by Kate DeJonge
I saw the article come up on my newsfeed and clicked it out of curiosity. Now I really wish I hadn’t. I’m telling you about it now as a warning because you’re going to see the viral posts at some point, and I don’t want anyone else to go through this.
I found the warlock’s grave in the summer before grade six. Back in those days, we were free to roam if we were home before the streetlights came on. Our neighborhood was brand new and only half-built, which means that we were surrounded by old country fields on all sides. I loved exploring those fields, coming across stony ruins of houses that once dotted the landscape. There were wells to watch out for, especially in late August when the dry brush was at its highest, but none of us ever got hurt badly enough to alert our parents. We usually made our way to the Mount Albion Cemetery to creep around the old stones, scaring each other with ghost stories. We dared each other to touch the gravestones and call out to their owners, many of whom had been buried more than a century earlier. The oldest stone had been erected in 1847, its etchings barely legible after so many years of snow blowing across the farm fields. To our young minds, the place was magically spooky.
Directly across the road stood a single plot on top of a small hill, its crooked old stone standing like a silent sentinel guarding the forest behind it. Everyone except for me knew what the stone was, and who it belonged to. I was the new kid, and my friends were beyond excited to shock me with their tales. They goaded me into climbing the hill and standing beside the mysterious gravestone, which I did. When I read the engraving, I was shocked!
Robert van Dusen
Here lies the warlock…
And their stories began. ‘The warlock rose on Halloween night every year to kill any children who dared disturb his rest.’ ‘The soil on the hill had to be replaced every few years because the bones of his toes began to poke out of the grass after a strong rainstorm.’ ‘The warlock was an evil man who killed Laura Secord (a historical home was close by on Limeridge Road at the time, but it never belonged to Laura Secord!).’ These games and stories perpetuated until we were in high school, but by then, the fields surrounding the grave were filling up with new homes, and we were spending our time at the mall instead of looking for ghosts. The stories we’d told one another got lost over time, and the gravestone was stolen sometime in the 90s, leaving nothing but an odd patch of grass on top of a tiny hill for the new residents to see. The warlock was forgotten.
Until recently, that is. People are asking questions about the warlock’s grave again, and those of us who remember the time before his stone was stolen are starting to panic.
Local history is more accessible now than it ever was with the invention of the internet and websites like Ancestry.com. Van Dusen family members have been filling in some details, and history enthusiasts have been connecting the dots. Sometimes I wish I’d never clicked on the article called “The Warlock of Stoney Creek” on a Facebook local history page; I’d rather have left the man’s bones alone along with the fading memories of my friends’ crazy stories. Unfortunately, I am my own worst enemy, and I can’t walk away from a good mystery.
I read the article and knew that some of the details were wrong. It was written by someone who hadn’t been born yet when my friends and I frequented the gravesite. I could have kept scrolling, but I wanted to help the writer tell the true story, so I reached out to him with a private message. He was more than accommodating and asked if I’d like to meet up at the grave later that week to see if I could sense anything there. As a kid, I was sensitive but had no idea that I was psychic. As an adult who has been providing professional readings for more than 20 years, I was rather surprised I hadn’t thought about returning to the warlock’s grave for this very purpose, myself. I asked a friend to come with me because I don’t care who you are, you do not meet online strangers in person alone. She was interested in the occult, too, and excited to think that we had a bona fide warlock in our local history. I guess there’s no reason to hide names in this story, is there? Shelly, her name was Shelly. The writer we were meeting was David.
Shelly and I arrived early because I dread being late for anything. She had fun exploring the old stones in the Mount Albion Cemetery but was disappointed with the warlock’s gravesite. A new iron fence now surrounded the plot, but the only thing inside its gates was grass. The forest that used to surround it was gone, too. On one side was a stretch of recently built houses, and on the other was a noise barrier that runs along the new inner-city highway. Apart from the old trees and remaining stones in the cemetery proper, there was nothing spooky about this land at all.
Shelly had come along as much to help me as for the spooky thrill, and I felt bad that the energy around the legendary grave was so flat. I asked her to sit with me in the grass among the stones of the cemetery and close her eyes while I described what it had looked like when I was a kid: a dark two-lane country road without streetlights and not very populated. Trees had lined the pavement on both sides, their branches looming over the road like skeletons holding hands. It was hilly and somewhat dangerous to travel on at night because you couldn’t see oncoming traffic until they were right in front of you. As proof of this description, I told her the story about the jogger who had been killed a little further up the road, and the time I’d been driving to a classmate’s house when I saw her up ahead of me and panicked. I’d been able to see right through her, and when I slammed on my brakes, she suddenly appeared in my passenger side window, cupping her hands to peer in at me. That was a true story. I was sixteen and just glad I didn’t make a mess of my pants when it happened. Shelly shivered and laughed and asked me to stop talking; she was sufficiently scared.
David pulled up in his pickup, a camera strap strung around his neck. We passed around introductions and walked back over to the warlock’s grave. He gave Shelly the tour guide routine, which she listened to politely, nodding and oohing appropriately. When he was done, he asked me if I’d already been inside the gates and sensed anything. He was thrilled that I’d waited for him and gripped his camera with anticipation. I felt a little bad for the man; I didn’t think anything was going to happen and I hated feeling like a disappointment. He opened the latched gate for me and held it so I could pass through. He and Shelly started to follow me in, but I asked them not to. The patch of grass was only 16 feet square, and I needed to be alone if I was going to sense anything at all. David waited at the open gate, camera ready to catch any paranormal phenomena. I sat down on the small rock square that had once held the warlock’s gravestone and closed my eyes. After a minute or two, I stretched my legs out straight and placed my palms on the grass.
It started as a subtle vibration tingling up my arms and legs. I’d experienced this at haunted locations before and remained calm, knowing that this might be the total of the show for today. Suddenly, though, I felt an immense pressure between my shoulder blades and my heart started skipping beats. I was cold, shivering, and my breath tasted like death. I tried to lift my arms, but I couldn’t. I felt a panic attack starting, but I couldn’t open my mouth to scream. David asked if I was ok, but I could not respond. He was filming this, and I’ll never forget watching that tape later and seeing myself like that. My lips were closed tightly, but my jaws were stretching the skin as I tried to make noise. My eyes were wide with terror. This had happened once before, but I’d been with another psychic who had known how to pull the possessing entity out of me. Today, I was on my own.
Shelly was watching me from the other side of the fence, and I caught her eye. She couldn’t have known what was happening, but our bond was strong, and she knew I was in trouble. She pushed David out of the way and came to me, alternately shaking me by the shoulders and gently slapping my face. David was more concerned with catching some good footage and was holding his camera over the fence to keep filming. When I didn’t respond to any of Shelly’s efforts, she lifted my arms and tried to pull me to a standing position. I’m not a small girl anymore, and I was too heavy for her to pull. David put his camera down on the grass, careful to make sure it was still facing me, and came into the plot to help Shelly. They knocked me on my back, grabbed my ankles, dragged me out of the warlock’s grave and down the hill to the road below. It only took seconds for my ability to speak to come back, and I screamed. Tears followed and flowed for quite some time. I felt dirty, invaded, and sick to my stomach. Shelly went back to our car and retrieved my water bottle, which I took gratefully.
David asked if I’d be willing to go back into the plot so he could get more footage, but I was done for the day. I should have been done forever, but I like to make mistakes a few times to be sure I really learn the lesson. (My spirit guides have been rolling their eyes at me for years.) We agreed to end our session and he promised to message me when he’d had a chance to run his footage through his computer. Where previously I had believed that nothing interesting would be found on his tape, now I wasn’t so sure. Shelly drove me home and hung around while we waited for David’s message. When it came through, we were both spooked.
Most of his video was exactly what I expected, nothing interesting. But the moment I tried to scream with sealed lips, a male voice could be heard in the distance laughing malevolently. When my eyes met Shelly’s over the fence just before she came to help me, my face changed. It wasn’t a full transformation, but my image stretched and twisted, my mouth snarling. It was only for a split second, but David had rewound the video and slowed it down substantially so we could see the change happening in full detail. It was not a blip; it was a change that happened in stages all across my face before disappearing. When they dragged me out of the plot to the road, that same male voice screamed into the camera at a volume that hurt our ears. Unless David was a master editor, there was no way he’d had enough time to overlay special effects this well. I suggested that he post the video on his social media accounts and ask if anyone else had experienced something similar at the warlock’s grave.
It took a couple of weeks, but someone shared the video at just the right time and one of my childhood friends saw it. She was still in contact with the other girls we’d hung out with that summer and said she would send the video to them. The next day I got a private message from Andi, the sister of one of those girls. She was obviously not happy with what we’d done and wanted to set up a Zoom call with me immediately. My anxiety kicked in, but David was excited with this turn of events and really wanted me to do it. I called Shelly and asked her to come over, then told Andi I would speak with her in half an hour. The invitation link appeared in our chat right away, but I waited to open it until Shelly was there with me.
When she arrived, she suggested I pour myself a glass of wine to have at the ready, knowing my anxiety well. I did, and we sat down together in front of my laptop. Andi didn’t bother with small talk. She asked if I was aware of what had happened to her sister, my old friend Danielle. I hadn’t even thought about those girls until this whole warlock grave situation came up, so I had no idea. Danielle, she informed me, had continued her fascination with the occult and had gone back to the warlock’s grave with several friends just after high school. She was never the same after that. She heard things, saw things, and developed quite a temper. She believed she was possessed by the warlock and had magical abilities. Their parents admitted her to a psychiatric hospital shortly thereafter, and she killed herself a few years later. Andi blamed the warlock’s grave for this. She was a few years older than Danielle and me and had more stories about the warlock that we had never heard. Shelly took notes for David, knowing he’d want to know what Andi had to say.
Andi’s classmates had told stories of Robert van Dusen and his penchant for children. It wasn’t the same story that my friends knew. The warlock didn’t just kill children who played on his grave, he collected souls to give to the Devil. He’d made a pact with Satan, the souls of many children in exchange for his magical abilities. He didn’t kill Laura Secord in that house on Limeridge Road; the woman had lived in the Niagara region. Robert lived in one of the old stone buildings that had been left in ruins in the fields around our houses back then, the ones we used to play in. He’d been charged as a warlock at age 97 when the bodies of several children were found in his well. Nobody lived to be 97 in his day, and the villagers concluded it was witchcraft. When he died later that same year in jail, Satan wasn’t satisfied with the number of souls he’d provided and made him collect more. It was true that he took those who dared to walk across his grave, but he also possessed adults and took children through them. All one needed to do was to lie down on his grave and he would rise out of his rotting corpse to take over their bodies. Once possessed, the bodies he inhabited went on killing sprees.
I’m sure at this point in the conversation I was trying to think of how to make sure this wouldn’t happen to me, but I don’t remember. Shelly was worried and wanted me to go to another psychic right away to make sure the warlock had completely vacated my body on the road below his grave. Andi asked me to stop passing the video around, because she didn’t want anyone else to see it and decide to go investigate. I told her I’d ask David to stop, and we ended our call.
We messaged him immediately and told him what we’d learned. He agreed to pull the video from his pages, but it was already out there. It had been shared more than 2000 times from his Facebook page alone; he no longer had control over it. I wanted to call the police and ask them to patrol the grave, but Shelly and David thought the cops would just laugh at me. I typed #warlocksgrave into my search bar and was shocked to see how quickly the story was spreading, and how many new details were being added to it. It was like the old telephone game where one person whispers a sentence into the next person’s ear, and you see how much the story changed by the time it reaches the end of the line.
Shelly suggested that the residents living around the grave would get tired of people visiting the site and call the police themselves which made me feel a bit better, but I was suddenly very tired. When I lifted my head off the table, she was staring at me with her mouth hanging wide. She said she’d just spoken to the warlock. I rubbed my forehead where it felt bruised, and Shelly told me I’d just dropped onto the table mid-sentence before sitting up again and speaking in his voice. I’d told her that I was back, and I was going to collect enough souls to appease Satan. I told her that I could inhabit whomever I wanted now that I was free of my internment, and I would not stop until I met the requirements of my deal with the devil.
We called David and told him this, and he was as excited as he was shocked. This was the best paranormal activity he had ever heard of, and he wanted to write about it right away. We asked him to write his story as a warning and to ask for help, but he didn’t sound as committed to the idea as we were. I contacted my old psychic friend, the one who had pulled the last spirit out of me, and arranged to meet with her the next day. Unfortunately, David wrote his story sensationally and it went viral overnight.
So here we are now, I’m on my way to the psychic’s house and my inbox is full of worried messages from people who lived in the area decades ago. They had partied on his grave, or their children had. Were they in danger of becoming possessed by the warlock, too? What should they do to protect themselves? David turned off commenting on all his posts because there was just too much. I can’t answer all these people, I need to focus on making sure I am safe. But what if I’m not? What if she can’t get him out of me? What if I wake up tomorrow morning with the blood of children on my hands?
I shouldn’t have gone back to the Warlock’s grave. I shouldn’t have messaged David to tell him he had some of his details wrong. Whatever happens next is my fault.
About Kate DeJonge