"The experiences the family had led me to believe that what we are dealing with has nothing to do with spirits or ghosts or goblins or anything like that, but with the devil, Satan." — A minister, quoted in the book "Family Possessed," about his experiences helping an area family.
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Children speaking in strange tongues and seeing visions of an old woman; shadows of tall, skinny men glimpsed late at night where no one should be; and a nauseous minister throwing Bibles at an unseen presence — ingredients of campfire narratives or descriptions of an area family's encounter with actual spirits? After reading "A Family Possessed: A Ghost Story" by L.W. Stevenson, you may be haunted by your own fears, imagined or otherwise. The book, whose author passed away in 1998, is being released in the next few days, according to Doris Wenzel, the book's editor. Helen Stevenson, the author's widow, said the release is a bittersweet joy to her. "We've waited so long for this," said Mrs. Stevenson. "I'd have loved to share this experience with him." Stevenson worked as a district manager for Ralston Purina and began writing after he retired, according to Mrs. Stevenson. Stevenson, who also taught at Lake Land College, wrote a book called "A Secret Place" and penned a book on sales careers, among other works. Wenzel said the book is written as a fictional novel because the family portrayed did not want their real names known. Stevenson incorporates himself in the book, as a character who learns of the family's troubles through the family's father figure, Robert. Stevenson writes that Robert's family learns the former occupant of their land was an elderly widow who would hang tame dogs from a maple tree in her backyard and then "jab them with a pitchfork, beginning with their eyes." It is implied the ghost of this woman now haunts the family's house. Stevenson writes how her spirit, or some other restless soul, quickly becomes a disturbance: "One night, long past midnight, the girls awakened to the sound of footsteps in the basement beneath their bedroom. Someone was walking swiftly from one corner of the basement to the other. They listened as the footsteps hurried back and forth, then called their mother. When Becky (Robert's wife) came into the room, the footsteps ceased. To calm the girls, Robert went down into the basement. There was no one there." Various incidents, such as a garage door opening by itself or strange voices and cries from lonely, quiet areas, begin to wear on the family members' emotions. Stevenson relates one incident: "'We have company, Mother. A woman walked across the yard and stood under the maple tree. I thought she was coming in the back door.' Joan (Robert and Becky's daughter) went to the window. 'I see her,' she said. 'I caught a glimpse of her, but I don't see her now. She must have stepped back into the shadows.' Becky said it was probably someone with car trouble and went to the back porch. The security light lit up the yard and she could see no one near the tree … she ran back inside, locking the kitchen door behind her. She felt as if she were in a bad dream, running to escape an unseen presence. She told herself that she mustn't show fear, mustn't frighten the children." Stevenson's book treads on familiar territory of films such as "The Exorcist" and "The Amityville Horror" when he writes of a minister being called in to help the family cope. This minister finds himself affected by the mysterious forces around the house and later suffered a nervous breakdown, according to Mrs. Stevenson. Driving home after a long session with the family, the minister is shaken by a terrible vision. Stevenson writes, in the minister's own words: "At 12:30 (a.m.), I started home and I had a feeling I wasn't alone as I drove. As I said before, I have a strong imagination … but there was something with me. I kept telling myself that it was my imagination, but when I got about a mile from the house, I looked into the mirror and there were two of the brightest red eyes I have ever seen, looking back at me. I stopped the car and turned and looked, but there was nothing there." These are just samples of "A Family Possessed." Robert said he and his wife still reside in that same house and that strange events still disturb the house's serenity.