The Messengers: Four Ominous Encounters With Harbingers of Doom
I have told this story many times over the years and it never fails to send a chill down my spine. It has remained with me as a reminder that, sometimes, that feeling in the pit of our stomach that tells us to get out while we still can might be coming from a place that we have never been and cannot fully understand.
This story was related to me many years ago when I was working as a realtor in Parkersburg, West Virginia. One of my fellow agents had, at one time, worked with an agent in Ohio who told her of a disturbing incident she had with a former client.
The event took place in the late 1990's when the agent was showing houses to a single woman known only as "Jane." They toured several lovely homes, but none of them had suited the prospective buyer. She told the realtor that she would know the right place when she saw it. Not long after that, the agent found a house that met all of her client's specifications.
The house boasted three bedrooms, two baths and a fenced-in back yard complete with flower garden and landscaping. When the realtor described the house to Jane, she was already convinced that this would be the place for her.
The agent was already inside when Jane arrived to view the house. As the realtor led her through each room, Jane knew instantly that this was the dream home she had envisioned. Each room they entered was more beautiful than the last. It all seemed too good to be true.
At one point, the realtor told Jane that she needed to make a quick phone call. She suggested that Jane go ahead and tour the upstairs on her own. Excited to see the rest of the house, Jane walked up the stairs and discovered that the second level of the home was just as appealing as the first. Her mind was made up. She wanted this house.
As she stood at the window admiring the view, Jane felt something brush gently against her legs. She looked down to find a perfectly lovely white cat weaving in and out from between her ankles.
Jane bent down and picked up the cat. The animal was friendly and well cared for. Her immediate thought was that the cat must belong to the realtor. She put the cat down and continued to explore the upstairs rooms. The cat followed her everywhere she went, meowing the whole time.
Jane took an instant liking to the cat, just as she had the house. She decided that if it didn't belong to the realtor, she would make the feline visitor her own. That was, until the animal's personality suddenly changed. For no reason at all, it began to hiss at Jane.
The atmosphere in the house changed with the cat's sudden aggression. The atmosphere became so oppressive that Jane suddenly felt sick to her stomach. Fearing that she was about to be violently ill, she ran to the nearest bathroom.
After the nausea had passed, Jane went back downstairs to speak to her realtor. She found the agent still on the phone and waited for her to finish so she could have her full attention. When the realtor finally hung up, Jane questioned her about the cat.
The realtor had no knowledge of any animals in the house. She had checked out every room earlier and had seen no sign of a cat anywhere. Jane planned on leading the realtor upstairs to show her the mysterious feline, but found that she was unable to walk up the steps. The sick feeling she had experienced earlier returned as soon as she approached the landing.
The agent went upstairs by herself and returned to tell Jane that she couldn't find the cat. They both searched downstairs to no avail. If there had been a cat on the premises, it was gone now.
Jane told her realtor that she would have to think about the house. She went home and pondered the events of the day. She had loved the house from the moment she laid eyes on it. That is, until she had encountered the cat.
The feelings that occurred after she began to interact with the animal had completely changed her mind about the house. She had experienced such a sense of malevolence in the upper story of the house that she never wanted to see it again, much less live there. She phoned her agent and told her that the house wouldn't do, they would have to keep looking.
Months went by and Jane did, eventually, find a house that was perfect for her. It was exactly what she had envisioned and she was happy there. Not long after settling into her new home, she would receive an unexpected phone call from her realtor. The news that the agent had to share would make her truly thankful for her chance encounter with the white cat.
The realtor asked Jane if she had been following a story in the newspaper. Jane didn't know what story she was referring to. The agent explained that a couple had been murdered in their home and it was in all of the papers. A home invasion had taken place and a young husband and wife had been taken upstairs, tied to chairs and brutally bludgeoned to death.
Jane said that she was sorry to hear what had happened to the couple, but didn't understand what it had to do with her. The realtor told her that it was the location of the murder that she thought might interest Jane. It had occurred in the house that the agent had shown to her several months prior, the house in which Jane had seen the cat.
They wondered out loud what would have happened if Jane had not interacted with the cat on the day she toured the house. Jane said that she had loved the house and would have purchased it if not for the cat. It was the animal, and the sense of foreboding that accompanied it, that had deterred her from going through with the sale.
It was later determined that the couple had no connection with their killer. The house had been chosen completely at random. Had Jane bought the house instead of the couple, she may very well have met a grisly fate at the hands of an opportunistic killer.
The question can be asked, why didn't the cat warn the couple who did buy the house? We can never know. Perhaps this warning was destined only for Jane. It is also possible that the couple did see the cat, but didn't understand its significance. Sometimes, it's easy to miss the signs that are right in front of us.
Bad omens can manifest in many ways. For instance, my mother was always convinced that any unexplained knock or banging against our house was a sign of terrible things to come. Any time we would hear such a noise, she would wait on pins and needles for something terrible to happen to one of us. If a week went by and we were all still breathing, she took that to mean that fate had set its sights on someone else.
I first heard of the Wampus Cat at around the age of ten when my uncle passed away. He was actually my father's cousin, but we always called him "Uncle Dan." He and my dad were as close as brothers so the title was fitting.
Dan had always lived a hard life of excess. He liked to drink and didn't know when to stop. He also smoked several packs of cigarettes a day. It didn't come as a complete surprise when he died from a heart attack before the age of fifty.
I remember sitting at a relative's house after the funeral and listening to the adults as they talked about Dan. His real brother, Virgil, informed everyone that he had known beforehand that death was going to come calling for someone in the family, he just didn't know who.
He went on to relate, in hushed tones, that he had heard the cries of a Wampus Cat in the woods near his house a couple of nights before he received the call telling him that his brother had died.
Virgil said that he had been sitting in his living room, watching television, when he heard what sounded like a woman screaming somewhere in the woods. He had never before heard such a tortured cry in all of the years that he had lived in the little house in the country.
Virgil had heard stories of Wampus Cats in the past, but he assumed that they were just old wives' tales. He had never taken any of them seriously. Nevertheless, he felt uneasy after hearing the forlorn wailing. He couldn't help but wonder if he was about to lose someone in the family. He would have his answer shortly when he learned that his brother had passed.
As Virgil told of his ominous experience, the adults in the room solemnly nodded their heads. Not one of them questioned his story. Instead, after a few moments of silence, Virgil's wife chimed in with her own story of the Wampus Cat.
She said that she had also heard screams in the woods behind their house, but on a separate occasion from when Virgil had heard them. She had kept the story to herself for several years fearing that no one would believe her. Now that her husband had told his tale, she felt safe in sharing her own.
Virgil's wife, Peggy, quietly told the room full of mourners that she had been awakened one night, years earlier, by the piercing cries of a woman. The ear-splitting noise had cut through the night and jolted her out of bed. Virgil was away on a hunting trip at the time and she was in the house alone.
Peggy had looked out the windows, but couldn't see anything out of the ordinary. She said that there was an eerie stillness that had settled all around her, broken only by the cries which continued to assault her ears. She was so frightened by the experience that she couldn't go back to bed. Instead, she sat up for the rest of the night with every light in the house on.
Peggy explained that she knew, somehow, that the woeful cries were a warning. They took them as a sign that something terrible was going to befall her or someone close to her. Since Virgil was in the mountains hunting at the time, she just knew that the warning cries were meant for him.
To Peggy's great relief, her husband returned home safe and sound the following evening. She didn't tell him about the events of the previous night. She knew that he wouldn't have understood the fear that had paralyzed her.
On the day after Virgil returned home, Peggy received word that her mother, who had never been sick a day in her life, had passed away in her sleep. Peggy didn't tell anyone at the time, but she believed that the Wampus Cat's warning of death had been intended, not for Virgil, but for her mother.
Again, the adults in the room seemed to believe that the cries in the woods were, indeed, a sign that death was close by. I wondered, years later, if the sounds they heard could have been made by a fox or other animal. When I posed this question to my mother, she said that Virgil and Peggy had lived their entire lives in the country and knew a fox when they heard one. According to her, the cry of the Wampus Cat is unmistakable and, once heard, cannot be forgotten. Let's hope that none of us ever has to find out for ourselves if this is simply a fable or a reality far darker than we dare to imagine.
The Bringer of Sorrow
Owls are heralded, by some, as having an understanding of the world around them that most other creatures don't possess. The following passage relates an instance in which one of these keepers of the night made its presence known during the day, bringing with it a reversal of fortune for one unsuspecting family.
This story came by way via social media from a lady named Misty Lanthrope. She and her husband, Charlie, were living on the outskirts of Lexington, Kentucky when they were visited by a most unusual guest.
The couple raised horse on a small ranch that Charlie had inherited from his grandparents. Breeding horses was time consuming and took a lot of patience and skill, but the Lanthropes relished the time spent with their equines. Their horses had provided them with a sizable nest egg and a comfortable existence. For the ranch owners, their operation was an enterprise, but also a labor of love.
Everything had gone well for the couple until the spring of 2001 when Misty caught sight of a screech owl perched upon the hood of her car. She recalled that it was just before noon on a warm, sunny day. Misty had never before seen an owl on the property, be it day or night.
She stood for a few moments exchanging glances with the bird before it took flight and disappeared into the wooded area near their ranch. She thought nothing more of it as she went about her day. The whole encounter lasted only a matter of minutes and didn't seem important at the time.
A few weeks after the incident with the owl, one of the Lanthrope's pregnant mares had suddenly collapsed and refused to get back on her feet. Charlie ended up phoning their veterinarian after all attempts to right the animal had failed.
The vet could find no reason for the mare to be down. Her vital signs were normal and she didn't appear to be in any distress. Still, she would not stand up. The mare was administered an injection in an attempt to stimulate her to move. The Lanthropes were told to give her a bit more time and then, with the help of their hired hands, try to get her on her feet.
After an hour had gone by, they once again tried to make the horse stand on her own, but she steadfastly refused. Frustrated, Charlie told them to leave her for the night. He hoped that she would be standing on her own by morning.
It was not to be. When Charlie and his ranch hand checked on her early the following day, they found her lifeless body on the floor of the stable. Charlie called the veterinarian and asked him to come to the ranch and perform a postmortem on the horse as soon as possible. He wanted to get to the bottom of why the mare had died.
There were still other mares in foal on the property so everyone set about their day taking care of the other animals. In one of the stalls, Charlie discovered that another horse had gone down. She was lying on her side with her head raised in the air. He could see that she was either unable or unwilling to stand.
When the veterinarian arrived to perform the necropsy, he was rushed into the stall where the other horse was ailing. Again, he could find no obvious cause for the horse to be down. The three men, working together, could not shift her no matter how hard they tried.
He gave the mare the same injection he had tried before, assuring them that it normally did the trick when an otherwise healthy horse went down. While he waited for the shot to take effect, he decided to begin the postmortem on the mare that had died during the night.
Misty and Charlie paced anxiously as the vet performed the gory procedure on their horse. When he was finished, he rose to his feet and shook his head. He told them that her organs all appeared to be healthy. Their were no signs of colic or any other malady that would cause a horse to suddenly be immobilized. He added that the foal had been developing normally, as well. In the end, he could give them no real answers. A perfectly healthy mare had decided to lay down and die for no apparent reason.
When Charlie and the veterinarian checked in on the other downed horse, they found that she was in even worse shape than before. She was on her side again and her breathing was coming in shallow gasps. They worked frantically to save her to no avail. She ended up dying, along with her foal, just as the other horse had only hours earlier.
The veterinarian performed the necropsy then and there. He was just as concerned as Misty and Charlie about what was happening to their horses. As with the other mare, there seemed to be no reason for the sudden death.
He collected tissue sampled from both horses for analysis in the hopes that they would yield some answers. He explained that it was possible that they were suffering from some sort of virus or ailment that could not be detected without further testing. Unfortunately, he informed them that it might take weeks before he could give them any answers.
Things went downhill rapidly from that point on. One by one, the other horses started to go down in exactly the same way. In the end, only one of their six pregnant mares survived the ordeal. Her foal did not. In fact, not one foal was born on the ranch that season. It was an unprecedented event in their long careers as horse breeders.
When the lab results on the samples taken from the dead mares came back, they showed no indication of anything biological or pathological that would account for the rash of sudden deaths that had ravaged the ranch.
The events of that spring had devastating repercussions for Misty and Charlie, both financially and emotionally. They eventually recovered enough to get the ranch back up and running again, but the breeding facility they had once proudly operated was abandoned for good. They still raised horses, but on a small scale and only for their own stable. To date, they have had no issues with their mares or foals.
The horrible spate of deaths at the ranch has never been adequately explained. Misty still wonders if the mysterious appearance of the owl just prior to the harrowing events that took place at the stables was mere coincidence or a warning to them that the hand of fate was about to deal them a devastating blow.
The ominous appearance of a white animal is usually nothing to be concerned about. However, in the case of Joanne Miller, of Washington, Pennsylvania, such an occurrence may have saved her life.
Joanne emailed me her story which I have told before, but bears repeating. It all started when she was travelling on a long stretch of highway on her way home from visiting friends in Ohio. It was at that time that she had a mysterious encounter with something that may, or may not, have been supernatural. Whatever its origins, Joanne will always owe a debt of gratitude to the creature that crossed her path on that dark, stormy night.
Joanne was born in Ohio and had travelled the roadways between her home state and Pennsylvania more times than she could count. Even so, she didn't like to drive alone, especially after dark.
One Sunday night in 1987, she was more anxious than usual to get home. It had been raining for hours and the roads were wet which set Joanne's nerves on edge. She had to be at work the following morning and wished for the trip to be over so she could wind down before bedtime.
To add to her worries, Joanne and her boyfriend had been going through a rough patch in recent weeks. Theirs had been a volatile union from the start and the constant verbal assaults had started to become violent in nature. Before setting out on her journey to Ohio, she had ended the relationship once and for all.
Joanne was about an hour from home when something happened that would not only change the course of her travels, but also her life. She was on a stretch of highway with no buildings or homes that she could see when what appeared to be a large, white dog ran in front of her car.
In an attempt to avoid hitting the dog, she slammed on the brakes and skidded on the wet pavement. The car fish-tailed and came to rest on the side of the road. Miraculously, she had not collided with any other vehicles as she careened along the slippery roadway. She noted that the entire area, which was normally busy no matter the time of day, was strangely quiet on that night.
Joanne looked around for the dog, but couldn't find it or any sign of where it may have gone. All she knew was that it had flashed in front of her eyes quickly and then disappeared into the night.
As Joanne sat behind the wheel, she began to doubt that what she had seen had actually been a dog. It had only been visible for an instant, but she remembered it being much larger than any canine she was familiar with.
After sitting for a bit longer, Joanne decided to get back on the road and head home. She was still shaken from the experience and wanted nothing more than to get off the highway as soon as possible.
For reasons she can't explain, Joanne ended up turning off at the next exit and stopping at a gas station for a cup of coffee, something she would never normally have done. She sat at a small table that was set up near the coffee area and stared out into the night, still wondering what kind of animal she had narrowly missed on the highway.
Time seemed to stand still as Joanne sat sipping her coffee. Realizing that it was now very late, she got back into her car and commenced with the final leg of her journey. Try as she might, she couldn't shake the feeling that something was urging her to take her time.
Finally, several hours after she should have been home, Joanne turned down the street that led to her apartment building. She immediately saw flashing lights and emergency vehicles blocking the entrance to the parking lot.
Some of the other residents of the building were standing outside so she got out of her car and joined them. Since so many people were not in their apartments, she assumed that there had been a fire.
One neighbor, whom Joanne knew quite well, turned pale at the sight of her. When she asked him what was going on, he shared some terrible news. He said that, earlier that evening, some of the other tenants had heard a ruckus taking place in Joanne's apartment. They had assumed that it was her and her boyfriend having one their many arguments. Accustomed to their shouting matches, the neighbors had paid it little attention. That is, until they heard a gunshot.
He explained that they had phoned the police immediately. Their assumption had been that Joanne's boyfriend had shot her. When the authorities arrived on the scene, they discovered that it had been the boyfriend who was the victim. He was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Prior to killing himself, the boyfriend had ransacked the apartment. Joanne's clothing had been shredded and family mementos that she could never replace had been destroyed and placed in the toilet. Her cat had also been killed in the rampage.
After speaking with the boyfriend's family, investigators were able to piece together the events of the night. It seemed that he had made several phone calls to his mother and sister telling them how distraught he was over the breakup. He told them that he was going to the apartment to confront Joanne and settle things once and for all.
They didn't know what he had meant by that, but they feared he might do something drastic. Still, they had not alerted anyone to the possibility that someone's life could be in danger.
After the last phone call, the boyfriend--who still had a key to the apartment--had let himself in only to find that Joanne was not home. He had waited there for hours, destroying her property and killing her cat as his rage mounted. Sometime later that night, for reasons known only to him, he ended his own life.
Everyone who had been close to the couple knew that, had Joanne been home when her boyfriend came to call, she would not have survived the encounter. He had brought the gun for a reason and it wasn't to patch things up.
When the shock had worn off, Joanne couldn't help but think back to the events that had halted her progress on that fateful night. If not for a series of odd occurrences, she would have returned home hours earlier. Had she done so, that would have brought her face to face with her enraged boyfriend.
Joanne can't explain why things happened the way they did that night. All she knows is that, if not for a white dog-like animal darting in front of her car and the chain of events that followed, she would probably not be here to tell her story.