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Kristel Smart talks about the chilling events of "When Hell Freezes Over."
When you all decided to move into the house, can you talk a little about that decision making process?
It wasn't much of a process. Kerrie [Taylor] and I were still grieving the loss of our grandmother and our family home. We discussed it late one night while walking our dogs in the snow. It was just before Christmas, and we were feeling our losses even more keenly. It was then that we decided to rent a house together in the interest of creating that home and family situation for ourselves. Dawn came on board almost immediately in a subsequent conversation, and it just made us happier.
You all discuss that shortly after moving in, you all felt a lethargy that settled in - can you describe the sensation? Was it instant?
It was instant. It was a tiredness that went bone-deep. It almost felt like a physical weight, and it was like our minds were so fatigued we could never think straight.
Before you began to accept that something paranormal was going on, what were your theories about the strange things that were happening in the house?
I can't speak for everybody, but I still struggle to accept what happened. We blamed everything from wind to electrical problems to squirrels in the walls. But not only were all of those things proven not to be the cause, but there were many things that occurred that couldn't be explained away so easily. We did try to explain it away though, almost to the point of foolishness and often to the point of lying to ourselves about what was happening right in front of our own eyes. It was really difficult to accept.
You were all hearing different things that seemed related to various church-related things; the choir most notably. Was it often the same song?
I didn't hear the choir myself until the last few days we were there. I always heard the same few chords. Kerrie heard it all the time though.
At some point, you must have heard that Taylor was having conversations with her toys that turned out to be something else. Did you differentiate it from normal child's play or did you feel like it was pretty basic stuff?
I wasn't concerned at first. She had always been a bit chatty and liked to talk to her stuffed animals. She would even involve me in the conversations. Then she started getting quiet when I walked in the room, like she didn't want me to hear what was being said. That was new, and very concerning.
What does Taylor remember about the incident now?
She only remembers brief little snippets, like losing her hair and seeing shadow people. She was only five or six at the time. Sometimes a bit more comes to her when we're talking about it, but that seems to be about it. I'm actually pretty grateful that she doesn't remember more.
When the furnace exploded and the fire department came, was there ever a point where it felt like this could all be just run-of-the-mill mechanical failures?
Absolutely. We always looked for the most reasonable explanation first and clung to that explanation as long as we could. Throughout the ordeal, that was pretty much how we were able to function. But when the experts were unable to find reasonable explanations, that's when our delusions of normalcy faltered.
When Taylor saw the monster eyes and wanted to sleep in your room, what did you think? How was your relationship with your sister affected by this process?
She was actually afraid to sleep in my room and chose to sleep in Kerrie's room instead. I wasn't bothered by it. I was relieved that Taylor was able to sleep in a place where she felt safe, and grateful that Kerrie was willing to let her do that. I think they were both comforted.
When Dawn moved out, did you consider going with her?
Not at the time. It's difficult to explain to somebody who's never experienced it, but our thinking wasn't clear at all. It didn't occur to either Kerrie or I to leave without the other.
So you're in this cold house in November and there are bees everywhere attacking you and the exterminator is disturbed by it, can you talk a little about what was going on in your mind at the time?
The first feeling that comes to mind is exhaustion. It became just another terrifying problem that we were unable to solve; another problem that even those who were knowledgeable couldn't fix. We were so overwhelmed by that point that we just sort of accepted it, and made sure to keep plenty of duct tape on hand to keep the room sealed. I can't emphasize enough just how much our thinking was affected, and our passive acceptance of the bees really highlights that.
After your neighbor revealed that the house was probably haunted and that it was where a church once stood, did you try to seek a solution? Or did you feel that leaving was your only option?
Actually, it wasn't until about 15 years later that we learned anything about a church being in the vicinity (it wasn't on the same lot, but nearby). I learned the story from a member of the Hinesburg Historical Society when I was doing research for my book about our experience. Our neighbor had lots to tell about the house and the haunting, though. It has quite a long and interesting history. We didn't try to seek a solution at the time or to find more information about the house. The primary reason was that we couldn't think straight. It never occurred to us. We rarely even discussed the haunting amongst ourselves.
The other reason is that we were terrified. We didn't want to know. We were so scared and so traumatized all the time that we just wanted to pretend it wasn't happening. Kerrie (a licensed psychologist) compares our experience to something like being in an abusive relationship. We felt that the more we focused on the haunting and the more we learned about it, the worse things were going to get. It was a powerful survival instinct. We knew leaving was all we could do, but our thinking was so affected that we couldn't find the focus to look. We had dogs too, and that made a new home that much harder to find.
Have you had paranormal encounters since?
No, thank goodness. But the experience threw me so far off-center that I'm still doing research and listening to the stories of others to try to make sense of our experience. My logical brain struggles to grasp the reality that I experienced back then. I think that's part of why it was so frightening. Not only could we not fight it, but we couldn't even understand or relate in any way to what we were experiencing. It was profoundly life-altering.