Now Featured in the Patheos Book Club
Ghost Brother Angel
By Grant Schnarr
Book Excerpt: Preface
Were you afraid of the dark as a child? Who hasn't experienced that slight chill down the spine when the lights go off? When I was little, it wasn't just the dark I was afraid of—it was what the dark represented. It was something deeper and more terrifying. It was the void, the empty spaces in my life. Years later, I realized that those fears weren't just random. I was being haunted.
I wrote this story down right after it happened in 1996. I had to. The events that took place, the series of "coincidences" that happened so rapidly and with such spiritual purpose and consequence, were beyond even what many call "serendipity." I found my situation and experiences during this time to be nothing short of astonishing.
This is a true story, and true stories are not fairy tales taking the reader down a single path to resolution. True stories unfold as they will. Though I changed some names and adapted a number of incidental details to preserve the integrity of the storyline, I want to take you through the journey exactly as it happened to me, through a string of seemingly unrelated events: a terrifying airplane flight, a trip through some dark parts of South Africa, a meeting in a church camp in western Pennsylvania, revelations in the solitude of the North Woods of Wisconsin, and finally coming home, truly coming home. At the time I did not recognize an undeviating thread of purpose and resolution in these events, but now that I look back, more than fifteen years later, I see that everything happened with a single and momentous purpose, one that led to an awestruck realization of the power of spirit, and humanity, and love, both as we experience it in this world and, yes, in the unseen world to come.
Chapter 1: The Ghost in the New Room
Yes, I was afraid of the darkness, ghosts, and the void in childhood. But that didn't mean some of those ghosts weren't real. Let me start from the beginning.
In 1963, my parents, Ronnie and Bette Schnarr, with four daughters and one son (me) between the ages of one and fifteen, decided to expand our house. They built a new garage and turned the old one into a recreational room. It was very modern by the standards of the time, with wood paneling and a drop ceiling, bay window, fireplace, wet bar, stereo, piano, two large sofas, end tables, chairs and so on. Since it was the newest room in the house, our family called it the "New Room."
The New Room was large, and because of this we would celebrate Christmas there, decorating the room and setting up the tree; on Christmas morning we would find our filled stockings hanging from the beautiful stone fireplace when we came to open our gifts. It was also used for entertainment, and the children would hang out there with their friends. It was separated from the rest of the house by a long hallway with doors on either end, so it was very private.
The room didn't look haunted. Nothing about it appeared in the remotest sense scary, except perhaps for the old deer head mounted on the wall next to the fireplace, staring down on those who entered. The really unnerving part was what would happen there.
I grew up knowing that there was something different about that room. There always seemed to be some sort of presence there. The presence would sometimes be very strong, as if something was going to appear to one of us if we stayed too long. I always had a sense that it was sad and gloomy, especially on Christmas night, like the time I got sick and was rushed to the hospital. The feeling was the same on every Christmas night after the presents had been opened, dinner had been served, and the darkness of winter set in. It sounds trite, but the presence was so thick that you could cut it with a knife. One Christmas, my sister Sue, who was around twelve at the time, went to play in the room while all were busy elsewhere in the house. She heard a peculiar noise, as if someone were either laughing or crying, and it seemed to be getting louder. She thought it must be coming from the house next door, so she went to the window and opened it. At that point she realized that the sound, which was growing louder, was coming from the room itself. She ran in fear.
My sisters regularly complained that they felt like they were being watched by someone when they sat in that room with their boyfriends. Perhaps my father was checking up on them through some shifty, covert means, but I don't think so. They swore that there was a presence in the room with them, and it would become so powerful and unnerving that they and their boyfriends would be forced to leave. It became too frightening to stay. Growing up, I had this same experience when I used to practice the trumpet in that room by myself. The presence would become so strong, looming right behind me, that I finally had to put the trumpet down and run out, not looking back.