Speaking Ill Of The Dead

What happens when your three-year-old's creepy toys actually come alive? Read all about Gary Jansen's story in his book Holy Ghosts.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

GARY JANSEN: It was a cold, cold night and my wife asked me to go upstairs to get a pair of socks out of my son's room. It was a dark room, there was a nightlight on. As soon as I walked in, I felt like there was a presence or a person standing behind me. So instinctively, my shoulders went up and I turned around quickly but there was nothing there. I'd never felt something like this before. And the only way I can describe it - as if someone had an electric glove and was rubbing the length of my back. And I had this surge of strange - for lack of a better word - electrical shock kind of going through my body. And when it was done, I left the room, walked downstairs and would have forgotten about the experience had it not happened the next day and then the day after that and then the following day.

There were - strange noises started happening in the house, we had electrical anomalies happening. There were chills in places where there shouldn't have been chills. I was resistant to the idea that something supernatural could be happening. And then something started happening with my son's toys, those ones that are battery-operated. And in the middle of the night, these cars would just turn on. One night, my wife and I are sitting in the living room and there's a "Frosty the Snowman" doll in the middle of the room, just sitting there - my son's asleep. And out of nowhere, the thing starts singing the "Frosty the Snowman" song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FROSTY THE SNOWMAN")

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Frosty the Snowman is a fairy tale they say, he was made of snow but the children know how he came to life one day.

JANSEN: I'm unnerved. I thought maybe this is just my imagination. Maybe it's just stress, you know? Maybe I was sick? It took me about a year of event stacking on top of event before I finally just gave myself over to the idea that maybe something out of the ordinary, something extraordinary, something supernatural was happening in the house.

So I reached out to an expert, Mary Ann Winkowski. She's able to do readings where she's able to tell just over the phone whether or not your house is haunted. I had mixed feelings about calling Mary Ann Winkowski, only because it seemed that I was going a bit over the edge. I thought she was going to be - to be perfectly honest - I thought she was going to be cuckoo. She knew nothing about me. She did not know the story, I did not give her any information, but she began to be really precise on the layout of the house.

Is this happening in your son's room? Well, yes, it was happening in my son's room. She asked if the room where the things were happening was yellow. Yes, it was a yellow room. That started to give me a little bit of a chill. And then she said, you have a young man who just is in the house from about year - and I could feel as she's talking to me, I could feel that sensation go through my body. And she says, Gary, he's right on top of you right now.

Oh, it freaked me out. She said that he wasn't very happy with me. And she kept asking about the name Merrick. I didn't know anybody named Merrick so it wasn't anybody I knew. But there was a faint memory where that had - that word, that name had importance. Within time, I realized that there may have been a connection to this man, which I would never, never in a million years would have imagined.

There's a very familiar article about a young man not named Merrick, but a young man named Peter Smith who was from Merrick- Merrick was a neighboring town - who died in March of 2007 from a severe car accident. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had actually read that article when it had happened back in March of 2007. The experience began in our house the day I read that article because I had done something that I normally don't do. Having read that article, it seemed - from the article it seemed that he'd been irresponsible and was racing around and ended up killing himself and injuring someone else and almost killing that person. And I remember just calling out loud, what the hell were you thinking you idiot? And I was berating this man who I had never met before, I'd just read in an article, who just died. And after thinking about that, I began to connect these dots. Did my response to this man, my vitriol, did he somehow hear it? It sounds so silly, but I think I surrendered myself to the possibility that these coincidences that were occurring had some kind of meaning to them. I didn't really feel frightened, I felt sad. I felt sad about my reaction to him, I felt sad for what had happened to him in life - all that being said, I did not want Peter Smith or the ghost in the house.

Eventually Mary Ann was able to direct me in a way to get the spirits to move on to a funeral home. If there was a funeral going on, what you could do is then kind of push the spirit to that funeral and that opening to the next world would be there. And it just happened that I lived across the street from a funeral home, Macken Mortuary.

So one day I'm walking home from work and I see that the funeral home actually has people coming in and out of it. I ran home, busted into the house, and said come this way, walked him to that door, and as I turned to walk away, the front door of the funeral home opened. There was a man there that said, can I help you? It was one of the funeral directors. I think I replied that, yeah, I just wanted to see if you're open. And they said, yes, yes, we are. And I went, good, OK.

So I went home afterwards and told my wife what I had done and we went to bed. And the strangest thing happened the next day. When we woke up, the house was quiet. There was a change in the house. And it was as if there had been a white noise machine on in our house for - we don't know how long - and that someone has turned it off. It was a welcomed silence. It was a silence of peace.

GLYNN WASHINGTON, HOST:

All right now. This is my fourth and final piece of advice - if your toys ever tell you to leave, listen to your toys. I'd like to thank Gary Jansen for telling us that story. Ya'll can link to Gary's book on our website, snapjudgment.org.

Now, that's our last story for tonight 'cause you all got to go to bed while the adults enjoy some more liquid refreshment. Don't worry, I'm taking off for a snipe hunt tomorrow. You know SNAP JUDGMENT's on Facebook. SNAP JUDGMENT on Twitter, SNAP JUDGMENT - but don't be tweeting in these woods. More stories? I got all the stories you need, baby. Movies, pictures, stuff, it's all at snapjudgment.org. But the bad news, the bad news, you little bitty kids can't come to the big SNAP JUDGMENT live show August 1 and 2 in San Francisco. Everybody else, they can get ticket right now at snapjudgment.org. We're filming a television special and you know hoodlums like to break stuff, so ya'll stay home, but it's going to be off the hook, tickets at snapjudgment.org. And, you know, I didn't tell these stories by myself, I looked into the fire for help. Look, do you see them? Right there.

Now did you ever see someone with no mouth, no nose, no eyes walking down the street patting kids on the head? Let me know, 'cause that's the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and they owe me money. PRX, the Public Radio Exchange will exchange through one public radio for the small price of your eternal soul - PRX .org. WBEZ in Chicago is where they filmed "Ghost Busters." Who you going to call?

And, you know, you know, uncle Glenn is as far from the news as it is possible to be. You could climb a tree - that one right there. Go ahead, climb it, bring your flashlight and climb to the very top. Yep. Now look to that branch on your right. Now ask yourself, why is there and eye growing out of the tree and why is it looking at you right now? You're scared, ain't you? Scared, but that still is not as far away from the news as this is. But this is NPR.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.