the neighbor and told her, breathless, about what had happened. Her reaction was curious; she expressed no surprise whatsoever. She behaved as if I were accusing her of something, or suggesting that she should have seen something or reported it. She bore the marks of a guilty conscience, but why? She walked away with her big, brown dog and I returned to the car to ruminate.

After wallowing in recriminations and suspicions, I returned to the scene of the crime, a place which used to be my home. I walked through the living room; someone had dumped out the contents of a drawer. The radio was gone. Some CDs had disappeared. The door to the little humidor was open, its contents re-arranged. One of the WWII machetes on the wall was missing; then I found it on top of the antique organ. The keys were all messed up, and there were screws on the keyboard. Had they chopped up the keyboard? Why would anyone do that? Were they hiding something here? Then: the glass to the door of the wood burning stove was missing. The door itself was outside the kitchen window. The cops re-installed the door without the glass. This slowly started to obsess me: why the missing glass door?

I didn’t notice anything missing in the bathroom. I ascended the stairs and quickly ascertained that no one had entered Imanya’s room. At the time, I didn’t ask myself how I knew that; but now I realize that it was a psychic impression. I didn’t feel them there, and I knew that they had felt compelled to leave before they had the chance to look in her room. I knew that they felt they needed to leave quickly, but I wasn’t yet sure why. In our bedroom, there were books and pictures strewn across a wood storage bench. At first, I thought the pictures were broken. The closet was open. A corner of the bedspread was turned up, forming a little triangle on one corner of the bed. Thought: people were in our bedroom . . . people I don’t know. People who tried to kick in the door, force the locks, and when unsuccessful, shattered our kitchen window with a large rock. Those people, strangers, searched our bedroom for something unnamed. I heard labored breathing and realized it was me, trying to catch my breath.

Panic attacks feel like someone has drugged you with powerful stimulants. You shake, you can’t find enough air, you see dots and spots floating in your vision, your legs can barely hold you upright, and you feel cold and hot at the same time. You can also fly down a flight of stairs, run through a small house and reach your car in 22 seconds flat. That is what I did. By the time the police arrived, I was freezing cold and staring straight ahead into empty space in the front seat of my car.

The investigation was cursory and unsuccessful. There were no obvious fingerprints. These unnamed perpetrators didn’t steal anything worth a great deal of money, and they didn’t vandalize the cabin. Later, when my shaken husband showed up after a four hour trip from the Valley, we realized that certain items of value were stolen. We started a list. It was a surreal game of detective: what used to be here, on the wall? Where are my binoculars? What happened to my North Face jacket? Bit by bit, we cataloged the losses; but the biggest loss was building up in both of us: we had been thrown off our center, kicked out of yet another home by a force more tangible than a distant, corrupt bank: we were, yet again, psychologically homeless.

I tried to imagine, at first, who these people were. I was certain that there was more than one. In my hysteria, I couldn’t fix any identities, and everyone–neighbors, friends, family–had different theories after they heard the story. I wandered around blessing the house and praying, cleaning up glass, praying some more, scrubbing the floor, blessing the house, cleaning the windows, putting away the scattered items, repeating the Our Father, ‘as we forgive those who trespass against us,’ attempting to see them as victims as well, poor, desperate, addicted?

My husband attacked the door-repair project. The glass guy installed another pane. Everyone seemed suspicious to both of us. Did the glass guy have his delinquent kid break the glass so his father made more money? Even friends and acquaintances in town appeared stand-offish and distant. What did they know? Do they blame us for not occupying our cabin? Was this a conspiracy? Did everyone know what happened, yet refuse to tell us?

Ty built up a fortress: alarms for the windows, motion detectors, timers for radios and lights, and a front door that looked like it came out of a Mad Max movie. I cleaned like a woman possessed. At times, the cabin returned to us as a refuge and a place of peace and beauty. But something lingered, a certain darkness that they left behind. You couldn’t see it, but you could feel it. It came and went in waves, that strange density and silence where something terrible had happened. There was a shadow by the window in the kitchen that connected with the part of my brain that felt fear; and something else was connecting, too, something that was about to make contact with me through my dreams, in the dead of night.

Last night, I saw her. She was with a man wearing a hood, his face dark. They were in their thirties, or perhaps late twenties. Something was wrong with the lower half of her face; either she was missing teeth, or her jaw was caving in. Her lips were very thin, her nose slightly beaked at the tip. Her face was very pale. She wore a light-colored sweatshirt, not enough to keep her warm. She wasn’t thin, but was losing weight. She was slightly taller than me. I can’t see her eyes. I can’t see her hair. She is telling her partner, who doesn’t give a damn about our property and would happily take an ax to all of it, she is telling him to leave things alone, to not make a mess, to not touch things they don’t need. She sees the Virgin Mary on the wall; she feels bad, she feels watched. He doesn’t care; he doesn’t see anything or feel anything. Her job is to keep him in check.

He is the one responsible for kicking the door, for prying the locks, for tossing the rock through the window. She stands back, her hands in the pockets of her sweatshirt. He keeps his hood up. All I can see of his face is a broken nose, the face of a boxer. He is very, very dark. Something in him broke and died a long time ago. I’m afraid of him. She is taking things they need. I can’t see what they are taking, but I know that they have a definite and specific purpose. This isn’t random; this is part of a larger need, a project, a plan. Upstairs, she is frightened. She hears something, or she sees something, but whatever sends her away is powerful. I don’t know if he feels it, too, but they leave very quickly. It’s night. They used a flashlight to see into drawers and storage spaces. They didn’t find everything that they wanted; but they had to leave.

I see her face all night. She is addicted to methamphetamine. She lost teeth and has jaw problems from the effect of the drugs. When I wake up, the first thing I say to Ty is: I saw her. She’s an addict. So is he, but it’s more in control. She is losing all hope. They are cold and living somewhere with no heat. It’s winter; she’s desperate. He’s working on something. He needs . . .

The glass. The tempered glass in the door to the wood-burning stove. That’s it. I look up the shopping list for meth production. First item needed: Tempered glass. I’m thinking, thinking that something else was missing from the kitchen and the bathroom, and then it hits: cough syrup, gone; Sudafed, gone; all drugs in the bathroom cabinet, missing. In my altered state over the weekend, I noticed that there were gaps in the medicine cabinet and in the kitchen shelves, but I couldn’t place it. It hits me. The blender is gone. I look at the methamphetamine shopping list: tempered glass, blenders, Sudafed, aspirin, cough syrup . . . my hands feel light and shaky, my head is floating off my shoulders, the world is unreal.

Do you believe that I saw her? Do you think I know who they are? How did I know? Somehow, it doesn’t matter; I do know. I could pick her out of a line up. Maybe one day, I will.

Everything I have written here is the most accurate representation I can give you of what actually transpired over this last weekend. The police may never find the people who robbed us; but know, I feel that I know them. This hasn’t helped my panic, because I am not scared of her; she is a sad, broken, addicted woman who protected our cabin from her partner. I am scared of him; I can’t see his eyes, I can’t read his face. He is a void, a black hole where nothing I care about is allowed to exist. He is still out there, searching for the next rock to throw into the next window, and if someone happens to be home, he will do whatever he thinks is necessary to escape unnoticed and unrecognized. He has become, for me, the stuff of nightmares.

He reminds me of the dead space at the end of the long, dark corridors in the worst units in the old Camarillo State Hospital. He left some of that darkness in our cabin and in the corners of my exhausted brain.

Our Father . . .

–Kirsten A. Thorne, Ph.D

Read Full Post »


Santa Monica Mountains

Many times, I have wanted to write on Soul Bank. Countless times, I have recited my blog post in my head, thinking that “all” I had to do was commit it to paper. The months have rolled by, and I simply have not been able to write anything here, even though there is always so much to say. Even though I had about 100 different topics in mind for the next entry, I will have to limit it to this topic: home.
As anyone who reads this (and I don’t know if there is anyone left) knows, my family and I were forced into a short sale of our home. We are renting a lovely house in Camarillo now. Everything should be over and done with, and I should be well on my way to recovery and enjoyment of our new life. That has not happened. The new place is simply not “home.”
What is home? It seems like a simple question, but yet it’s very complex. “Home” is a feeling almost more than a concrete reality of place or time. You can travel to a place you have never been before and feel instantly that you are home. You can occupy a house for decades, yet never feel that it’s truly your home. For some people, the only true home is with God; but, what does that really mean? God is nowhere and everywhere, so to be with God is more about, yet again, a feeling or a conviction. For others, the homeland is the only space where they can find peace and happiness. It doesn’t matter if the homeland has been ravaged by war or internal strife; that place is more of an idea, a connection, something that draws you to your roots. I have heard people say that nothing is more painful than exile from one’s homeland. In many cultures, exile is worse than death.
I have no homeland. I grew up wandering around Oregon, Spain, California, Connecticut and Wisconsin. My parents didn’t settle into a place until I started college. We moved regularly, following my father from job to job until he landed at a community college in Huntington Beach. My mother created elaborate fantasies about nearly every place we visited on those long trips back to Oregon. We were going to start a restaurant or some strange little business in every picturesque small town in which we spent more than half an hour. She hated Huntington Beach for years, just like my grandmother hated Eugene, these places where they had been forced to live by the demands of their husbands’ work. Eventually, though, my parents rooted themselves in a town home by the ocean and they are well and truly stuck there to this day, and, I imagine, to the day they pass from this Earth.
I’ve been exiled twice: once through divorce, and once by virtue of the housing crisis and financial collapse. My old Craftsman bungalow in Long Beach was the place I wanted to live out my life, and then, after much agony and adjustment issues, the old hunting lodge in the Santa Monica Mountains became my true home. Not coincidentally, both those houses were well and truly haunted. The chronicle of startling events in the Long Beach house is worthy of an entire book. The ghosts were powerful there. When we settled in the cabin (a place we still refer to as ‘The Nest’), we spent the first night listening to the sound of heavy boots tromping across the living room. Of course, there were only the two of us and two terrified cats cowering under the sheets. The Woodland Hills house was filmed three times and had a certain reputation for its “ambiance”. It’s too bad that those segments were never aired, because then you could truly see how alive that place was.
The house in Camarillo does not belong to me, and that’s a fact that I feel more keenly than my husband. It is still attached and connected on an emotional/spiritual level to its owner, who occasionally stops by and expresses her dismay with our decorating through her body language and pained facial expressions. When I left The Nest, I didn’t disconnect myself from the property, either. So, since Karma will always get you, I am paying the price now for my emotional refusal to let go of the old house. The new owners, I am quite sure, feel me everywhere there. I made little ‘tear crosses’ all over the walls and left a letter to the house in a secret place where I know the new owners won’t find it.
If my years as a paranormal investigator have taught me anything, it’s the concrete reality of spirit. It’s not a vague, fuzzy intuition that we interact with spirits, but a real, authentic knowledge that we construct relationships that mature and develop over time. My theory, then, is that in these two houses I connected with the spirits of that place. I don’t know who they were, but they were real. They spoke in EVP, responded by banging the roof and walls when I talked to them, and as recently as two weeks ago, serenaded me with deafening knocks and bangs when I returned to my old home for the last time. It’s a little uncomfortable to have a relationship with something/someone that you cannot see or identify, but it’s undeniable that it exists. I suspect that the land is as haunted or more so than the house itself. I could ‘feel’ that house and the spirits of the mountains every time I returned home. Home, then, was a feeling, the most intense feeling I have ever know outside of my love for my husband and daughter.
That feeling is based on a reality that ‘ghost hunters’ deal with every day. It’s confusing and strange that I can’t pinpoint who was in the house and/or around it. I have to simply accept the fact that not all relationships can be clearly understood—perhaps none of them can. I lost more than a place; I lost a feeling.
There are signs, however, that the feeling can return and is not dependent on a place. This morning, for example, I walked down the driveway and looked out towards the hills and mountains of Newbury Park and Camarillo. The sun was shining on the tower of the Catholic Church on Ventura Boulevard. As I approached my car, there was a dove sitting on top. I reached over and stroked her neck before she flew off towards the avocado trees. It was a strange feeling; almost like I was home again.
–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

Read Full Post »