Mercado, Elaine (Grave's End Part 1)
Haunted houses. We've all heard the stories, we've all asked the same kind of questions -- Why don't those people that live in them just get out?!? We've all wondered that, and believe it or not we got the chance to ask someone that endured such an experience. Enter Elaine Mercado. Elaine is a very ordinary Brooklyn, New York, woman who went through an incredibly extraordinary experience. So get ready for a three-way interview among Mrs. Mercado, Steve "Uncle Creepy" Barton, and Scott A. Johnson as we speak about the trials and tribulations of living in a home in a neighborhood probably just like yours. A neighborhood in Grave's End.
Uncle Creepy: I’m aware that Hans Holzer wrote the introduction for your book. What was he like?
Elaine Mercado: Hans is a great guy – very distinguished, very articulate. He seemed very interested and very caring in what he was doing.
Scott Johnson: He has kind of a mythos about him because of his work. Did any of that come through, or did he just seem like a down-to-earth type person?
EM: He seemed like a person who took what was going on in the house very seriously. I never got the feeling talking to him that he would ask if we were imagining it or something like that. He took it seriously from the beginning, and he especially treated what we did toward the end very reverently.
UC: That must have been a big relief to you as well.
EM: Absolutely! Especially when you’re dealing with something like this – you don’t know what to expect.
UC: You can say that again!
EM: It’s like – were we going to get the gal in Poltergeist?
UC: The short, fat chick from Poltergeist.
EM: Or the one in Beetlejuice. You know – the guy who didn’t like wearing polyester.
You never know what you’re going to get. And I really wasn’t that well versed in people who were doing research on the paranormal and all that.
UC: You kind of got caught completely off guard and were left to study up on it on your own, eh?
UC: Before we actually begin the question process, for the benefit of those who haven’t read your book, can you give us a little background on the story?
EM: Sure. The book is called Grave’s End. It takes place in that area of Brooklyn where my first husband and I purchased a home. It was 1982, and we didn’t realize that strange things were going on there. Apparently, it was haunted. Over the course of many years – 13 years . . .
UC: 13 years!
EM: Yes – But not straight for 13 years. It was on and off. Toward the end before we decided to do something about it, it was pretty constant. I would say for the last year or two it was very uncomfortable. Years 12 to 13 were really popping!
UC: Interesting way to put it!
SJ: Am I to understand that you still live in the house today?
SJ: You have sold it?
EM: We have sold it. We moved just six months ago.
SJ: That would be you and Matthew?
UC: Matthew is your husband?
EM: Yes, my second husband.
SJ: He seems like a great guy from your descriptions of him.
EM: He is a good guy. We’ve been together ten years now.
UC: You know, if you two can get through a haunting together, there’s really not much else left to face.
EM: I know, I know. I wish the people who bought the house well. I completely disclosed everything. They know what happened.
UC: What was their reaction to that?
EM: They thought it was ridiculous. The real estate person didn’t think it was ridiculous; she wouldn’t come back to the house. I gave her the book, and then her partner came back, but she never would. She talked to me on the phone. The lawyer was interested in it, but the buyer absolutely didn’t believe.
SJ: I imagine you’ve met your share of skeptics.
EM: I have. My feeling about that is it’s okay. It’s hard to believe. I’m still a skeptic. I’m just willing to listen. If someone has something to say – they see a UFO, they want to talk about anything – I’m willing to listen because it’s all “maybe.” You know, it could be. But if someone really thinks that ghosts are ludicrous and ridiculous and all that stuff, that’s okay because I can understand how it could seem that way.
UC: How about illustrating a couple of experiences that you had in the house? I’m sure that will serve as a good reason for people to go out and get the book. It really is just a fascinating story. Tell us some of the scariest things that happened – things that really got you frightened or alarmed.
EM: I’d like to read the way I described it because no matter how much I try to say it “ad lib,” somehow the descriptions I originally wrote just say it exactly the way I felt it.
I used to experience it along with my older daughter. Toward the end other people in the house – friends, family – experienced what we grew to call “suffocating dreams.” But they really weren’t dreams because we were awake, but I had no other way to describe them. Just briefly, this is what I wrote in the beginning of the book; this is what it felt like. Picture that I’m in my bedroom, usually with my husband sleeping next to me, who was oblivious to this at that time, and this is what would happen. I would try to go to sleep, and then at some point I’d open my eyes, fully awake. I was aware of my kitchen light that I could see through the bedroom door, I was aware of my cat, I was aware of feeling everything.
Reading from Grave's End: “The pressure on my chest radiates to my shoulders, pressing them into the bed. It’s as if a liquid weight has spread itself all over my body, paralyzing my limbs and torso, allowing me to breathe but denying me the ability to move. I struggle to open my eyes, but achieve nothing but frustration and failure. I am not asleep; I am fully conscious in a state of panic unthinkable during the day, intolerable in the dark of night, held prisoner by some tortured invisible presence insistent on abruptly invading my slumber. The more I struggle toward freedom, the more I am pushed into the mattress, perspiring, heart palpitating, a scream involuntarily silenced within my throat. Some nights I experience my skin being stroked while I fight to regain control of my body and my sight. Thank God this was not one of those nights. Tonight it lets me open my eyes, shaken but unviolated, frightened but not as frightened as I know I can become.”
UC: That’s disturbing.
EM: That’s what it felt like. It was those things, those feelings, that were the worst part of the haunting for me.
UC: As for the haunting itself, I know you noticed a few little things leading up to that. What were some of the little things leading up to it?
EM: It’s funny because we had the bought the house, but it was a hold deal. We couldn’t move in until the older couple who lived there moved out. It took them almost two years to leave, so we were paying a mortgage and rent and had no money. We scraped enough together from in-laws just for the downpayment. One of the reasons we got it was because it was really cheap – no one wanted it. It was on the market for about three years. The price had gone down and down.
UC: At this point, you had no idea it was haunted. There was no disclosure?
EM: No idea at all. It looked okay but not great. It was a big old house – a Queen Anne is what it was called. It was originally white, but now gray. The windows were dirty.
SJ: It was a unique “fixer-upper.”
EM: Exactly. In my head, I didn’t believe in ghosts. I did not want to hear the term. I could not even imagine someone talking to me about that; it just simply was not in my make-up to think of things like that.
SJ: The couple who lived there – by what you said in your book, they were standoffish, to use a nice term, right?
EM: Just the husband. He was very angry. He was belligerent. He didn’t want to let us in, but they told us he was going to be difficult. We didn’t want to throw them into the street, so we agreed that in six months they’d be out. But that turned into two years. His wife was one of the saddest people I’ve ever seen. Her eyes were sad. We almost didn’t take the house because of that. I said to my first husband, “You want to disturb these people? I don’t want to.” We went home, and then we got a call back a few months later. The price had dropped again, and he agreed to move. It was only a few blocks away from our apartment, so my ex-husband started his business on the second floor, and we went back and forth until they moved out two years later.
SJ: Did either of them ever mention any kind of disturbances?
EM: No. Absolutely not. We never really had dialogue with them. I never spoke to the woman – ever. She stayed in the back bedroom, and we walked in when he was showing us the house. One look at her eyes, and I had nothing to say to her. Where would I tell this woman to go? She looked so sad and old. My ex-husband felt exactly the same way.
UC: I really have to applaud you for dealing with that for so long. It was very, very nice of you to let them stay for that long a period. A lot of people would have lost patience, and I think that’s a testament to your character.
EM: I got called a schmuck for that though.
I think most people either wouldn’t have taken the house or . . . Who could do that? Most people that I know I think would not have been able to live with themselves if they thought they were forcing people at that age to get out. But they ended up with a really nice apartment around the corner. So they were okay.
SJ: About how soon after you moved in did the disturbances start?
EM: Immediately. What happened is that we took my brother into the basement. It was really old – it was gross. There were two oil tanks that were painted chartreuse green. He said he started feeling watched but didn’t tell. He figured his sister had bought the house already and maybe it was his imagination, so he didn’t say anything to me.
It was a busy time. My kids were both in school, and I started nursing school, which was an insane period of time. My parents had to baby-sit my children, I had to get them variances to other schools, I was in class, I was in the hospital. Whenever I was alone in the house, I felt like something was staring at my back. I attributed it to tension and not wanting to be alone. I thought maybe I was feeling anxious and tried not to be alone too often in the house. But I certainly didn’t mention it to anybody; I figured it was just me.
SJ: And this feeling happened everywhere except for your daughter’s room, right?
EM: Right. But I didn’t notice that it wasn’t happening there until many years later. That’s the only room I didn’t get the suffocating dreams in, but I didn’t attribute that room as being safe for many years. That was my daughter’s room, so I didn’t spend a lot of time there. There were two bunk beds in this little tiny room.
UC: And what was the Cheesebox Room?
EM: The master bedroom. We called it the Cheesebox Room, but honest to God, I cannot remember why we called it that. But there were a lot of bad rooms.
SJ: But the worst room in the house was the basement, correct?
EM: Well, we had a dirt room. At some point in time, the 30’s or 40’s, the house was moved on wheels from a different location not too far away, and put down on half of a basement. So the basement was only half the length of the house. The back half was the dirt room. There was a crawlspace for plumbing and whatever, and we called that the dirt room. I never opened it or looked at it for a couple of years.
UC: What are some of the things that happened in that basement?
EM: There were not nice things that happened there. One of my daughters and her friends started opening up that room and crawling about. I didn’t know they were doing it. At the same time we started hearing footsteps going up and down the stairs. We heard our names being called. We spent so much time going, “What is it? What? Did you call me?” You do that until you realize something’s going on. We heard laughter. We heard what sounded like garbled voices of men talking.
UC: Like in a foreign language?
EM: No, that was later when we did the cleansing.
SJ: Would you say the phenomena increased after those doors were opened?
EM: Yes, when that happened and whenever we’d build anything. Now, mind you, this was a fixer-upper, so . . .
UC: Building was a prerequisite then.
EM: We changed the kitchen, and things went nuts. We built a bathroom, and things went nuts. But it took us a while. We would have to save some money and then do something. We didn’t think at this point it was a haunted house. We thought something strange was going on – imagination, stress, a lot of different things. It was around this time I believe that the suffocating dreams came into the picture.
UC: The suffocating dreams started happening in what year? Toward the end?
EM: I didn’t even mention a date in the book because I don’t remember 100%. It was maybe two or three years after we got into the house.
SJ: Let me ask you this: After you had the cleansing performed on the house, did you ever consider or would you ever consider reopening that crawl space to see what was in there?
EM: I wouldn’t want to. You mean dig it up?
SJ: I know that you mentioned in the book that once you figured out what was going on with the crawl space, you closed the doors and left them closed.
EM: Right. But we didn’t seal them shut.
SJ: You didn’t?
EM: No. We couldn’t seal it because there were pipes in there. You know. I am such a scairdy-cat. I am so not this brave person. I get creeped out really quickly still.
SJ: I can’t imagine why!
EM: When you’re in it . . . when you live there . . . and what I want to really stress here which I haven’t even mentioned yet is that many months would go by with nothing happening. That’s very important because those respites that we got worked very well with making us say, “Well, I must have been tired. I don’t know what that was.” Think of it: For six, nine months – nothing. The house feels normal. You feel a little watched maybe once in a while, but no suffocating dreams, no other things that happened. It seems relatively normal. It’s very easy to get lulled again. So you go back into your normal busy existence, and it’s okay until something happens again. That’s why it took a few years before I started talking to my daughters about this and wondering what the hell was going on. That’s how it developed. And it would still stop. Even toward the end, months would go by with nothing happening. I don’t know if that’s a time line that happens at the place of origin of these anomalies . . .
UC: Or maybe just certain times of the year were more active?
EM: Possibly. I never connected it with emotional things like if there was trouble in the family. It never seemed to coincide with that.
UC: It could be the fact that whatever presence was in the house . . . maybe something very emotional happened to them around that time of the year.
EM: It could be. Absolutely it could be. It could be so many things.
SJ: It could also be that for the most part hauntings are very cyclic. If you track them, you can watch them start small and build up and blow themselves out. Then there will be a period of time with nothing, and they’ll start small again.
EM: I don’t know the reasons for that, but that’s why when I say “13 years” of course it’s not 13 solid years of non-stop haunting. I don’t think that would be tolerable for anybody.
UC: Here’s a question I have to ask. It’s almost like a running joke when it comes to haunted houses . . .
EM: Why didn’t we leave?
UC: Exactly! It’s the question everybody’s going to want to know the answer to. You realize there’s something really wrong – and to anybody who hasn’t read the book, go out there and get it. I can tell you there are some really spooky occurrences in it. Why did you stay? Why would you subject yourself to that?
EM: There were a lot of things going on that pointed toward not leaving. One of which was the amount of time we did not have this going on in the house. Plus, we loved the house. It was old, and we were finishing it ourselves. And we had no money other than what we had in the house. My first husband would not leave. There were times I absolutely begged him to sell the house. He’d say no way. He had his business upstairs. He loved the location; it was perfect for him. His business started to do better. There was no way we were going to find another house . . . and remember he didn’t have to pay rent for the business. We could never have afforded to get him a place for his business and get another place to live.
We weren’t being physically harmed. Things weren’t flying off shelves and hitting us in the face. We were feeling odd and strange, and later on that got a little worse. But for a long time it was just this stuff – listening to voices, hearing footsteps.
UC: So in other words you were bound not only out of obligation but out of necessity.
EM: Yes. Out of necessity. Again, it would have meant renting a place for his business and getting a place to live. And selling the house. In the mid-80’s to mid-90’s we would have been offered almost nothing for that house. How we were supposed to do that? I think it’s easy to say “leave” when you’re on the outside looking in. I even said in the book that if I were watching a movie where this was happening, I would stand up and go, “Get out of the house!” But it’s not so simple when you’re actually in there. And it’s not constant.
SJ: When did you sell the house?
SJ: This year?
UC: And she took part of it with her.
EM: Yes I did.
UC: Again, a braver person than I! I would have left everything.
SJ: Were they doors that you installed?
EM: No. Those are the two doors I fell in love with when I first saw the house. They’re solid oak French doors with beveled glass. It broke my heart; I couldn’t leave them there.
UC: I wouldn’t have taken a single thing!
EM: But after the cleansing, the haunting went down 95%. I never got another suffocating dream. We never saw many of the phenomena that we saw before. The house became much more comfortable. We loved that house. My children were brought up there. My older daughter was very attached to whatever was there. She didn’t want it to leave at all. Both of them, by the way, would still want to be there and have that happening – and they’re adults. They’re 25 and 31 now. They feel that they had a very special childhood because of some of the things that occurred.
UC: “Special” is an interesting word to use!
EM: They’d tell their friends about it. Their friends would stay over to see if they could see or hear anything. They had a very different view of it than I did. I was much more wigged out as an adult.
UC: Your daughters didn’t experience the suffocating dreams until sometime after you did, right?
EM: Yes. When I finally said something’s going on with me at night, my ex-husband laughed. By the way, he believed in absolutely nothing. When I used to say we should sell the house and that I didn’t feel right, he’d go, “What the hell if wrong with you? It’s fine. Nothing happened to the other people.”
UC: I’m sure that put a tremendous strain on your relationship.
EM: It did. But our relationship was stinky from the beginning. We moved into the house not having a good relationship. Maybe the atmosphere of us not having a good relationship . . .
SJ: You mentioned the things you saw and other phenomena in the house. In the book you talk about these dancing lights and shadows, the scurrying shadows. What did they look like, and how often did you see them?
EM: We saw them once in a while. When the house was active, it was maybe every few days for a few months. Then they would go away. They were about the size of a ping-pong ball, and they had the appearance of a flashbulb when it pops off. They would just kind of go along the ceilings of only the living room, the dining room, and a little bit in the hall before my bedroom. They never ventured anywhere but there. They seemed rather pleasant. There was no fear attached to them at all. We’d notice them, they’d do their thing, and go away.
UC: Whereas the shadows were a little bit more menacing?
EM: The shadows . . . the scurrying shapes . . . they seemed sad. And they seemed like these grayish pillowy type things. They would appear around the baseboards and kind of move about. If you looked at them, it was almost like are they there? Are they not there? Then they would go away. But they brought with them a sense of sadness. Just a kind of down feeling.
The balls of light were interesting. I remember the first time I saw them, I was lying on my stomach watching TV and Karen and Christine were sitting on the couch. I wear glasses. When I first see these things, I think it’s my glasses. I keep moving my head trying to make it happen again. The girls are laughing because they had been seeing them for a while without saying anything to me. Then another one came, and I went, “Whoa, that wasn’t my glasses.” They said, “No, Mommy, we’ve been seeing them.” They thought they were cute.
UC: You have some really brave kids.
EM: But they were just balls of light. It didn’t bother me either, so they must have been just really nice “things.”
SJ: You had a friend that came to your Halloween party, and one of the things followed her home.
EM: Yes. I have to start the story by telling you that in 1993 I left my first husband. But a few years before that, my mother and my daughters were cleaning the attic. Again, this is an old house – so old that whenever we plastered some place, we could hear in the walls that pieces were falling on the inside. If we put a hole in the wall, we would sometimes take out newspapers from 1885. So it’s a very old house. It also had these cubbyholes. Under a desk there might be paneling, but if you pushed it, it would go in, and there’d be a little low closet. There were very peculiar things in the house. So, in one of the walls, instead of pulling out more newspaper, they pulled out a wedding dress. Now, it is really creepy that there’s a wedding dress rolled up in newspaper from the 1950’s stuffed in a wall. Yes?
UC: Yeah, that’s a red flag.
SJ: That’s a sign to get the heck out.
UC: That’s me calling the realtor.
EM: So we should sell everything we have because of a wedding dress in the walls? No!
UC: There’s some bad mojo floating somewhere with that thing!
EM: And the girls felt the same way. My mother too. So, we threw it out. I say that because we just filed away that somebody, for some reason, rolled up a wedding dress and put it in the wall. As things progressed, a few years later I left my ex-husband, and the house actually was very quiet for maybe seven months. Without the negativity of my non-harmonious marriage, I was starting to think that maybe the negativity really did play a larger part. But again, even with me and him, we didn’t fight all the time either. We were just not good together, but there were times of wonderful family gatherings, birthday parties, vacations. Essentially, it was not a harmonious coupling, but we are to this day good friends. But this was a difficult time because we were breaking up. Again, the house got really quiet. So I thought that maybe all the struggle was contributing to it. I was feeling just great and decided to have a Halloween party.
UC: Leave it to Halloween to stir stuff up!
EM: I had invited a lot of people from work – I now worked in an emergency room as a nurse. I also decided to invite a new supervisor. We were kind of friends, and I didn’t want to leave her out. She was a lovely woman. I wasn’t feeling 100% comfortable with her yet, but she was part of us and seemed great. The night before the Halloween party I had a suffocating dream, and that had not happened for months. I was very distressed and tried to tell myself, “It’s not coming back; it’s not coming back.” I wasn’t going to ruin the party, so I didn’t tell my children about it.
The night happens; everybody comes in and is having a nice time. Imagine an old house like that, decorated for Halloween with spider webs and candles – it was great. So Lorraine comes in, I introduce her around, get her a drink, and then she becomes very quiet. I’m busy greeting other people, taking coats, and I think that maybe she isn’t feeling well. I go over to her and ask if she’s okay. She says, “Your house if f’ing haunted you know.” I had told nobody at work about it. I asked her why she said that, and she said, “There’s a little lady in a white dress, and she’s hiding under your stairs. She doesn’t know who all these people are.” I got creeped out, started crying, was upset.
UC: So at that point it’s a full blown apparition, not just a light or a shadow.
EM: Yeah. I didn’t see anybody underneath the stairs. But can you imagine how upsetting that was? She didn’t know anything about the wedding dress that we found. She said, “You have about eight spirits hanging around.” She told me she’s had psychic ability for years and years. She speaks with her dead father frequently. She said that she regularly saw people. She has a lot of pre-death visitations; when someone she knew was about to die, they would come and tell her good-bye, and then she’d find out the next day that they had passed. So, she told me I shouldn’t be afraid of them and that they were all around us anyway. She had a wonderful attitude! She kept telling me it’s no big deal; it’s okay; no one’s going to hurt me. She said I should go over and tell the little lady it’s okay, which I didn’t do. I didn’t know where she was.
UC: I’m not talking to any little lady hiding under the stairs.
EM: I didn’t want any part of it.
UC: I’m getting goose bumps hearing about this.
EM: The truth is that I’m talking about it, and I get weird feelings myself. I remember, and I still have difficulty with what happened.
UC: How could you not?
EM: It’s not like I never think of it. I still have difficulty with how did that happen to us? Why did that happen to us? It still affects me.
So, back to Halloween. I’m depressed now throughout the rest of the party. I’m looking all over thinking I’m going to see this little lady crying or whatever. Lorraine goes home and calls me the next day. “I took a goddamn light show home with me! I’m not coming to your house again unless you get it cleaned.” I had never heard that expression before, and that’s when she told me about having a medium come to get rid of these things. I thought the lights would stay with her, and I was happy!
SJ: That has to be the best party favor from a Halloween party!
EM: Also, which was grossly unfair of me, I started to think maybe she was crazy. Of course, she’s not crazy – she’s an intelligent woman, she’s funny, she’s caring, she’s not at all like that, but in my head I’m going, “What is she talking about?”
UC: But you know, that’s a lot to digest at first. You’ve been experiencing these things for a while, but now someone’s put a face and a description on them for you. How do you deal with that? It’s one thing when you’re dealing with shadows and lights, but it’s another when there’s a physical sad human face put to it.
EM: Yes. Also, I think that might have been the beginning of my feeling sorry for whatever was there.
UC: Sure. You could sympathize.
EM: I don’t know what they’re going through. Is she a spirit that was left behind? We don’t know anything about what goes on after life. But sometimes in my darker moments when I think there’s maybe nothing after this, what keeps me from thinking that are my experiences in our home. And I’m thankful for that.
UC: It’s a strangely enlightening and comforting experience.
EM: Yes. We lost someone recently, and I wonder, “Where is she?” Then I remember. So, that was a good thing.
UC: Okay I have to interrupt. Did you guys hear a strange “popping” noise when she was talking about that? Was that something physical?
EM: What do you mean “popping?”
SJ: I heard it.
UC: Like bubble wrap popping.
UC: While you were talking about “Where is she?” I’m being 100% honest.
SJ: 100% serious.
EM: I didn’t hear anything.
UC: Oh, man!
EM: However, I’m blocking. I’m a good blocker now. I’d love to hear it though.
UC: I thought maybe you were tapping your fingers or there was some type of interference.
UC: The hair on the back of my neck is standing up.
EM: It’s really funny. I’m on my mother’s old, old plug-in phone, and the person we lost was my mother. I didn’t want to use a portable phone, and by my mother’s side of the bed is a phone we haven’t used in years. We plugged it in, and that’s what I’m using.
UC: I’m flabbergasted! Let me stop the tape and play this back for you.
EM: I heard popping, and I heard a breath.
UC: That was really fucking strange! I haven’t the slightest idea what that noise or that sound was.
EM: Pop . . . pop . . . pop . . . pop
SJ: I have no idea what that was.
UC: Well, we have a helluva interview here, guys! How do we even get back on track?
Be sure to check out Part 2 of the Elaine Mercado interview.
--Uncle Creepy and Scott A. Johnson
Original Concept Art by Bill "Splat" Johnson
Order the book Grave's End here!
Check out our review of Grave's End here!