This event occurred circa 1975. I was living in Hollywood a half a block from what we called “the rock ‘n’ roll Ralph’s” (because of that 24 hour supermarket’s late night pop star clientele) with my girlfriend Cheryl and our daughter Faith (Faith was about four or five years old at the time).
Late in the evening, after Faith had been put to bed, Cheryl and I were watching television. The doorway to our hall was to the right of our TV. From where I was sitting I could look through that doorway and into my studio.
Some movement to the right of the TV caught my eye. I watched as a small figure, dressed in a floor length pale nightgown and an old fashioned tall pointed sleeping cap walked out of my studio and then turned left down the hall. I didn’t say anything.
It was Cheryl who spoke.
“Did you see that?”
“I just saw a little figure dressed in a nightgown and a peaked cap walk out of your studio and turn down the hallway.”
“So did I!”
We both jumped up and ran down the hall. At the end of the hall was our bedroom. We entered to find our daughter sitting in the middle of the floor.
“Faith! Did anyone just come in here?”
“Yes; the little boy.”
“What little boy?”
“The sad little boy. He’s always crying. He likes to come here to play with me.”
We put Faith back to bed. She didn’t seem upset in anyway. According to her, his visits were a regular occurrence.
The next day I confronted our apartment building’s manager.
“Who lived in our apartment before us?”
“You don’t want to know.”
“I actually do want to know. Tell me.”
“It was a gypsy woman and her little boy.
“Yes. He used to play with our son Frankie when he was a toddler.”
“She used to torture that kid. I heard him screaming one day and ran upstairs to find her holding him over the stove. The flames were on and his pants were off. She was lowering him down to the flames and burning his genitals.”
“Oh my God…What did you do?”
“I yelled at her to stop. She looked at me and said, ‘I take care of him; I fix him. Now he won’t have any problems with filthy disgusting women.’ I called the police and testified in court against her. Her attorney tried every trick he could think of to break my testimony but I stuck to my story.”
“The goddam judge ruled in her favor and returned her son to that witch. They moved out right after that and I never saw them again. I assume she ended up killing him.”
Those were different times back then. Child abuse was not considered a serious issue and it was near impossible to separate a child from his mother, even with eyewitness testimony as devastating as my manager’s. I heard a little boy being tortured by his parents at my old apartment building on Beachwood Drive. He was a sweet kid. I used to let him come up and draw while I worked. I shouted through the door for them to stop. The father, a huge guy, burst out of his front door, knocking me up the stairs. I scrambled to my feet as he continued to come after me. I dashed into my apartment and locked my door. He furiously pounded on it as he shouted threats at me.
“Keep your goddam nose out my business! He’s my kid and I can do whatever the fuck I want to him!”
I threatened to call the police, which only fueled his fury.
I did indeed report him and his wife to the police. The officer asked, “Did you witness the torture?”
“No, but I sure heard it.”
“If you didn’t actually see it, then there’s not much we can do. We’ll send someone over there to check things out, though.”
I was there when the authorities arrived. The father coolly talked his way out of even letting them in to see their son. He was warned they’d be watching for any signs of abuse.
I later heard him boasting that he and his wife still tortured their little boy, but that they gagged him and bound him to a chair with wire so that outsiders couldn’t hear his screams. They moved away not long after that.
Thank heaven times have changed.
Our little visitor never returned, although I (and others) often heard crystal clear but random snatches of conversation in that apartment. I would always turn around quickly to see who was speaking but no one was ever there — at least not that I could see.
I used to refer to our little visitor as a ghost until I ran into a prominent member of the Skeptics Society at Dragon*Con in Atlanta. I told him the story.
“I don’t doubt your story or your perception of it and I have no explanation for it. But why do you identify it as a ghost?”
I thought that was a very perceptive question. Since our conversation I have stopped referring to it as a ghost. Who knows what it was?
Whatever it was or is, I hope it has finally found peace.