Stephen M. Irwin’s supernatural crime novel The Broken Ones is a ghost story, but one in which people, rather than houses, are haunted.
After an event dubbed “Grey Wednesday”, every person on Earth becomes haunted by a ghost. The spirit could be anyone: an old friend, a former spouse, a family member. They’re always watching, and never go away. Society is collapsing under the weight of its collective despair, and some people blame their ghosts for driving them to commit murders. Detective Oscar Mariani investigates these cases, a thankless job made all the more difficult by his own troubling spectre: the ghost of a young boy that he doesn’t recognize. When he is assigned to investigate a string of murders that may be the work of a serial killer, Mariani becomes a target himself.
The Broken Ones is a work of fiction, but there have been reports of people targeted by ghosts and demons in real life. Here are four such cases for your consideration:
Entity: “The Rosenheim Poltergeist”
Target: Annemarie Schaberl
The Case: In 1967, the office of German attorney Sigmund Adam became ground zero for supernatural mayhem: Phones rang constantly, lights flickered, clocks ran backward, pictures spun on their hooks and filing cabinets opened on their own. Journalists, police, physicists, engineers, and investigators of all sorts were stumped in their search for an explanation. Parapsychologist Hans Bender launched his own investigation and after rigging the office with cameras, he noted that the phenomena only occurred in the presence of a new employee: 19 year-old Annemarie Schaberl. During an interview with the teenager, she revealed that she had been under a great deal of stress. After being sent on a vacation, the paranormal activity ceased. She was dismissed upon her return. The Rosenheim Poltergeist remains a subject of debate among paranormal believers and skeptics alike. Was it all a (very) elaborate hoax? A ghost? A spontaneous manifestation of latent psychic power? There’s no easy answer and the mystery remains unsolved to this day.
Entity: “The Enfield Poltergeist” AKA “Bill Watkins”
Target: Janet Hodgson
The Case: Following their move into a small townhouse, single mom Peggy Hodgson and her four children became the targets of a supernatural entity that identified itself as “Bill Watkins”, a former resident of the house who had died there. Bill wasn’t a friendly ghost, either: Furniture was reported to have been thrown about the room, and the children’s beds were shaken in the night. Bill was especially enamored with 11 year-old Janet Hodgson. Supposedly she was picked up and thrown as often as the furniture, and occasionally levitated in place. Bill also spoke “through” Janet, delivering spooky messages about the what it was like when he died. Police came to the residence and one officer signed an affidavit stating that she had seen a chair move on its own. When a television crew from the BBC came, they discovered that their tapes had been erased and that metal bits in their cameras had been bent. Like the Rosenheim incident, the Enfield Poltergeist remains a controversial topic, although not quite as much as the former. Janet later admitted to faking some of the supposedly paranormal incidences with her siblings, but said they only did a little bit of it and only to see if investigators would catch them. They did at times, but did they catch all of it? Was the entire thing fabricated?
The Entity: Um… “The Entity”
Target: Doris Bithers
The Case: Suburban California mom Doris Bithers reported to investigators that she and her children were being abused by a vicious supernatural entity. Doris claimed to have been physically assaulted and raped by whatever it was in her home. One of her songs corroborated the story and claimed that the thing had thrown him during one of the assaults on her mother. These assaults only occurred when Doris was intoxicated (she had a drinking problem, supposedly), and were apparently aggravated when one of the sons played music by bands like Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep. Bithers’ story isn’t as controversial as those of the Rosenheim or Enfield poltergeists due to a lack of solid evidence, with the exception of a photo depicting an “orb.” The story got around and eventually inspired a rather infamous horror movie called “The Entity.”
The Entity: “The Bell Witch” AKA “Kate”
Target: Betsy Bell
The Case: In 1817 John Bell and his family supposedly came under the attack of a “witch” named “Kate” that scratched the walls of their cabin, cursed at the family by name, pinched and slapped family members, and threw objects around their home. Their daughter Betsy was Kate’s favorite target for abuse, and it grew worse after she became engaged. There’s not a lot of proof for this particular case, but that hasn’t stopped it from inspiring tons of movies, among them “The Blair Witch Project” and “An American Haunting.”