The scent coming from the cemetery indicated that there was someone there. It could be a prank since I told a couple of friends I needed time to commune with my folks, who died during the Liberian war.
“Are you not afraid to go there by yourself?” Solomon wanted to know from me when I told him earlier about my impending trip. Solomon was one of the few friends who had always stuck with me since my parents lost the battle when they were ravaged by hunger and disease. The Liberian war had been going on for months and it appeared that there was no peace in sight.
“I wish I can tell you how I feel right now,” I told him, “after all I am visiting where my parents are presently concealed to wait for the Lord’s return. How could I be afraid of the dead?”
“You could be right,” he said, “but just for the sake of the present occasion, you discover that there are evil people in the cemetery, then what?”
I was no coward and I could not allow my friend, though in good faith, to prevent me from the Palm Grove’s cemetery, no matter what.
Lately, there had been news that several Liberians searching for a place to reside had decided to make the cemetery their rent-free abode and the government had prevented them from doing so.
“You remember those who wanted to use the cemetery as their new home?”
My question might not have meant anything much to my friend, who again insisted that the place of the dead was too dangerous for the living to visit there, and by implication, for me to go there alone in the night.
It was not the first time I was planning to visit there. The war had ravaged my sense of direction and the more I saw the dead and the suffering, the more I gained the confidence that the best place for any sound person to go was the place of the dead.
“Don’t think I’ve lost my senses,” I told him that evening, as we discussed my options in New Kru Town. “I’m in earnest and sometimes I think about my folks a whole lot.”
“You could be right,” Solomon said, “Remember that I’ve also lost some friends, some relatives, and other people. But to think that I should go to where they were buried and to commune with them sounds spooky to me.”
“I don’t need your help,” I said with defiance in my eyes, “if you hear I’m dead, rejoice for a day.” Realizing that I was determined to do what I had decided, my friend could only make a face in resignation.
Perhaps the reader would want to know why I was determined to visit where my folks and other Liberians were buried, and my reason was that for several nights, I had had visions of what seemed like the ghosts of my folks visiting me and asking me to come over there.
In my dream, whenever I put the question to my visitors, “Why do you want me there?” the answer would be, ‘Just come, and you will be blessed.”
A day before I made the trip, I contacted the local pastor, Anthony Wesseh of the Bible Faith Ministry Church on Bushrod Island, and during our discussions, he examined the Bible with me, and said whatever was calling me could be, either the work of the devil or the spirits of my folks who were not happy about something and therefore they wanted to communicate that with me.
“But pastor,” I said, “why would they not reveal it in the dream, rather than for me to go there?”
The pastor had relapsed into some recitations, and in the process had called the name of Jesus Christ several times, and after clasping his hands behind his head had prophesied that it could be clearly the work of the devil, for the dead could not be of any help to the living.
He, however, gave me a small-size copy of the New Testament to keep with me just in case I needed some divine protection. He also made me recite, “In the blood of Jesus,” and even threatened whoever it was with ‘Holy Ghost Fire’ several times as a way of protection if things went the wrong way.
Center Street section leading to the Palm Grove Cemetery was as usual quiet at eleven thirty in the night, as I neared the place. The darkness that had descended the area was more depressing to me than ever. Though there were some houses around the area, the feeling of hopelessness, which indicated the end of the human race, pervaded my mind. Of course, I was aware of the recent human residents, those who had forsaken the comfort of their parents’ home, known as Zogos, who had taken residence there.
The cloud was clear, and I saw the moon moving about in the heaven. I was then wondering whether God was looking down on my mission.
But the ominous silence was depressing as I moved through haphazardly constructed graves. It galled me because graves had been built without any sense of direction. After several minutes examining and reading headstones after the other, I came across that of the late BBC journalist, Klon Hinneh, who was my good friend. There was a sense of hopelessness and foreboding, and it was then that I made a firm commitment to search for God, meaning to become a regular Church-goer, to be able to have a permanent home in the memory of the Lord if my time came.
It took me twenty-five minutes to locate the burial places of my folks and moving there, step by step, the sound of the breeze sounded like there were some people who were busy doing some stuff in the cemetery.
Then I saw what appeared to be the back of someone sitting near the venue I was looking for. My heart then began to beat, and all my bravery left me. Cold bumps descended on me, and the only thought that came to me was to run like hell from there.
In all this, I never remembered that I had the New Testament in my pocket, and I had been made to recite something as a protection. The last straw was when what seemed like a man in all-white attire stood up, few feet away from me, then asking, “What do you want?”
The tone of the question was like someone speaking through his nose, and it was enough for me, as I fell backward.
I awoke in a zinc shack of a young man the next morning, who later explained that he had heard some exchanges and felt someone, was in a difficult situation at the cemetery the night in question and therefore he had run to see and found me stretched between two gravestones.
Three weeks after the incident, visited every night by the ghosts or spirits of three women and four men, in my dream asking me to return to the cemetery for a secret message. I was horrified of the invitation and visited several individuals, including Pastor Wesseh for help.
It looked like I would have no choice but to attempt another visit.
THREE WEEKS had gone by now since my last visit, and the nightmare had continued. I had sought help from churches and even had visited a Muslim Cleric in downtown Monrovia, but the nightmare would not stop.
No, please don’t entertain any ideas! I was not a fighter, and therefore could not be accused of any form of bloodguilt. If I deserve any recognition, it would be the kind for those who suffered and even helped to bring sanity to Liberia. But in my dream the invitation seemed to come from my late parents, and I was confident that there was nothing wrong in going to where your folks were concealed, waiting for the Lord’s return for the great reunion.
I would imagine that since at the time of their deaths I was held up on the other side of Monrovia, and could not be present, I never had the chance to say goodbye to them.
But was that too a crime? I could not know about that.
“You must come,” the apparition, a woman, like my mother, told me in a dream one night. “We’re waiting for you.” I was not sure if the invitation was for me to simply visit the Palm Grove Cemetery, and then receive whatever they had planned out for me. During my first encounter, I had relapsed in a coma, coming back to my senses after several hours later, and presently I could not even understand why the ghosts or whatever and whoever had been urging me to visit the cemetery for a message, was determined had for me.
When I awoke the last time, I heard my rescuer make some recitations from The Quran, the holy book of the Muslims to help me regain consciousness. He made most of his expressions in Arabic, but I could hear the mention of Allah several times, which meant he was appealing to God to come to my assistance. Afterward, I had gone to Pastor Wesseh, who had also, during an exercise placed the Holy Bible on my chest, and had carried out several hours of prayers for me.
Despite all the effort to appease those beyond, they nevertheless seemed not satisfied and surprisingly I received a ghostly visit the night I was released to return to my home on Bushrod Island. And during the three weeks afterward, the visitors had come almost every other day.
Even when I deliberately changed my sleeping place, and thought I could dislodge them by relocating elsewhere in Sinkor, on the Oldroad, my visitors came the first night, cutting my visit short.
“What’s happening to you?” William Daye had asked me, as I shivered on the bed in Sinkor, where I had sneaked to hide. He complained also that I was speaking in my sleep, and he said it was like I was having some “serious” fight with some people.
“Why should I return to such a place?” he claimed I argued with someone in my sleep. Then he said I had complained about someone laughing, and then I insisted that I did not want to return there for the message.
“Don’t laugh, don’t laugh,” he said I was saying to someone, while I was still asleep.
“Afterward,” he told me later, “the whole house had shaken like there was a bomb thrown at the house.” So when he wanted to know what was really happening to me, I could not be bold enough to reveal the real truth.
“The cups were bouncing against the walls,” he told me, “and tables were falling down also.”
“I don’t know,” I lied, “but it seems something is just happening to me.”
“Do you have any explanation why there was such a noise here last night,” he asked me, “I was extremely afraid, and it was the first time such a thing has happened here.”
Perspiration formed on my forehead, as my friend spoke. I realized that I could no longer lie to him and so I explained my predicament.
“I’m sorry,” he said to my surprise when I was through, “I can no longer let you stay here with me. I’m also scared to death right now.”
It sounded cold to me, but I could not help but reasoned with my friend. It was a situation of self-preservation. For whatever I had done in the past, if some ghosts were after me, he reasoned, it would be better I took them somewhere.
So I was back on Bushrod Island the next day and I, therefore, made several visits to my pastor for help.
Pastor Wesseh, I must say, was a man of God, and I could feel some divine power in his hold when he held me by my shoulder. The Holy Bible was on my shoulders, and there were several members of church sisters and brothers who had come to help exorcise the problem I had brought upon myself.
“Lord,” Pastor Wesseh said, his eyes directed at the Heavens, “We place our brother into your hands.” The congregation sang along with him, saying, “Amen.” And I loved the songs for the day. One was ABIDE WITH THEE, OH MY GENTLE SAVIOR. Another was THEY ARE NOT GOD, THEY ARE MEN.
I felt delighted and reassured of God’s loving kindness upon me. The exercise continued for an hour, and afterward, Pastor Wesseh said, “My son, God’s mercy is greater than that of the devil, so remain strong and always count on him.”
“I will,” I said as if I was making a marital vow.
There were also songs of praise, and I was urged to dance and clap for the Lord. There was a bottle of Florida holy water that Pastor Wesseh felt I needed a form of self-purification.
In a holy bath, I poured the holy water in the bucket, and with several lighted candles all around me, I went through the ritual, well satisfied that this time the Lord had come down to see his servant.
That evening I received a visit to my Bushrod Island home new three church members of a local spiritual church and they brought me a message.
“We heard your story,” Pastor Johnny said, his two hands holding firmly a huge cross they had brought along. “The devil is behind you, and you must give yourself to the Lord.”
“Let the Lord’s name be praised,” the other visitor said, “Let’s give him the praise, Amen.”
“Amen,” I shouted with all my strength.
The lead pastor, Johnny placed his two hands on my head, and massaged it for a while, while he made repeated incantations that I could not understand. It seemed to me that he was communing with his God (speaking in tongues) and therefore I just waited for him to finish.
All along the other companion, with a red belt like a Karate champion across his waist, holding on to my right hand, and the two of them continued to find a way to save me from the devil.
It did not take long when my eyes went dim, and I began to lose consciousness. I felt the scent of a strong holy water filled my nose.
I was losing it, and everything went blank. I did not know what happened afterward but being aware earlier that I was in the company of the men of God; I had no fear about what might happen to me. And if my luck held out, the series of efforts would break the recurring message from those beyond, and leave me in peace.
When I came to, the pastors were still there. To my surprise, it was already in the morning, and prayers were said for me.
“You should carry out a one-week fast and prayer,” the lead pastor told me, “I’m sure the circle of the visit should be broken now.”
I was extremely glad about it, and I made it clear to my visitors.
“I know I’m free at last,” I told them. “Thank God.”
It had been a month now since I reclaimed my life without any visitation from beyond. However, there were some questions that could not be answered. Who were those involved in visiting me in my dreams? Were they really my folks who departed this world during the war? If the answer is no, then who were those sending me messages for me to go to the grave-yard?
Those answers were the ones I had been looking out to find. But meanwhile, I recognized the power of God over those in the darkness, and from that day I knew I was free at last!