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My Own Trial by Fire

by Beth Winegarner

Most college students spend their spring break playing at the beach, camping out with friends, or just relaxing from the stressful world of exams, essays and constant studying. In the spring of 1994, I spent much of my own spring holiday protecting a close friend -- and to some extent, myself -- from psychic attack. Although I was quite young, both physically and psychically, I discovered that I had quite a few skills at my disposal that prevented the situation from becoming any worse.

With the popularity of films like "The Blair Witch Project" on the rise, it is my fear that crews of curious, even well-meaning, people may go ghost-hunting for the sake of adventure. While the mythology in that film was completely fictionalized, I have seen similar situations happen first-hand. It's better to avoid such scenarios entirely; however, if you do find yourself up against malevolent spirits, it is useful to have a few basic tools in your arsenal.

Basic Skills

Prior to these spring break experiences, which I'll get to in a bit, I learned some basic visualizations to protect against any kind of psychic attack. A natural empath, I was suffering from attracting a lot of sad or negative energy from the people around me. I was also living in a haunted house, and while the spirits in my home didn't cause me any problems, I sometimes felt the need for a little retreat. Here are a few of the techniques I picked up which have since proved indispensable:

* Personal psychic shield: Our planet is a source of abundant, neutral energy which can be used for a variety of purposes, including self-healing and shielding. In a basic ground and center visualization, the subject imagines him or herself plugging the base of the spine into a kind of root of this earth energy.

I extend this, bringing energy up through the length of my spine and to the tip of my head. From here, I envision the energy spreading out from my core in a kind of egg shape, until my body is completely surrounded with a bubble" of this energy. The edges of this bubble can be any consistency -- hard rubber for impermeable shielding, softer and bouncier, or slightly permeable, if I want to let certain energies (especially positive ones) through.

The bubble can also be extended to surround two or even more people who are inclose proximity, as long as the person creating the shield is careful to use only neutral earth energy, and not his or her own energy, to form the bubble. One's own energy is generally not compatible with others' -- it can carry with it any negative thoughts, emotions, or illnesses that are effecting the bearer, and leave a kind of psychic imprint on others.

* Creating safe space: This is kind of an expansion of the previous method, where one uses white, neutral earth energy to sanctify a space and create a shield around a room or home.

Draw energy up through the spine, and instead of just letting it come to the top of the head, instead let it flow down the arms to the hands, and out the palms. With this (and perhaps with a bit of burning white sage, a sprinkle of saltwater, or another purifying method of your choosing), move clockwise around the room.

As you go, imagine white light filling every crack and crevice. Pay especial attention to windows and other entryways, including mirrors, electrical outlets, mirrors, computers, televisions, you name it. For windows, I like to imagine drawing down a kind of blind or shade, formed of white light, which can be seen through but not permeated by unwanted energies. This goes double for doorways.

Some have recommended using a crystal to maintain the effect; infuse the crystal with light and imagine it continuing to generate protective energy throughout the room. This can be useful, but periodic reinforcement of the shields (perhaps 2-3 times per day in times of stress, one a day or less in more positive circumstances) is usually sufficient to hold the shield.

For serious situations, I recommend starting by cleaning out the home -- dusting, vacuuming, the whole works. Follow this with a good bath, washing your own hair, under fingernails, between toes. Dress in light, comfortable clothing. Then go through each room, first anticlockwise (for banishing) and, once you've completed your circuit, clockwise (for protection), with a bell, a purifying incense like sage, cedar or sweetgrass, and saltwater. What this does is banish any negative energies which may be lurking about, and then sanctifies the space. You may also go around the perimeter of a home with these same tools -- again, first anticlockwise, and then clockwise -- and imagine a cone or bubble of energy rising from this outer circle and completely encasing the home.

History Lessons

When I was in high school, I knew a group of guys who were fairly curious about occult happenings; I overheard them talking, many times, about a length of road near one of their homes between Forestville and Guerneville, California. Along this road, they said, spooky things had happened. It wasn't until many years later that I heard the full story about what they had seen and done, and what had happened as a result.

One night in June of 1991, one of the boys -- I'll call him Andy -- had been driving along the road late at night when he thought he saw a figure standing in the roadway. She appeared out of nowhere, he said, and he slammed on his brakes so as not to hit her. But it was too late. The car passed right through the figure and he drove on, afraid of what he'd just seen.

Not long after -- perhaps a few months -- a girl (who had no knowledge of the previous sighting) was walking along the road at twilight when she encountered a woman walking the opposite direction. The woman asked the girl if she knew some of the other boys who took walks down Mays at nighttime, and the girl replied that she did. They chatted briefly and parted ways. Later, it was discovered that her description of the woman matched that of the woman who had been run over."

Intrigued, the group made several pilgrimages to the road, and went so far as to engage in Bible-burning and use of a Ouija board to determine the nature of the figure. They learned the identities of two spirits, one male I'll call Homer, and a female, which I'll refer to as Nicole. They continued to try to make contact with the spirits, but eventually tired of the situation and moved on.

Perhaps a year or so later, a 16-year-old girl named Sarah entered the circle of friends. Although she was younger than many of them, she'd taken up a romantic relationship with the guy who lived near the road. Not long after their romance begun, she reported feeling a strange urge to go walking on the road at night. Curious about what might happen, the boys agreed to go with her.

On several walks, Sarah -- who had some previous knowledge of Nicole -- claimed to see or hear the female spirit. On one particular such walk, Sarah reported feeling delirious, and suddenly began screaming something about "my sister!" The others in the party said, as she began to scream, they felt as though they were walking through mud. Suddenly Sarah fainted, and when she regained consciousness she was unable to remember what had happened. They took her home.

I do not know how many times, before or after this experience, Sarah went to the road. I understand that she doesn't go there anymore; however, I also understand that her experiences communicating with Nicole have changed her permanently. And while I have little direct knowledge of Homer's activities during this period, I do know he made one attack on a male member of the group, named Isaac, while Isaac was trying to protect Sarah from Nicole.

Girl Meets Spirit

This was not the last time Nicole tried to make contact with an impressionable young woman. A few months before things began, I met a man named Paul whom I sensed had some psychic abilities. We made friends, and at the time he seemed like a good psychic ally. He became close not only with me, but with two good friends of mine, John and Amy.

Sometime in February or March, Amy's family moved out to Guerneville, California, a few miles away from the road where Nicole and Homer linger. John had been peripherally involved with the Sarah incidents, and would drive Amy home at night, taking that stretch of road which still seemed haunted. Towards the end of March, all of us -- myself, John, Amy, Paul and Andy -- who was friends with John -- began waking up around 3:00 a.m. One afternoon during lunch Andy said to us, It's happening again, isn't it?" It turned out a 3:00 wake-up call was one of Nicole's calling cards" to let people know she was aware of them.

Amy didn't know anything about the spirits. She didn't know what Adam was talking about, or that it had anything to do with that road, but soon she started telling John that she felt a strong urge to walk the road. Knowing that she would likely end up doing it anyway, we agreed to go with her. It was then that John filled me in on how Andy had originally found out about Nicole, about the boys who went up on the road, and what had happened to Sarah.

He also told me that while Homer was able to travel some distance -- he'd been spotted at the high school at night, for instance -- Nicole was completely bound to the road, and almost to one particular region of the road. He didn't tell Amy or Paul anything, but the four of us agreed to go together, to walk the road with Amy so that she could get the whole situation out of her system.

The day of the walk, the four of us got together. Paul was going on about how we needed to filter our energies through each other and form shields to protect us from what might be out there. I explained to him why sharing each other's personal energy fields was an unhealthy idea. He got a bit angry with me, and said something along the lines of I don't see what's out there anyway, or why we have to go out there." John only shook his head, but didn't want me to tell Paul anything. We went out to eat, and I briefly taught Amy the basic self-shielding technique, just in case she needed it.

The night we went, I drove the four of us out to the mouth of the road and smudged everyone with sage smoke before we set out. John did a basic meditation, and we climbed the first part of the road to the top of a hill. The moonlight shone brightly down on us, but the road ahead was dark. At that point Paul started complaining, how much farther do we have to go? My knees are hurting, and I don't want to go any farther."

I sat down on a step at the edge of a nearby driveway, and tried to center myself a little. John told me that most people didn't make it much father than the hilltop during their first journey. But by then Amy had already gone on ahead, and would not be turned around. We had no choice but to go with her, or let her go alone. And we didn't want to do that. Paul said he was going to go back to the car and wait for us.

As John, Amy and I descended into the valley, we occasionally heard the sound of footsteps, almost like hooves -- or more precisely, high heels -- behind us or off to the side. They matched Amy's own footsteps, but she was wearing soft sneakers. At other times we saw shapes and shadows in our peripheral vision, even though the moonlight did not penetrate the trees and we were essentially walking in utter darkness.

Even though Amy was getting chills and forced herself to stop from time to time, she was forthright about walking onward until she'd reached a point -- what she didn't know was, she was walking straight to Nicole's location, a place John and Andy had referred to as the grove. It was a place just beyond the bridge where the road crossed over a small creek, and even in complete darkness the place looked like a little nest among the trees. By this time, I was shielding myself so heavily that I felt encased in cotton.

At that point, we heard a whistling behind us, and soon determined that Paul had been following us all along. John went over and started arguing softly with him, but Amy had found the grove. She was standing across the road from it, staring at it, hugging her arms around her body. I came up to her and put my arms around her, and she put hers around me.

Amy repeated, three or four times, "Turn around and tell me there's nothing there." I looked into the darkness, and didn't say anything, but knew well enough what she was seeing. She said she felt sick to her stomach, and also overwhelmed with sadness. I see a face out there," she said. She began to cry, and suddenly stopped breathing, then reported, her eyes just looked through me."

I reminded Amy of the shield at this time, and told her, Define your space for her, let her know where she can't go, inside or outside of you. She has no power over you. She is no stronger than we are, and is probably weaker." I felt Amy's shield expand to surround both of us, and she reported a moment later that the face was gone.

Paul had once again announced he was going back to the car by that time, and we told John briefly what Amy had seen. Later on, with me present, he told her the whole story -- including something he'd left out earlier; that Nicole's interest in Sarah had been to inhabit, as a spirit, Sarah's human body. She was targeting young women, especially vulnerable ones, for purposes of possession, and she had just chosen her next victim.

The Aftermath

After that night, Paul was not useful or helpful, and stopped spending time with us. Although he had told me originally about his grand spiritual knowledge, he had proven he was more scared than the rest of us about going out there, and he told John that his powers had been "burned out" by whatever he'd encountered during that first walk. That was one of the lessons of the experience -- don't mess in magical workings with people you don't completely trust. In the end, they wind up being baggage that causes more harm than if they weren't there at all.

We spent a couple of days recuperating from the experience, but Amy was clearly connected in some way to Nicole -- she was having terrible insomnia and nightmares during the first nights after the walk. She told us she could see Nicole's sad face in her mind every time she closed her eyes, and she heard the spirit's laughter. Although her shield had destroyed the vision at the time, Nicole had already gotten her grappling hooks well into Amy by then.

John had taken to camping in the back of his truck outside Amy's gate to make sure she didn't walk out to the road in the middle of the night. Luckily, Andy was house-sitting for his older sister in a house up the hill from where Amy's family was living, and we basically camped out there for the rest of the week, in part to protect Amy from harm, and in part to keep an eye on one another in what was becoming an increasingly stressful situation for us as individuals.

The first night at Andy's, we decided to take a drive out to the coast to clear our minds. The night was gorgeous, with a clear sky filled with moonlight pouring over the rocks, the beach and the sea. It was the first time in days I had felt completely safe and protected, as if no harm could come to myself or to any of us. I spoke with John about how we could stop Nicole from taking hold of Amy, but he only repeated, "How can one sandbag the ocean?" His intent was clear: the only person who could really protect Amy, was Amy.

We returned to Andy's around 2:00 a.m. and I made some pancakes to cheer everyone up before bed. We ate, relaxed, and a few of us got into the hot tub to talk when we suddenly saw Amy run off down the hill. Some of us thought maybe she was just going home, but after a few minutes we decided to drive down and check on her. Andy, by far the best runner among us, went after her on foot. John, myself and my brother Tom, who was visiting for the night, piled into the pickup to see if we could find her.

A few minutes later, we spotted her walking slowly along the main highway, about a mile from Andy's. We turned around quickly to go get Andy and prevent him from scaling every hilly, one-lane road, but when we returned to where she'd been, she vanished. We searched all the backroads, and still found nothing. With a sinking feeling in our stomachs, we drove to the road.

Miraculously, we didn't see her at all the whole way there - - a distance of three or more miles from the house. We let Tom and Andy out at the mouth of the road, again to scout on foot, and drove the full length of it, paying especial attention to the area immediately surrounding the grove. There was no sign of her. We reached the other end of the road and came back to the grove, picking up Andy and Tom. Andy reported he'd heard distinct sobbing noises coming from the grove itself, and we stopped the truck to investigate. John spent 10 minutes inside the grove itself, and Andy continually screamed Amy's name, begging for her to come out. She wasn't in there at all; later, we realized it was probably Nicole's sobbing he had heard.

On the way back, we finally spotted her. She was dressed in a black t-shirt and black jeans, and could have been easily missed where she was -- her body pressed against a tree, her face buried into the bark and covered by her hands. Her bare feet were buried in the leaves. The only part of her we could see was one pale hand. Andy screamed her name and she jumped and screamed instinctively, like she'd just come out of a trance. John stopped the truck and collected her, handed me the keys, and I shakily drove the truck back to Andy's house. We all went to sleep, and when I spoke to Amy about the incident the next day, she said she couldn't remember anything.

That day I realized that Amy was not safe, even when we had our eye on her at all times. I decided, through what little I knew about shielding, to sanctify Andy's sister's home. I put on some music that helped me raise a bit of energy, and I drew shades of white light down over the windows, doors and openings and imagined positive energy filling the room. Although they began to complain about the music I chose, everyone rested well that night, and nothing untoward happened. In the morning, they thanked me for doing the work I'd done on the place. I made a promise to reinforce the shields for each night I needed to, until everything blew over.

A group of us, including Isaac -- who had been involved with the situation with Sarah, and who came to visit Andy -- were standing out on the porch that morning when Andy's nephew pointed up to the trees and said, "There's a witch up there! It's a bad witch!" We all turned our heads cautiously towards where he had pointed. None of us saw anything, but we knew without a doubt that it had been Nicole making an appearance, or at the very least a projection of her form. This was the farthest she'd ever traveled, and the first time we'd known her to appear anywhere outside of the grove.

We discussed a number of options regarding how to protect Amy continually from Nicole's attacks. We even asked Amy herself to think of a way, but our skills were amateurish at best, and we decided in the end that it would do more harm than good to go back to the road, or to try and make any kind of a binding spell. After a few nights of this, I decided I needed to spend a night in my own bed and get some rest. The others promised that they would look after Amy, and they did. In the morning however, they told me that while Andy was cooking dinner for Amy and John, Amy had taken a kitchen knife and first attempted to apply it to herself, and then turned it on John when he tried to take it from her.

Andy's sister returned within the next couple of days, and we were no longer able to stay at her house. Amy returned to her parents, John camped outside her gate for as many nights as he could, and Andy began to wash himself clean of the whole situation. I convinced John not to take her out there anymore, even when he drove her home from. I can't say she never went out there again, but she didn't go until she was much stronger and more able to protect herself, and there were no more terrible events beyond those that happened during the week of our spring break.

In Retrospect

This whole experience taught me so much about what to do, and most importantly, what not to do. I found it interesting that these spirits, Nicole and Homer, had personalities that were clearly defined and distinct -- and yet I got the impression that they had never been human, even though they (Nicole especially) displayed distinctly human emotions -- sadness, jealousy, fear, anger, even lust (which I have left out for the sake of what might be called brevity). I have left out so much from my retelling of these experiences, but they are not important to the conclusion.

In essence, we were stupid kids, messing with energies that we had almost no knowledge of. We got into a situation that probably could have been avoided. Given that Amy was sure to make contact with Nicole at some point, however, in retrospect I feel we did the best that we could, and I'm thankful no one was hurt through everything that happened. Scared out of our minds, exhausted and tested, but never truly hurt.

In hindsight, I don't know if I could have done anything more to prevent things from progressing as far as they did. It was weeks, even months, before Amy could sleep soundly at night. But I know she is stronger for the experience as well, and the woman she is today would never get involved with a hurtful spirit like Nicole.

In a perfect world, kids would not go ghost-hunting, but kids will be kids, and things that go bump in the night seem exhilarating and fun, and most of all, completely fictional. There are pockets of energy and spirits which will feed off the attention of young people -- much like Nicole did with that first group of guys who toyed with the occult so close to where she dwells. Those attentions can reinforce energies which are already present, and make it all the more dangerous for those who wander into a situation, not having the faintest idea what they're getting involved with.

However, I see it a bit like the debate over whether to make condoms available to young people. Some say that handing out birth control in school only encourages kids to have sex, but kids have so many hormones running around their bodies, they don't need any further encouragement; it just makes sense to help them protect themselves. Likewise, many kids are going to play with scary situations, because they saw something in a movie or read a scary book and they want to see if there's really something "out there." Knowing basic things like how to form a psychic shield are indispensable and very easy to learn.

Issue No. 14 >>