I woke up at ten thirty in the morning. I love it when you don’t have to feel guilty for sleeping in. Vacations are awesome. I let my wife know that I was going to meet Bob for breakfast, and then go over to X Avenue to talk to the people in the neighborhood about the house. I thought it would be a good time to get some background on it.
At the Denny’s in Island City, the server brought us our coffee cups. Her nametag said “Gina” on it. I took a sip of the coffee and it was as I expected, in need of liberal amounts of sugar and creamer to hide the strong, bitter taste.
Bob took a sip of his black coffee and smiled in satisfaction. “Good coffee.” I smiled politely. Bob’s face grew more serious as he asked, “Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that this was a trip down memory lane in the old family house was it?”
I laughed. “You caught me. I was ghost hunting in the old family house.”
Bob snorted, half amused and half incredulous. “What in God’s name would make you do that? That’s like that Australian guy poking dangerous animals with a stick for the camera.”
I laughed at the comparison. “You know, I thought the same thing.”
Bob pressed. “What would make you do that if you already know what was in there?”
“Personally, I didn’t know what was in there. Some of my family had seen things and I wanted to know for myself. More importantly, I suspect that it is affecting the people in the neighborhood,” I replied.
“What do you think it is? I saw you running for your life out of that house. Was it a ghost?” Bob asked.
“Whatever it is, it doesn’t play well with Christian images,” I replied.
“A demon?” he asked, making a sign of the cross in the air that told me that he was Catholic.
“Well, I’m not an expert. But I would probably agree with you.” I pulled out a map of the town with five red X’s on it. “But you asked why I would do such a dumb thing like poking around with paranormal elements. Here is your answer. My family has had its own run-ins with this thing, which I have only heard about. But, according to newspaper articles, I have also found incidents that have happened over the last twenty years, near that house,” I pointed to the map.
“Twenty years ago, nineteen-year-old Todd Riggs was convicted of rape and murder. His house was here.” I pointed to a place on the map close to the house on X Avenue. “Five years later, Conrad Black is turned in by his wife for molesting their daughter and he is convicted. He dies in prison because inmates don’t take kindly to his kind on the inside.” I point to the X that marked a house that was a few streets north of the house on X. “There are three more similar cases over the next fifteen years. Only two of the five men are alive today. It’s time someone did something about it.”
Bob looked at me and nodded. “Well, what do you want to do about it?”
“My sister’s in-laws know a pastor. Maybe I can get in touch with him and ask him to try to exorcise it,” I said.
“What can it hurt? The house won’t sell anyway. I’ll do what I can to help. Meaning, I’ll… give you the key and sit back and watch you poke scary things with your stick. I may even laugh at you if your stick doesn’t work,” Bob chuckled, his eyes coming to life with interest and mirth.
“I’ll get the number and let you know when he is available to meet.”
I called Pastor Randall, and as luck would have it, he was available to meet a few hours later that same day. I arrived a little early to talk to the neighbors. I knocked on the houses close by and no one answered. A few doors down, an elderly woman answered the door. “Yes?”
I smiled and greeted her. “Hello, I’m Johnathan Campbell. How are you today?”
She smiled and replied, “I’m Esther Johnson, but I’m not buying anything.”
I had to recover before she shut the door. “I’m sorry. I’m not selling anything. I am meeting Bob, the caretaker, to look at the house, two doors down.”
The woman looked at me, perplexed. “Why would you go there? Don’t you know about that house?”
I nodded. “I know a little. My mom and her family lived in it for years.”
A fearful look spread across her face. “Then you do know. That house was bad enough before your family moved out. People would see things occasionally, ghosts. But later, whenever the house was empty, shadows would come out at night.
“A few years ago, a renter died in that house leaving his dog behind. Poor thing howled and whimpered for a week. I called the police, but when they got there, he was already dead. Another renter, Randy, said that he wouldn’t go upstairs. Sometimes, his two dogs would block the stairway to keep him from to the second floor. He would have to to lock them up in the truck so he could go up and get something. He said that he felt unwelcome up there, and he eventually moved out. Randy was such a nice man. I don’t go near the place myself. The last time I passed by the house was when I still had my little dog, Muffy. She was such a sweet little thing. Well, as Muffy was doing her business, a movement caught my eye in the upstairs window. When I looked up, I saw an inhuman face. Its multicolored form shimmered, and it was staring at me with a look that made my blood run cold. I asked my psychic, Alicia, about that house and she said that there are a few things wrong with it. She offered to sage the house for $100, but it isn’t my house and I’m on a fixed income.” She paused in reflection.
I interjected. “I’m sorry for what you have gone through, but I’m meeting Bob and a pastor at the house, and the pastor has offered to do an exorcism at no cost. I appreciate what you have told me. That is exactly what I wanted to know.”
Esther’s face brightened. “Can I help in anyway?”
I shrugged. “You could pray, send good thoughts, send a blessing. Whatever you do for spirituality.”
She looked down at her feet. “I haven’t had much room for religion. I pray every now and then. But I think that I am done with church.”
I chuckled. “That’s okay, Esther. Jesus cramps religion’s style too. I’ll let you know how it goes.” Just then, Bob’s truck pulled up to the house. “That’s Bob. It was good to meet you, Esther.” Esther smiled. “You too, dear. And God bless you.”
I walked back to the house where Bob was waiting.
“Been here long?” he asked.
“Oh, just an hour. I thought I would ask around the neighborhood stories about the house.”
“What did you find out?”
“Quite a bit, shadows in the night. A person and a dog died in the house. A ghostly, multicolored face shows itself in the window. Esther, the lady I was talking to, consults a psychic on a regular basis. She told her about the house and the psychic told her that there is a lot of bad stuff. She offered to sage the house for $100.” Bob chuckled. “I wonder if it would be that easy. Well, good thing you found a pastor willing to do it for free. I will try to get him back in some way.” Just then, an old, well-used, gold Saturn, with mismatched tires pulled up. Bob slapped his knee, laughed, and exclaimed, “Ask and ye shall receive!”
A slightly balding man in his fifties got out of the car. He was medium build, and medium height. His un-tucked, blue, long sleeved shirt and pressed jeans made him look hip and trendy. He gave me his best winning smile that told me this guy was an achiever. He had the build of someone who had been an athlete when he was younger. This guy was not home-grown in La Grande. I have lived outside of my hometown for a while, and have learned that the only cool, alpha male pastors are found in large cities where the high paying mega-churches are. This guy was driving an old, beat-up Saturn. That made him pretty respectable.
“Johnathan Campbell? I’m Pastor Randal Price.” He shook my hand and then Bob’s hand. “Good to see you again. It’s been a while.” I reminded him.
“Oh yeah, I am so sorry. I haven’t seen you in like, forever.” I gestured to the house. “Have you ever performed an exorcism on a house before?”
Pastor Randal shook his head. “Not on a house. But I have prayed for people who thought that they were demon possessed, and they have reported that they feel healed.”
I looked at Bob, who shrugged and replied with a chuckle, “Good enough for me. What am I going to do if he fails?”
I looked at the Pastor. “Let’s get started then.”
He clapped his hands together and rubbed them. “Okay guys, can we say a quick prayer?” He held out his hands, indicating that he wanted us to take hold of them. Bob hesitantly took Pastor Randal’s hand, and I did the same. The Pastor started his prayer. “Lord Jesus, we pray to you for protection against the forces of darkness, and we pray that you send your angels to cleanse this house from the dominion of Satan! We pray for the power of the Holy Spirit to descend upon this house in the fullness of Christ! In the name of Jesus!”
I was quite moved by the prayer. Bob politely took his hand back and crossed himself in the way that identified his Catholic origins.
All three of us took confident strides to the house. We felt like warriors, going to fight darkness. Just as our feet landed on the first step leading up to the door, the front door opened wide, and then slammed shut. Our bravado just took a deflating poke. We looked at each other for a second, and then Bob and I looked at Pastor Randal.
“After you,” Bob gestured to Randal. The pastor looked at us and shook his head. He stepped up the next two steps and grabbed the handle. Taking a breath, he pushed the door open and entered the house. Bob and I followed to the doorway without walking inside.
I spoke up. “Hey, last night I promised my wife that I wouldn’t go in again.”
Bob added, “I’m good right here.”
Inside, Randal surveyed the house and he took another calming breath. “Well, here goes nothing.” He yelled at the top of his lungs. “Satan, I cast you out in the name of Jesus!” There was silence. He continued. “Demon, come out of this house and never return in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit!” There was continued silence.
I offered, “Pastor Randal, I think that the problem is upstairs. That’s where I had my encounter.”
He shrugged. “I’ll go take a look.” He started up the stairs. Just as the pastor stepped on the top step, the door at the top violently slammed shut. I raised my finger, rooted to the spot at the front door. “I don’t think that we are welcome.”
Bob turned around and started back down the porch stairs to leave as he huffed. “I didn’t sign up for ghost wrestling or poking invisible monsters with a stick!” He went out the door and down the landing. Just then, the front door slammed shut violently in my face.
I looked up to Pastor Randal through the window and mouthed, “It looks like it is just you and me. I’m right here if you need me. I hope that you know what you are doing.”The Pastor swallowed. “Me too.”