I was about five years old. We had not been long in the new house, well, the house was actually old, but it was new to us. I was the oldest child of what would later be a home for seven children, five boys and two girls. My imagination would prove vivid throughout the years; however, I would suggest that this story was more than simply a child’s fantasy.
I had a special friend who always played with me in the evenings. We would spend time on the kitchen floor. Often he would sit atop a large sack of potatoes my mother placed near the kitchen door, just below the table. It was a lot of fun playing with him. Despite my age, he always seemed to understand me. He was a funny sort of fellow. I saw nothing strange about him, not for a long time, anyway.
We generally got along. Although sometimes he would mess the kitchen up and my mother would blame me. I must admit, that angered me somewhat, but what was I to do? He was physically smaller than me, but seemed infinitely smarter. Mother never took any interest in him. Indeed, everybody ignored him but me. I just accepted that as a matter of course.
As time wore on, he began to confide secrets to me. They seemed disturbing, even though my child’s mind had trouble grasping them. However, the tidings of one evening in particular still linger with me. Maybe it was a sign that I was growing up? That night he did not seem like quite the friend I really wanted or needed. He would never go into the other rooms to play, remaining solely in the kitchen. A circus program with Don Ameche was on the television (NBC) in the living room and I wanted to watch it with my mother and father. It was called INTERNATIONAL SHOWTIME and it ran on Friday nights. He refused to budge. Mother walked in and out of the kitchen. He casually nudged a ball with his finger to trip her but I grabbed it out of the way. He remained frozen still, staring and grinning at me. Mother had virtually walked through him. I looked at my so-called friend more closely. He was aware that I had intellectually awakened… he knew that I knew. That was it, I realized in a moment of insight, no one besides me could see him. Years later, I read that such a phenomenon was often categorized as an imaginary friend. However, I would contend that in this case, he was something horribly real. Again, remember I was only slightly removed from diapers. My cognitive abilities at this point in my life were just awakening. Nevertheless, what awakened in me that evening was an element of fear.
The light of the kitchen seemed too bright. Every line and feature of my so-called friend was clearly defined. He was only a couple of feet tall. He seemed to float when he jumped off the potato sack. He always wore a neat black suit. He was quite the proper little man. His hair was cut in pointed bangs across the front of his forehead. And his smile– that I shall never forget– was like that of Alice’s cat in Wonderland– a large grin from ear to ear. The features of his face were often immobile, as if he were wearing a mask. That night he was annoyed with me and wanted me to assist him in mischief to the detriment of my parents. He was no friend at all. He was hurtful and a liar. His smile was pasted on his face like a hideous disguise. I raced from the room as he laughed at me. I jumped upon the sofa-bed and clung close to my mother. She held me as I cried.
As I reflected upon this creature in later years, I wondered why he refused to leave the kitchen. The answer was literally staring me in the face. My parents were very devout Roman Catholics. Almost every room had crucifixes and religious pictures. The living room had both the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the wall. It is my supposition that this thing, no less than demonic, could not enter the other rooms because of these sacramentals. The kitchen was the only room without them. This omission was long since remedied.
As the years went by, often at night, I could swear I heard “it” still whispering to me from the darkness. I would close my eyes and say my prayers until I fell asleep. My asthma was severe and the side effects from medicine included possibly hallucinations. I tried hard to accept that this thing could be entirely imagined. But when I had nocturnal asthma attacks, I would awaken with a start, unable to breathe, and catch just a hint of his laughter– coming from the attic, or a closet, or under the bed, or outside the window, or from the inside of the walls.
There were no major incidents again until my teenage years. I was taking an art correspondence course. Sitting on the floor of my bedroom, using the seat of a chair for a table, I was completing my assignment by drawing birds. It was darkening outside, but there was still some light. The corner of my eye caught a glimmer of movement from the window on my right. I tried to make it out without looking directly at it. Oh my goodness, it was hard to believe. It was him– after all these years– peering inside my room from outside, his head right up to the screen. I pretended not to see him, got up by turning to the opposite wall, and went to the living room. My father was watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on the television. “Dad, there’s something, ah someone, outside, looking into the window. Come and see.”
My Dad was alerted that someone was trespassing on our property. He got up and moved to the front door. Then he saw it. The living room windows consisted of multiple panes covering the side and front wall of the house. “What the hell is that!” my father exclaimed. There it was, that same face from my early childhood. His face had not aged a day. The staring eyes, the strangely cut hair, and the plastered grin– it was all there. But this time, my father also saw him. His face and upper body seemed to float before the window, along the side and then the front of the house. There was no up and down motion as one makes when walking. My father raced to the door to confront it. I backed off. He opened the door, but nothing was there. My father was the first to impress upon me that this thing was a demon from hell. He was certain that it had come in an attempt to upset plans that God had for me. I laughed this part of his explanation away. However, the resurgence of bizarre happenings which accompanied my decision to enter the seminary would collaborate his opinion.
My father told me that if it should come back, I should laugh at it. He considered the demonic to be pathetic. According to tradition, while the devil might make fun of us, he himself, cannot stand to be mocked. We need to consecrate our homes and our hearts to God. This is the sure way to ward off the presence of evil.
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