This Is My Story!
My name is Cassie Woods and I was held against my will in the Chester Terrace Sanitarium in the town of Port Angeles, Washington from 1969 to 1976. I lived in isolation for years tormented by memories of that night I stumbled on a doorway between two worlds. From that moment I fought for my sanity, my life and the child who I held in my arms!
I’m dead now and I linger within the walls of this sanitarium which has long since been closed and abandoned. I died afraid, alone, abused, over medicated, neglected and mis-diagnosed but most of all disbelieved by everyone of what I had encountered and faced. This is my story.
When I was twenty-two, my life seemed full of hope and aspirations. I was carefree, attending college and majoring in biology. I lived in a small studio apartment just off campus. I had friends and while I wasn’t a magnet to men I wasn’t a plain Jane either. I remember that December 3, 1969 morning as if it were yesterday. It was a snowy morning as I drove down the steep hill in my 1965 VW bug trying my best to not slide sideways or hit any of the parked cars.
That was when I lost control spinning on the black ice under the snow and hit the snow bank hard. I was stunned for a few minutes from hitting my head on the steering wheel. When I looked to my left and then my right, my eyes began to focus more clearly Suddenly I realized, to my disbelief, I wasn’t on the hill I had slid down a few moments ago.
I was in some sort of single story low income housing project. I saw a sign post that said West Park Apartments to my right. Though there was snow on the ground I had never heard of West Park Apartments. I had lived in Port Angeles all my life. In fact as I looked around the landscape didn’t even look like my town.
My first thought was that I must have passed out from the impact and was dreaming. But when I struggled to get out of my car I felt soreness in my leg and left shoulder as well as my forehead. To make matters worse when I got out of my car I slipped and fell down and the pain all too well reminded me I wasn’t dreaming. But where was I? My mind was frantic trying to find a rational explanation.
I grabbed hold of my car door to pull myself to my feet as I carefully brushed the snow off of my clothes. I didn’t see a single person in any direction. In fact not only didn’t I see any other cars but the complex looked like it hadn’t been lived in for years. The lawns and trees looked overgrown and untrimmed. Curtains on the windows looked tattered and torn. I leaned inside my VW and tried to turn the engine over, nothing happened.
So I picked up my purse, locked my car and decided to walk to the nearest apartment to see if I could use their phone. Door after door I went to but no one answered my knock. Come to think about it I don’t remember seeing a dog, cat, squirrel, or even the sound of a bird. I heard only an eerie deathly silence. I was cold and my feet were frozen as I walked to another apartment door. This time I knocked harder and with more urgency and the door pushed open a few inches.
I called out “Hello. Is anyone home? Can I use your phone please?” But there was only the smell of dust and dampness and silence. I pushed the door open further and slowly light filled the room. The inside of the apartment was clean and tidy. It was the sort of place I might find myself living one day. It was sparsely furnished but nice. I stepped inside to look for a telephone. I could tell children lived here once by the toys on the floor.
As I walked down the hall I kept calling out, “Hello?’” afraid I would startle someone but no one was home. In truth I believed it had been years since someone had lived here. I wondered why management hadn’t cleaned up the place, painted it and re-rented it. That was when I made that one fatal mistake that all people do when they find themselves in danger.
That one thing they shouldn’t have done but did! I walked into the last room at the end of the hallway. As I stepped into the room, it was the barest room of all it was a room without windows, without a bed or dresser, in fact, there wasn’t even a closet. I can’t remember if I shut the door behind me when I entered the room or if something unseen shut it. Suddenly, it became pitch black and I screamed.
As I screamed it sounded like the voices of a hundred people of all ages were screaming at the same time. My heart was racing a hundred miles per hour and I felt tears roll down my face. Then I felt other people, many other people, bumping into me as if they were unaware I was in the room. It was all I could do to keep from being knocked to the floor.
Suddenly as the darkness and screams began their voices faded away and light filled the room. I was gasping trying to catch my breath and sanity because there were no light fixtures in the room. This room should still be pitch black I thought to myself as I wiped tears from my eyes. Yet the fear I was feeling, pounding in my mind, and the beat of my heart pounding like thunder was just the very beginning of this nightmare. A nightmare that would haunt me long beyond my death.
I wanted to leave that room. As I turned around to my shock and horror I saw only walls. I spun around in all four directions only to find that each wall was a solid wall with no door. This had to be a dream. This couldn’t possibly be happening. I realized I was trapped. There was no furniture to sit on so I knelt down and sat on the floor and cried. When I could cry no more I looked up and tried my damndest to find the source of the light in the room.
The harder I looked the harder it was to see where the light was dimmest and where it was brightest. It seemed the light shined from every direction. The floor was cold and I was getting colder by the minute. I was shivering. Then I saw something that I swear couldn’t possibly happen. The wall to my left now had a long sliding glass window about six feet long and three feet tall. Oddly enough, it was about four feet off the ground.
In a weird sort of way it reminded me of a window on a maternity ward where newborn babies could be seen. Slowly I stood up as my bones ached from the coldness. Cautiously I walked closer and closer to the open window. I could see it was a small room maybe eight feet long by twelve feet wide. It was a room packed with boxes and <deleted>. A cluttered mess. Almost like a storeroom. I looked but saw no door in that room either.
That was when I saw the small crib to the right of the window and the shape of a baby under the dusty yellow blanket. It looked like a child about eight months old and with each breath it took the blanket rose and fell. It was bundled very tightly. I pushed the sliding window open all the way and looked for a way to safely climb into the room to get the baby.
It was maternal instincts that urged me on I guess. It wasn’t as difficult as I thought to get into the room as I slid across the wide wooden counter and pushed boxes aside to step down to the floor. When I reached the side of the wooden crib I tried to pull back the babies blanket but it was wrapped too tightly around the small child so I carefully picked up the baby hoping not to wake it up and just rocked it in my arms.
I could hear the baby’s soft murmured breathing. I swayed to a lullaby remembered only in my mind as a child for a few moments before I took my right hand and ever so slowly lifted the blanket away from the babies face. To my horror I could see it was a girl. A baby girl that had been severely beaten. Her face was very black and blue and my heart was just about ripped out.
How could someone ever hurt a small defenseless child? When the baby suddenly opened up her eyes she had the most beautiful blue eyes and though her lips were healing and blood stained she smiled a smile that whispered, “I know you won’t hurt me.” Oh how I cried. I decided to take the little girl to the other room and in a few minutes she and I were in the room I had previously been in. But this time there was a door.
I could see it was the door I had used to come into the room. I quickly went to the door and opened it. I turned for just a moment to look back at the sliding glass window only to see that once again it had become a solid wall. I stepped back into the hallway when I was confronted by a ghostly apparition. It was the shape of a woman in a hovering thin mist of fog. I really couldn’t see her body but her facial features.
I saw clearly as tears rolled down her cheeks as she looked at the baby in my arms. In a haunting pleading mother’s voice I recall to this very moment what she said to me. “You’re not from this world. I can sense the light around you as bright as the sun. You have the power to save my child and to take away her pain. But there is much danger in this place. There is an evilness that torments everyone here.
When it realizes you’re in our world it will come for you. Be not afraid child for it can’t take your life or your soul. No matter what it tries to do to you. Show strength and courage not fear. Face the demon instead of running. Defy him to take the child now in your arms. The longer Emily is held in your arms the sooner she will heal. Go to the cemetery at the west end of town. Find the huge oak tree.
Beside it will be a headstone bearing my name, Georgia Townsend. Help my child touch my headstone and you will both return to your world. Both of you will be safe from all that is evil here.” she told me anxiously. She saw tears flowing down my cheeks as I asked, “Who could beat a helpless child like this?” The ghost of Georgia Townsend replied, “The demon that lives in this world thrives on pain and suffering.
I sensed your presence when you entered this apartment. I fought against the demon trying to hide my daughter from him knowing you’re my baby’s only hope. If you allow him to take my baby you too will be trapped here for eternity. You will suffer as we all have pain without end. Hurry, make your way to the cemetery and don’t be fooled. The demon will try to use illusions to gain your confidence in the hopes of taking my daughter.
She is the last living soul in this world besides you. That’s why he’s kept her alive. He will not easily let you take her from this world. Your kindness will heal my baby and end her suffering.” she said in a frightened voice. As she said those words I knew her heart was being torn apart at the thought of never seeing her daughter again. “Go child! Find the cemetery and the headstone and let Emily touch it.” she said and as quickly as Georgia spoke to me she vanished.
Hurriedly I left that apartment. When I did the wind felt icy cold biting at my neck and cheeks as I tried to figure out which direction was west. I couldn’t see the sun to guide me because the sky was overcast. I bundled up Emily tighter and held her close to me as I began to walk down the sidewalk. I was frightened. Very frightened, but I also was very angry and my anger was now, my strength.
No one was going to hurt this child as long as I was alive. As I wandered down a street I looked for anything I could use as a weapon against an attack from anyone. But there was nothing I could find heavy enough, strong enough or deadly enough to protect me or Emily. That was when I saw the church. It was a small white church. The kind of church that would make the perfect postcard picture to mail to someone. I wasn’t expecting to find a weapon inside. Only sanctuary and comfort perhaps. But I was wrong.
When I turned he knob and entered I could see the inside had been destroyed as if a hurricane had passed through. Behind the podium where a priest would give his sermon to his congregation was a huge wooden cross. It was the only thing that wasn’t destroyed. But this cross was upside down and there was a body of a priest crucified to the cross.
He had been there a very long time because I could see his bones. The only sound heard at that moment was the peaceful sounds of Emily snoring. But silence came abruptly to an end as the room began to be filled with ghosts of men, women and children. I heard their anguished cries.
As several came close to me I pulled Emily closer to me. The ghost nearest me was that of a woman in her eighties. Her face wrinkled from age. “Be not afraid child. We all know your quest and you must make haste. Don’t linger here, please. Reach the cemetery. You must. For the child’s sake.” she told me and she looked down at Emily and smiled. “But which direction do I go? I’m lost!” I cried out.
She pointed to her left to guide me on my way. Many others pointed as well. I thanked her and made my way quickly out the door and down the church steps. Suddenly I stopped dead in my tracks. I remembered what Emily’s mother had told me. I remembered her ominous warning that I would or could be tricked into letting someone else touch Emily.
But no one, not even the grandmotherly ghost, had tried to touch or take Emily. If I followed the direction they told to me it was supposed to lead me to the cemetery or would it? Or was it a trick to deceive me? The right choice was so important. What was I to do? If it wasn’t a trick I would be delaying saving the life of Emily and myself if I didn’t go left. But then again, if I was being tricked, I needed to walk right instead of left.
I had no time to linger and wait on indecision. I had to make a decision. Keeping Georgia’s foreboding warning in mind I chose to ignore the old woman’s advice and headed right instead of left. With each step taken the winter winds seemed to blow harder and bite into my skin so deep I felt numb. But I continued on and on never encountering a single person. After walking perhaps six terribly freezing blocks I could clearly see the cemetery in the distance.
It had a large tall black wrought iron fence around it with two huge gates. But that wasn’t all I could see. A black cloud like mist was forming less than twenty feet from the gate. The blackness swirled in a circle slowly at first and then faster and faster until it circled like a tornado and then stopped. As the blackness disappeared the shape of a man appeared. He wore a black cape that covered his entire body.
I couldn’t even see his hands or feet. I knew he wasn’t about to let me pass and enter the cemetery. He wasn’t about to let me take Emily with me. When I was six feet from the figure, I stopped. Neither of us said a word nor made a sound. It was as if time had stopped. Before I could decide what I would say or do, he spoke. “Lay the child at your feet and I will step aside and let you pass. Refuse and I will take the child and your soul. You will be like the others and I will torture you for all of eternity!” he shouted.
The confrontation had begun. The threat had been issued and the decision was now mine to make. As I listened to Emily’s soft and peaceful breathing I remembered how battered and bruised she was. I remembered in spite of black eyes and bloodied lips how she had smiled up at me. She trusted me, Her mother trusted me and here I was at the cemetery.
All that was left to do was reach Georgia’s headstone and help Emily by touching her momma’s headstone. I could see the huge oak tree in the distance behind the gate. But at that moment it might as well of been a hundred miles away because the demon before me would not let me pass. I wasn’t going to leave Emily behind and I felt deep inside that he would kill me anyway. Thankfully, I remembered what Georgia had told me.
Defiantly I yelled, “Are you so afraid of me that you hide yourself behind that cloak of blackness?” I shouted and the sound of my voice startled Emily. In a split second the demon discarded his cape and as it fell onto the snow for the first time I saw his hideous features. His skin was bluish with blistered sores all over oozing pus. His eyes were sunken deep into his forehead with only a bright black shine where his eye balls would have been.
On top of his head were two horns and from each horn I watched steam rise in the cold air. He looked upon me with the gloat of power over someone weaker. “In this world it isn’t you who commands, it is I. I command everything within my realm. For those who do not obey me it is I who brings misery and pain, not you.
Give back to me that which is mine and you shall pass unharmed. I will not be so kind if you refuse. What’s your answer?” he said angrily. The ultimatum had been made. Now it was up to me to decide my fate. “Step aside! This child will leave with me, not you!” I shouted. The demon was enraged and flames shot out from him in every direction and snow near him turned to water before evaporating as steam.
Before he could attack me suddenly every person he had tortured and killed appeared and attacked him. I watched as they all fell to the ground on top of the demon. Suddenly, Georgia appeared and waved frantically for me to run through the cemetery gates as she cried out, “Go now, while you can, save my baby and yourself!” she shouted.
As she finished speaking she too threw herself upon the demon to buy me time to run like the wind through the black iron gates. I had barely taken two steps inside the cemetery when I heard a thunderous explosion behind me and I was knocked to the ground. I turned my head and looked behind me. A huge ball of fire faded and only the demon remained as he stood up, looked around and saw where I was. His anger at being cheated of the child was beyond description.
“Others will come to this world just as you did. The suffering will never stop. Behold!” he shouted. I continued to stare and with a wave of his right hand a massive iron chain appeared. It circled the two gates again and again before I saw a huge ancient padlock appear and I heard it click. “No one shall ever leave. They are trapped here forever just as you should have been!” His voice thundered.
Quickly as he spoke those words he vanished. I had cradled Emily quickly to protect her when I slipped and fell. As I got back on my feet I pulled back her blanket to find she was wide awake. She lifted up her crippled right hand towards me and I kissed her broken and knarled fingers before covering her back up. I made my way through the snow and found three headstones by the oak tree and brushed the snow off of each one. The third headstone was Georgia’s and I kissed her headstone.
“Thank you Georgia and everyone else for giving us both time to escape. I promise to guard and protect Emily for the rest of my life.” I whispered. My tears fell upon Emily’s blanket. As I pulled back part of Emily’s blanket she gazed at the cold concrete headstone. Gently I extended Emily’s deformed hand and helped her fingers touch her momma’s grave. Instantly the small child bundled in my arms disappeared and all that lay in my hands was Emily’s blanket.
In that split second tears began to fill my eyes. I found myself back in my own world sitting behind the wheel of my car stuck in the snow bank. That was when I felt the sting of horrible burns all over my face, arms and back. The pain was excruciating. My car had not caught fire so the burns had to have come from the explosion at the cemetery gate. For just one moment I thought that everything I remembered had been a dream and that I had been knocked unconscious.
But then I looked down into my lap. On my lap lay Emily’s yellow blanket and I knew what had happened was all too real. Someone driving by my car stopped to see if I was hurt and called for an ambulance on their cb radio. I was taken to the hospital emergency room and treated for my second degree burns. I told the doctors everything that had happened but no one believed a single word. I was never the same after that terrible day.
I was placed in a sanitarium for the insane and for seven years I sat in a one room cell with the memories of that horrible day haunting me. My story during therapy never changed a single word over all those years. Some patients got better and left while others stayed and received shock therapy or experimental drugs in the name of science.
On Christmas day, during the seventh year of my imprisonment, I was in total isolation and never received one visitor. I died in my sleep. But I was never at peace. My spirit lingered within the walls of my cell long past the time the sanitarium was closed down by the state. Then one morning I had two visitors. They were Georgia and Emily and they appeared in my cell. Georgia told me how sorry she was that those in my world had treated me so unkindly. Emily was now almost eight years old and she ran quickly to my loving arms.
”Thank you for rescuing me from the man who was so mean to me.” Emily whispered. Her hand reached up to wipe my tears and I saw that her fingers were no longer deformed and I kissed her hand. When Emily returned to her momma’s side Georgia spoke, “Come with us Cassie, leave this place and come with us. There is a place where you’ll have no scars, no pain and best of all you’ll feel loved.”
I walked over to Georgia and she hugged me tenderly as Emily hugged my leg. It had been years since anyone had hugged me or been kind to me. “But how can I leave, Georgia?” I asked helplessly. Georgia looked down smiling at Emily as she nodded and both of them offered me their hands. At the moment I held both of their hands I turned and looked at my bed and saw that I was asleep. It was then I realized that I had died. I knew I would never be lonely or hurt again.
“Look at your arms Cassie, feel your cheeks, your scars are gone!” Georgia said to me. I looked down at my arms and saw my burns had healed. Trembling, I reached up and touched my face and felt nothing but smooth skin. I don’t know whose smiles were brighter theirs or mine. That was when I began a journey to a happier place as we all held hands and left that terrible room.
© 2008 Raymond Cook (All rights reserved)