In 1986 -- as a Staples High School senior -- Jason McLeod read "The Demonologist." The book described the most memorable cases of Ed and Lorraine Warren's long careers, as Fairfield County-based experts in demonology and exorcism.
Jason was 6-foot-6. But sitting at home, all alone, he was so terrified he created a crucifix out of popsicle sticks and scotch tape.
That summer, he and his friend Lou -- an EMT and former Army paramedic -- heard a story about the film "Three Men and a Baby." As director Leonard Nimoy looked at footage, he saw a silhouetted teenage boy holding a rifle. No boys -- and certainly no rifles -- had been on the set.
The Warrens were called in. They learned that a teenager had killed himself with a rifle -- in the same house where Nimoy was filming.
Jason told Lou he'd love to work with the Warrens. The next day, out of the blue, the Warrens called Lou. Within a week, he and Jason were working on their first paranormal case.
"It's like Lou and I were placed together to be investigators," Jason says. "Boom! That happened instantly. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before."
Plenty happened to him afterward.
Jason's first big case involved a home where, every night, the apparition of a woman appeared through a wall. She floated through the hallway, scared the baby in its crib, then disappeared.
Jason set up a VHS camera and waited.
He and Lou saw an intense blue lightning flash. Lou smelled a sickly sweet almond scent. A half hour later, the flash and smell recurred.
When Jason and Lou looked at the tape, there was nothing. Lou, however, heard a distinct heartbeat on it. Lorraine explained that the apparition was proving her presence through light and sound -- without providing any physical evidence.
The more cases Jason worked on, the more he formed empathic connections. One of his most intense moments came in Vermont. In the late 1700s, a woman in labor had been heading home, where a midwife waited to help give birth. The carriage flipped; the woman and baby both died. The woman's spirit raced back to the house, Jason says. There it remained -- anguished -- for 200 years.
As he and fellow investigators tried to make contact, Jason felt the woman's incredible sadness. He and the others sensed great danger in the house -- but, empathically, Jason also realized that the spirit did not want them to leave.
At Sacred Heart University, Jason wrote a column, "Hauntings," for the school paper. He found a great creative writing program at Eastern Washington University and transferred out West. When Lorraine asked him to help with an investigation in nearby Idaho, he happily went.
Jason founded the Northwest Society for Paranormal Research. He taught a non-credit course on the subject, and kept expanding his sensitivities. In one case, a father who had died reappeared every night. Jason asked the widow and five children to sit in a circle. Jason sensed that the father had not crossed over -- and would not do so until he was forgiven for something.
Four children cried, talked and forgave him. But one son, seething with anger, would not. Jason did not ask for details but explained that forgiveness was necessary for the entire family to move on. Finally, the boy said he forgave his father. The family visualized light emanating from a crystal, as the father ascended to heaven.
After graduation, Jason moved back to Westport. He worked as a banquet manager at the Westport Inn. He also spent time as a massage therapist in Massachusetts, as the founder of a progressive rock band in Austin, Texas, and -- most recently -- a massive board-game designer.
But he never left the paranormal behind. And, last summer, after a series of "synchronous" events, he dusted off a short story he'd written in 1993.
It was so old, he could not even access the floppy disk it was on. So he rewrote "Dark Siege," the fictional tale of the haunting of an upper middle-class family in Easton. He added many of his own experiences over the past 20 years.
It's a fascinating exploration of "the mysterious place that lies between the three-dimensional world that we can see and touch, and the invisible and intangible world of energy and spirit." The book is made more powerful by the final 100 pages: a chapter-by-chapter exploration and analysis of the science, religion and spirituality that underlie all of the phenomena Jason has just described.
Jason believes profoundly in the positive power of the paranormal. Through "Dark Siege" -- available in paperback or digitally, at Amazon and Barnes & Noble -- readers can understand its many dimensions.
As he explains, there are a lot more than we realize.