My Cellar Demon

Like many other cellars, the one in the house I grew up in was dark, dank, and damp, which also happen to be my three favorite words that start with the letter “d” describing a creepy basement. Rain, snow, and being located in New England contributed to its stale atmosphere.

I first noticed Cellar Demon one day as I was loading the washing machine.

The Cellar Demon was a large water stain on the wall that confirmed my bizarre imaginings of what an evil dis-incarnate entity might possibly look like: a distorted, sinister, sneering face, right above the red recycling bin next to the cobwebby workbench. You could even see him from at the top of the cellar stairs. I really wish I still had a picture of it. Somehow I managed to lose it years ago.

I know where I’d at least partially gotten an idea of how to recognize a demon, because I’d read about the Smurl family who were supposedly attacked by all kinds of demons, including pig ones.

Pig. Demons.

imagine these, only as hideous demons and without the poster paints.

The Smurls got lots of hands-on experience with evil spirits. I had a week of sleepless nights after reading their book, The Haunted. They made a movie too of the same name which I didn’t like as much.

The case was investigated by famous demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, whom you may or may not think are complete bullshit artists. The Warrens certainly corned the market on all those demonic possessions and hauntings the flourished back in the 70’s and 80’s.

Anyways, Cellar Demon was a phenomena known as simulacra.

Simulacra (singular simulacrum) has a few meanings, but the one I’m talking about today is an image that can be seen in an otherwise unrelated object, such as a cloud that looks like a bunny, or a potato chip that looks like George Washington’s head.

snapdragon seed capsule faces, courtesy of Boing Boing

I read somewhere that we are genetically programmed from birth to search for faces, even in mundane objects, such as patterns in wood grain. This is partly responsible for what we think we are seeing…at least the faces, anyway. So we see faces everywhere we look, sometimes in bizarre places.

Get away from me, plug! Image courtesy of Brizendine Photography

Humans also look for recognizable patterns, and try to ascribe something significant, meaningful or symbolic from strange or unlikely things all the time. Just look at any grilled cheese sandwich that appears to have Jesus’ face on it.

a fine example of a grilled cheesus, even though they cheated… a little

But getting back to Cellar Demon. He’d gotten to be a mainstay of mom and dad’s basement. Each wet season there was moisture leaching into the concrete walls, he would subtly darken, his fiendish features becoming more nuanced. He would also get bigger.

When I went downstairs to do laundry, there he was, watching me separate the lights and the darks. He had become a familiar, ghoulish presence. As long as he didn’t start talking, he was OK with me.

Eventually, I moved out, and I nearly forgot about Cellar Demon.

One day, I was visiting my parents. I was throwing something in the trash at the top of the cellar stairs. I stood there a moment, and peered down into the dimness.

Cellar Demon was GONE!

My dad, gripped by the boredom-inducing syndrome known as retirement, had painted over the entire basement.

Have you seen any simulacra lately?


Episodes of Enchantment

image courtesy of Pixabay

As I was sitting in the dentist’s chair today having a filling replaced, I randomly recalled some intensely emotional events I’d experienced. These events were not expected but had a profound effect on me as they happened. They were termed “episodes of enchantment.”

I can’t remember where I first heard that phrase, but I suspect it was from the Fortean Times message boards.  “My 15 Minutes of Enlightenment” and “The Gift of Realization” are two shining examples on the forums that contain fascinating anecdotes of such episodes.

Also, I want to add that I was stone cold sober when I had these experiences.

The first one happened in the early 90’s. It was one of the first times I had hiked the trails with a friend at a certain Trustees of Reservations site in my hometown.  My friend and I came through a section of woods that I have called “Sherwood Forest” ever since.

Majestic stands of trees and ferns towered above, gold, green, ethereal. Dappled sunlight shone through the leaves.

There was a gigantic uprooted tree, massive gnarled roots ripped up from the soft brown earth. Everything seemed primeval.

I was so taken in by what I saw that I had to momentarily stop and look around. I felt like I had stepped into another realm. Every time after that I looked forward to passing through Sherwood Forest.

The second episode was during freshman year of college. I was taking a painting class. One of our assignments was to paint a picture from a photograph. The professor handed out the photos from a collection he had.

The one I was given depicted a faraway scene of the ocean, white boats dotting the water, the green shore rising up to a slope with houses and other buildings in the background. As soon as I saw the photograph, I felt this bizarre, profound sense of melancholy, almost homesickness. It seemed weirdly familiar, like a hazy memory just out of my grasp.

But I knew I ‘d never been anywhere resembling this place. To this day I can’t explain what drew me to the photo. I do not know who took it, or even where it was taken. I didn’t even pick it out; it had been randomly given to me out of an assortment. But it stirred up these emotions in me just the same.

Perhaps the reason it resonated with me is because I was new at the school in a challenging program, was feeling out of sorts and found it comforting. Or maybe it was something else. But why that picture, at that particular time? Where did that feeling even come from? I kept the photo for a while afterward, but the magic had dissipated.

Have you ever experienced any episodes of enchantment?