Charlie was sitting across from me and my spaghetti and garlic bread. I had worked a ten hour day and was hungry and tired. Though I knew anything he had to tell me would go in one ear and out the other, I said I would meet him at the restaurant so we could discuss his "problem."
"Things move around in my apartment," he started.
"Do you mind if I eat while you talk?" I asked.
"No, not at all," he said, eyeing my spaghetti.
"Are you sure?"
"No. Please, eat your spaghetti," he said.
I took a bite of my garlic bread. It had lots of garlic--the way I liked it.
"You see, it all started after that party with the Davidson's. You know, the boring man and his wife Dolores."
"Yes, you conveniently got into a car accident that night--I remember," he added.
"It was hardly just a car accident," I said defensively with a mouthful of spaghetti, "it was a major accident. I ran into a semi-truck."
"Well, whatever," he continued. "Anyway, Jake brought over his Ouija Board. You remember Jake?"
"Yeah, he owns a porsche."
"Yeah. Anyway, we started playing with his Ouija Board. At first, nothing seemed to happen. Then, somebody asked the board something about Chopin and the planchette-thingy went nuts."
I nodded, "The ghost or spirit or whatever likes Chopin."
"Yes, and so somebody thought we should turn on some Chopin."
"Do you listen to Chopin?" I asked taking another bite of Garlic Bread.
"No, but Joel Davidson does and he just happened to have a cassette out in his car, so we played it."
"Then what happened?"
"No, but it gets worse."
"I should hope so."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Look. I'm tired and hungry and you want to sit and discuss your unsuccessful turn at a Ouija Board."
"That's not the only thing that happened."
"Then tell me."
"Nothing else happened that night and in fact, nothing happened for the next three days. Then, on the fourth day after the party I was getting ready for a date with Cindy. I was cleaning up my apartment when I found Joel's tape still in the tape player. I turned it on to listen to some music while I was cleaning the apartment and all of a sudden a book started to float towards me."
"Did you say a book?"
"Yes, and the funny thing about it was that I don't remember ever buying or receiving the book before this. In fact, it was completely unfamiliar to me."
"Maybe somebody left it there."
"I asked around and nobody says they even dabble in witchcraft."
"Is that what the book is about?"
"Yes. Three Spells of Witchcraft for the Forlorn is the title."
"Hah," I said out loud.
"This isn't funny." He looked at me seriously. "This thing was floating in mid-air. It gave me the fright of my life."
I guess I should mention a few things about my friend Charlie Write. He is always serious. He rarely laughs and to tell the truth, I think, at times, he can be just a bit scatterbrained. But he rarely lied, so I had no doubt that he believed what he saw.
"Sorry Charlie. Go on with your story."
"Well, anyway, that was when it all started. Things started to disappear in one room, then appear in another room. Doors would open and shut by themselves. Faucets and lights would turn on and off by themselves. I haven't slept a decent nights sleep since then."
"Sounds like a poltergeist-type of haunting."
"I knew you would know what to do," he said.
He was almost right. I knew what it was because I had a fetish for ghost stories--true and otherwise. I have been interested in ghosts since I was four and saw Frankenstein with Boris Karloff on TV. I had done a considerable amount of reading about ghosts and the occult since then.
However, just because I knew what type of problem he was having did not mean I knew how to get rid of it. The only known cure for poltergeist activity I knew of was exorcism.
"I think maybe I need to check it out myself. Then, our next step would be to contact a psychic or someone who specializes in paranormal activities."
"I knew I could count on you."
I finished my dinner and we walked back to his place, which wasn't far from the restaurant. I wasn't really all that eager to meet a ghost face-to-face--especially one that had a penchant for throwing things around the room, but I figured that if I had that sort of problem, I would want help myself. I had never seen a ghost before so I wasn't sure how well I would be able to handle it.
When we got to his house I became aware of the amount of garlic that was on the garlic bread at dinner. The taste had stuck with me the entire way to Charlie's apartment.
When we entered his apartment I noticed that several things had been thrown around. This could have been caused by Charlie himself since he was not a neat homemaker.
We entered the living room and found some of the furniture moved around. I helped Charlie move the pieces back to their proper positions and sat on the couch.
"Well, here is the book." He said handing me the book.
"Ah, the Three Spells of Witchcraft for the Forlorn. You haven't tried any of these have you?"
He looked surprised, then said, "Of course not."
"Good. Then we shouldn't have to worry about it."
"Why would we worry?"
"You start doing incantations, you don't know what you are going to get yourself into," I said, then added, "Has most of the activity been in this room?"
"Hmm. We'll just have to wait and see what happens."
"You mean we have to sit and wait?"
I saw nothing that night. Sure there were a few noises, but they could all be accounted to next door neighbors or the outside noises. Several times, Charlie got up nervously and paced the floor, but nothing happened.
I even checked all the faucets, but still nothing happened.
In the morning, I woke to find Charlie slumbering next to me on the sofa. Neither one of us had any paranormal experience.
I told Charlie that I would be back later that night and we could try it again.
"Order a pizza, would you?" I said. If I was going to babysit I figured I would at least get a meal out of it.
"Sure. What kind."
"Anything that's really spicy."
The next night, over pizza, Charlie and I discussed things like ghosts and witchcraft. I tried to steer the subject clear of it because I didn't want to make him anymore nervous than he already was. But he kept going back to the subject.
"You know, I almost think I must have been crazy. You have spent one night here and again attempting another and still nothing has happened. It is almost too good to be true," he said loudly as if trying to get someone's attention.
Nothing happened that night.
"I don't understand," he said confused. "Just two days ago things were moving around by themselves. You saw the mess in the living room. I don't understand."
"Sometimes they just go away."
"Sure. They get tired of a spot and just move on."
"Really? So you think this one might have just moved on?"
I left Charlie relieved the next morning. I seemed to have calmed his nerves.
However, that wasn't the end of it. That night I got a call about 8:00 o'clock.
"Mags, come quickly." Charlie sounded aggravated.
"What is it?"
"It's the dishwasher."
"Did it spring a leak?"
"No, it's attacking me."
Sure enough when I arrived, there was the dishwasher with the hose that hooked up to the sink wrapped around Charlie's arm. However, once I entered the room, it stopped. I thought that Charlie was doing it to himself. I watched the hose disengaged Charlie's arm and slink down to the floor.
"Ahhhhh!" Charlie screamed. He dropped the spatula he had been using to fend off the dishwasher and ran from the kitchen into his bedroom.
I moved the dishwasher back to its usual position, picked the spatula off of the floor and threw it in the sink.
I went into Charlie's bedroom and found him hiding in his bed with the blankets pulled up over his head.
I sat down at the foot of his bed. "Charlie, I think you need help."
He peeped out over the covers. "What!? What was that you just saw? That machine was attacking me."
"Charlie, I saw a man using a machine to attack himself."
"No, you... You must be doing it. It stopped when you came in." He threw the blankets to the floor in a fit of frustration. "How would you like it if an inanimate object came to life and started attacking you? You'd be singing another tune, I'm sure."
"All right, Charlie," I said calmly, "I'm not going to argue with you."
"Good," he said satisfied.
"But I have to tell you, I really am having a hard time believing that you are not responsible for this in some way."
"You think I'm joking, don't you? You think this is some sort of trick."
"It's not me." Charlie said steadily.
I couldn't stay with Charlie that night, so I asked a mutual friend to stay with him. Dan Smith was a plumber, and though he didn't specialize in dishwashers, I figured he would at least know what to do with one when it went berserk. Charlie calmed down when I told him he wouldn't be alone.
"Good. I don't think whatever it is likes me. It keeps coming back when I'm alone."
I didn't hear from Charlie again until two days later. He had more trouble after the dishwasher episode and this time, he had witnesses.
"After you left and Dan came in, the chair by the sofa moved all the way up the wall and onto the ceiling. Then it fell right in the middle of the room!" he relayed to me over the phone.
"Dan saw this?" I asked.
"Yes, and then the entire entertainment center fell over. It broke the television set."
"Dan saw that too?"
"Geez, Charlie. I didn't think you had a problem."
"Well, you almost convinced me that I didn't. I almost believed you when you told me I was going crazy."
"Dan's not the only one who saw it. George and Martha came over yesterday and they were attacked by the coffee machine."
"Yes, really. You may not have seen anything but other people have. Can you please arrange someone to come here and do an exorcism for me."
Of course I arranged for a local psychic to come see the house. She brought a medium with her and they looked over the apartment. They sensed a presence but it was very weak.
"Perhaps we should have a seance," the medium suggested.
We all sat down around a table as the medium instructed, but nothing happened.
Then, the psychic turned to me, "Could you please leave the apartment?"
"Your presence here is not wanted."
When I left I listened at the door of the apartment. From what it sounded like, all hell broke loose. I heard furniture moving, things hitting or falling off of walls, people yelling, and then finally, silence.
I stood at the door listening. I heard someone walk to the door.
Charlie opened it. He looked like he had been hit by a truck.
"They say this house is clean."
I walked into the apartment and I was correct. Things had fallen off the walls and furniture had been moved around.
The psychic and the medium looked as Charlie did, only worse.
"All that time, the ghost didn't like me?" I asked.
"Probably for the same reason I asked you to leave," the psychic answered.
"What was that?" I asked.
"You reek of garlic. Ghosts don't like garlic and neither do I," she said.
Charlie added, "She's right, you do."
I checked my breath, but to no avail. Years and years of garlic consumption had deadened my sense of smell to it.
"So it was a ghost then?" I asked trying to change the subject.
"No, more like an entity, but with the same type of aversions. Apparently, Mr. Write has been playing with witchcraft, haven't you Mr. Write?"
"What?" I asked.
"I found the book on top of a cupboard."
"I told you not to mess with that stuff."
"It was too late. I already did it," Charlie said sheepishly.
"That's what caused all this?"
"Well, Mr. Write, the bill is in the mail." the psychic said. "I don't think you should be having anymore problems, but just in case, here's my number."
She handed him her card and left with the medium.
I stood somewhat dumbfounded.
Charlie looked around the room then asked, "How about a pizza?"
"With lots of garlic."
back to the Short Story Page.Charlie's Problem, 17 November 1996