Mary Elizabeth was the young daughter of the Caldwell family living in Octagon Hall. Maria, one of the NightStalkers team, led a small group of investigators upstairs, and into Mary Elizabeth’s bedroom – of course, I followed.
Wanting to remain out of the way, I positioned myself on the opposite side of the tiny, child-sized, bed. On the opposite side, five investigators – all members of the NightStalkers Team, sat on the hardwood floor, positioned in a semi-circle. Maria, who was leading the investigation, began a dialog with Mary. She also pulled a small, soft-plastic ball, from the baseboard near a large, white, wicker, baby stroller. She placed the ball on the floor, nearly in the center of the group, to show the natural slope of the floor – which was leaning to her left.
With that she pulled a large, soft plastic ball, from the same location as the small one. Apparently this is where Mary puts her toys when play time is over. Encouraging Mary to play, Maria gently pushes the ball away from herself. Immediately the ball just stopped, only several inches from its starting point. After several attempts, it became obvious that Mary did not want to play.
Maria asked her why. With no response – either the questions, or the repetition of pushing the ball, Maria finally asked Mary if she was reluctant because I was in the room. Interestingly I was sensing the very same thing. As it turned out, I was the only one that Mary had never seen there before.
I used this question as my queue to engage. I stood up from my position, addressing Mary the entire time so she wouldn’t be afraid. I gently walked around to the side of the room where everyone else was, and sat on the floor, directly opposite Maria’s position.
I then explained to Mary that I had missed playing ball with my daughters when they were small, and that it had been a long time since I had done so.
With that, Maria gently launched the ball again. It rolled toward me – slowly, even wavering in its course across the floor. As it finally reached near my feet, it abruptly changed direction and rolled several inches back in Maria’s direction, then stopped.
In a very non-aggressive way, I leaned forward and reached for the ball, then gently pulled it back toward me. I told Mary that I really wanted to play and, with that, I gently bounced the ball about 12 inches in front of where I sat. The ball bounced several times then stopped, and rolled back to my feet.
This repeated itself, nearly a dozen times, then, on one attempt – which was performed exactly the same, and in exactly the same spot, as every other time, the ball stopped and began to roll to another person. Mary had obviously grown bored with my engagement.
Over the course of the next 30 minutes, this pattern repeated itself over, and over, again. Yet, throughout, it was obvious that Maria was her ‘safe haven’.
At one point, I pointed the camera directly at the rolling ball, and, using an attached flash unit, I fired off a frame to see if it would capture young Mary. What resulted was far more interesting than simply capturing her ghostly facade. In every photograph, which totaled about two dozen in all, Maria’s image was obscured by, what would be replicated had I shot the light through a thin dark veil. We made several variations on the photographic technique. Each time, Maria’s surroundings – even the people seated near her, were lit perfectly, and with full clarity, yet Maria remained shrouded.
With the very last image, I had Pat sit next to Maria – shoulder to shoulder, side by side, close enough to be Siamese twins. In the resulting photograph, Pat was [very slightly] veiled, however, Maria was – as with each photograph before that, heavily veiled.
As for the rolling ball; we attempted numerous variations, throughout our time in the room, to debunk the possibility that it was, indeed, a little girl moving the ball. I can attest, without any reservation, that it was indeed, the playing of a little girl.
Part Three tomorrow…