Mind over Matter ...by Bill Knell

During the early 1970s, I had the opportunity to investigate one of the most unusual cases of paranormal activity that I have ever come across. It involved a recently remodeled home in St Petersburg, Florida. A friend that I met in Junior High reported the situation to me. Both of us were now attending the same High School and ran into each other on a regular basis throughout the day.

Although we shared some common interests, the paranormal was not one of them. Toby thought that my interest in UFOs was just crazy. Thatís why he caught me off guard one day at lunch by asking if ghosts interested me as much as UFOs. I told him that they did. In hushed tones, he told me about some weird stuff that was going on with his family.

Tobyís mom died a few years ago after a short bout with cancer. His father, Larry, was devastated and could barely get up in the morning. He lost his job and was living off some money he received from his late wifeís life insurance policy. All he did for almost eight months after her death was read the newspaper and watch television. It was during that time that he noticed how many Handyman Specials were available in the real estate section of the paper. It gave him an idea.

Larry started buying distressed homes with the remainder of the life insurance money. His brother, Jonathan, joined him in the new venture. Both men had some experience with painting and carpentry. They were mutual friends with a licensed plumber named Bobby who threw some money and his professional skills into the pot. Together, the three bought, renovated and resold homes in the area. The venture turned out to be very profitable, so they kept at it.

Larry and Jonathan were lucky enough to find an older, one floor house for sale at a bargain price in a very quiet section of St Petersburg. The home was clean, but almost everything in it was out of date and the landscaping needed work. The three friends worked on the house and property for weeks. They painted, put in new carpeting, a new central air conditioning unit, replaced floors and remodeled the bathroom and kitchen.

Once all the work was completed, Larry took on the responsibility of placing the remodeled home on the market. Unlike previous homes that seemed to sell in no time at all, this one was just not moving and the three partners couldnít understand why. The house looked great, the neighborhood was quiet and the market was good. People would look at the house and seem impressed, but wouldnít buy.

Thinking that it seemed too empty, they purchased some inexpensive furniture to give the place a lived-in look. To help things move along, the partners asked Tobyís older sister, Maryanne, and her husband, Jeff, to stay there until the place was sold. The young couple had helped them sell two other homes and earned four hundred dollars each time in the process. They were attending a local college, short on money and glad to get a break from staying with relatives for a few weeks. However, lodging in this particular house wouldnít be much of a break.

The house sitting couple had only been in the home for a week when a flood occurred in the bathroom. Assuming it was a leak, they called Tobyís dad. Larry came by and looked for the source of the flooding. After turning off the water supply to the house, the water continued flowing on to the bathroom floor from what appeared to be all directions. Just as he was about to call his partner Bobby the plumber, the flooding stopped.

Unable to locate a leak and with no obvious damage to the bathroom or anyplace else in the house, Larry vacuumed up the excess water and decided to leave it at that. This happened on a Monday. He would come back with his brother and Bobby over the weekend to check everything and look for any possible cause of the flooding. However, before the weekend arrived, something else happened.

Maryanne stepped into the shower the next morning and started feeling sick. Within minutes, she became violently ill. She barely made it out of the bathroom before feeling weak and falling to the floor. Jeff heard the ruckus and came to her aid. He drove her to the hospital and waited for news.

Slightly overweight, they tested her for diabetes and considered a number of other possible medical conditions. Everything came back negative and she seemed fine again. Maryanne was released after two days. During the ride home, Jeff told her about an unusual experience he had while she was in the hospital.

Between the incident with Maryanne and rushing to get some assignments completed for school, Jeff was exhausted. Once back home, he quickly fell into a deep sleep. But that didnít last long. Jeff woke up in the middle of the night after hearing a crash. The crash noise was followed by a banging sound that seemed to be coming from the bathroom.

Jeff got up to investigate, but found nothing out of place. All the doors were locked and no one was in the house. He noticed the time on the lighted clock radio next to the bed. It was almost two thirty in the morning. Too tired to worry about it further, Jeff went back to sleep. However, less than ninety minutes later, Jeff woke up again to a loud banging sound again coming from the bathroom.

As he reached the hallway outside of the bathroom, the noise stopped. Not knowing what to think, he wondered if this was a problem with the water pipes and decided to call Larry about it in the morning. He went back to bed and things remained quiet for the rest of the night.

Maryanne was troubled by Jeffís story and didnít know what to think. She had never become suddenly ill before and wondered why everything seemed to center around the bathroom. Maybe her dad and his partners could figure it all out.

Larry, Jonathan and Bobby arrived at the house on Saturday morning ready to troubleshoot the situation. They checked pipes, looked for squirrels or rats in the attic, flushed the toilet a dozen times and ran water in the bathtub to see if any leaks occurred. They found nothing, but Bobby thought of another possibility.

Bathrooms in houses of this type had wall access areas covered with large metal or wooden plates. Once unscrewed, the plates could easily be removed to allow access to points where pipes or electric wiring intersected within the wall. Although they had already removed the two plates where pipes were present and inspected those areas in the bathroom, there were two more located on the other side of the bathroom wall.

Bobby knew that some homeowners had a bad habit of using these open areas in their walls for storage of paint or potentially hazardous liquids. If the liquids started to leak out of their containers, they might cause wall erosion. That would allow any water accumulated from leaky window casements to get out and flood the bathroom floor. Noxious fumes from the same improperly stored liquids could build up inside the walls and be released into the bathroom through wall vents. That might explain Maryanneís sudden illness.

They went to the other room to remove the wall access plates and find out if the previous homeowner had left anything inside the walls. Removal of the first plate revealed nothing but a transformer and some wiring for the doorbell. The second was located close to the outside wall of the house. While they were removing it, the banging sound started and then stopped suddenly. Once open, they found nothing. The three were mystified. Larry and Bobby went around to the side of the house to inspect the outside wall. They saw no cracks or other problems that might account for the noises or flooding.

While all this was going on, Jeff remarked that hearing the banging sounds during the day when he was fully awake reminded him of something. His father was a shooting enthusiast who had taught Jeff how to handle guns. He lost interest in them during his teens and didnít own any, but he recalled the sounds of weapons being fired at shooting ranges. To him, the ďbangingĒ noises resembled weapons fire from a distance. With no shooting ranges nearby and the noises being heard in the middle of the night as well as during the day, it seemed an unlikely explanation to the others. The partners left without finding a cause for the unusual occurrences. The house remained quiet until a week and a half later.

Maryanne and Jeff arrived home around one oíclock in the morning from a concert at the Bay Front Center downtown. After the concert, they went out for some burgers at a Big Boy Restaurant with another couple. Maryanne felt strangely uncomfortable during the concert and became suddenly ill at the restaurant. Not wanting to upset the others, she quietly excused herself from the table and went into the rest room to throw up. During the short drive home, she told Jeff what had happened and he mentioned that he wasnít feeling well either. Both were sick to their stomachs.

As they pulled into the driveway, Maryanne noticed a slight glow coming from a hallway window that was directly across from the bathroom. They didnít remember leaving any lights on and hurried in thinking there might be a fire. Once they entered the house, there was a terrible smell like something had died and the couple both became violently ill. The glow was still noticeable and seemed to come from the bathroom. It was a steady, but ethereal light that seemed unnatural and impossible to pin down. The loud banging noise started again and added to the bizarre scene.

Despite being practically bent over in pain, Jeff moved toward the bathroom to find the source of the glow. When he got to the door, he felt a strange fear that kept him from entering or looking inside. Maryanne threw up on the floor in the living room entryway and managed to get to a wall phone in the kitchen. She dialed her father for help. While still on the phone with Larry, the banging stopped and the glow vanished. She told her dad that they were leaving the house, hung up, grabbed a few things and checked into the Howard Johnsonís Motel at the beach.

Larry called Jonathan and the two came over to the house around two in the morning to have a look around. Once again, everything was quiet. No lights, no banging noises and no smells. However, while the two men were there by themselves, each heard what sounded like loud voices off in the distance. They went outside to investigate, but the sounds seemed to be coming from inside the house. They locked the place up and left.

I was amazed by the story. Toby became very upset. He wondered if this had something to do with his deceased mother? He wanted answers and I didnít know what to say. I did remind him that most of the reliable books I had read about ghosts and haunted places pointed out that most supernatural phenomenon had some connection to the current or previous owners of the house. That would tend to rule out his mother. Without saying it, I felt this might not be about Ghosts at all. I had read about situations where a force was at work that went well beyond the norm of what we might think of as Ghostly activity. However, checking for ghosts was an easy way to begin the investigation.

I invited two adult members of a local Spiritualist Church to come and interview some of the people involved and see the house for themselves. Janet and Beatrice were two elderly women who had been participants in the Spiritualist movement for many years. I met them at a seminar on ESP just months before. They invited me to visit their Church, so I attended a few services and social events. I looked at it as a chance to learn more about Spiritualism and it certainly was a different experience.

I rode with Janet and Beatrice to the troubled house. Maryanne and Jeff greeted us. They were standing outside and had refused to go back into the house by themselves ever since the incident a week and a half before. Larry and Jonathan arrived around the same time and told us that they had been in the house twice since then, examined everything all over again and still found nothing to account for what the couple experienced. Toby wasnít there.

We all entered the house together. Janet and Beatrice were calm and didnít seem to sense anything. I was cautiously optimistic about their abilities, but hadnít much exposure to the whole Spiritualism thing apart from books and attending their services a few times. They certainly seemed honest and sincere. Both were professional women who worked in the banking industry for many years before their retirement.

After a walk through the house, we sat quietly and listened to the small group explain what had happened in their own words. I took some notes and ran a five-inch reel-to-reel recorder in hopes of getting all the stories right and possibly picking up some EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon). Larry and Jonathan were skeptical of our investigation, but something had to account for all this and the business partners were out of ideas.

Janet and Beatrice asked very few questions and simply allowed those present to vent. Being the youngest person there, I sat quietly and took it all in. As Spiritualist Mediums, the two women claimed to have the ability to receive messages from the dead. They could also sense dark forces, but rarely spoke of such things. On that night, they sensed nothing. According to them, this was beyond unusual and almost unprecedented. They later explained to me that it was as if something was jamming their abilities. I had the same result from my attempt to capture any EVP. There wasnít any that I could detect.

The revelations from the Spiritualists and the lack of any EVP fueled my fear that this was not a garden-variety ghost event. It was also possible that the whole thing was some kind of set up. I recalled going to a speech by an experienced paranormal investigator from New England. Ironically, he had been born near Salem and actually lived in what he felt was a haunted house as a child. He reminded the crowd of wannabe ghost chasers that two things would always haunt them more than ghosts: Over-enthusiasm and fakery. It made me wonder if I was reading more into the events at the house then I should have been.

While I trusted Toby, it was always possible that someone was creating all this hype for his or her own reasons. It wouldnít be the first time that a paranormal investigator had been used as a catalyst to make an unusual occurrence appear to be supernatural in origin. I decided to take a step back and rethink the entire sequence of events. While I was in the process of doing that, I became quite ill. It was like an attack of the flu with real teeth. I couldnít even get out of bed for two days, and then I suddenly felt fine. Was it connected to the house? There was no way to tell.

Janet and Beatrice went back to their Church and sought guidance from the other members. As they considered the matter, several members became ill. Janet eventually ended up in the hospital with symptoms not unlike what Maryanne experienced. Beatrice started having terrible headaches. Was the power of this thing was spreading? Maybe, but I reminded myself that Janet, Beatrice and the majority of Church members were elderly and may have already had preexisting medical problems.

Toby remained on the outside of this situation, but now I needed his help. We got together and canvassed the neighborhood where the house was located. Without being specific, we wondered if the neighbors noticed anything odd about the previous owners or the house. If they asked us why we wanted to know, we just said that Toby was the son of the new owners and they were having problems with the property. Despite our best efforts, none of the people that bothered to answer their doors had any helpful information. Tobyís father didnít do any better after calling the previous owners.

According to Larry, the place had an uninteresting history. Built in the early 1960s, it had been owned by a family who moved to Florida from Philadelphia. A couple with two kids lived in the house until their children moved out. Larry had already spoken with the couple on several occasions during the process of purchasing the house. They didnít seem like people with some deep, dark secret. He called them again and asked if they had ever encountered anything strange like the flood or banging noises. They said nothing like that had ever happened while they lived there. The couple had always lacked the funds to modernize the place, but they had kept up the infrastructure with regular repairs and maintenance when it was required.

It was a Saturday, just a month after Toby first told me about the house. I had about given up on solving the mystery of what was happening in that place when I received a call from him. He was breathless. With Maryanne and Jeff out of the house and refusing to return, Toby and his dad stopped by to check on the still unsold property every few days. They arrived at the house that morning to find the entire block filled with police cars.

According to some people standing out in the street, a man who lived in the house next to the one up for sale by the partners had gone berserk. Already known to be a drunk and wife beater, he started shooting at his neighbors with a hunting rifle. A few people mowing their lawns or washing their cars had been hit, but none had life threatening injuries.

The police arrived and just as they were about to move in, he shot himself in the head with a .32 caliper pistol he kept around for self-defense. He died almost instantly. It was later determined that the Shooter was highly intoxicated at the time of the incident and that the shots were random. Fortunately, no one died or was seriously injured as a result of his rampage.

Although big news for about a day and a half, the police tape had been removed from around the house less than two weeks later. The surviving relatives of the Shooter, his estranged wife and two daughters, arrived to settle matters with the property. They quickly moved to clean up and place the house up for sale. After being the victims of his alcoholism for many years, his wife walked out and took the children with her. That happened about two months before the man went berserk.

For a couple of weeks after the shootings, I really didnít know what to think. Larry, Toby and I spent a couple of weekends in the house that they were still trying to sell. There were no noises, floods or unusual activity. The Spiritualists didnít return, but were recovering from whatever it was that had made the ill. Marianne and Jeff decided to get back on the horse that threw them by returning to the house. They did not experience any unusual phenomenon during that time and the property finally sold three weeks later.

Tobyís father had been the doubting Thomas of the group all along. He just could not conceive of anything otherworldly causing the problems in that house. Larry wanted to think of his late wife in heaven, not floating around like a vapor. That seemed to be the primary motivation behind his skepticism. At first hostile to my age and the fact that I believed in things related to the paranormal, he changed his mind after I explained to him that I didnít believe this had anything to do with ghosts. The theory I offered him at that time remains my view of what happened I that house today.

Without understanding what really happened, I somehow felt that the neighborís shooting outburst and suicide were connected to the unusual activity in the house. Three things convinced me of that. First, the problems began in the house owned by the partners just around the time that the dead manís wife and children had left him. Second, the Spiritualists were unable to sense anything because the living, not the dead, had caused the disturbances. Third, the bathroom window faced the shooterís house and was directly opposite the window of the room where he died.

It might be hard for most people to believe that a troubled alcoholicís mental state could have anything to be with the things that happened in that house. Thatís because science has consistently rejected the idea that people can use their minds to manipulate their environment. Itís only been in recent decades that weíve learned how governments have used those with the ability to perform Remote Viewing to gather intelligence on their enemies and rivals. However, thatís not all they have attempted.

Sometime during the twentieth century the governments of the United States and Soviet Russia became convinced that some people could create a live and accurate mental picture of events happening elsewhere just by using their mind. In some cases, individuals targeted for espionage by remote viewers became unexpectedly ill.

Several American Presidents and other high-ranking government officials suffered from extreme headaches or became suddenly ill after traveling to Russia during the 1980s and 1990s. Experts theorized that microwave radiation being aimed at pre-positioned intelligence gathering devices was the culprit. No one thought to consider the possibility that remote viewers might be the problem.

Once the side effects of Remote Viewing became known, it didnít take those in charge of these secret programs long to figure out that this extra sensory mental highway might have two lanes instead of one. Some Remote Viewers had minds or abilities powerful enough to do more than just gather a mental picture of events happening elsewhere. They were able to enter the minds of their targets. Apart from intelligence gathering, this ability could also be used to mentally harass or even kill people.

Apart from the moral questions that arise from all this, you have to wonder if these kinds of abilities are limited to the conscious level of the mind. It wouldnít be hard to imagine the damage that someone could cause if their unconscious mind could access that kind of power and cause it to act (almost like an emotion) anytime they had strong feelings about something or someone.

Because no one was actually in the home of the Shooter during the weeks before the event, itís impossible to know if any unexplained events were taking place. However, even if nothing had happened in there, it would not be a reason to believe that he had nothing to do with what happened in the home for sale. We must remember that weíre not talking about ghosts or a haunting, but rather the possibility of someone with the ability to project thoughts into actions.

The lesson for any paranormal investigator to learn from this bizarre case is that the supernatural, in any form, is nothing to be trifled with. Especially when the scenario doesnít exactly fit into the standard categories. Anyone who wants to perform a thorough investigation of an unexplained event would do well to educate themselves on all the possible explanations. Knowledge is the best protection and most valuable tool any paranormal investigator can have.

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