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By Beth Lawrence


I love paranormal tales: ghost stories, demons, unexplained happenings. However, I’m also a skeptic. I have never personally experienced anything that affected me so profoundly that I would eschew doubt for fervent belief.

The closest I have ever come to what might be paranormal encounters is that when a loved one dies, I dream about them. Are they visiting me helping me make peace with their passing? Is my subconscious processing my grief? Though still skeptical, I’m halfway inclined to hope they are visitations. There is a reason for this hope. I never remember my dreams, but these I do.

A few months after my eldest brother, Sony, passed in June of 2000, I dreamed of him. Sony had a habit of getting “in his cups” as the saying goes, and calling me. He would talk endlessly. He called sober too, but the drunk conversations were memorable. After he died, I had a dream that he called me. We talked and talked. I don’t remember the conversation, but before he hung up the phone he said, “I love ya gal.”

In January of 2001 my mother, Flossie, passed on. A year or so later, I had a dream. We sat in the living room of my childhood home watching TV and talking. This was our habit when she was alive when I lived at home and after I moved away. I don’t remember what we talked about or what shows were playing TV during the dream; I just remember being with her.

Visitations from the afterlife? Or grief finding an outlet? You decide.

There are two paranormal experiences I am inclined to believe, but they are not my own. I believe them because the people who related them to me are level-headed and not given to flights of fancy.

My father, Wilson, died in November 1987. I married and moved out of the family home in August 1991. That winter my mother was gravely ill, sicker than she let on to us kids. I was the youngest child, so she was in the house sick and alone. For weeks she battled a case of walking pneumonia and was so weak at times she could barely get out of bed. She said she felt my father’s presence in the house with her during this time, watching over her. She ultimately saw a doctor and began to recover, but his presence lingered until she was completely well and had regained her normal strength. Eventually, she ceased to feel him in the house and never spoke of it again.

Had Daddy returned to take care of the woman who took such wonderful care of him in life? Or merely the emotions of a woman alone missing her adult children and the husband gone too soon? You decide.

The second story is my husband’s. Jamie’s flights of fancy are usually embellishments to hunting stories and youthful exploits. Otherwise, he is rock steady and unflappable.

In 2011, he told me the story of a malevolent encounter that I could clearly see left him deeply shaken.

Jamie was working as a traveling maintenance technician for a company in Marietta, Georgia. He returned to Marietta for a meeting during a project in Vermont. He landed at the airport late that evening and checked into a hotel. Jamie went out to dinner, came back, took a shower and went to bed.

Shortly before 2 a.m. he went through something he has never experienced before or since.

“I woke up, and I couldn’t breathe,” he said. “I couldn’t move, but I was wide awake. It felt like something heavy was on top of me and had me pinned down to the mattress and was suffocating me, like choking me but without grabbing my neck, suffocating me and holding me there.”

He felt as if someone or something was sitting on top of him with their weight on his whole body pressing him down into the mattress. He tried to get up but couldn’t even roll over. He couldn’t make a sound.

The room was cold. He couldn’t see or hear anything else in the room, yet something was undoubtedly there.

“As I struggled to speak, I finally got out, ‘I rebuke you in the name of Jesus,’” he said.

After Jamie managed to get the words out, the malignant presence left. He could instantly move and breathe. He was terrified by what had happed but no longer afraid something was there. 

The cold sensation remained in the room.

He was at peace after calling on Jesus, but still unsettled.

“I had an odd feeling that I’d had some kind of encounter, and it was frightening,” Jamie said.

Before that night Jamie would have called himself a skeptic.

“I’d probably say that anybody who had an experience like that, if you had all the facts, you could probably explain it away,” he said. “But I couldn’t explain how that felt.”

He is no longer so sure of his skepticism.

Fortunately, he was only in town for one night.

“I’d have probably been scared as hell to lay down the next night if I had more than one night in that room,” Jamie said.

A nightmare after a long week at work and a long flight? Or a visit from the dark realm? You decide.

Beth Lawrence is a reporter at the Sylva Herald.