Author’s Note: About 15 years ago author Scott Johnson and I sat down with author Elaine Mercado to discuss her then new book, Grave’s End. It amazes me that I still have the Word doc and even a strange audio anomaly; but yes, indeed I do, and we’d like to share her interview with you guys here.
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 (Brainwaves interview here). 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?
EM: Or the one in Beetlejuice. You know – the guy who didn’t like wearing polyester. He was the only psychic around.
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 [Karin Fazio Littlefield – Brainwaves interview here]. 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.
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