Friday, December 21, 2007

The Solstice Exorcism

This is a true story. When we moved to Sumter SC in 1967, Dad was an Episcopal minister to mission churches, and as such, the low-paying job didn't come with a rectory. So my parents found a turn-of-the-century pile of a house on Salem Street that they dubbed 'the Monster' and we moved in. Dad fed the basement coal furnace in the winter and air conditioning, aside from the shade of ancient magnolia trees, was non-existent. Most of the time we loved the Monster. Then the noises started.

My little sister Lili and brother Chris were most plagued by the noises. They'd get home from school and be watching TV downstairs and hear footsteps in the upstairs breezeway and on the stairs. They told my parents but the noises continued. The kids were so upset, they didn't want to be home alone. My mother was getting angry. How dare a spirit frighten her children!

Mom herself met the ghost one day when she was ironing in the upstairs breezeway. She heard footsteps coming up the stairs and went to the top of the stairs to look down. She saw nothing but our pets did-the Airdale growled and the cat hissed and arched her back. Mom tried to reason with the spirit. She asked it to go away and stop scaring her kids. While the footsteps stopped that day, they came back. Mom got madder.

December 21st, an ancient holy day, would be a good day to get the ghost to leave Mom decided. She informed Dad that she was going to hold an exorcism. Man of the cloth Dad might have been but this homegrown weirdness was out of his league. He fled the house. We kids were all for it and even invited friends over for the big event. The evening of Winter Solstice, Mom distributed lighted candles to all present and then threw the switch at the fuse box to turn off all the power in the house. We were plunged in darkness, saved only by our candles. The crowd of people, mostly frightened and tittering kids and teenagers, moved from room to room in the house. We opened every door. We said the Lord's Prayer in every room and Mom solemnly asked the spirit to leave. There was also some holy water sprinkled around. About 45 minutes later, we'd visited all three floors of the house. We came back into the kitchen and Mom told us to blow out the candles. For a moment, it was completely black and then Mom threw the power back on. I remember she served cider and cookies afterwards. Being a good Southern hostess, Mom thought even an exorcism was an occasion for serving refreshments.

The spirit left after least while we lived there. Years later, a cross stitch business called Gloria & Pat started in the same house. I met Gloria at a needlework trade show and we soon found out we had the Sumter house in common. After introductions, we both said, at the same time, "Did you know the house was haunted?" The ghost had come back! It bothered Gloria & Pat's employees no end. They moved their business out and finally the house was torn down and a BP filling station built on the spot.

If you should ever be invited to an exorcism, you now know what to serve. Today is the 40th anniversary of the Solstice Exorcism.


Christine Thresh said...

That's a great story. Thanks.

Mary F. said...

Lord, I missed a lot of good stuff being off at college...or something! That was so like "no-nonsense, take charge" Mom. Why have a never heard this great story?
Mary Frances (one of the non-quilting sisters)

Carol said...

What a great story! I live in a home which was built in 1895 and, although I've never encountered any, many neighbors believe that spirits live here with me. . .

I'll keep your mother's story in mind, in case I ever need to ban spirits from my home.

In any case, it sounds like a wonderful excuse for a party - and December 21st is so close to the holidays that it would be well attended, I'm sure!

Christine Kling said...

Lovely story, well-written, thank you for sharing!

Kelly Hanson said...

I read this to my grandson who is 12, he loved the story as did I. I have Native American heritage as well as being a Christian. We have smudged my mothers house to rid it of spirits as I have also prayed over her home. Unfortunately the spirit leaves for a bit but then returns. I was raised in the house, oh the stories I could tell. thank you for sharing