• Asmodeus and Old Lace

    by Jordan Inman, September 2014



    Caller: …that man , my father, had a very, very distinct smell to him. It was unmistakable. The smell, his smell, was like a butterscotch smell mixed with something else not too pleasant toward the end of his days – when he had pancreatic cancer – it was like a spoilt milk smell for lack of a better analogy. He had an absolutely unmistakable smell and I would have been lying to myself if I didn’t think that this presence was my father.

    Jim: So you said that was a good three or four years after you buried him?

    Caller: Yes, and I really do think the reason he was there, the reason he made his presence known to us, was because of Madelyn’s accident. I firmly believe he was there to comfort us in that Madelyn was still alive in some sense – that she had merely passed over into that other realm of existence.

    Jim: Well you’re not the first caller tonight making such an unlikely…uh, I don’t want to say unlikely since our phones are still ringing off the hook so to speak with stories like yours…but you’re not the first to hold such a frowned upon, yet firmly held belief.

    Caller: And you know, I have a theory that sort of ties it in with a more scientific explanation: who’s to say humans, after tens of thousands of years on this Earth haven’t evolved something like what people call a soul? What if those persons most likely to have their genes move onward down the ages have been those with some extra protection from their ancestors and deceased family members from beyond? I think such a hypothesis could explain a long and prevalent history of ancestor worship and could explain this great number of stories involving reassuring spirits and guardian angels…and it would fit right in with evolutionary theory as well.

    Jim: That…is an interesting theory to say the least, Susan. Thank you much for your story…and on the note of family members looking out for one another, even from the beyond, make sure if you have East-Central Michigan’s number one selling water softener, Aquarius, to recommend it to friends and loved ones. Aquarius water softeners will provide your household with abundantly soft water on demand. Using timerless multitank systems and the cost-saving energy of moving water, Aquarius assures comfort, ease, quality, efficiency, and reliability to its name. Visit aquarius soft water dot com for ordering and more details…aquarius soft water dot com.

    [Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “Little Demon” is played as buffer music before the radio program’s next segment.]

    Jim: Tonight has been fun. This Halloween Eve, the night before the biggest holiday anymore outside of Christmas, has been more fun than I expected it would be. Again, we don’t normally do things like this on our program, but I think the deviation has been more than worth it in the amount of ghost stories from our callers. These stories not only might scare you but they may make you wonder… [Jim takes a sip of coffee from his thermos.]

    Jim: Two weeks ago, I received a package in the mail here at the studio. ATTN: James McClellan with no return address. When I opened this package I discovered a hand-written letter and an object about the size of a four-slit toaster oven that was wrapped securely in transparent plastic wrap. Now this, listeners, was no ordinary object nor was this an ordinary letter. As some of you may recall, I spoke about this letter and provided, as best as I could, a description of the object without undoing the wrappings that still hold it shut. I won’t go any further about what this object is tonight for want of preserving some mystery for our next guest’s story, at least for those of you who don’t know what the object already is. The letter I received was unequivocally of ill-will and malice – not that I shouldn’t be used to a mean-spirited letter or email due to my outspoken political leanings on the program – but this letter exuded evil…and I don’t mean the sort of evil when someone of the opposite political persuasion wishes that I drop dead, I mean, this letter is out-and-out Satanic in its language. Half of it I can’t afford to read on the air due to the delicate ears of my overlords at the FCC, however I will read you a truncated version of this letter: “James McClellan…I have sent you this [object] so that you may know pain, suffering, and gnashing of teeth while you still live on this planet but also when you descend into the deepest, abysmal sector of what awaits you upon death. May this gift grant you nothing but calamity and misfortune of the utmost degree…” and yes, it goes on and on and on, my friend. Well, let me tell you, this item has brought more of intrigue than anything else…so far. As it turns out, one listener of our program that night contacted me with a letter of his own, warning me vehemently not to open this object, tamper with it, whatever…but to immediately dispose of it. But it was not this listener’s warning that garnered my attention – instead it was the lengthy, captivating, and surprising tale explaining why I shouldn’t be messing around with this thing. It was this man’s incredible story…no, sorry, that’s an old journalism cliché that doesn’t do it justice…this man’s astounding story that inspired me to schedule tonight’s ghost story call-in capped off by the tale itself followed by a special event at the end. I offered Mr. Ashley – Millard Ashley is his name – I offered Millard a seat in the studio tonight, however he opted to keep his distance from the nefarious object and is with me by way of Skype tonight. Millard…how are you?

    Millard: I’m doing fine, Mr. McClellan.

    Jim: We go by first names on this program, Millard – it’s Jim. Happy Halloween.

    Millard: Good to be with you and your listeners, Jim.

    Jim: You live in Edge, Michigan…that’s not a big town for those who don’t know – population under twenty-five hundred. Is that right?

    Millard: Yes.

    Jim: And you’ve lived there most of your life?

    Millard: On and off, but mostly. I’ve worked on pipelines in the area for the last 15 years.

    Jim: Well before we bore anyone with the finer points of gas pipelines in Temple County, Michigan, let’s start from the beginning. From what I recall, this took place a while back, pre-internet era or just about…

    Millard: These events took place roundabout Winter of 1993-94.

    Jim: While you were assisting in the care of your…grandmother? Great-grandmother?

    Millard: Great-grandmother…I was 22 years old at the time and she was a runic 97. She had a very storied past, which I’ll get into more detail later on, but yeah, she was something else.

    Jim: But go ahead and give us a little background on her though, before you get into the events.

    Millard: Ok, so at this point in her life she was totally bedridden and getting what extra years in-home hospice care could give her. If I were to describe her as being on her last leg, it would be quite the understatement. She’d been battling various chronic things on and off ever since I’d known her – since I was little. She had a rarer form of leukemia that she’d been diagnosed and re-diagnosed with several times – it would go away and come back and go away and come back again. Not only the leukemia, but some horrendous mucus build-up in her lungs and excruciating bouts of pain originating in her spine that ultimately stopped her from operating a wheelchair; these things would come and go as well.

    Jim: But no one knew the root cause of these maladies?

    Millard: No, not really. The doctors had guesses and we all just shrugged our shoulders and wrote it off to her old age since it isn’t uncommon for old folks to have lots of medical issues.

    Jim: Sure.

    Millard: But the most salient thing about her illnesses was her cataracts. One eye in particular was a bright periwinkle blue. If you weren’t used to being around her a lot, you’d probably feel like that guy in the Tell-Tale Heart, you know? That old man with the evil eye?

    Jim: Oh, I know what you’re talking about. I’ve been given many damning looks in my day, heh…but seriously, I’ve seen pictures of some horrible looking ones – cataracts, I mean.

    Millard: I have early memories of being a toddler and going to visit my great-grandmother – Trudy was her name, by the way – and when I would look up at her, it would be like staring at something mythic and mysteriously piercing. Absolutely striking. As a small child, I would hold her in awe and somewhat in fear because of that.

    Jim: I can imagine…but how did you wind up taking care of her?

    Millard: I was looking for a job and my grandparents, the ones who were still alive, her children, were paying me to help out. Well, I want to be clear that I wasn’t a nurse or anything. I’d help her out with food and housework and with her meds on a daily basis, but I wasn’t being paid as anyone certified.

    Jim: Right, there were actual nurses for that…so tell us about what it was like being there.

    Millard: [Sighs.] It was eerie.

    Jim: To say the least.

    Millard: Yeah…I wouldn’t be there for more than an hour at a time. I didn’t have to do any of the hard stuff like washing and exercising her and doing medical check-ups and stuff like that, so I at least didn’t have to stick around too long whenever I was there. But when I was there, it was more than enough to leave me with a feeling of unease.

    Jim: Just…a general feeling or was there more to it?

    Millard: It…I guess, because it wasn’t a very big house to begin with, the feeling I would get would be of crowdedness, if that makes sense. I mean, it was generally only me and Trudy in the house at any one time and she wasn’t a pack rat or anything – the house wasn’t crowded in the sense of there being lots of junk, just lots of people even though there wouldn’t be anyone else there.

    Jim: Would you hear other people? Voices? Smells?

    Millard: There would be noises at times that I couldn’t pinpoint, but there weren’t necessarily any voices or smells or body heat signals, or anything like that…there would just be this uncanny feeling that the house was crowded with people or that I was being observed by many eyes.

    Jim: Weird. And did the nurses have the same reaction when they were in the house?

    Millard: You know, that’s always sort of baffled me, because the one nurse I interrogated about this swore up and down that she didn’t sense or feel anything as being off or eerie. And she was there at generally longer stints than I would be.

    Jim: Huh…Millard, according to some of the previous callers, it would seem as if some people would be able to sense or see things on that other ghostly level and then others would be incapable. You think that could explain it?

    Millard: I don’t know, but I certainly know what I experienced. And no drugs or hallucinogenic substances were involved in case anyone gets to wondering.

    Jim: As have other storytellers separately assured me in their own cases.

    Millard: Now my grandma Trudy on the other hand was in a constant state of heavy medication. She would often be speaking out loud when no one else was in the room, so there’s no telling whether she was speaking with something else or what.

    Jim: Anything in particular that she’d be talking about?

    Millard: She would generally do that whenever she was alone – I would hear her saying something, but I could rarely make out what it was. Trudy would direct sentences and statements to God when I would be in the room, but nothing ever as conversational sounding as when I would be outside of her room. She was extremely religious, but I’ll cover that more in a little while.

    Jim: Right.

    Millard: Anyway…one day, I was mixing her pills into some baby food – even if they were the chewable variety, it was easier to just mash them up and feed them to her that way. It was probably 10:30 or 11:00 am, nothing too out of the ordinary or strange outside of that crowded feeling that was always around in the house. I was in the kitchen, grinding the pills up with a glass pestle and mortar, when one of the pills got away from me and rolled onto the linoleum and then into the living room until it disappeared underneath the sofa. So, knowing that the pills were expensive and should be rescued if possible, I walked out to the living room, got down on my knees and peered under the sofa, which was relatively high off the ground, to see if I could spot the pill. It was too dark under there for me to see anything, so I laid down so my chest was in contact with the ground and I could extend my arm and hand under there. As soon as I got to groping around for that pill, I swear to you and everyone out there listening, I felt…no, I didn’t feel, I grabbed onto a foot. I most certainly felt the top part of someone’s foot – toenails not excluded.

    Jim: Oh my god…[Trails off into laughter.] Millard…I’m, heh-heh, I’m awfully sorry for laughing, but…a foot? Of course, that’s not just funny, it’s downright creepy! Ooooo…I’m getting shivers just imagining what that must have felt like. How did you react?

    Millard: Oh I bolted upright like a chum-tossing Roy Scheider in Jaws when he first glimpses the shark, you know. Needless to say, I didn’t reach back in for the pill.

    Jim: So was this a, um, warm foot? A hairy foot? How would you describe it?

    Millard: No, this was a cold, leathery foot. Clammy. I didn’t feel any hair. And I certainly didn’t bother to check if it was attached to an ankle or not.

    Jim: A cold, clammy, leathery foot…BRRRR…

    Millard: So that’s just the beginning of it. I got veritably freaked out at that point and when I told my best friend at the time about what had happened and the weird feelings I would get, he was actually thrilled at the chance to visit a haunted house. We’re roughly the same age and we were pretty close – we’d refer to ourselves as sol brothers, S-O-L, as in shit-outta-luck because we both couldn’t find decent work for a while and helped each other out.

    Jim: Ha, that’s a good one, SOL brothers…So you invited him over to the house then?

    Millard: Yes, but just on this one occasion – you see, he wanted to have the full-fledged experience and insisted on spending the night there with me. He got so spooked by what happened though, he didn’t want to go back after that.

    Jim: So what happened?

    Millard: Jim, have you ever had that irrational sort of fear that happens sometimes when it’s dark and quiet late at night or after you’ve just watched some horror movie –

    Jim: Or listened to something like tonight’s program…

    Millard: Yes, and the feeling you have is not just an ordinary sort of scared, it’s like “there’s unspeakable evil lurking in my closet at the foot of the bed” sort of scared.

    Jim: Oh yeah, I think I know where you’re coming from – and the feeling is generally amplified because it’s 3 am and you’re not in your right mind to begin with because maybe you’re half-awake as it is.

    Millard: Exactly. Well, before we even decided to lay out our sleeping bags at around 11:30, I was already having that feeling and it lasted the entire length of the night right up until daybreak. I didn’t get an ounce of sleep, the fear was so energizing.

    Jim: Did your friend have the same feeling?

    Millard: Not to begin with. He fell asleep not long after we turned out the lights…well, I turned a lamp on once I knew he was asleep because I couldn’t stand the darkness. I tried to lose myself in some magazines and number puzzles, but I couldn’t shake that sinister feeling. I eventually went to the bathroom and when I came back into the living room where my friend was sleeping, I immediately noticed that…his body, the view of my friend’s body from behind…had a lot less mass to it…as if he were a lot thinner.

    Jim: What?

    Millard: I was going to go over and check on him but when I took a step closer, I noticed he didn’t have any hair on his head.

    Jim: Oh my…

    Millard: I don’t know how I had the courage to take a closer look at him, but I did – it was like I was so scared and shocked that I was entranced by what I was seeing….when I turned his body over, he had the face, the skin, of an emaciated and decrepit old person…he didn’t have any hair anywhere and from I what I remember, it was like all signs of sex or gender were gone as well. It was just…all around disturbing.

    Jim: And unheimlich, it sounds like…But with all due respect sir, are you sure you weren’t just hallucinating from the fear you were already experiencing and from staying up so late?

    Millard: What I saw had a very real tinge to it…but at the same time, I have to admit it was a very…unreal experience too. After probably four or five seconds of taking in his face in real time – of course, it seemed more like four or five months – I got the heck out of the house and jumped into the car and turned the lights on above the dash.

    Jim: Did you go back in for him? I don’t think I would have, myself.

    Millard: Eventually, I did, yes, I did go back in there if only because he was my best friend – I don’t think I would have done that for just anybody else. I had the mindset that I was going to rescue him from whatever had physically changed him –

    Jim: Hold on here, that sounds very logically suspect to me. You thought you could enforce some sort of resistance against something that had the power to change someone else’s physical appearance at will?

    Millard: Jim, if I’ve learned anything from life, it’s that people often do stupid and logically suspect things, and this was probably one of those moments.

    Jim: Fair enough. So what happened?

    Millard: Actually, nothing happened of any real significance. When I walked back into the living room, he was back to his normal self.

    Jim: But you said he got so spooked that he never wanted to return.

    Millard: When I told him what I had seen, he reacted with great concern and told me that he’d just been having a nightmare but wouldn’t divulge anything else about it. So he and I stayed awake the whole rest of the night together and waited things out until morning.

    Jim: And nothing else occurred?

    Millard: That night, no. Although, I should mention one more really strange thing that happened, or that I found, before events started coming to a head – there were these…oh, what’s the word…polyps. There were these polyps in the paint on one of the walls.

    Jim: You mean from a bad paint job or from water buildup?

    Millard: No, they had a putrid green pus inside them and stunk to high heaven.

    Jim: You did tell the people who owned the house about this, right? They must’ve had someone check out these polyps?

    Millard: Yeah, they did. They had an exterminator come over because we thought it might be from some sort of infestation and that’s what he was guessing. He did find some roaches and as I’ll get to in a little bit, I certainly found some insects.

    Jim: Well let’s move on toward that point in the story then…

    Millard: Ok. Two or three weeks after I had that sleepover, this elderly woman shows up at my Grandma Trudy’s house one morning while I was there. I’d say she was in her late 70s or early 80s and had a Mediterranean tone to her skin, not unlike my grandmother had.

    Jim: And from the way I understood your story when I read it, this lady was not well intentioned.

    Millard: She claimed to be old friends with Trudy although when I brought her in front of my grandmother, Trudy didn’t recognize or recall this woman. Of course, we had no way of knowing whether her memory was failing her or not, so this lady kept on insisting her and Trudy went way back to her days in Ethiopia and Somalia. She asked if she could stay there for the week and help take care of Trudy and I couldn’t just turn this old lady away, even though I didn’t trust her from the beginning. Her eyes were wandering all over the house from the moment she arrived to the moment I left, as if she were searching for something specific in the house. So that night I drove around the block surreptitiously to keep an eye on what was going on and, believe it or not, that woman was listening with headphones to a metal detector in the backyard.

    Jim: A metal detector? Was she looking for buried treasure?

    Millard: I had no clue what she could have been looking for at that point, but I made sure to interrogate her about it the next morning. As you might expect, she played like metal detecting was her hobby and couldn’t help but check out the backyard, even without anyone’s permission. So I’m thinking, yeah right, so I stay there to keep an eye on the house while this lady is still around. I decided to make a phone call to my grandparents who had helped purchase this house for Trudy back in the 1970s and I told them about this suspicious acting old lady who showed up. Turns out they didn’t know anything about her either and when I asked about what she could possibly be looking for, they said that when they had originally purchased the house, they were informed about a secret storage room that they’d closed off and had never used – their best guess was that something might be hidden in that secret room.

    Jim: Secret rooms…now this starting to sound a bit stereotypical for a haunted house story, hmm, haha…but sorry, go on.

    Millard: So I tell this lady she has to leave and she does but only for about 16 hours, because early the next morning, she somehow gets into the house before I do and greets me at the door where the green carpet in the foyer is now soaking wet. She immediately gives me this story about the toilet backing up and sending water all over the house and that’s she’s already called a plumbing and restoration service that’s going to come take care of the house that very day and that we’ve got to stay out of the house until they’re done working.

    Jim: Sounds like a package of baloney to me.

    Millard: As it did to me, and no one had shown up to fix things yet, so I called the insurance agency we were using for the house and got them to hire a restoration service for us.

    Jim: Did she ever try to come back to the house?

    Millard: Not that I’m aware of, but it doesn’t matter, because I’m pretty sure I found what she was looking for that very same day. Just as soon as I got her to leave – and, keep in mind, I had to threaten physical action with her – I checked around for any hidden entrances. When I checked in the linen closet in the hallway, and sure enough I saw the water from the flood flowing into a crack separating one of the walls from the floor. It was a false wall that had been painted and wallpapered over and once the restoration company had gone and done their thing, I cut my way through the wallpaper and paint and found a small latch, I guess you would call it, and was able to force the false wall open even though I had to really squeeze my way in there –

    Jim: Not to mention, that false wall was mostly likely barriered by the shelves inside the linen closet, no?

    Millard: Yes, it was…it was very well hidden and it was clear that no one had been inside there for many years. The secret room was set down into the ground, below the crawlspace – there was no basement – and naturally there was no light in the room, so I had to use a flashlight. The first thing that I saw when the light shone from my flashlight against the far wall of the room was the grand-daddy of all millipedes, or at least of the ones that I’d ever seen – I mean, this thing was longer than the length of my fingers down to my elbow and as thick as my forearm.

    Jim: Incredible…Millard, I’m supposing I don’t need to tell you that Michigan has no such creepy crawly within its menagerie of wildlife.

    Millard: There were many insects in that room that…I did not recognize – of course, I’m not an entomologist, but these insects looked exotic – extravagant beetles and big moths and such.

    Jim: Did you take a sample of any of these bugs? Or at least pictures?

    Millard: [Sighs.] You know, I don’t have a single Polaroid to document any of this and I rue the day, because all I have to back me up is my word…especially now that the house was demolished in ninety-eight.

    Jim: Oh, so the house isn’t even there anymore.

    Millard: Yeah, once my grandmother passed away, they sold the home and the new owners, for one reason or another, decided to demolish and rebuild on the land.

    Jim: You think their decision had anything to do with the hauntings?

    Millard: I don’t know, could be, but I don’t know…but anyway, the whole reason I’m on the air tonight is not about insects or disembodied feet or even ghosts…essentially I’m here because of what I discovered in that room.

    Jim: Hold it! This is a suspense-perfect place to break for commercial…[Buffer music of Kate Bush’s “Hammer Horror” fades in.]…and when we come back, we will finish the rest of Millard Ashley’s incomparable tale and work our way into tonight’s special event. Stay tuned…and stay spooked…

    Jim: So…we’re back, and our special guest tonight was just about to reveal his extraordinary discovery inside of a secret room…inside of a haunted house, no less!

    Millard: Right, haha, well it’s about to get even weirder…I found, what I can only venture to call, miniature wooden replicas of the Ark of the Covenant wrapped in pure, authentic gold chains, each one locked with an old, heavy padlock.

    Jim: I want to make sure all of our listeners heard what you said…miniature replicas of the Ark of the Covenant…so with the two winged Cherubims and the two carrying poles and all of that?

    Millard: That’s right, these were detailed objects that followed the description laid out in the Old Testament very closely.

    Jim: I don’t remember hearing anything about gold chains though.

    Millard: I’m of the belief that the chains were necessary precautions…There were four Arks in total and all of them had these gold chains wrapped around, probably 20-30 feet of chain in all.

    Jim: Are you absolutely sure these chains were gold or were they an alloy or…?

    Millard: I’m not 100% on it, but with the chains on, the replicas were extremely heavy and I don’t think it was due to the wood. The touch of it felt like gold; if you’ve ever held a gold nugget in your hand, and I have, it has a malleable feeling to it and of course it has that warm glow like no other substance has – if I had to put money on it, I’d bet that the chains were pure and when I asked Grandma Trudy whether the chains were gold, she said they were.

    Jim: You brought those…Arks in front of your grandmother and asked her about them almost as soon as you found them.

    Millard: I did. She actually referred to the boxes as tabots and not Arks. You see, in Ethiopia where she was a missionary for many years, they claim to have THE original Ark of the Covenant in a church in a city by the name of Axum. If you’re interested in that particular claim, there’s a book by Graham Hancock called The Sign and the Seal that really goes into it – it’s like 500 pages…but anyway, all the different churches have their own representations of the Ark in their own little Holy of Holies but they refer to these representations as tabots, although the tabots are more like representations of the stone tablets, the Ten Commandments, handed down to Moses than to any box-like Ark of the Covenant.

    Jim: Because the Ten Commandments were supposed to have been placed inside the Ark, right…How exactly did your grandmother react when you confronted her about these tabots?

    Millard: Oh, she had a big grin on her face, Jim. She gladly proceeded to tell me about how she was a long-time missionary in Ethiopia and Somalia beginning from the aftermath of the Italian occupation during World War II until the 1974 Marxist revolution in Ethiopia. Trudy was the kind of Christian who lived her life according to what she believed God was directing her to do through scripture, right, so say she would read her bible that morning or her devotional and then interpret that as a guide to what she would do that day or what direction to take with her life.

    Jim: Uh-huh.

    Millard: When she lost the ability to walk, it coincided with the revolution in seventy-four and communism hadn’t traditionally been friendly to religion, so she took this as a sign that her call as a missionary in Africa was finished and after that she came back to the States.

    Jim: If I’m not mistaken, Ethiopia is already a predominantly Christian country.

    Millard: It is, and she used that source to not only minister to non-Christians in Ethiopia but in Somalia as well. While she was over there, she basically came to follow the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which is its own established thing, you know, there’s Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and all that, well Ethiopia has its own giant denomination if you will and its version of the Bible has books as canon that are considered part of the Apocrypha in other parts of the world.

    Jim: Oh, yes, the Apocrypha – books of the Bible that were rejected or didn’t make it but are still …kept around.

    Millard: Well one of these books in the Ethiopian Bible is the Book of Tobit. And in the Book of Tobit is a story where the main character of Tobias drives away a demon named Asmodeus by burning some fish’s gall bladder and liver so that the angel Raphael would be able to capture the demon Asmodeus. To make a longer story short, she felt that God was speaking to her through the Book of Tobit and that, using a miniature replica of the Ark that she’d brought back to the States with her, she believed that God wanted her to conjure and cajole evil spirits so that they could be captured and trapped forever inside of the tabots.

    Jim: So let me get this straight for everyone…Your granny was conjuring and trapping demons inside of miniature replicas of the Ark of the Covenant?! Indiana Jones and Ghostbusters eat your hearts out!!

    Millard: Well she didn’t see it any other way than as being dutifully benevolent and obedient to God and, as one could imagine, there was no convincing a 97-year-old on her deathbed otherwise.

    Jim: Even if she wasn’t in her right mind, her faith must have been more than phenomenal to attempt something like that.

    Millard: Jim, I pray every night that I don’t fall victim to any evil spirits and just about every night I have nightmares about these things – I can’t begin to understand where she was at in her spiritual or mental life.

    Jim: Did she tell you why she thought God wanted her to conjure and confine demons?

    Millard: So that they could no longer have the freedom to perform wickedness and do harm to others.

    Jim: Wow…

    Millard: And as she was talking to me about these things, looking at me all the time with a big smile through her hideously blue cataracts, there was a thin green fog or smoke that gradually rose up from one side of the bed – actually the side right across from a statuette of Raphael, the angel from the Book of Tobit. So I asked her what was going on – if she had anything to do with the rising smoke – and she lifted a finger and said “Wait…help me with my bedpan.”

    Jim: Her bedpan? Heh.

    Millard: Well, what she meant was for me to help her lift it up, because it was resting on top of a box with a brilliant blue velvet covering that I noticed had beautiful gold filigree around the edges. And underneath the covering and the box was yet another tabot.

    Jim: Let me guess…this is where the green smoke was coming from.

    Millard: It was emanating and swirling around in a whirlpool fashion right between the wings of the Cherubim.

    Jim: Ah!

    Millard: At the sight of this, I just had to ask her if she was continuing to conjure up evil spirits or if there was a demon inside this tabot and she leaned forward and told me without a sign of remorse, “Not yet, but I’m working on it.”

    Jim: …hoooo boy…

    Millard: Yeah…so, for better or worse, I took the tabot off of her lap, carried it out to the back of my ’81 Plymouth and then took the rest of them out one at a time to my car with her wheelchair.

    Jim: So you assumed the authority and responsibility to take those things yourself? Why not leave them be and talk to the landlords, her children, about it?

    Millard: I felt…I felt the immediate urge to do this – as if I had no choice in the matter and I had to get rid of these things. I drove all the way to the coast, got there in the evening, rented a boat, placed the tabots into the boat, drove the boat out into the middle of Lake Huron, and when I mean middle, I mean I drove way, way out into the lake –

    Jim: Wait, but this what…January? February?

    Millard: It was in January and it was dusk by the time I started heading out with the boat, but when I got as far out as I wanted to go and I turned the engine off, I suddenly got this equally strong feeling or impulse to not let these tabots out of my possession.

    Jim: I’ll say! They had 30 feet of pure chain-linked gold!

    Millard: No, no, it wasn’t because of the gold – I was not in the state of mind to care about that. It was like I was suddenly struck with this compulsion to hold on to them and when I finally did let go of them, I had a feeling of great loss inside me as if I were to have lost a loved one or someone close to me.

    Jim: So these tabots had an affect not unlike that of the one ring from Lord of the Rings?

    Millard: Yes, I’d say that’s probably a good analogy for the feeling I was left with. There may very well have been some great power associated with them too, but when I reached down for the first tabot in order to pick it up and threw it into the lake –

    Jim: You settled on breaking off the gold chains before throwing them overboard.

    Millard: Jim, it that’s a statement, you’re wrong. If it’s a question, the answer is no. I think the chains served a necessary function, maybe to neutralize whatever was inside…and perhaps they were meant to be a test for me, I don’t know, but –

    Jim: Ok, well, I’m going to have to be straight with you now, because here’s where you lose me – I can accept the paranormal stuff to an extent but when it comes to tossing pounds and pounds of gold into the bottom of Lake Huron in the dead of winter…yeesh…but continue.

    Millard: As I was saying, when I reached down for one of the tabots, I felt a hand, very firmly, grab onto my left shoulder. It was already dark outside, so I couldn’t see much as it was, but when I turned my head down to the left, I saw a completely pitch-black hand, not black as in a dark skin color or black glove, but black as in black hole. So if I wasn’t chilled enough from the cold air at that point, I was definitely chilled to the bone after seeing that.

    Jim: A shadow person, then? One of the callers tonight talked about something similar.

    Millard: Possibly, but I didn’t turn my head around enough to verify what the rest of the being looked like. Almost simultaneously, or only a second after this creature grabbed me, I started to hear a…uh, I want to say “roar”, but it was so frightening and ineffable of a sound that it really goes beyond any sound or roar that I’ve ever heard.

    Jim: So more terrifying than any dinosaur roar from the movies or anything like that?

    Millard: Yeah, it was 100 times more terrifying than anything I’ve ever heard in a movie and it gradually built up over a period of time that could have been one minute or five minutes or fifteen minutes, I don’t know because I was so overwhelmed and paralyzed with fear. It started out at as a growl and then grew louder and louder and more and more complex until eventually the being that was grabbing my shoulder, released its grip on me and vanished and then once that happened, the roar vanished too. At that point, there was no pain or ringing in my ears, so I know I didn’t hear that roar with my regular ears and eardrums.

    Jim: Do you think the shadow being was the one roaring?

    Millard: No, I don’t…the roar was coming from somewhere else and I think it showed up to scare away whatever was trying to keep me from disposing of the tabots.

    Jim: Oh, I see, wow…like some more…authoritative entity intervening.

    Millard: I think so. I was able to throw the tabots out of the boat without any more trouble after that.

    Jim: And that was the end of your supernatural troubles altogether then?

    Millard: Besides the nightmares that still haunt me at night, basically yes.

    Jim: Tell you what, Millard, that’s about the best ghost story one could hope to hear before Halloween and I’m very grateful for your appearance on tonight’s program.

    Millard: Just hear me out then before you let me go, Jim. Please, please take my story and my warning to heart – don’t mess around with this Ark you got in the mail, don’t open it, don’t think about opening it, and don’t just keep it around as a curiosity either. Just get rid of it.

    Jim: Well, Millard, I will tell you this – I’m not going to spend a million bucks on a gold chain if I do decide on pitching it. But again, thank you for coming on the program…and without further ado, I will be heeding Millard’s warning…but only if the vote of the people, the listeners, allow it or disallow it. Tonight’s special event will consist of a referendum put forward to those who call in and cast their votes and also, if you go online to our website, mcclellan’s musings dot com, we have a poll in which you can also cast your vote on whether: (A) I should open the miniature Ark of the Covenant that was sent to me in the mail or (B) I should heed the warnings of Millard Ashley and NOT open the Ark of the Covenant…and remember, all of tonight’s show has been posted on our website for download in case you’re wanting to review the story that was just told or if you’re wanting to listen to the other ghost stories called in earlier. [Jim takes a sip of coffee from his thermos.]

    Jim: Keep in mind, those who are concerned about some of the more potential…real-world dangers involved in opening a piece of hate mail like this, we did run this by a professional bomb squad unit from Detroit and it was confirmed to us that there is nothing dangerous inside within the realm of explosives or known technology…Also, make note, that I will be donning a hazmat suit…yes, you heard that right, I will be wearing a bona fide hazmat suit in the case that the majority of votes instruct me to open the Ark and that, as a precaution against any forms of bioterrorism or whatnot, we’ve been keeping the Ark in the studio underneath a glass case formerly used by a public library for craft displays. We have multiple lines for votes to be called in and I’ll be taking some of them on the air now…

    Caller: Hello, my moniker is Father McLuhan, no relation o’course, heheh….but I’d just like to say that if the Good Lord wills it, then it should be opened…but I’m of the mind that there are indeed things that should be left alone and Satan’s Underworld is one of those things.

    Jim: I see. What’s your vote then, Father, yea or nay?

    Caller: I wish you wouldn’t open the box, Mr. McClellan, but if it’s part of God’s will, then may it be opened.

    Jim: We’ll tally that as a nay…next caller, you’re on the air.

    Caller: Hey, Jim, I was just calling because I love your program, I’m a long-time listener and I’ve called into the open lines in the past, but I just wanted to say that I think it’s a bad idea to do anything with this box or whatever it is – not because I think it could be haunted or cursed or anything but more likely because you don’t know what someone with a mind filled with hate like that could scheme up – this box could have some kind of hidden booby-trap or undetected pathogen or something that you just couldn’t have accounted for. In other words, my vote is no and I wish you would be a little more careful about these things – I’d like you to be around for more shows, if you know what I mean.

    Jim: Thank you for your concern. Another vote against it…next caller, you’re up.

    Caller: It should be opened, Jim. December 23, 2012 came and went and that particular non-event should have discredited 9/10ths of the nutcases and wackos out there. We shouldn’t be living in a demon-haunted world. I’m sorry, but where’s the body, you know? Where are the peer-reviewed scientific journals measuring the properties of souls and ghosts? After200 years of scientific enlightenment, I demand habeus corpus – that something study-able be brought before us to properly examine and there has been time enough for that to have been done by now. My vote is a charismatically skeptical yes.

    Jim: Very well then…next caller, it’s your turn.

    Caller: Hi, my name is Zhanna and I’ve messed around with stuff like Ouija boards and EVPs on and off ever since I was a teenager and I just thought I’d put in my two cents – if you’re going to dispose of this Ark, whatever you do, don’t burn it! I’ve heard through the grapevine about people who have burned Ouija boards and have come down with serious illnesses afterward…

    Jim: Alright then, what’s your vote?…hello?…Ok, either they didn’t have a vote or the call was dropped, either way, the next caller can let his or her voice be heard now…

    Caller: Yes, hi…Politics aside, Mr. McClellan, you have to admit that you’ve sunk to charlatanism. It was an entertaining ride, I’ll give you that, but this is beyond reality and all possibility – just open the damn thing and be done with it.

    Jim: Well, I can see how – hold on…I’ve just been informed that some of the fluorescent lights in the room next to our soundbooth, the room housing the Ark, have popped…or exploded, if I’m allowed to use such ostentatious language, but…oh well, I guess we’ll get maintenance to come over and replace the lights. Oof, sure wasn’t expecting that to happen…but I mean, really, would I have had the guts enough to stage something like that right after someone accused me of charlatanism tonight. Anyone who wants to come see the freshly done-in light bulbs in person are welcome to come on over and do an inspection. Anyway…next caller, you’re on the air.

    Caller: Hi. I’m a history teacher out of Kalamazoo and I’d like to make a comment: if most of tonight’s stories are true, then the truth isn’t just stranger than fiction – fiction is flat-out dead. Who needs to read made-up stories? These stories tonight just go to show you, we’re living a world weirder than anything that needs to be made up.

    Jim: I’d have to agree with you on that one. What’s your vote?

    Caller: Um…I don’t know. Put me down as a “no”, because I don’t see how all of the people could be lying or hallucinating, so who knows what dangers could be lurking in that Ark.

    Jim: We are dealing with a big unknown here…next caller, you’ve got the line.

    Caller: What’s with all these “no” votes? It’s freakin’ Halloween for crying out loud – let’s have some fun! My vote is a resounding yes with a few black cauldrons and clanking chains thrown in for good measure.

    Jim: Haha, ok, very good…next caller, what do you think?

    Caller: Listen, there is NO WAY Millard’s story is true! If someone had really experienced such terrifying things then they would not have stuck around nor would they have had the courage to visit some dark secret room. Trust me, this one’s going to end up like the guy who claimed to have found two bottomless holes in the rural parts of Washington and Nevada which have never been located and the guy is nowhere to be heard from. Open it…don’t open it…I don’t really care, but that last story was nonsense.

    Jim: We’ll record that one as a “yes”…but not to make things anymore balanced than they already are…so far, we’re looking at results that are quite close to being split down the mi – oh…just a moment…I’ve just been told that, get ready for this…heat, or what seems to be heat, has been emanating from the Ark and has melted some of the plastic wrap that’s been left on from its packaging in the mail – the same wrapping that’s keeping it closed shut…very interesting development. We’ll take a few more calls on the air, but it is getting late…so speaking of wrapping, like try and wrap this up in a few more minutes. Next caller, what are your thoughts?

    Caller: I personally think you should make a compromise. There’s usually an alternative way to handle things. You should entrust this Ark or tabot or whatever it is to someone who isn’t afraid of the consequences, have them sign some kind of legal waiver before they open it. In short, my vote is a yes, but with that qualification.

    Jim: Eh…I don’t know about that, I’ve got this set up to be done in-studio, so the logistics may not make that option relevant. But thank you for your advice…we’ll take one more call on the air and then we’ll take a look at the results. Next caller…you’ve got the mike…..next caller…you’re on…

    Caller: he…ak…pp…

    Jim: Uh…try to speak up please…or perhaps we have a bad connection…

    Caller: Malphas has b…conjured and placed inside the…Malphas…Satan’s right hand de…

    Jim: I’m sorry, but you’re cutting out. Do you have a vote to give us?

    Caller: Asmodeus is a mere underling to Malphas…you have no hope…goodbye.

    Jim: Hmm, interesting…ok…I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the last caller was one of those nutcases someone mentioned earlier. At any rate, considering that we’ve already gone over our normally allotted time for tonight, as I’ve been able to so far successfully vie for an extension with the station…and considering that the calls are still not slowing down, in fact the votes and word-of-mouth of what’s going on with tonight’s program has been growing online…but also taking into account that voting results are relatively deadlocked…we will be back on the air tomorrow night at our normal starting time to perhaps commence with the opening of our own private little Ark of the Covenant. With that, I bid you all a good night…[Buffer music of Eartha Kitt’s “I Want To Be Evil” fades in]…remember that you may continue to vote online and don’t have too many bad dreams that you can’t bring yourself back to listen in tomorrow evening, wherever you may be…out in the van taking the kids trick-or-treating, at home eating pumpkin-flavored cookies, or working the graveyard shift…tune in to see, or rather hear, what might go on if we decide to peer inside the Ark. Happy Halloween everyone.

    [Halloween night. James McClellan’s program begins.]

    Jim: Good evening. Happy Halloween. I hope you’re all having a good time. First off, let me just say, I’ve been blown away by the amount of attention that tonight’s and last night’s special programs have garnered today on Twitter and Facebook and all across the internet – it means a lot when a quaint local station like this gets this sort of publicity. So I’m aware of the sheer number of ears listening in online to hear whether our bones here at the studio are going to melt into putty like the Nazis at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark – the online articles about our show seemed to plaster those gruesome images to no end in order to get people to click on the article links, hahaha. Michigan Shock Jock to Open Ark of the Covenant on Halloween Night one of the headlines reads. By the way, for those of you wondering, I thought I should mention that our little ark has actually cooled down since last night with no resonant heat to speak of…which is odd, because it became so inexplicably hot during the end of last night’s program that it was melting the Saran wrap surrounding it. But let’s move on to why we’re here tonight. Votes were placed both via our open phone lines and also on our website and I have to tell you…I was taken aback by not only the sheer number of votes that came in, but the virtual tie that’s been maintained between whether we should or should not open this box. Some of you think it might be a Pandora’s box, one way or another…while another group believes it to be utterly harmless…or perhaps should be investigated regardless of the consequences. I’ve found it fascinating in a psychological or anthropological sense myself – not only are we divided politically, but we very well could be divided paranormally…at least one is led to believe from the heated discussions going on in the comments section of our website. [Jim takes a sip of coffee from his thermos.]

    Jim: I received another intriguing letter today…not in the mail, this time, but rather it was dropped off at the front of the studio this afternoon. When it was brought to me in my office, I was still in a state of indecision about opening this replica of the Ark of the Covenant, not just because of the split in the votes, but because of something else I couldn’t pin down or put into words…until I read this letter. It’s from an anonymous writer and reads as follows:

    Dear Jim,

    I realize you must have an extremely busy schedule today, nevertheless I thought it was necessary to drop off this letter so that it might help you in your important decision this evening. I’ve had a couple unexplainable or enigmatic experiences myself, but I can’ t really call them anything more than that – one time I witnessed a gigantic tablecloth thicker than the handle of tennis racket sway back and forth on its own for a good ten seconds without a single reported tremor, animal, or practical joker. I also saw a friend of mine, a 115-pound 20-something girl, physically retaliate and push around about eight or nine male church deacons when they attempted to exorcise what they believed were multiple demons possessing her body. My friend had a green ooze coming out of the sides of her mouth and a green smoke could be seen accumulating in the room while this struggle was going on. Once they performed the exorcism, she returned to normal and I’m still friends with her to this day, although she remembers the possession experience only vaguely. I’m aware of the human mind and body’s abilities to astound us in the natural sense (not necessarily supernatural) even in today’s age (think about stuff like super-synethesia) and who knows, maybe science will eventually come around to discovering some sort of psychic sixth sense one day. I’m also well aware of the feats of magicians and mentalists in successfully making the impossible seem undeniably real, even in the face of the magicians themselves admitting their own inaptitude and mortality. And in spite of these anomalous accounts that never seem to stop coming, our everyday world somehow maintains its mundane, rational, law-abiding clockwork – parents take their children to school, engineers work on making more reliable polymers, board members vote on dividend payouts, and your local park ranger encounters a winged bigfoot with blue fur that screws up the inner-workings of his jeep when it flies over head (see “Batsquatch” for more details, lol.) Although there is frustration at not being able to lasso these anomalies into our ring of understanding, there also appears to be some good and some meaning that arises from this tension. As human beings, we’re able to appreciate the interplay between these items of possibility and impossibility, of non-reality spilling over into reality and causing meaningful patterns of contrast and distinction. In short, I think you should look at it this way, Jim: If you open the box and it’s real, you lose because you’re exposed to a demon or some evil curse… and if you open the box and it’s fake, you dispel the Meaning, the Mystery, and the savory possibilities arising from the tension that the denial of revelation creates.

    Jim: And it ends there. As a result of reading it, I find my sympathies in tune with the author of this letter and therefore, I will not be opening our personal Ark of the Covenant, I repeat, I will not be opening the Ark…now, I know, I know!! It isn’t necessary to inundate my inbox and our phone lines with excoriations of cop-out or chicken – there will be enough of that happening online in the comments sections. Well, I’m not afraid to admit it…perhaps part of me is a little chicken; nevertheless, I find it more de-structive than con-structive, in one way or another, once you add up the outcomes…Ah, well, rather than linger on this subject and prolong the agony for that half of me that’s a showman at heart…tonight we will continue with ghost story call-ins – we were nowhere near a shortage of calls last night, so I thought it wouldn’t hurt to do it again…and since we’ve sort of moved into the realm of possessed objects, if you have any demon-related possession or attack stories, feel free to share those as well…and if you’ve experienced the calming comfort of Rufus mattress coverings, share your testimony with someone you know. Rufus mattress coverings are guaranteed to last a life-time, conform to your unique spinal signature, and cradle you through the most shuddersome of nightmares…