When Day of the Dead is Every Day — An All Hallows’ Eve Story

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It’s that time of year again. The time where we celebrate ghosts and goblins, and all things that go bump in the night. Yet, for the most part, the rest of the year, ghosts often go unacknowledged, and the existence of a spirit world is often outright denied.

Of the global population, 84% have a religion. With so many people in our world praying to the unseen, you’d think there’d be less stigma toward people who have a tiny glimpse of something beyond. Faiths, after all, are rooted in religious texts filled with men who see angels and hear the voice of God. But when it comes to believing that something can be seen or heard by someone in the here and now, it’s harder somehow to believe.

I get it. Even for someone like me — someone who’s been known to give a stranger the name of a persistent dead relative standing beside them — there are days, months, and even years, where it seems easier to try to convince myself it isn’t real. And let’s not forget about the parade of frauds out there — The mentalists and pseudo-psychics. Esmeralda with the crystal ball. Even if they’re well-meaning, they give the rest of us a bad name.

Who wants to be lumped in with that? Who would want to pick a path on which you know you’ll constantly be judged.

Photo: Francesco Ungaro

At the end of April, I wrote an article titled Coming out Clair Amidst the Covid Quarantine. Having just wrapped my first class covering all things chakra, meditation, and the other side, and with a next level course not being offered, several fellow students decided to form a group. We wanted to continue to delve, and learn, and more importantly, coming together made us feel less alone on this quest.

Going down this path wasn’t easy. After a lifetime of trying to overcome fear and figure things out on my own, I was taking a leap of faith, but also potentially setting myself up for constant questioning. So perhaps it’s not too hard to imagine why I almost walked away. Why I stopped going to the group. How I ended up feeling like I owed an apology to the spirit word.

In mid October, something happened. A defining moment kind of a thing. And this time of year, when we embrace the unknown, seems like the perfect time to explain what made me decide to stop running… A little girl came to see me. She needed my help.

*Names have been changed to respect privacy. This is a true story and everything below is on record.

When she first stepped into my field of vision, she was crouched in a ball, in the back of an empty truck. I heard “Emma.” She’d been kidnapped. There were a few other girls. I hadn’t written the names down… remember, at the time, I was thinking it was time to try to shut this all down (again). But the day after I saw her, I discovered a photo in my inbox (sent to me by the group, with a request for a photo reading). I thought, This might be the girl I saw. That’s when I tried to recall the other names. Mandy was one of them. After a monthlong hiatus, I realized I needed to get over my hang-ups and show up to the group meeting. A child, after all, was relying on me to deliver a message.

Looking at the image, I heard two things: Melanie. Steven.

By the night of the group meeting, I’d pushed past my reservations. This girl had put her trust in me, and I knew I had a responsibility to help. Just before logging in, I went into a light meditative state, and turned my Voice Memos recorder on. Afterward, I quickly compiled my notes, including the information I’d gotten in the days prior:

A girl who was kidnapped. Emma. Melanie. Steven. An icy cold feeling. I’d soon discover I’d feel this every time I’d look at the photo. It was another time. Long ago. A strong sensation on the back right side of my head, pulling and tingling… It’s so heavy, it feels like something’s resting on the right side of my head. I tried switching positions, but the feeling’s still there. A moment passes. I see two little girls jumping on the bed wearing mid-calf leggings, a teddy bear collection, a Tiffany poster, the song Electric Youth. Another moment passes. “Is she with Melanie?” I wonder. The scene changes. They’re playing by the street out in front of the house, I see a little boy, her brother, he’s 5, and he’s wearing a red and white stripped shirt and blue jeans. The scene changes again. I see a horse. It’s May. I hear a loud cry. It sounds like a mother howling. My field of vision switches yet again. Another little girl. She’s small. She holds up 5 fingers (as though to tell me she’s 5). She’s crossing the street for school. The school isn’t far from home. She can see it from where she stands. The scene switches again — I’m back with the first child. She’s about 8 years old. She’s pointing her finger, and her finger has a blue birthstone on it, a sapphire. I hear the name Robbie. Jake. She says, “It isn’t safe.” “He’s coming.” She disappears. I go blank. Then I see my own friend from elementary school, who died when he was 8 (under mysterious circumstances). I hear her voice again, “He doesn’t want me to talk to you.” I hear this echoing on repeat several times and then she’s gone.

After transferring my notes, I logged in. A rule had recently been set in the group — nothing dark and no talk of earthbound spirits. So as everyone gave their readings, I sat quietly. After everyone had gone, my name was called. Already feeling like the rogue sheep, I started with an apology — “I’m sorry, this is gonna sound dark, but I saw something very very different than everyone else… So I have to ask first… Was this little girl kidnapped?” The ‘sitter’ said yes. “Was her name Emma?” I asked. “Emily,” she answered. “Okay, I just want to make to sure I have the right girl before I read this, because as I said it’s quite dark… So, I also heard Melanie. Does that connect to you?” “That’s my daughter,” she answered. “She’s 8. The same age Emily was when she was taken.” “Okay,” I said, “and it seemed like there were several spirits coming through.” “Yes,” she said, explaining that would make sense.

After the sitter confirmed I had the right girl, I read the rest of my notes aloud (even though we’re not supposed to talk about anything dark… rule breaker that I am). When I was done, she verified most of what I said, and verified the rest after the group meeting, via chat… She was only 2 years old when this happened:

Her cousin was kidnapped in the 70s. The last time anyone saw her alive, she was playing with her 5 year-old brother by the street in front of the house. She was 8. She went to Stephen Elementary School. She was born in September (her birthstone was Sapphire). The girls started going missing in the month of May. One of the girls was taken as she walked home from school — She was 5. One of the girls’ bodies was found by a child who was riding her horse. All of the girls had been murdered by a blow to the back of the head with a rock.

Just after the group meeting I stayed on to chat with the sitter:

She grew up in the 80’s. “Did you see spirits as a kid? Did you play with your cousin in your room? I asked. I already knew the answer — She did. She used to play with spirits as a child. They were her friends. They taught her to do things like how to snap her fingers. She was confused that the grown ups around her were unaware of their presence. I said, “So it’s you I saw jumping on the bed with her. She stayed with you.” A statement, not a question. She explained that no one told her about what happened to her cousin. Everything she learned as a child, about her cousin’s death, her cousin told her herself. “She still finds peace with you and your family,” I said, “and Melanie is like you, yeah? She also sees spirits.” “Yes,” she said. “Does she sleepwalk?” I asked. I was thinking back to signals I’d received over the weekend. She explained she has two daughters, the other one was 5, and they both sleepwalk. I said, “When she sleepwalks, does she go to you, to your side of the bed, and stand right in front of you?”Yes,” she answered, “That’s what they do. They come to my side of the bed and stand in front of me.”

My own childhood, my own childhood home and neighborhood, was used as a frame of reference. Even the night before the meeting, I kept hearing a young girl singing in my current home. It was coming from my bedroom, and, confused, I kept thinking, is that my wife singing? But she was fast asleep.

Some other details emerged:

The first girl to disappear was named Mandy. To this day, this remains a cold case. One of the suspects was a truck-driver named Robert. There were a number of other suspects. Some believe there was more than one killer.

creepy doll
Photo: James Sutton

This October, a little girl asked for my help, but really she ended up helping me. She reminded me why I shouldn’t throw in the towel and tugged at my heartstrings in the way children often do.

As the veil grows thinner this month, her story can remind us of the true purpose of days like Día de los Muertos and All Hallows’ Eve. It’s a time we’re reminded to leave fear behind, come together, know and acknowledge that there’s something more.

Photo: Jefferson Palomique

While I have an aversion to words like “sitter,” “readings,” “validate,” “earthbound,” “psychic,” and “medium” — words I use only for the sake of communicating in common language — that aversion comes from the stigma that’s attached to them (not unlike how the word lesbian has been so stigmatized). Outside of my group, where I’m there to learn, I don’t give readings (while many of my classmates are already in full swing). But when I do give readings, the kind of detail I’ve described above is the norm for me.

If there’s a very persistent spirit around a friend, an acquaintance, or even someone I’ve just met, I’ll pass along the name (but I wouldn’t consider that a reading). If I don’t pass it along, it goes something like this, “Irma. Irma. Irma. Just say it. Say it.” Or “Chad. Chad. Chad. Just tell him I’m here. Just say my name.” Each time this has happened (and interestingly this often happens with the most skeptical of people), a look will come across the person’s face, or the tone of their voice will shift, followed by something along the lines of, “My grandmother was Irma. I use the plates she left me every day.” Or, “Chad was my best friend. He killed himself 14 years ago.”

None of this is considered normal (after all, that’s why they call it paranormal), hence the instinct to keep it quiet. Perhaps it’s the desire to eliminate stigma that’s driving the current trend of everyone can learn to be a medium. While the idea may be to normalize something so misunderstood, respectfully, if people buy into that idea, they might be setting themselves up for disappointment — If the idea keeps getting pushed, that this can be taught, people might drive themselves nuts listening for voices and looking for shadows.

To some extent, we can all tap into something, especially intuition and growth, but if we tell everyone they can learn to see and hear the dead, chances are when people seek a reading, they’ll get more tricks than treats.

Photo: Fillipe Gomes

While we live in a world that largely puts faith in things like the Bible, the Torah, and the Koran — religious texts comprising of men who claimed they saw and heard things others couldn’t — you’ll often hear those same believers say it’s impossible for people, in the here and now, to do the same. And for those who are faith-free, while there’s science and reputable studies to back up the existence of untapped potential and capabilities, things that can’t be explained are all too often reduced to woo-woo.

But that’s the beauty of this time of year. The guard gets dropped for just a little while. The veil gets thin, adults tell ghost stories, and children run from door to door, avoiding the house that’s rumored to be haunted. For many, All Hallows’ Eve is a time to put on a mask and get spooked, for others it can be a reminder to take the mask off and face up. For some Día de los Muertos only lasts a day or two, but for others, every day is the Day of the Dead. This year a little girl reminded me why. She came to me because she knew I could see her, and urged me not to turn away.

جوليا ديانا— Julia Diana Robertson, is an award-winning author, and journalist—A first generation Arab-American, who grew up between worlds, and currently resides somewhere in the middle with a bird’s eye view.

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