What the priest must have thought when three half-dressed and hysterical teenage girls, with bare feet, tangled hair and makeup streaming down their faces came clattering into Beaumont Grove Polish Orthodox church as the congregation filed out after Sunday mass is anyone’s guess.
By Sunday morning, the regular occupants of Wynwood house had left early; Carla, Marney and Rose remained.
“I don’t pray.” Rose said.
The ding of the telephone handset still resonated from when Marney had put it down. She looked to the others, back and forth.
“My grandma’s a medium,” She said, frowning. “She knows what to do.”
The others looked at their feet. Chipped toenail polish. The stained, threadbare carpet beneath.
“She said we have to. If anything happens, we have to pray.”
Rose tried not to think of the flame that flickered from beneath the grill this morning when she was looking for matches. The banging that had kept them up in the night.
They all knew about the window and the bed.
“Come on, we’ll start in here.”
Marney pushed open the door of one of the downstairs bedrooms, the ones that no one ever used.
“Our father,” She began, staring pointedly at the others. “Who art in heaven…”
Carla and Rose joined in, their voices tiny.
A stench rent the air; thick and foul like something had rotted, something had died.
“Hallowed be thy name…”
The girls traversed the ground floor of Wynwood house, holding hands as they chanted. One bedroom, then the next and back into the hall. The stink followed them.
Carla and Rose’s voice petered out, they stopped dead, neither would go any further.
“I’ll say it then!” Marney snapped.
She continued with the prayer. Rose and Carla could feel the air thickening, that terrible buzzing tension curled into the house like fog.
I don’t think it’s a ghost.” Rose’s voice was a whisper. “I think the house is alive…we’ve agitated it…”
Tears began streaming down her face; her breathing getting faster.
“Stop it.” Marney said; the blessings forgotten. “Rose..please stop…please stop crying!”
“It hates us, it hates us!”
In answer to Rose’s wails, both bedroom doors slammed shut.
Screaming now, Carla and Marney pulled Rose fromthe house and out into the morning sun that poured over Beaumont Grove.
“The church, the church!” Marney was screaming.
It wasn’t far away. Five doors down.
Whatever the priest thought of what Carla, Marney and Rose told him about what had happened at Wynwood House, whatever he thought of them, stumbling into this holy place shambling into his solace like drunks or addict; he and his translator agreed to visit Wynwood house at 3pm that day.
I got round an hour or so after he’d left. Only Carla remained.
“It seems…calm…” I said.
It did as well; the tension that filled the place to the point that we had become accustomed to it seemed to have gone.
A postcard-shaped piece of cardboard was blue-tacced to the downstairs bedroom door.
“Oh, that’s the virgin Mary.” Carla said, leading me up the stairs. “The priest put them on every door; he gave us this as well…”
We passed the attic staircase door (closed for once) and Carla pointed to a plastic bottle filled to the brim with water in the middle of the living room floor.
It was a crumpled old water bottle. It didn’t look very holy to me.
There was not one of us who was remotely religious in Wynwood house, save for one or two half-hearted claims to paganism. It was only Marney who seemed to have any real connection to Christianity. We had noticed lately she had begun to wear a small cross around her neck.
“Won’t all this…” I said, peering into the bucket. The water didn’t look any different. “Won’t this just…annoy it?”
“One way to find out.” Carla plunged her hand into the holy water and flicked her fingers at the living room wall.
The power of Christ compels you.
I followed suit.
My memories from this point on are fuzzy; fog clouds the remaining events but suffice to say there wasn’t many. Summer was nearly over and most of those who had stayed at Wynwood house had decided not to come back. Carla and I’s relationship was at its end , aside from in the house, we were spending less and less time together; she was due to start college soon, I was going back to school.
I do remember flicking that water; I still feel it on my hands. I remember the tension that filled the air of the house whilst we were doing it. I also remember how we decided to stop when it got too much.
Then there’s a blank.
It’s a strange place to end; but this is all I have. My memories are not strong enough to shine through the fug of time. I have one lingering recollection of Carla and I packing up her stuff into bags and suitcases. The house was empty, the presence…gone.
What I do know is that I didn’t experience any more activity at Wynwood house. I was spending the majority of my time back at my parents’ place and I can safely assume that that day packing was our last in Wynwood house, the only tension in the air was between me and Carla.
In the aftermath of these few weeks, which were actually only a few weeks, but felt significantly longer; the core of us who stayed on Beaumont Grove went our separate ways. It seemed a natural process; jobs, school, college. We’d see each other now and again in the clubs and pubs but that core, that family had dissipated. A few of us remained close, a few of us are still close to this day; but those I have spoken to in writing this account find it hard to remember the events at Wynwood house and it’s not a subject we ever discuss. Like Carla was the guardian of the house, I feel that in some ways, I am the guardian of its legacy. Over the years I have attempted to dramatise what happened to us that summer; turn those events into a story….but it’s never felt right somehow. I guess this is where I finally put Wynwood house to rest.
I’d like to thank those who remembered and took the time to send me their accounts of what happened to them that summer. The majority of them, I am no longer in contact with and something tells me they would not welcome a message out of the blue from someone they don’t know any longer, reminding them of that summer. To them, I extend my gratitude for being my friends long ago.
There is no doubt in my mind of what I saw in Wynwood house that summer. One other who experienced what I would say was the most significant event (the window opening and the fingers under the bed), would also look you in the eye and swear it was true.
At the time and immediately afterward; a few of us believed that Wynwood house was haunted. Perhaps there was something dormant in there, a spirit, a ghost, that we had agitated. Perhaps there wasn’t.
As time has passed, however, I personally am less inclined to believe that is the case.
Personally, I don’t know enough about parapsychology to back up and create a concrete theory as to what happened, but I have my own idea.
As I alluded to in the first part of this account; there were other things going on as well as the normal teenage angst and the kind of dramas you would expect in a rickety old student house filled with adolescents.
There were people staying there who were doing battle with their own inner demons. And losing.
Without going into too much detail, for the sake of those people, what I will say was there was a high amount of psychological torment within the group of us that stayed in Wynwood house. This manifested itself physically as well as internally. It was a hard time. Some of us fight those demons still.
My view is that the occurrences in the house were, as some spiritual researchers, psychologists and other academics have speculated upon, was some form of Psychokenisis. I believe it was caused by us, the people who lived there for that time and it left when we left. If there was something there before us in that house, I couldn’t say. I feel that the blessing of the priest and the holy water that seemed to ‘calm’ the house was coincidental. I think it made those in the house feel reassured rather than cast divine intervention of some sort.
Early research into Poltergeist activity by Cesare Lombroso points to the presence of teenage girls during instances of poltergeist activity. He called this ‘nerve force’ – a sort of exterior manifestation of the surge of hormones of the unconscious teenage mind. Carl Jung reported strange occurrences that surrounded a cousin, a girl who began going into trances during puberty, notably a table breaking in two and a breadknife inside a cupboard shattering into several pieces. Jung used the term ‘exteriorization phenomenon’ to describe these forces.
Psychical researcher Harry Price, in his book Poltergeists over England takes a slightly different view “Poltergeists are able, by laws yet unknown to our physicists, to extract energy from living persons, often from the young, and usually from girl adolescents…”
Although Price’s view on Poltergeists is that they are entities unto themselves, he too links them to adolescents.
Like I say, I have no concrete theory. All I know is what I and the others saw.
I am interested in the opinions of others. Specifically, you.
Now Wynwood house has been laid bare, I’d invite you, the reader to speculate on what you think happened. Perhaps you think it was just hysterical teenagers seeing things? Perhaps you think Wynwood house is or was haunted? Feel free to ask me any questions you may have. There are some things such as the whereabouts of the place and personal details of the people that I don’t feel comfortable going into. I can answer from my personal experiences of what I remember and I am genuinely interested in the conclusions you draw on the events from that summer.
Thank you for reading this far and I hope you have enjoyed it or else been suitably spooked.
31st October 2014.