Exorcising a loo
I've always been fascinated by the paranormal. I like ghost stories, and oddities, strange stories and hints of “otherness”. I never have pretended to know what the reality of those stories is, what is real and what is not, what's hysteria and what's drugs. I can't know, even the things I've seen or experiences, because knowing is impossible. There are too many variables, too many unknowns. As long as I don't know, then I can't postulate.
That doesn't stop my from enjoying the goose-bumpy, shivery goodness of a ghost story, or a tale of the “black eyed children”. It doesn't mean that I don't love hearing and sharing these vignettes. I wrote about the clown-doll already; that experience made me curious about the how of the world. I wanted to know more and understand how in this universe something like that doll could exist. It didn't fit into the knowledge that I had been given about God, and the world, and religion.
Later, I learned more about how nothing really fits in the universe. Christianity, with the exception of mystical and prophetic strains, tends to be very anti-unknown. Knowing only what's given to you in that book means there is no uncertainty, no ghost stories, no weirdly heavy, freezing cold dolls. It was all daemons, evil spirits and Satan.
I don't buy that one, not one bit. Exorcisms tend to comfort the person asking for them-- not always, as in the case of someone asking to be “delivered from being gay”-- but often. That ritual soothes their minds, causes some kind of mental healing to begin, or continue. I don't think it's daemons, though. I think it's probably mental illness.
I was living in Killeen, this would have been around 2000, and went to visit my dear friend Rich and his wife when they were living in the married housing on the campus of Mary Hardin-Baylor. She was going to university there, in Belton. UMHB is a Baptist college, a fairly large, sorta not really religious (in the please come to school here, I promise we're a good school) but totally religious (in a you better go to chapel and women are worthless) kind of way. I have no idea what my friend's wife was studying. She wanted to be an actress, and figured her talent was so shining and wonderful that someone would discover her in the uni's plays, or something.
I told him, when she ran away to live with a Carnie that at least she wasn't doing porn.(Yes, she left him for a Carnie, and I have nothing against Carnies, I wonder what he saw in her. She wasn't a catch, she was, well, a dumpy, short, very fat, very unhealthy, very plain-looking woman with about 4 brain cells and no personality. Not even pretty enough to be a dumb bimbo, just dumb. Every Carnie I've met has been a smart, savvy person, so I dunno)
Anyway, my friend called me. He was a Neo-Pagan, of the mostly-Wiccan persuasion, and told me there was something wrong with their apartment building. Could I come out and take a look?
Sure, why not? I figured they were fighting, again, as that's all that they ever seemed to do. Fighting with someone can change the atmosphere of your home, making it feel dark, and scary, unsafe and even evil. The mind does a lot to influence our living space; when you're unhappy, things are darker and worse. When you're happier, things are brighter and more clear.
I took a punk of sage with me, some sea salt, a couple candles and some “blessing oil”*. Knowing she was a terrible house keeper, I remember bringing cinnamon oil and some spices cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, I think they were. I hated going to their house, but my friend asked, so I went.
I took the time to drive over as clearing my mind time. I didn't think anything evil was lurking in their apartment. I didn't want to see or sense anything that wasn't there, either. That's one of the biggest things, when you like and are interested in, the paranormal-- not seeing what isn't there. I wanted to be clear headed and firm, so I could tell them knock the shit off and either get counselling or get divorced.
When I knocked on the door, I heard him holler “Come on in.” I walked in, calling out, “Richie, it's me, what's up?”
This was an oddly laid out apartment. It was just about perfectly square, living room and kitchen sharing the front, small hall way leading to a half bath to the left, and bedroom/study to the right. Then a fairly large master bedroom and bath at the end of the hall. The washing hook ups were in the study/second bedroom, and we always thought that was so strange.
He had been home from a four day “turn around”; Rich drove a truck. She was at practice, for some play, and he told me later she didn't know he'd called me. While he was home, he cleaned the place, top to bottom, so it looked pretty nice. There were a couple rubbish bags near the door, ready to go to the bin.
I stood in the hallway, holding my little bag of things, and watched him fight with the master bathroom door. He pushed, and shoved, shoulder against the door, and it would not budge. It sounded like he was beating it down, but it never moved. Not so much as a rattle in the frame. That door was stuck.
“What in the hell are you doing?” I asked, finally, watching him huff and puff and sputter and cuss that door. “Can I smoke in here?”
“Smoke, yeah, that sounds good,” his arms dropped, defeated by that door. “Fuck you, then,” he said, pointedly to the door. Then, motioning me to the front room, we sat and smoked in silence.
I'm old enough to know when to talk, and then to be quiet. I could tell he was embarrassed that I'd seen that, but I thought it was because he'd locked the door accidentally, and was trying to shove the door down. No one wants to get caught “kicking in” a door ineffectually...
We smoked in silence for a few minutes, and he got me a soda. Told me he'd ordered a pizza, and I was welcome to stay. Then he sat down on the sofa, where he could see straight down the hallway into the bedroom. The bathroom door way was visible. His eyes never left it. The following conversation is the best I can remember it. I'd known Rich for many years by that point, and he had never lied to me. I have never known the man to lie to me since, either, so I believed him.
“It started a couple weeks ago. When she got the part in this play. She's not a principle, just a, what're they called, chorus? She's singing in the background, and they're dancing, it's all very stupid, I think,” he lit another smoke, popping to stop of his Mt. Dew and looking at that closed door. Then, turning to me he said, suddenly, “Em, can you open that door?”
I looked at my friend, who is 6'3, broad in the shoulder and has huge hands. His eyes, one blue, and one brown were serious: could I open that door he'd wailed on so hard.
I shrugged, got up, lit another smoke and let it hang from my lip, feeling oddly gunslinger-ish; I tossed my little bag on to the kitchen bar and walked down the little hallway. I touched the doorknob and it was cold, freezing cold; it wouldn't turn. Not locked won't turn, but stuck fast, rusted, busted, holy shit what in the hell did you do to this doorknob, won't turn. So I shoved the door, which in most circumstances would make it rattle in its hardware. Nothing. So I asked him for a torch, I was going to look under the door. I don't know why I wanted to look under the door; it doesn't make a lot of sense, does it?
He brought me one, and the screwdriver I asked for. “What'd you do, lock it?” I asked.
“Nope, I don't use that toilet, it's hers. I refuse to go in there.” I thought that was a really odd thing for him to say.
“There's a shower in the half?” I asked, nodding to the other toilet.
“Yeah, it's more a three-quarters, the tub's in here, and a detachable shower head.”
There was a little more than an inch of space under the door, but I couldn't see anything besides the little fluffy rug and what looked like a radiator-heater. Then I set out to dismantle the door knob. The key was missing, and the little hole was too small to fit a screwdriver in, so I just figured I'd take off the knob and unlock it that way.
It never occurred to me that the door wasn't locked. Rich's mechanical aptitude is a negative number, he can barely use a tack hammer, so dismantling a doorknob is not something he'd try-- not if it had to go back together, anyway. [You know that guy who always has stuff left over, when he does it himself? Yeah, that's Rich, always has stuff left over, even if there wasn't anything to leave over!]
I got the door knob off, just pulled it out, and let the other half fall to the floor. The innards were disgusting, they looked rusty, corroded even, thick gluey black grease gumming up the works, and I nodded to the door hole, “See, that's your problem, it's nasty in there. You need to get maintenance in there to get you a new one.” I clicked it over, unlocking the door.
“Em, that is a new one,” he said softly, and sat on the bed. “Try opening the door, now. You know it’s not locked.”
I couldn't open that door for anything. It was stuck so fast that I could have sworn the door was drawn on to the wall.
To my surprise, Rich walked back out, grabbed my bag and handed it to me. Then he tapped politely on the toilet door, “Can I come in please? There's someone I want you to meet.”
The door swung open.
He placed a door stop under the door, so it wouldn't close again, walked in, covered the bathroom mirror with a towel and then whispered to me, “Could you cleanse the bathroom? Exorcise it? There's something in here, and it hates me. I can't sleep, it's always banging the door open and closed, since she started that play and I was home at night without her. My Mum got shut in here two days ago, and when we finally got the door open she was crying, said the mirror kept showing her Dad! And he was yelling at her, covered in blood, all rotting.”
His Dad had died a few years prior, and his mother was one of the most level headed women you'd ever meet. She wasn't superstitious at all-- I don't think she believes in the human spirit, let alone evil ones.
So, I nodded, and spent the next hour or so doing an exorcism of that bathroom. I sprinkled salt water and let the smoke of the punk cleanse the energies, swirled incense, let the room be filled with sweet smelling herbs and spices. I boiled some water with the cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in it, and them placed that water in a bowl on the radiator-heater, so when the heater kicked on, it'd evaporate the water.
Finally I pulled the towel off the mirror, carefully oiled the corners, splashing incense smoke over the glass. I finished with the magical words: “You're no longer welcome here. Be gone, and go back to where you came from. Do not return.”
Then I left the candles burning in their little votive holders, one in the window (a small smoked glass that didn't open) and one above the mirror. “When the candles gutter themselves out, Rich, just throw them in the bin.”
Then we sat down and ate the pizza. We talked about nothing important. Would he be back on the road that weekend, or would they be out to game with us? How was his Mum, and sister? Those kinds of questions.
I could tell he was relived, though, and even cleaned up the door knob and put it back together for him. I can't say I cast anything out of there; I don't know what, if anything was there, and what was caused by the power of suggestion. I do know that the ritual helped him.
For what it's worth, it was a very weird experience to see that door refusing to open. But at the same time, I heard and saw absolutely nothing that would make me think that room was possessed, or housed any kind of spirit. I've seen other things, later, at that place that made me believe his wife was causing mischief, but at that moment, there was nothing “on the other planes” as we say, causing ruckus.
Do spirits possess things? Or People? I dunno.
The ritual of casting them out, removing them, forcing them to leave, though, that comforts, and for me as a spiritual person, that was enough. I could help, I could minister to that friend of mine, and give him solace. So I exorcised his loo.
*Blessing oil is extra-virgin olive oil, or some other clear oil, like sweet almond, that's been scented with various essential oils, spices and herbs. It's used by us Pagans much the same way that so-called holy water is used, to place good blessings/energies/thoughts on things. Different Pagans make their oil in different ways, depending on preferred herbs, or allergies.