by Dr Christopher Laursen, Historian of Religion
in my own words | extraordinary experiences
January 22, 2013
Extraordinarium features personal experiences of the extraordinary as a way to explore their diversity and to broaden the conversation about how such experiences impact people’s lives. Publications such as Fate and Fortean Times have featured such personal experiences over the decades as a way of giving experients a voice, and part of Extraordinarium’s mandate is to do the same – to ensure that those who have extraordinary experiences have a forum in which they can share them first-hand, in their own words. From there, critical inquiry and respectful discussion can follow.
Foreword by Dr Laursen
Cat Wheeler has been living on Bali since 2000. A Canadian expatriate raised in Vancouver, she is a writer, social activist and Reiki Master. Her book Bali Daze is a lively series of brief anecdotes about living there, building her own house, adjusting to the way of being on the island and setting the scene for the nuances of Hindu-Balinese culture which is truly unlike any other in the world.
I had tea with Cat one cool, rainy season afternoon at her shady home in Ubud which is situated on the edge of a ravine – the place where an alternate dimension exists, where the Orang Sungei – the River People — live. She writes in her book, “The River People are generally friendly and sociable, but have been known to become angry when people throw rubbish down the riverbanks. Then they will drag the polluter down, sometimes to his death.” One of her dogs, Kasey, had met such an unfortunate fate in the gorge beside her home. Afterward, Cat recalled to me, she would dream of him and record these dreams – to find out that her housekeeper Wayan Manis had shared the same dream.
Cat shared several extraordinary incidents that she experienced over the past 30 years, both in Singapore – where she lived in the 1990s – and since moving to Bali. Here, she shares six of these moments. What I find striking about them is the variety of experiences. Encounters with sword-wielding apparitions, shoe-throwing energies, things going mysteriously missing, a moment of transoceanic synchronicity that led to a friendship, and possessed schoolgirls.
The Haunted Rowhouses
In Singapore I lived in one of a row of old houses that had been built by the British as officers’ quarters. After Independence the street had gone downhill and they were used as drug den — prostitutes, gangs, very rough trade — for about 30 years. Just before I moved in they’d been all been renovated and gentrified, but they were still inhabited with spirits.
My friend Donna moved into a house two doors down from me but she was often on the road working, leaving the house empty. One night had dinner at my house with some friends. Donna went home but very soon she was back, her eyes like saucers, and told us there was something weird going on in her bedroom.
Four of us went to her house: myself, Donna, Nicole and Jenny, who is very psychic and intuitive. She and I learned Reiki together and had been doing very interesting experimental work together for several years at that time. So we all went next door and up the stairs, opened the door to Donna’s bedroom, walked in, and there was a WHOOSH of cold energy. Whenever I’m in the presence of something like that, my left side feels chilled, so I knew there was a presence. Nicole and Donna ran out and huddled together half way down the stairs. Then Jenny entered the bedroom and immediately doubled over and started howling. I put my hands on her shoulders to try and keep her grounded, very aware of an energy in the room.
After a little while, I thought, Enough of this. So I opened all of the doors to the verandah and said, “Okay, that’s enough! You don’t belong here! Out you go!” I started jumping up and down and making loud noises. I had no techniques at that time. There was a kind of sound and a blast of energy went out the bedroom door. Donna and Nicole said they felt it pass them on the stairs as a cold wind, then it was gone. This was my first experience, a long time ago. I phoned a few people and asked how to clear spaces but no one could help me, so I had to create my own technique. And because this kind of thing is all about intention, it worked.
After that I started to get calls from neighbours. There were a lot of old energies from that period of gangsters, drugs and prostitutes – a lot of really sad, stuck, lost spirits hanging around. Sometimes I’d wake up in the night feeling as if someone heavy had sat on the side of my bed, and I’d have to get up and clear the bedroom.
I had a big upstairs room where my Reiki Master would teach when she was in Singapore. I apprenticed with her for 18 months before I became a teacher myself, mostly at my house. One evening after a workshop when the students had left, several of us were unwinding over dinner downstairs. Suddenly there were two loud bangs overhead and I went up to check it out. My Japanese roommate kept her shoes in a bookshelf at one end of the long narrow hall. Something had taken her shoes and thrown them down to the other end of the hall.
So we all had to go upstairs, open up the doors and windows and clear it. It took some time, I guess because we hadn’t cleared the room where we’d been raising energy for two or three days and it had really built up. Finally we felt it was gone and went and finished dinner. Donna returned home and immediately discovered that it had moved to her house! In one way or another, we got quite a bit of practice in that neighbourhood.
I call it spiritual housekeeping. If you’re in a space that’s dirty, you have to clean it! It’s not dangerous. The energies are not usually angry or malevolent. They’re just sad and stuck. But I always protect myself well first as standard operating procedure.
The Dinner Guest
I live on a very highly charged piece of land, according to the Balinese. I’ve had a couple of Balians – shamans – visit me here, walk around, come back and say, Not many people could live here. The River people live in the deep ravine to the east, my . fence forming a boundary between my garden and an altogether separate dimension where Balinese people generally do not venture.
It’s a very lively piece of land. The dogs sometimes just stand and stare at one corner where the jungle crawls up from the river to shade the edge of the garden. There are certainly spirits in the ravine. Once I had a dinner party with eight people around the table. I sat with my back to the forest, chatting to a friend who was sitting beside me. She happened to look past me [to the forest] and said, Oh my God! I whipped around and just caught the edge of a huge face rising up out of the dark jungle on the other side of the wall; the face was perhaps three metres high. Just as I was trying to focus on it, it pixelated and just dissolved away. Colleen and I were the only people who saw it. Perhaps it wanted to join the party.
Because this is such a highly charged piece of land and because of the work I do, I put up a physical barrier, a boundary wall which very clearly separates my side/your side. I’ve asked that it be respected. It’s not unseldom that things happen on the other side, but th River People do honour our agreement and stay out of my house and garden.
One of the strangest things that ever happened to me took place before I moved here, about 25 years ago. I went with a friend to Candidasa in August, the cremation season. We stayed in a little place near the se and our room had an ylang ylang (grass) roof. I’m allergic to grass roofs and I asked the staff to make up a bed on the bale (a roofed wooden platform) in the walled garden, so I could sleep outside.
The Balinese consider it absolutely mad and terribly dangerous to sleep outside, because of all the spiritual activity. They themselves sleep in closed-up rooms, usually with the windows tightly shut. That night before I went to bed, I laid symbols and intention all around the bale; it just seemed like a good idea. All around – at the beach, in the mountains, in the distance and not so far away – there was chanting, gamelan music, there was drumming, all kinds of death ceremony rituals going on in the night. There was a hum of energy in the air and I had a hard time falling asleep. I opened my eyes at one point thinking, What’s going on here? It’s so lively.
I sat up. Coming at me out of each of the three walls of the garden were these apparitions: faces, masks, swords, severed hands. They’d fly out of the walls right up to the edge of the bale. And then they’d disappear, pixilate, where I’d laid the symbols and protection. It was like watching a movie. After quite a while I wished it would stop so I could rest, but only when it began to get light did the action stop. I was exhausted but intrigued.
The Possessed Schoolgirls
One day there was a possession in the school across the street. I heard people screaming and running and the school loudspeaker ordering everyone to go home, quickly. My Balinese staff told me I should go help. I asked whether it appropriate for a foreigner to do that and they told me it was. So I put protection around myself, climbed the steps of the school against a tide of hysterical teenagers and teachers running out, and started to hold the space for a girl who was possessed.
I’d never seen this phenomenon before and I looked it up on the Internet afterwards. It seems to be not uncommon with teenagers of a certain age in many countries. There were two girls — one was catatonic and the other I can only describe as crazed, enraged, demonically possessed. I sat and held space for the catatonic one. Her friend, to her credit, was bravely cradling her. The other girl was possessed by a dark entity, she was full of ferocious energy. If she’d had a knife in her hand, she would have attacked everyone in sight. She would rage for a while then periodically collapse and huddle, shivering and exhausted, behind the school temple before the demon rose again.
My housekeeper Wayan Manis came and joined me after a while, which was very brave for a Balinese. We probably stayed there for an hour, until finally someone sent a car around and they took the girls away. I asked for holy water and the principal, who was also a priest, sprinkled it over Wayan and me. The teachers told the girls to take a month off, go see a Balian and do what needs to be done. But a week later, the girls insisted on coming back to school and the same thing happened again.
Catherine Wheeler, it is not your time to die…
About 20 years ago I was thinking about moving to Bali from Singapore. I came here with several friends and we stayed on the south coast. Early one morning four of us went walking by the calm sea, about three metres from the waterline. Suddenly a big rogue wave came up, two metres tall – a wall of water – and hit us like a train. My three friends were swept up a surge channel. I was luckily thrown into a breakwater because I can’t swim. It was a very traumatic experience. We were all banged up, there was a lot of mud and blood, but no one was seriously hurt.
Maybe ten years after this event, I received an e-mail out of the blue from a woman in Argentina. She wrote, You’re going to think I’m absolutely mad. I study dreams and last night I dreamt of a bay in a tropical area; a boat was rocking and the waves were high. There was a feeling of danger, but a voice said very clearly, “Catherine Wheeler, it is not your time to die.” I Googled Catherine Wheeler and your name came up. You must think I’m crazy. Does it make any sense to you?
I wrote back to say yes, it made perfect sense in its own strange way! She’d dreamed about an event that happened to me a decade or so before; a very immediate dream with my name very clearly stated, so she was able to find me. We became friends. She’s a journalist and has featured me in a couple of articles in the Argentinean women’s magazine she writes for.
Dealing with Dark Forces
Ibu Kat has encountered many things living in Asia. But, as she shows in the following experience, she’s empowered herself to maintain control of the spaces she occupies. It’s a skill that she’s developed over decades using the practice of Reiki and intention.
My first house in Bali was also by a river, and there was a very dark energy around it. It was a horrible house! Things were constantly disappearing. I’d be alone in the compound with the front gate locked. I’d put a hammer on the table, go answer the phone, come back and the hammer would be gone. Things like that were constantly happening. Items would be gone, never, ever to reappear, which I found very annoying.
Then one night, my puppy disappeared. He was on a long chain on an overhead line because the fence had not yet been finished and the house was near a busy road. I went to the gate to see off a visitor and was gone for maybe 30 seconds. When I got back to the house the dog was gone. The chain was gone. There hadn’t been a sound. I was absolutely furious by this time. I stood on the porch and shouted, “Alright, that’s enough! This is my space, not your space. This has got to stop! I’m really fed up with this. Go! And send back my puppy!”
Then I went and sat in my office and huffed. Two minutes later there was the sound of a rattling chain and the wet, muddy little puppy ran in to sit at my feet. Where had he been? How had he disappeared in utter silence trailing that long noisy chain? He was pretty spooked and very glad to see me.
That was a big lesson for me. I learned that here in Bali you must have very strong, clear boundaries. Sometimes, the spirits are malevolent here. There’s a lot of black magic being thrown around out there by the Balinese; it can be dangerous. I protect myself against it.
Be fearless. Fearlessness is different than courage, it’s a state of being. You get there after being frightened a lot; you eventually work your way past it. Bali is an energy vortex. There’s always something going on. Keep your balance. And don’t be afraid. There really is nothing to fear except fear itself.
May your path be joyful.