…it was 1985 and I was sober but still running drugs from the Mexican border. The DEA was getting on main safe house in the Mojave Desert a little too frequently, so I decided to lay my hat up north and just make the runs when called. An acquaintance of mine in San Jose had a two bedroom cottage, in back of a larger place, downtown that he needed to fill the extra slot in. The rent was cheap, the neighborhood was crazy; lotsa big Mexican families laughing and yelling at all hours, sirens and the weekly sealing off of entire blocks while the city cops looked for gang crime suspects, and the occasional synchopatic ‘Bap, bap, bap,’ of semi automatic recoil in the distance made the whole vibe seem just about par.
The house was built around the turn of the century and had been in Ross’ Italian family since then. It was small with modestly ornate trim inside and out, and a cool four-foot porch leading to the front door. I took it.
Things were laid back there for a person of my ilk back then; Ross was a punkrock skinhead, who brought all kinds of colorful characters around, and the tunes were usually blaring along with the neighbors’. We threw a housewarming party and one of the fliers made its way to the local college radio station where it received heavy rotation just before the party. Three to four hundred people showed up and enjoyed the live sounds of a surf-punk band that set up in the living room. At some point, shots were fired and everyone dropped to the ground-except the band, who didn’t miss a beat. It was like a scene from ‘Dusk Till Dawn’, as my meth running partner jumped the guy with the gun, beat him and went off running down the street throwing knives at the shooters’ buddies, three paddy wagons pull up…and the band played on. Two days later my Bro turns up again with my 1960 Cadillac like there’s nothing wrong with that. It was the best of times.
One night, about two weeks after I moved in, I was enjoying a little peace and quiet in the house when I heard the sounds of two people’s feet crunching gravel as they walked up the driveway. I assumed it was Cholo and Elrod, the two skinheads that were staying with us. Around dusk, everyone at the house would gather on the porch to watch as these two boxed (until someone got knocked out, usually Elrod) over who got to sleep on the couch that night. But then, the footsteps were quiet as I saw two silhouettes through my sheer curtains ascend the wooden steps, the screen door open and slam on the springed hinge, and curiously, the door never opening. I opened the curtains to nothing. No one was there. It was entirely weird ‘cuz I knew I wasn’t imagining that.
So, I asked Ross about it the next day, and he gave me a wry smile and said, “I see you’ve met the roommates.” He told me that they were his Great-Grandparents, who originally built the house, and that apparently they liked me.
The next few months were filled with trippy, but benign things like bathroom doors opening while you were showering, dishes suddenly changing from one table to another and the radio occasionally changing stations. It became completely normal and I actually welcomed their presence. Once in a while, either Ross or I would bring a girl home that they didn’t approve of and they would rattle their cages. Usually rolling the toilet paper while they were in the bathroom or catching a quick reflection in the mirror…always in the bathroom, for some reason…and the chick would freak and never come back! It was pretty funny since we were in on the whole thing, but it was never scary shit.
Then Ross developed a new passion for ‘Death Rock’. Misfits, 45 Grave and bands like that. Ironically it was around October. He started partying in graveyards and doing charcoal etchings of the older and more elaborate headstones of one of the cemeteries, which he proceeded to wallpaper his bedroom with.
Then came the dead roses off the fresh graves…and with them several uninvited guests.
Suddenly things are not chilled on 10th street. On a daily basis doors start slamming, dishes are flying into walls. There’s stomping going on in the attic, cold spots in the house. I remember once, I was talking to some girl in the living room and through my doorway, I watched as the entire contents of the top shelf of my bookcase (about ten feet up) slowly slid forward off the shelf, hovered a foot away, then dropped to the floor. The insanity was so pervasive that I didn’t bat an eye. I just turned a little while we talked so she wouldn’t see the show.
The final straw came late one night as I rolled the Caddy up the long dark gravel driveway and noticed that all the lights were on in the house. Then as I came to a stop, I noticed the curtains fluttering out with the sills still closed. Then, as I idled, I noticed all the furniture from the living room in a pile in front of the house, broken to pieces. As I sat assessing options and casually reaching for the .45 under the seat, out comes Ross onto the porch, with an end table over head which he throws out onto the pile, paces back an forth on the porch like a pissed off caged lion, grabs a pillar with both hands and proceeds to slam his head forcefully into it until the house lights illuminate rivulets of blood flying off his head like liquid silly string. Once he was done showing the pillar who was boss, he staggered over to the corner of the porch and slumped into a ball.
After weighing my options for a minute, I killed the engine and walked up the steps. As I crouched down and touched Ross’ shoulder, he looked up at me exactly like Pink did when Little Pink approached him in the psych ward in The Wall. That same vacant and elated look of desperation. I walked him into the house, brightly lit and completely destroyed, except for any item that belonged to me, which remained untouched. I sat Ross down and picked up the shattered remains of a phone and tried to dial a number to no avail. I finally convinced him to go with me to his parents. When we got there, he picked his lumberjack of a father up off the ground, and yes, his feet were off the ground, and it wasn’t until I physically got between them that he dropped him. Off to the psych ward we go, where he’s put on a 72, and in the interim, I phone up an old friend who is an old school, fresh-off-the-boat, polish psychic. She came within ten feet of the house and refused to step foot inside. The next day, Ross’ mom brought him home, walked around the house and said, “What have you done? There are at least eight unwelcome spirits here besides your Great-Grandparents, and they’re very pissed off!” Ross’ mom was a sensitive and practiced the occult versions of the Catholic Church. She said that Ross had been possessed and we needed to perform a ‘White Mass’ on the house. I let Ross spend the next couple of days putting the place back together, then we sat down in the living room to talk. We discussed the ritual required and he filled me in on what had happened; that he had brought several souls home with him with his stealing of the flowers and that they were pretty pissed off and fighting with the grandparents. He had to perform the ritual to clear the house. When we both said yes, it’s gotta get done, everything on all four walls in his room came straight down and his closet imploded. The front door slammed shut and we looked at each other with an “Oh shit!” look. Then things got interesting.
We went down to the Santa Barbara Candle Shop and in a separate back room were all the actual powders, oils, spells and tokens needed for Catholic Occultism. San Jose has a huge Mexican population and it never occurred to me how organized this aspect of their culture was. We picked up peace powder, candles smudge sticks and palm shoots to make crosses to place on every window and door in the house, and headed back. It was a grey afternoon which added to the ominous vibe of the whole thing. We taped the crosses to all the openings, mixed some concoction in the bathtub and started washing down the house with it. ( I made Ross do most of it since it was his mess!) and escorted him to the side yard where we burned all the etchings and flowers in a BBQ. We went back to the house, which had shit flying all over the place, and got back to cleaning. The air was just thick, I mean like heavy. It was an odd feeling, almost like being under water, but not like an anxiety attack, it was much more nebulous. Cabinets were opening and slamming, things rattling, and you had the constant feeling that people were brushing up against you. Around dusk, I took a break and went out on the porch and the front door slammed shut and bolted behind me in unison with my pace out. Then, as I sat out on the stoop smoking a cigarette, around the corner in the darkened yard came a growling noise and the sound of what I’d describe as someone hanging from the gutter and pulling themselves up and down dragging steel toed boots over the wood slats of the wall. I was so unfazed by anything at this point, that I just casually looked over at the black entrance, took a drag off my cigarette, and grinned as I thought, ” No fucking way you could pay me to check that out.”
The washing and burnings and prayers went on for hours, and we called it a ball game around 1 am and although the crazy shit seemed to abate the later it got, we’d seen that before. We each stayed elsewhere that night and came back the next day. It was amazing. You could breathe. The entire house seemed lighter in a way you can’t touch, but you know is there.
Ross swore off death rock and confined his partying to the living room from then on, and we lived with the occasional dish rattle and frightened girl in relative harmony.
Sadly, this isnt fiction. It’s all true and annoyingly interferes with my surity that reincarnation and afterlives are all fear-based ego driven crap. Dammit!