True Ghost Story

In 1981, while I was working as a reporter for the New York Daily News, I had the opportunity to meet the well-known psychic researcher, Dr. Karlis Osis. I knew he did a lot of top-secret work for the CIA and other unnamed agencies and was expecting him to be aloof and intimidating. Instead, I found him to be open and generous. I was researching a story on haunted houses in New York City, and was looking for any leads he could provide.

Osis immediately revealed that in all the time he’d spent investigating psychic phenomena, only one case really stood out and it involved an apparition seen by three people simultaneously. The trio had been so shaken by the experience, that they’d sought trauma counseling from a psychologist. My personal experiences with psychedelics in the ’60s, had already convinced me early in life that telepathic energies were real. One of Osis’ best-known books involves the study of near-death experiences. Around half the people who work with the dying on a regular basis believe spirits come to welcome the dead to their new home when people die. This is a common near-death experience. Osis’ other main area of research was remote viewing. Much of that research was done for the CIA and probably remains classified, but Osis was working with a psychic in an attempt to penetrate Soviet installations with out-of-body experiences. He hadn’t done much work with haunted houses because he thought most of the cases were hoaxes created for profit. True Ghost Stories details a very spooky story Osis opened up his files for me to write about. I even got to listen to tape recordings of the original interviews. It was an amazing afternoon.

On March 11, 1972, Dr. Karlis Osis was seated at his large, walnut desk on the fourth floor of the American Society of Psychical Research on West 73rd Street, when he received a call from a psychology professor at Columbia University. Was Osis interested in looking at a haunted house?

Of the of dozens of psychic investigators in New York City, Osis is certainly the most respected and well-known. Unlike some, he pursues his profession out of scientific curiousity rather than for money. The society he works for is non-profit: instead of mass-market paperbacks, Osis writes detailed research papers.

Since it’s very difficult for para-psychologists to find authentic data, Osis was immediately interested in the Columbia professor’s report that a young acquaintance of his and two of her friends had seen an apparition. The experience had upset them all, and they were looking for professional advice.

On March 16, Osis met with two women and one man. “The first thing I did was put them in different rooms,” he says, “because I wanted to question them separately to find out how closely their stories matched.”

The first person he talked to was Jean Lodge (not her real name), in whose apartment the incident had occurred. He recorded their conversation.

Jean told how she had moved into an apartment in Brooklyn in December. From her first night there, she was frequently bothered by the sensation of being watched. At first, she dismissed this as a product of a lively imagination, but the feeling recurred several times.

She began to tell friends about her feelings and discovered her best friend, Patti Hart, was having similar sensations when she visited the apartment. Shortly afterwards, Jean was awakened out of deep sleep several times by strange noises. She became convinced someone—or something—was trying to scare her. Although Jean isn’t particularly religious, she hung a silver cross on the living room wall, put rosary beads over her door, and kept an open Bible next to her bed. “Why should I feel this way?” she wondered. “This is my apartment. I’m alone here.”

But Jean became so became so uncomfortable in the apartment she actively began looking for another place to live. In February she found one.

On March 1, she went with her friend to pick up the keys to the new apartment. “I was very happy that night,” she recalled. “I was supposed to move in the next Saturday, but we decided to move some clothes and suitcases over right away. Patti’s husband came with us to help. I was exhilarated because I felt I’d finally be left alone.”

As the three sat in her old apartment, they heard someone sobbing in the bedroom.

Patti got up to investigate. She stood in the doorway and motioned for the others to come look and see what she could see.

“I was afraid,” recalled Jean. “I didn’t really expect to see anything, but when I looked inside I saw bloody body parts scattered across the foot of my bed, apparently the mutilated remains of a very young child. On the left-hand side of the room, standing a few feet from the window, I saw a very old, wrinkled and shriveled woman who had an evil smirk on her face and she looked terribly angry.” Patti’s husband took one glimpse and ran out of the apartment, asking the others to follow. But stunned and in shock, Jean just backed away from the terrible sights and stood motionless in the living room, while Patti continued to look into the bedroom in stunned silence.

“How long did you see it?” asked Osis.

“A couple of minutes.”

“How was the clarity?”

“You could definitely discern a person and the cut-up parts of a child.”

Did you turn on the light afterwards?”

“No, the light in the bedroom was broken.”

Patti eventually grabbed Jean by the arm and forced her back into the bedroom, which by then appeared back to normal. Patti told Jean to say the words: “You didn’t win. You didn’t get me.” When Jean spoke the words, however, she distinctly saw the old woman’s face in the window staring straight at her, and smiling.

After talking with all three witnesses, Osis was convinced they’d seen the same apparition. He spent many weeks investigating the apartment, and police files were checked out to see if a murder had taken place anywhere nearby. Osis studied several possibilities, but produced no evidence and no theory.

“Unfortunately, nothing turned up,” he says sadly. “Jean never returned to the apartment and she never had another experience. Police records didn’t show anything, and a psychic who visited the apartment did not identify the presence of a spirit. There are many theories as to the cause of apparitions, but we really don’t know anything about them.”