Paranormal Research Club Ch. 03byGPLockwood©
This is purely a work of erotic fiction. All characters, places, and situations are entirely fictional. All sexually active characters are 18 years of age or older. All rights reserved.
We had entered the Green Mountain National Forest. It was some of the most beautiful country I had ever seen, with mountains that looked like enormous rolling hills covered with plush blankets of old hardwoods. In some areas, we could look out of the windows and see the landscape spread out below us like a beautiful oil painting. I was already enjoying my time in Vermont immensely, and not looking forward to my return to the relatively featureless Mid-West. Gradually, the roads became narrower, curvier, and less well-maintained as dark gray clouds began to form overhead. Visible signs of human habitation became scarcer and scarcer. Eventually, we rounded a corner on a mountain and saw a clearing in the woods ahead of us. I instinctively knew that we had arrived at our destination.
The old church was made of weathered stone and reddish-brown bricks in a style that was unmistakably a relic of previous centuries. Compared with many modern churches, it was relatively small. Tall, domed windows that were filled with ancient glass full of bubbles and swirls were set deep in the thick old walls. Vines snaked up towards the roof of a tall tower that probably served as a belfry on one side of the structure. The bricks were crumbling in places, and there were dark streaks of algae and thick pads of moss growing beside the vines on some of the shaded walls. In a circular window over the entryway, the dim sunlight reflected from a stained-glass depiction of Christ on the cross, which I judged to be a relatively recent addition. On the sides of the churchyard, the tall, dark trees of the ancient forest that surrounded the church had crept in close to the building. It was as though the forest itself was attempting a Cannae-style enveloping maneuver in an effort to reclaim its lost territory and erase any reminders that the tragic old edifice had ever stood there.
A rusted and dilapidated wrought-iron gate surrounded a small cemetery. The grim-looking tombstones within the churchyard were thin wafers of stone that had been cut in the patterns that had been popular two centuries ago, long before the more robust modern blocks of granite came into vogue. The crooked headstones had been weathered until the antique italic letters on many of the age-blackened, moss and lichen encrusted relics were hardly legible. Some tombstones had fallen over entirely or had cracked in half. An apparent effort had been made to keep the old churchyard maintained, but even so brown, lifeless weeds surrounded the bases of some of the ancient stones. A few of the well-to-do dead were housed in what had perhaps once been ostentatious above-ground burial vaults. Long years in the pitiless New England weather had decayed and eroded these ancient monuments into a sardonic commentary on human vanity. A melancholy air hung about the place like an invisible fog.
It was a mournfully beautiful scene, with the old-fashioned house of worship, the ancient forest, and the dim sunlight filtering down between the dark purple clouds that rolled across the gray sky. But here in person, a persistent, brooding sense of death and suffering seemed to hang disconcertingly in the air. I have been on enough paranormal investigations before to be pretty good at instinctively judging whether or not a place is haunted. I felt slightly sick in the pit of my stomach, and I suppressed a shudder. Diana and I exchanged a concerned glance. Something was very definitely here, and Diana didn't have to say a word for me to know that we both had a very, very bad feeling about it.
Erin's face didn't betray much in the way of emotion, whether joy for returning home or fear of the ancient evil that lurked here. Haunted or not, this sad old place was her childhood home. Kim, Sarah, and Heather remained silent and bore grave expressions on their faces. Some primitive part in the back of our minds seemed to be screaming at us that there was something dangerous lurking here that the rest of our senses would be unable to detect. As we drove past the church and up the hill towards the parsonage, the threatening sense of a silent and invisible menace seemed to pass, and I was grateful for our reprieve.
The parsonage where Erin's parents lived was a large, dignified-looking brick structure constructed in a blocky, formal-looking Edwardian style that I though might look more appropriate for a funeral home than a private residence. From our research, we knew that it had been built many years after the church building. There was a large brick-and-concrete porch in front of the building that was covered by an extension from the weathered gray roof. As we pulled the van into the shaded driveway that ran to the left of the house, an attractive older woman that had been sitting in a rocking chair on the porch marked her place in the paperback book she was reading, placed it on a table beside her, then quickly walked down to greet us.
"That's fine, just leave the van right there under those trees," she said. Erin's mother was a very attractive woman for her age, with just a few extra pounds of weight and a few gray hairs revealing that she was in her fifth decade of life.
The six of us dismounted the van, and Erin rushed forward to warmly embrace her mother. "Hey, everyone, this is my mom, Naomi! Naomi, that's Kim, Diane, John, Sarah, and Heather."
"It's great to meet you all!" Naomi said with genuine warmth. "My husband will be back later; he is so sorry that he couldn't be here! A parishioner that David has been spending a lot of time with lately hung himself this morning, and David's been busy with the family for most of the day. Suicide is always so hard on a family. Dinner is in the oven, and should be ready in about fifteen minutes. Erin, would you mind showing them where their rooms will be and where the bathrooms are?"
We took our personal gear out of the van, and Erin escorted us to the guest rooms. There were three guest rooms located upstairs in the house. Diane got a room to herself, and Sarah and Heather would share a room. Kim would be sleeping in Erin's bedroom with her. As the only man, I got a room to myself. After we all took turns using the two restrooms that were available, we helped Naomi set the table.
"Lisa!" Naomi called. "Your sister and her friends from school are here, and we're all sitting down to eat!"
"I'll be there in just a second, Mom!" a female voice echoed down from the end of the dark wood-paneled hallway. "My boss just sent me a text from work. He has a question about some orders that a client placed last month. I'll be right out, I promise." The woman that was speaking had the sort of voice that sounded attractive and almost musical without trying at all, even when discussing issues as mundane as work.
A moment later, a strikingly beautiful woman with shoulder-length blonde hair appeared in the hallway, her feet clacking on the wooden floor as she walked in a rapid, business-like manner towards the table. When she saw me, she immediately stopped in her tracks and we stared at each other for a long moment. Erin's sister, Lisa, was the beautiful stranger that had teased me as my own mother had mounted my cock during the dream that I had two nights before.
"Is everything all right?" asked Naomi, noting her daughter's startled reaction with concern.
Lisa smiled beautifully at her mother. "Oh, yes, everything is just fine. I just thought for a moment that I knew this gentleman from somewhere, but after getting a better look at his face, I don't believe I've ever seen him before." Still, she regarded me with a troubled, thoughtful gaze numerous times over the course of dinner.
Naomi was every bit the cook that her daughter had described her as being, and I can say without any hesitation that it was among the most delicious meals I have ever eaten. I could have made a meal out of her homemade rolls alone! Glasses of sweet red wine that Erin's father had skillfully crafted from local grapes complemented the exquisite cooking perfectly. I was concerned that we would have a hard time staying awake to do the investigation with the inevitable drowsiness that an overly-stuffed stomach leads to.
After we had all eaten and were sitting around the table, sipping on freshly brewed coffee and picking at the remnants of the pumpkin pie that Lisa had contributed to the dinner, Diana spoke to Naomi. "So, Naomi, could you please tell us a bit more about the old church, and what goes on there? Erin described some of the things that she's seen to the rest of the club, but she says that you've seen some stuff as well, and we would like to hear a bit about your experiences from you.
Naomi sat there for a long moment, with her hands folded quietly on her lap. She looked at us guardedly, and spoke in quiet voice that didn't need volume to fill the room: "When the bishop in charge of the diocese at the time told David to take over the church after the last rector passed away unexpectedly, I was against it from the beginning. I had a bad feeling about the whole place. David was fresh out of seminary, though, and didn't think that an appointment to a church like this was something that he could afford to pass up. Lisa was only a few years old at the time, Erin was on the way, and he said that an appointment at a respectable old church like this would give us a place to live and raise a family, and it would provide us with financial security. The diocese was offering him several thousand dollars more a year to take this position than he could have gotten elsewhere, and they were still having a hard time filling the vacancy the last minister had left."
Naomi poured herself another glass of wine. Her face was a stoic mask that betrayed a valiant effort not to reveal any emotion. But as she poured the sweet red liquid from the dusty green bottle, her hands trembled. "Almost immediately after we moved in, I would sometimes see lights in the cemetery at night. At first I thought that it was teenagers playing around in the cemetery, and I called the police because I was worried that they would vandalize the place. The police never found anything. I noticed that, during the day, when nobody else was in the church, I could hear footsteps. I'm not talking about noises in an old building with a settling foundation and a creaky floor. I grew up in an old house, and I know what that sounds like. I'm talking about clear, regular footsteps taking definite paths through the building. You can literally hear the strike of a heel and then the rest of a foot being set down. Both David and I hear them pretty frequently in broad daylight. It's usually like someone pacing while they're waiting for something, but sometimes I've heard several footsteps like it's a group walking around together. Sometimes I hear knocks on the wall. Not like the building settling, but like someone hitting the wall with a fist. Then there were these smells. Sometimes, it was like rotting flesh, like... like, death, I suppose. But it comes without any explanation, in places that shouldn't have smelled like that, and it's gone just a few hours later so it couldn't have been a dead animal. Electrical things in that building have always acted funny. The clocks are always having the battery die a just a day or two after you changed it, or being reset to weird times, or sometimes even running backwards. Sometimes the printer at the computer just starts spitting out blank sheets of paper when nobody is even near the computer. The fire alarms sometimes go off for no reason. Sometimes you might see something like movement or a disembodied, free-standing shadow, but it's usually gone before you're even completely sure you saw it. Sometimes when you're alone in the building, you'll see someone out of the corner of your eye, but when you turn to look directly at them, they're gone. One time I was in the church alone, and I heard someone screaming and crying like they were in the absolute worst kind of pain. They sounded like they were dying. It scared me badly enough that I called the police. Of course, they didn't find anything and seemed to think that I was just calling them to get attention. There's something about the whole building that just doesn't feel right; it's a scary place. But the feeling that everyone seems to get in the basement is just horrible. I don't know anyone that will go into the basement alone for any length of time. Nobody seems to know of anything that's actually happened there, but there's this... this feeling like something evil is down there and watching you."
With Naomi's words, I saw Lisa's jaw set into a tight grimace that she seemed to be trying to hide, and the color drained from her lovely face. She set down her fork as though she had suddenly lost her appetite, but didn't say anything.
Naomi spoke with a voice that was tight with emotion. "After we had lived there for a few years, I thought that Lisa was spending a lot of time talking in gibberish, and I told her to quit. But then Erin started talking like that, too, and they seemed to understand each other. This continued for years when they didn't think I could hear them until one of the congregation members congratulated me on what a good job my children had done learning French, and he told me to get them some newer textbooks because nobody talks like that anymore. I never taught my kids French. They've never been around anyone that spoke French or could teach it to them. It turned out that they were fluent enough in it to have full conversations with people that spoke French, but they didn't know the names of anything that has been around for less than two hundred years. They said that they learned it from the 'White Dress Ladies'. I was terrified and asked David to quit his job and move away from here. He said that God would protect us, and the girls said that the 'White Dress Ladies' were their friends and they didn't want to quit talking to them. I was so frightened, but it was impossible to get anyone to believe me and do something! Nobody could help."
Naomi continued. "...And all that is during broad daylight! The whole time I've been here, I've only actually been inside that old church after dark once. That was enough for me. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was the secretary and treasurer of the women's Sunday School, and there was a question about some of our finances, and I was in David's office to get a piece of paper I needed, and I wasn't planning to leave without it."
"I went back to the corner of David's office at the church where I had left the paper, and the lights all went out. All at the same time, like if the power had been cut. But the clock on his desk and the lights on his computer didn't go out, so it was NOT the power going out." Naomi's voice had a defensive tone to it, as though she expected us to not believe her or to challenge her.
We do have to look for possible alternatives to a supernatural cause for things when we investigate a site, and we're obligated as objective observers to remain open but skeptical of anything that we can't independently verify. That said, we never treat a client with disrespect, and I am confident that every one of us believed that Naomi was telling us the truth to the best of her ability.
She sat there at the table in the cozy, well-lit kitchen with eyes that were still reflecting terror from almost two decades ago. "There, in the dark, there was just enough light to see. Barely. I was surrounded by these black shapes, like the silhouettes of a bunch of people in colonial costume. They didn't reflect any light. They were like a group of solid, walking shadows. I screamed and closed my eyes, and believe me I was praying like I had never prayed before. After a minute in the dark, the lights came back on and I was in the room by myself. I thought that everything was over. I swear to you, nobody was there but me. I had shut the door behind myself when I came into the office. I started looking for the paper, then I started getting a really funny feeling. Then, I heard the voice of a man with a British accent yell "GET OUT!", and then the door to the office slammed open with enough force to knock a crucifix off the wall. I ran out of that building as fast as I could, and didn't stop running until I got home. I didn't pick the paper up while I was there, but I found it crumpled and shoved inside my back pocket later that night. I've never been so scared before in my life, and I'm not going there again after dark. Ever."
I looked at Naomi sympathetically. "Ma'am, if you don't mind, can we ask you a few questions? When you heard the voice, how loud was it and what did it sound like? Did it sound like the voice came from somewhere in particular, and was this an audible voice, or was it something that sounded like you were just hearing it inside of your own head?"
Her nostrils flared slightly, and she regarded me with controlled anger. "I am absolutely positive that I wasn't imagining it! I heard a voice, a loud man's voice, like he was angry and yelling at me. And he told me to get out, so I did!"
Erin came to my defense. "Mom, I don't think that John thinks that you're crazy or that you were imagining anything. Sometimes when ghosts communicate with people, it sounds like they're speaking directly inside of your mind, and that doesn't mean that you're imagining it and I don't think that John was trying to imply that you were. That's how the White Dress Ladies used to talk to Lisa and me when we were kids, and it was clear enough that I can still speak in old-fashioned French when I want to, and I can even read in French if I sound the words out. But what you're talking about, with an audible voice that's loud enough to sound like a loud, clear shout... well, that isn't common at all."
Naomi's anger seemed mollified, but her brows were knitted tightly, and she looked as though she might cry. "Well, that's what happened."
Lisa touched her mother's arm sympathetically. "We have all had experiences there. How about this: Erin and I will give them a walk-through, and then they can start setting up before Dad gets home. Then, if it's not dark yet, he can give them a tour and cover anything we missed. I know how emphatic Dad was about wanting to be along for the walk through; you know how he gets about that old place. But Dad's been working late a lot recently and if the suicide means that he's going to be working even later tonight, there's no way that he's going to be back before dark."
Naomi offered to stay behind and do the dishes while Erin and Lisa showed us around the church. On the walk towards the old building, Lisa told us much of the church's history that we already knew from Erin, but it was still nice to get another take on it.
We unlocked a side door into the old building, and entered a narrow hallway lined with dingy yellow wallpaper. On the walls hung rows of framed paintings and black-and-white photographs of previous pastors. The church was eerily silent. Each small noise seemed magnified, and our footsteps echoed on the hardwood floor. Once we were all inside, Erin locked the door behind us.
Across the hallway from a stained and yellowing black-and-white portrait of some long-dead priest, Erin gestured towards a closed wooden door. She spoke, her voice echoing in the empty corridor. "This is Dad's office. That's where Mom saw the shadow people. We might want someone in there tonight." Opening the door, she gave us a brief look at a nondescript clergyman's office, with a desk, several chairs, a computer, printer, numerous papers and religious items, and several very full bookshelves. A brass crucifix hung on the wall beside the door, and was probably the one that had fallen when Naomi had seen the door slam open. It was heavy and solidly hung on a sturdy carpenter's nail. It would not have come off of the wall easily.