Although I'm a psychic, musician, paranormal investigator, and now, an author, throughout this long, crazy life, one thing has always been a constant: a deeper sense that whatever life was all about, it was definitely about more than just me. This mindset led me down some strange paths. I finally wrote down the entire, almost unbelievable story in A Haunted life: The True Ghost Story of a Reluctant Psychic. In a way, it's about many things: psychic abilities, good and evil, ghosts and spirits, and coming to terms with them all.
Although I had psychic abilities as a child, my first experience with spirits started at age fourteen, when I invited a friend for a sleepover on the living room floor of our new home. I heard a soft knocking begin during lulls in conversation. Just a few knocks, at the top of the wall near the ceiling. Then they suddenly jumped to the opposite wall, and I felt the hair on my arms stand up as the room got colder. My friend Kim had to have heard the noises, but they didn't seem to upset her enough to stop talking. What could be causing this, I wondered? No way was I mentioning it, especially if Kim hadn't noticed.
The knocks grew louder and more insistent; like knuckles on plaster, muffled at first, then sharper and quicker, leaping around the room, jumping from ceiling to walls at random. It was obvious no human being could be doing this. It was too fast, too unpredictable. For several moments, I felt shackled to the floor. I couldn't think, as the fear was overwhelming me. The room was freezing, and all the hair on my body was on end, as though I was bathed in static electricity. Kim stopped talking and looked at the ceiling and around at the corners of the room.
"Hey, what's making that noise?" she asked. "Brrr, it's cold in here all of a sudden!"
"I don't know," I replied, darting nervous glances from her to the ceiling. "Maybe it's the dog upstairs." I'd dealt with psychic feelings before, but this was something else entirely! Something was in the room with us. I felt watched and laughed at. The air was heavy, and I couldn't get my breath. My left side began to tingle, almost like a cold chill running up and down it, and I started to feel sick to my stomach. Drowning in a kind of indescribable fear and dread, I tried to remain calm as my mind struggled to make sense of what was happening; I didn't want Kim to tell the whole school I was a weirdo who lived in a haunted house. But it was too late. With eyes wide, we huddled together on the living room floor, her expression frozen into an inscrutable mask.
Gradually, the knocks grew fainter and finally stopped. For twenty tense minutes we'd been surrounded by what I can only call evil, but finally it began to dissipate, as though it had run out of steam.
As expected, friends soon knew about the weird noises—and that no way did they come from the dog upstairs.
I desperately wanted to pretend this stuff wasn't happening, but despite all attempts to appear normal and play down what was going on, the knocking continued. It became a struggle between wanting to keep my shameful haunted house a secret and wanting another human being there with me to give me courage. And, sometimes the knocking was the precursor to more frightening phenomena.
My little brother Dane was the budding mad scientist of the family. Smart and constantly curious, he set up a laboratory in the basement, which could only be accessed by raising a hatch-type door on the back porch, then descending steep, narrow stairs into the dank rooms below. At home with cables snaking across the hard-packed dirt floor, Dane spent countless hours down there—both alone and with friends—often working deep into the night designing and assembling everything from stink bombs to model rockets. Sometimes when he descended into his "lab," it would be thick with the presence of some dark energy. Other times, it felt normal. I never went down, due to the creepiness I felt there.
There were several smaller rooms off the lab, and it was in one of those smaller rooms that Mom kept cans of food on some old shelves; a group of old mason jars left by some previous occupant were also there, covered in dust. Sometimes while Dane was working in his lab, he'd hear cans being picked up and put down. He'd hear them being slid across the rough, wooden shelves, a sound not likely to be caused by anything else in that room. "Mom?" he would yell out. Sometimes she'd hear him yell from way above in the house, and she'd yell back. Many times he'd get up quietly and check to see if she’d come down to get a can of something for supper; but, no one was ever there, only that thick, dark energy enveloping the tiny room. That heavy atmosphere was always a good indicator of whether Dane would hear the cans moving on any particular day.
Sometimes Dane heard a huge crash; the sound of breaking glass, a lot of glass. The first time it happened, thinking the old, dusty jars and the shelves had fallen, he ran to look. No sign of anything, not even a shard of glass. After a few times, he finally stopped checking. Many of his sleepovers ended with his friends leaving in the middle of the night. Whether from homesickness or fear, he never knew.
One evening our mom painted the back porch slab a battleship gray and roped off the area with wet paint signs; there were footprints in the still-tacky paint the next morning. They looked like old worn shoes had made them, and they came from the basement hatch. They walked over to the window, like they were looking in. But there were no footprints going back the way they came. They just ended at the window. The thought that "someone" I couldn't see was still standing there scared me to death. My next thought, that this "someone" either flew away or disappeared, was even worse.
And the knocking continued.
Around this same time, everyone in the house began seeing a woman walk by the doorway to the parlor. She was only visible from the corners of our eyes, and when we turned, she was gone. She was very dark, seemingly dressed in a long black skirt and blouse, gliding along just out of range, always one step ahead of us. Almost everyone who came in the house saw her at some point, but she was harmless compared to other things. Dane and I eventually compared notes, and started to complain that we wanted to move; however, our parents hadn't yet seen or felt what we had. We discussed things away from the house mostly; I was afraid to speak of the haunting inside it. I'd go silent with fear if anyone mentioned ghosts. I thought I could feel them watching me.
I'll never forget the first time my Dad heard what we called "squeaky wheels." Until that day, he'd had a hard time believing our stories because he hadn't experienced them. This was understandable since he worked all day, and was in bed asleep not long after dinner. It was a beautiful fall day, a slight breeze swirled the leaves around us while we raked in our small front yard. The upstairs window in my bedroom was open and so was the window in my brother's room adjacent to mine. Dad and I were alone; everyone else had gone to the store.
As soon as the noise began, he stopped raking. It sounded like a large, heavy Victorian dresser with squeaky wheels being rolled across the floor, from my room and into my brother's. The sound was so clear I could almost feel the weight of it as it lumbered and squeaked across the length of the upstairs rooms. Dad had tried so hard to convince us the noises were probably coming from the neighbor's, but I will never forget the look on his face that day. This event changed him.
"There it is, there it is, do you hear it?" I yelled.
"I believe you now," he said, staring at me in shock.
As the frequency and intensity of events at Fifth Street increased, I became obsessed with finding out about the paranormal. I searched libraries and bookstores, amassing a collection with my allowance—mostly Llewellyn books—reading everything I could about subjects from near-death experiences to poltergeists.
I learned about different types of hauntings. residual hauntings didn't interact with you, and played the same scenes over and over, like a tape loop. Intelligent hauntings were ghosts who could interact and try to get your attention. Poltergeists, the "noisy ghosts," moved things, threw things, and scared the bejesus out of you, and the jury was still out if they could be caused by someone entering puberty. And finally there were demonic infestations, which seemed like a combination of all three but had evil intentions because of their hatred of all God's creations. I became the expert on occult matters amongst my friends. I also became a nervous wreck.
One night, my sister Brooke and I were sitting on the sofa; everyone else was sleeping. I was reading and Brooke was brushing out a hairpiece when the knocking started. We glanced at each other, too terrified to say anything or draw "its" attention. We pretended to go back to our tasks, though still on high alert. But apparently it wanted our attention—a soft, jumbled cacophony of moans and voices began building, surrounding us in different pitches and cadences; they came from everywhere and nowhere, engulfing us. Mumbling, chuckling, and groaning, the voices grew louder and louder building to a crescendo like something from the depths of hell itself. It was a human sound made horrifyingly inhuman by the fact that it came from a hundred voices in a room where we were utterly alone.
Bolting up, Brooke and I pushed and struggled to be the first up the stairs to my parents' room. Once Dad established that there was no burglar, and that once again our haunted house was the culprit, we all tried to go back to sleep—I slept on the floor in my parents' room, a place that became my refuge.
When a bout of stomach flu was making the rounds, I decided to sleep downstairs near the bathroom, just in case, since I was feeling slightly ill. I was on the sofa with my eyes closed, feeling sicker by the minute. "I'm not going to throw up," I told myself over and over, hoping to make it so, when suddenly there was the sound of shuffling feet on carpet. They began walking around the coffee table, right beside me! Once again the room went ice cold and I felt my hair stand up. At first I thought my brother or sister had come to check on me, but one glance told me there was no one in the room. A bolt of fear shot through me; it was in the room! Round and round went the footsteps, as I squeezed my eyes shut, frozen in terror. After the fourth or fifth time around, I ran screaming for the stairs—back to Mom and Dad's room.
Hard as I wished for peace and normalcy, the terrifying events continued. One night after Brooke got married and moved out, I went through my usual pre-bedtime routine. I now had the bedroom we'd shared to myself, which was great in some ways. But I soon realized there was a price for such privacy: I was alone. But not really.
Tucked into bed, I quietly thought about school the next day: what to wear, what my friends and I had planned—and was suddenly interrupted by an odd sensation and even odder sound. Scritch, scritch, scritch—down near my right foot, under the covers, something was scratching on the fitted sheet on my mattress, sending the vibration up through my body. It was the sound of invisible fingernails, and they were under my covers with me! Once again, I ran screaming to my parents' room.
It was scary enough in the living room, but being attacked in the intimacy of my bedroom drove me to the edge. It was psychological terror at its worst, wearing me down little by little. Not long after the scratching incident, while lying in bed, I felt someone drum their fingers on my forehead, from pinky to index finger, just as you would on a table. The atmosphere was so thick it was palpable. It was the ultimate in horror to wonder if something thought this was funny, scaring me so badly. Unable to breathe, in panic, I rushed to Mom and Dad's room, where I stayed for several more nights.
I moved out at age seventeen to escape the haunted house, and I entered young adulthood tormented by fear of my psychic abilities. Since I'd been raised in a religious family, I had spent years trying to justify even having them. I already had some idea that the ghosts were attracted to me because of them; so, I ran from my abilities, burying them as deeply as I could beneath a busy life as a professional musician. But they wouldn't stay buried.
Mostly they warned me of danger—a near shooting from an abusive boyfriend; a murderous junkie in a Denny's; a near rape by bikers in a women's restroom—and so I began to let them in, little by little, and trust them.
But, I learned they didn't often work when I needed to use them for some personal or less-than-altruistic reason; they didn't tell me to hire Axl Rose when he auditioned for my band; they didn't show me how to prevent the shooting that crippled Larry Flynt when I performed at his and Althea Flynt's Christmas party; they didn't tell me how to warn Princess Diana about the final car wreck that I somehow experienced beforehand, in her place. Nor could I make sense of how to use them in my personal life.
I've finally came full circle, believing psychic abilities are a spiritual gift from a higher power (in my case, God). And just as I decided to accept and embrace them, a strange series of events and "coincidences" led to the death of my only child, my son James. Then James began to come back. So once again I live in a haunted house—but this spirit is the child I loved, who returns sometimes to visit me. I feel blessed to remain a part of his afterlife. He's the wise one now; he knows what none of us left here do, he knows the mystery beyond. He knows for certain what I've also come to believe: that love never dies, and neither do we.
Debra Robinson is a professional psychic and carries on a dual career in music, songwriting, and music publishing. She works with hauntedhistory.net, Haunted Heartland Tours, and as a floating member of several paranormal ...