By Debra Wood, RN, NurseZone
Elaine Mercado kept sensing someone looking over her shoulder
during her first few months in a grand, old home in the Gravesend area of
Brooklyn, New York. But seeing no one, the former nursing student banished the
resulting tingle and concentrated on her course work and her two daughters.
Footsteps on the stairs and an unexplained physical presence
gave way to periods of normalcy in her life as Mercado graduated from nursing
school and started working in an emergency room.
Before long, however, when she was home, giggles were heard,
bouncing balls of light danced across the ceiling and shadowy figures frequented
the baseboards. It would get worse. A gerbil cage hovered, then hit her
daughter. The cat acted weird and performed "checking" rituals. But
"checking" for what? Despite all the increase in paranormal activity
in her home, Mercado felt ashamed and fearful of telling anyone about her life
away from the hospital.
"I couldn’t get the words out that I was living in a
haunted house, and at work, I was afraid [to say anything]," she said.
"It’s a pretty responsible position. How could I say I didn’t sleep
last night, because [there was] an invisible force?"
Mercado hosted a party but became uncomfortable at work when
her ED supervisor attended the party and saw an apparition dressed in a wedding
gown and little balls of light. The supervisor thought nothing of it, but
Mercado worried about what her co-workers would say.
Finally, when a hostile, female presence and an intense
suffocating dream sent a tearful Mercado scurrying downstairs clutching a pillow
to her chest, she knew the time had arrived to take some action about the
"I was crying, asking, ‘What the hell am I going to do,’
" she said. "If I was triaging myself, what would I do?"
Mercado’s brother suggested hiring a medium. She did. The
medium and parapsychologist Hans Holzer arrived to investigate. The medium
quickly asked to see the basement and climbed into the crawl space, a dirt room.
She began "conversing" with the spirit of a man named Estefan who said
he had been working on a track and was buried alive in the area below the dirt
room when a collapse occurred in the mid-1800s.
Apparently five people and two dogs suffered slow deaths on
tracks running beneath the house, perhaps to a mine, but were not aware they
were dead. The frightening contacts with Mercado and her family over the prior
months were apparently pleas for help made by the spirit. The medium directed
the spirits toward the light and moved upstairs only to discover the woman in
white seen by Mercado’s supervisor. The specter apparently perished shortly
after her wedding, possibly from suicide. The giggling may have come from three
children the medium sensed had died in a fire in a tenement formerly occupying
the site where Mercado’s home was built.
Today, Mercado hesitates to conclude the medium discovered all
the answers. She would like to learn more about her home and the land it rests
on but after investigating, Mercado failed to locate information in the local
Hall of Records about a coal plant, bins, tracks or a tenement house.
"I’d love to dig up the dirt room," Mercado said,
adding, "with a lot of other people around."
The "cleaning" by the medium may not have been 100
percent successful. At times, Mercado hears banging, smells strange odors and
catches glimpses of something unusual. She has watched a young man at her front
door dissolve. Over time, she has developed her own solution. When something
strange occurs, she mimics the medium’s advice and tells the presence to
"go toward the light."
"The house is reasonably comfortable now," she said.
"But I’m still not quite sure what really was here."
Mercado no longer feels ashamed of her encounters with the
paranormal and wrote a book, Grave’s End: A True Ghost Story, about her
experience. She hopes it will help other families facing similar, unexplained
phenomena. Living with spirits has left Mercado more open to the existence of
spectral activity, an afterlife and near-death experiences.
"I feel a little more sure our consciousness probably
survives this life," she said. The experience has made her more accepting
of many other unexplained occurrences. "I will at least listen [to others’
stories]. If this stuff could happen to us, how could I negate other paranormal
What’s more, the hauntings have increased her capacity to
deal with frightening things and comfortably assume leadership roles. She honors
other people’s fears, even if she doesn’t recognize a situation as scary.
Mercado now writes part time and serves as a weekend and
evening nursing administration supervisor at a community hospital. She has been
interviewed by Dan Akroyd, traveled to book signings and was featured on
television programs. And she answers all letters sent by the book’s readers.
Twenty years after buying the house and seven years since the
"cleaning," Mercado’s confidence has soared. The events drew her
closer to her children. Living with paranormal activity also helped her become
more open and accepting of people and life.
"The experience made me a stronger person," she
said. "And I’m actually, in total, not sorry it happened."
Civil War-era Nurse Ghost Haunts Historical Inn
© 2002. AMN Healthcare, Inc. All Rights Reserved.