The following is based on events from 1991-1998.
He was bearded, dark haired, only a slightly built man, puffing on a cigarette.
“ Things have been going on there since the seventies, “ he said to me. “ Probably longer. I know the place is evil, because that evil happened to me. It was all in the newspaper. National news. They changed my name to protect my privacy. Happened to more than just me. It's still in me, but not all of it. It had a fondness of attacking women a lot of the time. “
He put his cigarette out, scratched his beard. I could tell from the look on my uncle Paul's face that he was immersed in the memory of that night.
“ You want to bust some ghosts? “ he said. “ Well, man, the place is still standing. Won't be demolished for a while yet. Go through it. Find out for yourself. “
From his testimony and that of others, the varied reports, the newspaper articles, some of the things my dad told me, I knew Paul wasn't lying. Even the psychic, who went through the ward, she was too scared to go back. I had coffee with her. Her name was Barbara. She said, “ It stays with you, taking over when it wants to. Was a man once, but I saw it as many things, and not any one of those things was pure. Not unless it's pure evil. Have you found anything new on the gravestones? “
That's when I knew she was for real.
No-one knew I did that, cruising the convict graveyards, checking those from the eighteen hundreds, searching the stains of the gravestones, for the faces of the damned.
Barbara would never set foot in that ward again and she re-assured me so.
Ward C, Levencourt psychiatric hospital. That's where it happened, but not only just that ward. Other wards were haunted, too. Infected is a better word.
Uncle Paul lit another cigarette and inhaled, making that whistling sound, like it hurt.
He said, “ I knew something was up that night. I'd finished my rounds and at the end of the ward I noticed a nurse walk into a patient's room. An old guy named McClary. She looked like she was out of time, from a different era. Within moments a bedpan flung from the room. I went up there and the only person in the room was McClary. He was sunk down in his bed, scared out of his wits. He told me that Sissy didn't like him, that she was standing in the corner, with her face to the wall. I calmed him down. You know, all the way to the office, it felt like someone was pushing me from behind, at the back of my shoulders. “
From my research, I discovered that a male patient named Winston had raped and mutilated a night nurse in nineteen seventy-two, then committed suicide. Right there on the ward. He wrote something on one of the walls in the nurse's blood, but no-one could remember what.
The police report on my uncle is dated to nineteen ninety-one and states that he went to the office after tending to McClary and one of the other nurses on duty – Joanna – noticed that Uncle Paul was breathing unnaturally, that the muscles in his neck seemed to be constricting. Then, he lunged at her, tried to choke her, apologising the whole time. She fought him off and told him there was something behind him. It was then the entity went into him, through his chest, leaving him writhing on the floor, and crying out in a voice that wasn't his. It states that he cried out, “ It was more fun in hell! “ The police said that from their perspective Uncle Paul was by all means a man possessed by a demon.
Intrigue lead me directly to Ward C. A friend named Simon wanted to accompany me and he was a non-believer in all things paranormal. Uncle Paul reluctantly drove us to the building, but he wouldn't budge from the car.
There was nothing spooky at all to me about the ward. It smelled of piss and the dried up corpse of some unknown animal was in a corner of one of the rooms. It was dark enough in there, but I suggested we come back at night. That broke Simon's resolve. No way was he into that.
We got to the end of the building, to a wooden door, and went into a room. Floorboards were torn up, there was plastic sheets covering the windows, and the walls were covered in childlike fingerpaintings. Nothing sinister. It was by all means just a building ready for demolition.
Some children ran by the building and we saw their silhouettes beyond the windows. They were laughing, as if playing catch and kiss.
Simon, however, was clearly disturbed by something.
“ I'd like to leave now, “ he said quietly. “ Something has spoken to me. Just now. It told me to burn the house down. I don't know what that means. “
Back at the car, I asked Uncle Paul, “ Did you see kids running around the building? “
He shook his head, “ No. Are you happy? Can we leave now? “
I realised that at the edge of the building, where the room we had been in, it wasn't there, either.
In the car, Simon asked, “ Why would you do this to me? “ He was visibly upset, showing us marks on his chest, as if a child had clawed their fingernails into his skin. I'm a nail biter, so I know it wasn't me.
Within the year, Simon locked the family pets in their house; two dogs, a cat, the birds, and his six pet rats, then burned it down. Using a piece of glass, he had carved words into his chest, and stomach. The words were the same ones my uncle spoken years before: It was more fun in hell.
Simon went for a long stay at the more modern psychiatric hospital. I went to visit him once, but that wasn't my friend anymore. His facial expressions were different, even his voice. I don't know who that was.
As for Uncle Paul? The last time I saw him was at his trial. He had attempted to murder three people, two men and a woman, with a carving knife in the middle of town. His possession was mentioned, but that information had no bearing on the case against him. As he was found guilty, and lead away, he said in a tone of voice that wasn't his, “ What I did wasn't evil. Evil is what I am.”
BIO: I live in Orange, New South Wales, Australia. I have one child -a daughter. I was born in Sydney in 1977. My poetry has appeared in anthologies worldwide and my short stories have been published in men's magazines. I cite James Herbert, Tales from The Crypt, vintage Penny Dreadfuls, and Ripley's Believe It, or Not as an influence.