In the hills just east of Hollywood, California, between million-dollar mansions and famous architectural landmarks, sits a crumbling two-story house no one has lived in since the murder/suicide that happened there in December of 1959. But it's not quite accurate to call the house empty. Like a time capsule, it's stayed untouched for five decades, with the same furniture in the living room, the same dishes in the kitchen and the same unopened Christmas presents for people who are long dead. The only changes over the past 53 years have been a few roof leaks and some boarded-up windows. Oh, and a dust-free back patio, thanks largely to me, because I swept it last Thursday night while I was ghost hunting there.
"You have always been the caretaker here."
There are really two stories here: the first of a doctor who killed his wife with a hammer in front of his kids before drinking acid in the upstairs bedroom of his home, and the second of me, the protagonist, taking an online class in House Healing for Paranormal Professionals that cost $1.55 and then cleansing the s**t out of that murder mansion. Naturally, one of these stories is more extraordinary than the other, so we'll start there.
I found the class on house healing after fellow columnist and senior-citizen heartthrob Adam Tod Brown gave me a flier from his windshield for the University of Metaphysical Sciences. The university offers courses with names that read like punchlines, including: Attracting Your Mate (With Meditations), Rediscovering Tantra -- A Path for Our Times, and Dolphin Healing. Each class costs anywhere between $1 and $26. It was nice to see that not all institutions of higher learning caved to the ludicrous tuition hikes of most colleges and universities. I chose ghost hunting as my major and received a PDF course on healing, which I assume means that I'm now qualified as a sort of paranormal nurse. It was six pages long.
I think technically this counts as a BS degree.
Now, learning to be a ghost hunter is like learning karate: They make you vow to never use it irresponsibly, even though that's secretly the whole point of learning it in the first place. The class drones on about how no one can force ghosts to do anything, we can only try to persuade them through supportive intent and loving energy to stop throwing objects around basements or moaning in attics. Fortunately, there's a section buried at the back of the course reading for when that inevitably fails. It includes advice like dominating the ghost by yelling at it, which, frankly, is more my speed. It's the karate equivalent of roundhousing those ghosts in the face with healing.
The house I intended to cleanse was so impossibly perfect for a haunting that it sounds fake. I assure you, it's not. In 1959, Dr. Harold Perelson killed his wife by beating her with a ball-peen hammer. When the screams woke his 11- and 13-year-old children, he told them it was a bad dream and that they should go back to their rooms. Then he tried to kill his 18-year-old daughter with the same hammer, and she barely escaped to a neighbor's with severe skull fractures. The neighbor called the police, and by the time they arrived, Perelson already drank a glass of acid and killed himself. It was two and a half weeks before Christmas.
Not a creature was stirring. Sorry, was that inappropriate? I can never tell.
The three kids went off to live with relatives, and the house was auctioned, including everything inside. An old couple bought it and for some reason never moved in. In fact, neither the old couple nor the son who inherited it after they died ever spent a single night in the mansion. The only thing they used it for since they purchased it in the early 1960s is storage. Without any remodeling or maintenance, the house has started to fall apart, but otherwise remains exactly as it was when the murder happened, including boardgames on the floor and holiday knickknacks still decorating the mantel.
Oh, a snowman. AwwwwwHHHHHHHH!
Needless to say, I was pretty excited by the prospect of sneaking in and yelling at everything.
Adam accompanied me as part of an agreement we made where I would wander through a pretend haunted house with him and in exchange he would watch me cure a very real murder house of unbridled evil. History will decide which was more important. Also I needed him to carry some of my s**t. The online course suggested that I bring divination tools to help with the job: "Among your list of things to carry for house cleaning are white sage, white or purple candles, and sea salt." I had exactly none of those things. But it also suggested bringing "any other things you feel comfortable using," and I had plenty of those. Ultimately, I brought a football and a PS2 controller, as well as a broom, but only because I thought I might look like a more well-rounded person to the spirits if I pretended I wasn't afraid of manual labor.
The mansion is the second-to-last house on a dark dead-end street. It sits at the top of a hill with a winding, cracked driveway overgrown with weeds and a broken empty fountain roughly the size of a grave. The two giant windows on the front of the house make the whole thing look like a face that's constantly startled to see visitors.
"Come inside, I want to hurt you."
I immediately got to work doing some paranormal tests I partially gleaned from the course reading and mostly made up. I used the PS2 controller in the front yard to do a pendulum experiment. The PDF said of pendulums, "It is a great choice for trying to communicate if your channeling skills are not quite ready. Your subconscious will involuntarily affect your muscles while it indicates answers without your subconscious being aware that it is coming through." To translate that word casserole, it means that even if I cheated and made the pendulum move, it could still be a sign that there was actually a ghost present. And I did, I did cheat. I watched the controller flaccidly dangle for about 30 seconds before I got bored and started swinging it while screaming at Adam that my muscles were haunted.
Adam looked around at the neighboring houses and quietly reminded me that we were trespassing on private property and that it would probably be in our best interest not to get arrested before I had a chance to free tortured souls and restore the spiritual balance of the world. I agreed, and we moved on to breaking into the house.
The first of the three methods of house healing mentioned in the course is to literally clean up: "As we clean with the intent to spiritually clean, the two actually work hand in hand." The whole house was a dilapidated, overwhelming mess, so I wanted to focus on just one room. Unfortunately, when I was looking for a way in, I found this sticker in the window:
More importantly, this is what the room looked like beyond the window:
As much as I didn't want to risk setting off the alarm, I was also genuinely afraid the walls would start bleeding once I got in. I'm not ashamed to admit that I was scared. I didn't anticipate the interior being nearly that terrifying, so no, we never actually got inside. But for all you brave beavers who are angry we didn't smash a window and set off the alarm, it may not be immediately obvious, but that's a trophy and a picture of some family member on the shelves of that rotting room.
I wasn't kidding when I said that everything was left behind, and I've seen enough horror movies to know that even if we managed to break in, this would almost certainly be the place where Adam would die and I would have to escape after ninety minutes using my wits. I elected to just sweep the back patio instead. I pushed some dirt around with a broom until I was pretty sure that the ghosts didn't want me to do any more because they made me sweaty, and I quit.
It also happened to be exactly long enough for Adam to take a picture.
The second method of house healing involved purifying the area with burning sage. Adam and I settled on blowing smoke from an e-cigarette at the windows and the front door. The course suggested that:
"During your investigation, try to channel a name ... Now light your sage wand while using the smoke as a healing energy that you have energized. Speak the name (let's say, Janet) and the current date, and say, 'Janet, I heal you today and forward. May you be free to love again and move on to do anything you want.'"
I did exactly as I was told and waited for something to happen.
(Fold this picture in the middle to see a secret image of Adam and me kissing.)
If a ghost was planning on thanking me, it never got a chance, because Adam interrupted by asking why I kept calling the ghost Janet. I tried to politely explain that if he ever decides to put in the time and pay his way through a graduate degree in paranormal healing like me, then he can heal any f*****g way he pleases, but I was going by the book. All his skepticism started to feel like it was counteracting the progress I had made with the e-cigarette and I may have suggested loudly that he go wait in the goddamn car.
Fortunately, that was a nice transition into the third and final method of healing: yelling at the ghost. The class suggested, "If neither of the first two methods seems to work, then it might be time to demand, in no uncertain terms, that the ghost 'settle down.' Verbalize this command firmly. Using the parental tone will attract the ghost's attention ... You can even send the ghost to a specific room, like a time-out. Misbehaving requires discipline action."
I squared up directly beneath the second-story window of the bedroom where the murder happened and I started shouting at the ghosts like I imagined an angry parent would. I called them disappointments, I called them mistakes, and I called them names, specifically Janet.
Nothing happened. Well, nothing much. Eventually the lights of nearby houses started turning on and Adam suggested that we leave. We never saw a single ghost, though I think the ultimate goal of every healer is to reach the day when he is no longer needed, so I guess in that respect it was an enormous success. The closest we got to any paranormal activity all night was when Adam accidentally butt-dialed someone. Oh, and there was also this:
So that was weird, too.
Here are a few more pictures of us at the murder house, for anyone who's curious what heroism looks like.
For more from Soren, check out The 5 Dumbest Supernatural Questions Ever Googled (Answered) and 4 Tips for Fixing Up Your New Home (That's Clearly Haunted).
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