Balmain is one of the oldest and most historical parts of Sydney so it isn’t surprising that most places like this are often full of spirits who had lived there when they were alive. My grandmother’s place there was an example. Not only was it an old house, that smelt peculiar but it had its own history of human tragedy as well. The old terrace home that nanna lived in by herself in those days was not only miserable but haunting as it was full of so many sad memories. It had two levels joined together by an old staircase that led up to an old attic at the top which was kept locked as the old house was falling down. Most of the rooms I remember were locked and nobody was ever allowed to go in there. It was a sad and lonely place, full of so many unhappy memories from my father’s past from when he was a child.
I could understand why Dad wanted to get as far away as he could and move down the south coast. Whenever I sat in Nanna’s sitting room, I could hear voices coming from the adjoining wall of the house next door. We always knew whenever anyone was home and it almost felt as if they were in the same room as you. Whenever the family next door was having a fight we could hear everything.
My grandmother, Edwina, was from Lancaster in England. She was a wonderful woman and I loved her very dearly as she was always so very kind and generous to me. She was a small woman with a large wart on her chin. On first meeting her you might think she had just arrived that day off the boat from England as it was hard to understand her as her accent was so thick, even though she had lived in Australia for many years. She was also a widow who lost her husband from cancer when he was in his early forties, leaving her to bring up three children herself. She was also a chronic alcoholic who often stuttered when she spoke.
Now I realise she must have been quite psychic herself because of the number of spirit people I saw that lived in her house. I have never in my whole life seen such a large collection of spirits in one place as often when you are psychic or have mediumship qualities, your “energy” or what I call “light” will always attract a lot of spirit people and paranormal activity around your house, whether you like it or not.
Nanna would not have been able to talk to anyone about her gift or abilities because it would have been frowned upon as being evil or bad back then. People would have looked on her as a social pariah and she would have been more isolated than she already was because of ignorance and lack of education. As a society today we often treat people who are different really badly because of our own ignorance and prejudice. People who are different will often find it takes time for others to really accept and acknowledge where they are coming from as, very sadly, a lot of us still live in fear of things we do not understand. It is only starting to improve today because of the many gifted mediums and psychics who are speaking out. It is hard-working and selfless people like Doris Stokes and John Edwards and many others who have made the whole spiritual movement really progress into the public arena.
I often think that, perhaps, if Nanna had been born in a different era, or somebody had only taken the time to tell her that she was not alone and that they loved her, things may have been different. She would perhaps not have had a terrible drinking problem and drowned herself and all her sorrows in her addictions. Instead she may have found happiness and not ended up dying in a nursing home from chronic alcoholism. I know this as a fact as I have spoken to her many times since she has passed over and she always tells me how sorry she was and how she could never cope with what life brought her when she was alive.
Whenever our family visited from the south coast on the weekends, I would often see spirit people sitting on the front veranda. One of the spirit people was a very old grandmotherly spirit woman, who always sat on an old rocking chair. She had long white hair that she wore tied back and always stared straight ahead of her as if she was looking at something. It always seemed really weird as I never knew what she was watching. We always pretended not to see each other, but both knew each other was there. Whenever I would take a long sneaky sideways look at her, she would instantly disappear into thin air. The old lady lived in one of nanna’s locked rooms upstairs and I had seen her on several occasions as well when I peeked through one of the keyholes.
Sometimes, when nobody was paying attention I would creep upstairs and just listen to the sounds coming from the old rooms. I knew that they were spirit people talking, as there was supposed to be nobody inside and I always felt they were as nervous as I was.
I sensed other spirit people that came from other houses in the street and a couple of young spirit children. I believe they were waiting for me because they knew that I could see them. I suspect they also brought their spirit friends along as well, as there would be so many of them lined up at the front of the house, as if waiting for me to arrive. Nobody else in the family could see them, of course, except for me. Whenever I said anything I was told it was just my incredible imagination again. As you could imagine, I was only a young girl and not impressed at the time as it used to scare the living daylights out of me. The mere thought of having to spend time there or even stay overnight in the house was a living nightmare. I was always grateful that my mother never wanted to stay as the energy in the house was empty and depressing and my mother never liked my grandmother and always insisted on going home almost as soon as we had arrived. On the rare occasion we did stay overnight, I never got any sleep as there was always some type of drama happening in the spirit world.
Once I saw a small spirit boy crying at the end of my bed. At first I thought it was Peter, the son of my dead cousin who had killed himself. The spirit looked like Peter, only years younger. Sitting up sleepily and rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I tried to ask him what the matter was. As soon as I did this he just disappeared only to reappear again once I lay back down in the bed. This was very frustrating as the noise kept me awake. In the end I did my old trick of just burying myself under the blankets pretending I was asleep. Peter was only ten, the same age as me at the time of his father’s death. After the incident, I never saw him again because the tragedy had eventually split the family. Dad said that my cousin’s death was an accident, as he was depressed and terribly unhappy at the time and did not mean to actually kill himself. Anyone who has ever experienced a suicide with a loved one will understand the pain and deep sadness that goes with it as it is incredibly hard to comprehend. As a small child, it was almost impossible.
Years later, I was given more clarity into the circumstances around the situation of my cousin’s death. Apparently he was having difficulties in his marriage at the time and was extremely depressed and in a poor state of mind, often the case in most suicides. On that eventful day I could only imagine what he must have gone through. He must have been in incredible pain and confusion to have taken so many sedatives. It was later found that he had tried to vomit them all up but, sadly, was unable to do so. Instead, his young, athletic body was found dead, lying tragically over the bath. By the time they got to him, it was far too late.
I often wondered when I was older, if this is why my grandmother drank so much because every time I saw her she was always so merry with a jug of beer in the kitchen ready to pour. She had already lost a husband in her lifetime, but to lose a grandchild as well would have been a terrible tragedy and a heavy cross to bear.
Whenever we arrived to visit my grandmother, it usually took quite a while for my poor parents to pull me out of the back of the tiny Volkswagen as I never knew from visit to visit what was going to happen next. Even though I was often exhausted from the long drive and carsick from the fumes of my mother’s perfume anything was better than going inside my grandmother’s creepy, haunted house.
As soon as I stepped inside the door, I could feel the spirit energy like raw electricity in the air. I would start shaking and cold shivers would run up and down my spine, making my hairs stand on end. Once I had stepped over the threshold of her house I would immediately begin to feel anxious, in case my parents decided to stay. As far as I was concerned the place was crawling with dead people or spirits, all making useless efforts to grab my attention and I wanted no part of it.
“Why doesn’t she get out of the car?” my mother would ask my father as soon as we pulled up in front of the old terrace. “What’s going on? Come on, not again. What is your problem?” she would screech at the top of her lungs. “Stop being difficult and get out of the car at once!”
Finally she would scream through gritted teeth with her arms firmly crossed in front of her. “Now, listen to me young lady! Get out of the car,” she would repeat, tired of the same routine every time we arrived at grandmother’s house but she’d also be dying to get inside for a cup of tea.
“Can you hear what I am saying? Listen to me when I talk to you. You are just being your usual highly strung self, aren’t you?” she would moan.
Nothing she could ever say or do made any difference in the world. Under no circumstances was I going to move until I was good and ready. As soon as we had arrived my parents were always arguing anyway, so I had no reason to want to stay. “Just let her sit there and come inside,” my father would say, not wanting to get involved with all the stress taking place. “She will come inside when she is good and ready.”
The last thing he wanted was an argument as he already seemed to have so much on his mind. It was his duty as the eldest son to keep an eye on his aging and very sick mother and nothing on earth was ever going to change from that responsibility. When I felt I had the courage, I would let myself out of the car silently and finally go inside the house. It was something that I dreaded doing each time I went there but I knew I had no choice in the matter. I knew a lot of things about the house already as I had visited it so regularly over the years. There had been two deaths in the family already and you could really feel the sadness and emptiness as soon as you stepped inside nanna’s home. Dad had not only witnessed his own father’s ill health and untimely death from cancer when he was in the prime of his life, but he had also been a witness to his cousin’s death from suicide.
The only thing that made me laugh was the old toilet which was way up the back yard, and it felt like everybody was watching you whenever you walked up the small path to pay a visit. All the houses were in a row and so close together. They had small windows up the top which you could look out of. Nanna used to have what she used to call “a dunny man” that used to come and collect the toilet pot. He was always really friendly, and whenever he talked he would have a cigarette hanging out of the side of his mouth. He only ever wore a tiny singlet, on the coldest of days which was tucked into a pair of little shorts. He also wore a pair of thick woollen socks and a pair of sandshoes as he was always running.
Whenever he arrived in his huge truck, I would hold my nose and try not to breathe as it stank so much. He was a friendly man, who used to laugh and tell jokes to anyone who would listen, while he got on with his business. The smell was intense and horrible, but we all used to smile, and pretend none the wiser, to be polite. It must have been a terrible job, but he didn’t seem to mind. I often wondered how he did it.
Another thing that always bothered me was no matter how much you warmed the house, it was always cold. My grandmother was always complaining about all the coke she used to use, which she had stored out the back. She also had a gas meter which you had to put coins into. It is not often that you will find an earth-bound spirit in a lonely house unless of course they once live there or have an attachment to the home. I am sure a lot of the spirit people in Nanna’s house had lived there once before.
Years later when I was a nurse, later on in life in my twenties and thirties, I would often feel and hear spirits walking around hospital wards whenever I did the rounds on the lonely dreaded night shift. Working those types of shifts can be really draining as you usually do not have time to have a proper sleep and it takes a lot out of you as you become so sensitive.
At first I thought it was my imagination, but it happened so many times, over and over that you could not just put it down to nothing or a loud cockroach. There were definitely spirits running around the buildings I worked at, as I am sure many people must have died there. So long as they did not come near me, I was happy. I had one touch me once and it scared the living daylights out of me as it was so ice cold. The other nurses that I worked with all felt the same and had similar situations happen to them. When we got together we would all joke and scare each other to death just to keep each other awake, with horrible scary ghost stories. Usually we worked in pairs and walked around in the dark corridors of the old hospitals clutching torches and shining them into the dark whenever we heard any noises … Almost every single nurse I have ever spoken to have all had paranormal experiences in one way or another.
Excerpt from ‘A suburban Medium’
Kerrie Erwin is a psychic medium and international author with four books to date. She works as a featured writer for Heart Soulspirit magazine and as a free lance writer. She regularly works in clubs throughout Australia with her spirit shows, TV and radio.