Weird Wednesday – Echo Bodine Gets Her Spook On

Gather close around the fire. It’s a dark and stormy night, and famed psychic and ghost hunter Echo Bodine (is that not the greatest name?) has a tale to tell. Well, actually Echo has many tales to tell, given that she’s been chatting up ghosts much of her life and is from a family of pyschics.  So before we let Echo get her spook on, let’s hear a little about how the Bodine’s became the first family of phantoms:

from The Little Book of True Ghost Stories by Echo Bodine

It was a typical evening at our home in the fall of 1965. I was seventeen years old. Sitting around the table after dinner were my parents, my two brothers, my sister, and me. My brother said he was going downstairs to practice on his new drum set. He was just beginning to learn how to play the drums, so, needless to say, his playing still sounded a little rough. The rest of us were carrying on with our different after-dinner conversations, trying to avoid the dishes for as long as possible, when, all of a sudden, we all stopped talking and turned our attention to music coming from the den. It was really good, not the usual beginner stuff we were used to hearing from my brother. We all looked at Dad, expecting he would somehow know why my brother was playing like a pro. My father suggested that we must be hearing the new Sandy Nelson record he had just bought my brother, and even though that answer didn’t feel accurate, we continued to listen for signs of what was really going on downstairs.

About a minute later, my brother came flying up the stairs, totally freaked out. “Did you hear it, did you hear it?” he said, and we all answered, “Yes, what was it?” My brother explained that he was sitting at his drum set, practicing his normal fare, when out of nowhere, a white figure floated through the door and over to him. He said that he closed his eyes, hoping it would disappear, but even with his eyes closed, he could still see this whitish male figure standing in front of the drum set. This “guy” took my brother’s hands and basically played through him, making the really beautiful music that we heard from the dining table. He tried letting go of the drumsticks, but was not able to release them from his hands until this “man” floated back across the room and through the door. My brother was so upset that he said he was never going down to the den again.

We were all pretty blown away. My mom, who usually kept a cool head, called a friend of hers who had been to a medium in England and was living in St. Paul. Fortunately, she was able to reach the psychic medium, Mrs. Eve Olson. Mrs. Olson told my mother that she’d been expecting the call. After my mother related the story of what had happened with my brother and the drumming, Mrs. Olson told her that the spirit was my brother’s guardian angel, Dr. Fitzgerald. When this doctor was living on earth he was also a drummer, and because he was my brother’s angel, he was going to work with him and teach him many things. She also told Mom that she and each of her four children had some very unique gifts and that she wanted to see Mom and her oldest daughter (me) for a reading. We were all speechless.

What did all of this mean? Did we all have guardian angels? Why could my brother see his, when the rest of us couldn’t? What did “unique gifts”  mean? My siblings and I inundated our parents with questions that they had no clue how to answer. I was so frightened by the thought that my own guardian angel might appear to me that night that I began sleeping with the lights on.

Within a week my mom and I went to see Mrs. Olson.

On the drive from our south suburban home to her home in West St. Paul, Mom and I were full of anticipation. I wondered what this medium from England would be like. Did she read a crystal ball? Was her house filled with black cats? Did she wear big dangling earrings and tie long scarves around her head? I couldn’t imagine what kind of unique gifts she was referring to and what she would tell me. At that point in my life, the only things I was interested in knowing were when I was going to meet Mr. Right and how many children I was going to have.

As we approached Mrs. Olson’s front door, my stomach filled with butterflies. I was so nervous, and I just wanted to go away and pretend this wasn’t happening.

Much to my surprise, a very sweet, petite, round woman with an English accent answered the door and invited us in. She was more like a grandma than any gypsy I had seen on TV (back then the only psychics we saw on TV were gypsies). There were no black cats or crystal balls. Mrs. Olson introduced us to her very normal-looking husband and told my mother to have a seat in the living room while she escorted me into her “reading room.”

When I wondered aloud if everyone was this nervous on their first visit, Mrs. Olson reassured me that nothing frightening was going to happen. She explained to me that the glass of water on the table was for the spirits—it gave them energy. She also said that my spirit guides, who were supposedly helpers from the other side, were the source from which she was getting information about me.

I sat frozen in my chair, waiting for something to fly through the room or for the water in the glass to disappear.  Instead, this very gentle medium from England told me that I was born with all four of the psychic abilities and with the gift of healing.  Stunned, I listened as she told me that I came to earth this lifetime to be a well-known psychic and spiritual healer. I would write books, be on TV and radio, travel, and teach others how to develop their abilities. I would be known throughout the world.

I was a shy teenager and couldn’t imagine myself doing any of that—let alone being famous. I planned to go to college to become a social worker, and had always imagined myself as a wife and mother someday. I told Mrs. Olson that I was going to college, that I didn’t think I had any psychic abilities, and that I just wanted to have a normal life. She told me that I had been using my abilities my whole life and had grown accustomed to them. She said that once I understood what they were, I would recognize them. She also said that I did not come to earth this lifetime to have a normal life—that I came to be a teacher and healer.

Something inside of me knew that what she was saying was true, but I didn’t want to know these things because it all seemed so scary and totally out of my reality. I didn’t know how to think about it.

In my mother’s reading, Mrs. Olson told her that she too had these gifts and that she would be a gifted psychic. So would my baby brother, Michael. She said that my sister Nikki would not develop her abilities until she was in her forties, and that all of us would someday use our gifts to help people. Everything she told Mom has since come true.

After that first session with Mrs. Olson, Mom and I became very curious about our abilities. We went to occult bookstores and started reading whatever was available. We bought an Ouija board, and our home slowly became a haven for mischievous, noisy spirits. They would bang on the walls and make sounds like footsteps or someone typing on a typewriter. Life became scary for all of us. We never knew what to expect. It was as if we had opened a door to something we didn’t understand, but we couldn’t get it closed again.

We had psychic experiences almost daily. My younger brother Michael could see and hear spirits and my sister, Nikki, who was oblivious to most of the supernatural goings-on in the house, saw a spirit even before I did. Lights blinked on and off. Radios and TVs turned on and off by themselves. Objects moved from room to room— the stuffed animals in my bedroom moved by themselves. We constantly felt like we were being watched.

Sometime during the first year of all of this, a psychic,  spiritualist minister in Minneapolis called my mom and said that her spirit guides had told her to teach eight people in the Twin Cities how to develop their abilities. My name and my mom’s name were on the list. She gave Mom her address and said she expected to see us for classes that started in a week.

My mom and I were so freaked out by everything going on already that we weren’t sure how much more involved we wanted to get, but we decided to go the first night just to see what it was all about. We were pleasantly surprised to find that everyone in class seemed as normal as we were—they expressed the same uncertainties that we had. We ended up going to these classes on and off for close to two years.

I can’t say that I took to psychic development like a duck takes to water. It took me a long time to develop my abilities fully because I let my intellect get in the way most of the time. I analyzed all the psychic information that came to me, and I questioned everything that my teacher said. I was looking for something concrete that I could hold onto. I wanted it to all make sense on a rational level. Letting go of my mainstream thinking and believing and accepting things that couldn’t be seen by the human eye or proven by science was very scary for me. My skepticism made my psychic development a lot harder than it had to be, but I’m glad I was as skeptical as I was. I didn’t accept everything hook, line, and sinker; I acquired my new beliefs slowly over time.

When I started doing ghosthunting jobs over forty years ago with my brother Michael, I never would have guessed that they would become such an important part of my work. The first time I went on a ghost job, it was more out of curiosity than a desire to get involved with ghosts. I had no idea that ghosts were souls of deceased people. I grew up watching Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoons on Saturday mornings; I thought ghosts were just white energy blobs. I didn’t think of them as actual people.

I remember when I finally put two and two together and realized that ghosts are really the souls of deceased people who haven’t gone on to heaven. I became quite intrigued with the whole concept of why a soul would choose to not go on to the other side.

Each of the stories in this book is a true-life ghost story that I’ve experienced firsthand.

The Ghost Who Liked Liquor
It was wintertime, 1969. I was twenty-one years old and still living at home. We’d had a lot of spirit activity in our house since getting on this path, but until then I hadn’t actually seen any spirits.

The first time I ever went to someone’s house intentionally looking for a ghost, I had no idea what I was doing. I was pretty scared and still believed that ghosts were scary monsters who looked all whitish and weird—like they had no form and were just blobs of scary stuff!

What made this fun was that it was a friend of my mom’s who suspected she had a ghost, so Mom and I went on the “job” together. The drive over to Carol’s that night felt a lot like that drive over to Mrs. Olson’s; we didn’t know what to expect, and our imaginations were running wild. Carol  had told us that there were strange sounds coming from the  attic and she felt as if someone were watching her family. She said that her son was a recovering alcoholic and was having a terrible time staying sober. She wondered if there was some kind of negative influence in the house  preventing her son from maintaining his sobriety. She also said they could hear a choir singing church music, which was interesting because  their home had at one time been a church.

On the drive over, I was full of questions for my mom. What were we looking for? Did Carol really think she might have a ghost? What did a ghost look like? What were we going to do if we found one? I thought we should probably turn around and go home. Finding ghosts was not something I wanted to do.

When we pulled up to Carol’s house, I imagined seeing scary things in all the windows. I was sure the ghosts were all watching me, ready to pounce on me as soon as I walked in the door. As usual, Mom was pretty calm, which always helped me feel more grounded. We kidded around with Carol for a while, trying to lighten things up. Looking back, we were probably just stalling; I don’t think any of us really wanted to go to the attic and deal with whatever was there. The analytical part of me thought that it was probably just noisy pipes and there was nothing to make a fuss about.

Our chitchat ended, and it was time to see what was up in the attic. Slowly we made our way up the stairs. I’m sure I had one eye open and the other one closed as we reached the top of the staircase. I had myself scared silly.

At first glance everything seemed normal. The usual boxes and stored furniture were piled here and there. Then, slowly, images began coming into focus. At first all I saw was a very faint image of a family of four standing across the room from us. It was quite strange to look at this almost invisible family. They looked so strained and old, so frightened. My rational mind immediately tried to explain it all away. I told myself I was making it up, that ghosts weren’t people. Ghosts didn’t look like that. They were supposed to be scary-looking. These were simply transparent people who didn’t look scary at all—just tired, old, and afraid.

They had a gray appearance to them. The man looked crabby and seemed angry that we were able to see him. The woman started talking to us as soon as she realized we could see her. I’m sure my mouth was hanging wide open as I watched this transparent female tell us about her death and explain that she was trapped in this house by her husband. She said he had been an alcoholic and a smoker. He had passed out one night after drinking and his cigarette burned their house down. All four family members perished in the fire. The woman said her husband would not let any of them go on to the other side because he was afraid of being punished by God for killing his family. I was flabbergasted.

I looked at mom and could tell by the shocked look on her face that she could hear this woman as well. I asked her what we should do, and we came up with the idea to just tell the ghosts that they couldn’t stay at Carol’s house anymore. They had to leave because they were frightening Carol’s family. Mom got some psychic information through her clairvoyance (psychic sight in the third eye located in the forehead) and clairaudience (psychic hearing; her guides speaking to her). She learned that the male spirit had been entering Carol’s son’s body from time to time in order to taste alcohol and cigarettes, and that was why it was difficult for her son to maintain sobriety. After telling them that they needed to leave, Mom and I were anxious to leave, too. This was all so creepy. We had no idea what we were doing or how to get rid of the ghosts. They did disappear, giving us the illusion that they had left, but my guess is that they probably just stepped outside or went over to the neighbors’ to make us think they were gone. We didn’t hear a church choir or see any other spirits as we walked through the rest of the house. I think our fear shut us down psychically. There certainly was a feeling that there were more spirits there than we cared to know about, but I just wanted to go home. I wasn’t ready to deal with ghosts yet!
Ghost Fact

The female ghost in this story could have taken her children and moved on to the other side anytime she wanted, but she allowed her husband to control her in death as she undoubtedly had in life. Every one of us has to discover our own power at some point in our soul’s development and stop giving it away to others. It’s part of setting ourselves free.

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Dog Days – Heat, Humidity, and Hekate’s Favorite Familiar

One of Ankhie's current pup companions - Fanny!

As an only child, Ankhie spent a lot of time hanging with the dogs. They kept her company through the dark nights, curled at the foot of the bed – they followed her through the woods and fields behind her house – looking out, looking behind, looking ahead.  They played in the snow, swam in the pond, rolled in dead things, poked their noses up skunks’ behinds,  hid under the bed when it thundered, and made the world seem more alive.

The dogs, however, were also well-tuned to things not-quite-living. Hackles raised, low growl – whatever was lurking out there in the shadowed yard (too insubstantial to trip the motion lights), or in the seemingly empty room (that for some strange reason, no one lingered in), was something they warned us to avoid.

Dogs are bright life and murky magic.

Hekate, dark goddess of the night, often manifests as a black dog or is seen in the company of hounds. She and her pack walk the liminal space between life and death. Perhaps that is why Ankhie’s pup Fanny (seen above) likes to run off to the cemetery behind her house…

And of course there is the Galleytrot:

Also Known as Black Shuck, or Old Shuck, the Galleytrot is a very large ghostly dog that appears in different parts of southern England as a harbinger of death. The dog’s howls are usually heard before he is seen, and he is mostly seen prowling around graveyards or loping along lonely country roads. It is said that to meet or even catch a glimpse of the Galleytrot means that you or someone close to you will die within the year.

The Galleytrot is also known by such names as the Black Dog, Hellbeast, Churchyard Dog, and similar. In New England, especially in New Hampshire, there is a demon dog known as O’ Doofus. Such “Hounds of the Devil” are also known in other parts of the world, and such a one was supposedly the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s tale The Hound of the Baskervilles. Whole packs of such spectral beasts can be found in folklore, such as hounds associated with the Wild Hunt in Norse and Teutonic mythology (Whisht Hounds). – from Raymond Buckland’s The Weiser Field Guide to Ghosts 

And this time of year, dogs get a bad rap, often mistakenly associated with the hottest days of summer – the “Dog Days” from July 3rd to August 11th (give or take a few days). As I’m sure you know, the “Dog Days ” are so-called because the heat and humidity of July coincides with the rise of Canis Major – aka Sirius the Dog Star. So don’t blame Fido for your sweaty clothes.

Whenever I have a question about, or thought, or inclination to discuss the ways the magical world works with our, I consult Judika Illes. Here is what she has to say about pups and the paranormal in Pure Magic:

Dogs came to live with us so long ago that the distinctions between dogs and their ancestor, the wolf, are largely based upon their relationships with humans. Some anthropologists believe that when humans began their initial migrations over Earth, they were already accompanied by dogs, who may or may have not been “tame.” We didn’t domesticate dogs as much as they chose us. Even cultures that didn’t domesticate animals, such as those of North America prior to European contact, kept dogs.

Dogs are our most faithful companions and devoted protectors. They are our intrepid psychic guides. Dogs are the creatures who travel with the greatest east between the realms of the living and the dead. In many cultures, it was believed that without a dog as a guide, the human soul would never arrive at the next destination. Sometimes a favorite dog was buried with a person. Perhaps more kindly, in ancient Mexico, clay statues of dogs were placed in the grave instead. Dogs also patrol the border between life and death, determining who gains entry and in the case of shamans, who can leave. Greek myths recount tales of shamans bearing dog treats to guarantee their exit, as three-headed Cerberus was reputed to guard the gates of Hades, the underworld.

We still retain dogs for protection on the physical realm: whether for our families, homes, property or ourselves. Dogs will provide spiritual and psychic protection, too, if you let them. When embarking upon any psychic exploration, whether contacting unknown allies, expanding your magical faculties, practicing astral travel, divination or shamanism, encourage a canine presence to accompany you. This can be your own dog, who might enjoy stretching his magical powers alongside you, or if this isn’t possible or comfortable for you, use canine imagery:

  • Envision a companion canine guard. Because this dog will be a spiritual guardian and companion, not responsible for actually guarding your home, whatever breed makes you feel safest and most comfortable is best for you, whether it is a huge mastiff or a teacup poodle.
  • Keep photographs, drawings, statues or toy dogs close to you while working magic. Tuck a small photo of a dog into a dream pillow for extra safety while you sleep.
  • Roman gravestones utilized images of dogs to symbolize love and fidelity beyond the grave. If you are attempting to contact those no longer among the living, use dog power to facilitate and protect you. Keep a canine image near where you work, whether photograph, drawing or statue. A photograph of a beloved, trusted dog who has also passed over may be most effective.

Over the years, special dog amulets have evolved for the purpose of reaping the benefit of Dog’s protective qualities  without actually having a living dog. In some cases, these amulets are believed to maximize the dog’s shamanic and protective power. The most readily available include:

  • Traditional Mexican clay figures, based upon ancient Toltec images. Place them near where you practice divination or anywhere in your home that you perceive as spiritually vulnerable.
  • Statuettes of Anubis, Egypt’s black jackal-headed guide and guardian of the dead.
  • Chinese Fu dogs. Fu means luck, and yes, there actually is such a breed, considered to be the living link between Chinese wolves and other modern  Chinese dog breeds, Believed exceptionally auspicious, stone and porcelain images of Fu dogs placed near doors as house amulets provide spiritual protection and good fortune.

Now… where is that Fanny?

Bad Fairies

It should come as no surprise that Ankhie is a big fan of  HBO’s True Blood and the wildly entertaining series of books (by Charlaine Harris) that it is based on. It seems that every conceivable entity in the occult world shows up, sooner or later, in Bon Temps Louisiana. Perhaps it’s time to relocate the Weiser office….?

Most recently the series has begun exploring the realm of Faerie, which (no surprise here) is not all that it seems. So in the spirit of the darker side of Fae, here are just a few lesser-known Otherworld denizens worth avoiding:

(from Cassandra Eason’s A Complete Guide to Faeries & Magical Beings):

Bokwus

Native American male spirit found near rushing water in spruce forests. Bokwus have entered the folklore of hunters and fishermen, especially in the north-west of America. Distinguished by fierce war paint on their faces, they can seek to drown the unwary.

Corrigan/korrigan

Breton maiden fairy sometimes associated with former pagan princesses or Druidesses who were beautiful by night, but hideous by day. They live near sacred fountains, in grottoes and in woodland groves.

Duendes

Spanish, Mexican and South American house spirits who are hostile to human inhabitants. They look like small middle-aged women dressed in green who poke and prod inhabitants with their long fingers during the night.

Duergar

Malicious French and northern English dwarves who guard the ancient fairy paths and can be malevolent to travelers. Dressed in lamb and moles skin, they are blamed for removing signposts or turning them round the wrong way.

Ferrishyn

The Manx trooping fairies who have neither king nor queen. Small and able to hear every sound made out of doors, they are easily offended and will spread secrets on the wind.

Ghillie dhu

A solitary, sometimes malevolent , tree fairy who  lives in birch trees in Scotland, camouflaged by leaves, moss and foliage.

Gwyllion

Welsh female mountain fairies who can shape-shift into goats, who are their special animals. Less friendly to mortals, they lure night-time travelers off paths and into danger. They fear storms, iron and sunlight.

Hu hsien

Malevolent Chinese shape-shifting spirits of nature who are known as fox spirits. They have been seen walking through walls and other solid matter.

Ieles

Eastern European vampire fairies that appear in the night like huge two-legged cats. Associated with crossroads, traditional places of magical powers, they lure victims with their mesmeric singing.

Kappa

These are malevolent water spirits in Japan who attack swimmers and fisher folk in remote lakes and rivers.

Spriggans

Ugly bands of fairies living in Ireland who can instantly increase in size and wreak havoc on crops, animals, property and sometimes humans.

Tokolush

South African spirits who resemble baboons with long black hair. Dwelling near streams, they try to frighten travelers.

The “Awful” Truth – Because It’s Weird Wednesday

Continuing our scream season celebration of the delightfully disgusting and marvelously macabre, we offer you this excellent excerpt from The Weiser Field Guide to Cryptozoology, by Deena Budd (also the paranormal editor at BellaOnline -check it out!):

The Awful

The awfulness of  “the Awful” must be beyond compare, as this monster is said to be the basis for many horror tales penned by the storytelling master, H.P. Lovecraft.

In 1925, Lovecraft traveled to the towns of Richford and Berkshire,Vermont, to investigate sightings of “a very large Griffin-like creature with grayish wings that each spanned 10 feet.” The “serpent-like tail equaled its wing length” and its “huge claws…could easily grip a milk can’s girth.”

The creature was first seen by several sawmill workers as they were walking across a bridge in the middle of town. The beast was sitting on a rooftop looking angrily down at the men. One man was so frightened that he had a heart attack. He recovered, but for weeks he would awaken in the middle of the night screaming.

Spotted often over the next few weeks by farmers and their wives, locals were absolutely petrified. The Awful would fly over fields in the daylight, land on roofs, and appear to watch people as they went about their daily chores.

One witness claimed the creature was holding a little crying baby as it flew 50 feet over a field. No infants were reported missing in the area, so it was assumed to be a baby animal.

The creature was rarely seen after the 1920’s – until recently. In October 2006, H.P. Albarelli Jr. wrote in the County Courier about a respected citizen of Richford,Vermont, who had seen the Awful appear from “nowhere and plucked a huge black crow” out of the top of a pine tree. The incredulous witness went on to say the creature circled his house three times.

After Albarelli’s article appeared, other witnesses reported sightings of the cryptid. One lady talked about a time when she was about ten years old; she and her friends saw the monster “sitting in a tree near the Trout River.” The large winged beast watched them for several minutes. She said it had a strange beak and reminded her of a pterodactyl.

A dowser in the Richford area, Edith Green, told Albarelli that people have been nervous about the Awful for a very long time. Another older gentleman said that the creature has been seen often in the Gibou area of Montgomery for the past quarter-century, even very recently. The man also explained that locals felt “we don’t bother it and it doesn’t bother us, maybe with a few exceptions.”

One longtime resident of East Richford claims that the Awful has been seen recently around the Slide Road area. He added that “you can usually hear the thing before you see it.” It makes a low screaming sound. When it is close enough, you can hear the flapping of its huge wings.

Mr. Albarelli is in posession of a “petrified jawbone” from an Awful given to him by a logger in the Richford area. It is “stone hard” and “bears a number of very large teeth.” At last report, he was attempting to have the jawbone examined by an expert from the University of Vermont.

from The Weiser Field Guide to Cryptozoology by Deena Budd.