It was my first nursing home job after I took the state board exams in 1988. The ground floor or “The Basement” as they called it, was my unit. It was below ground and had no windows. The hallways were long and dark and the walls were a dreadful shade of pale yellow. At night time, your footsteps echoed in the hallways and the dark shadows of the patient room doorways always felt like they had eyes.
I was the charge nurse for a total of 65 patients, who had all spent the majority of their lives in the County Insane Asylum. But due to budget cuts and despicable conditions the County facility had been closed down. These poor people had no where to go, except the streets, Most of them had no family or had lost what family they had, years ago.They were permanent wards of the State. Most were in no condition to care for themselves. so our facility had no choice, but to take them in. It was a really sad, frightening and tragic place and I will never forget my many experiences there.
But one woman in particular, stands out to me. Her name was Ann. She was an older woman in her early 70s. She was wheel chair bound and could not walk. Her hands were contorted with rheumatoid arthritis and she could not use them at all. But, the thing about her that I remember most, were her eyes. She was completely blind and her eyes looked like they were filled with thick pools of milk. The doctors said that she had severe cataracts. It was very weird, because she always knew, who had entered her room before you could even get a word out. She always knew when I was in the room no matter how quiet I was.
She was very pleasant and lucid most of the time and she would sit in her wheelchair for hours at the nurses station. I worked the 3-11pm. shift at the time and frequently pulled doubles on the graveyard shift as well. She was terrified to be left alone in her room, especially at night, and she always insisted on being the last patient to be assisted into bed. She never complained about anything but headaches, the only thing she ever asked for was Tylenol. She refused anything stronger for pain, because she said, she needed her wits to outsmart Charlie.
I didn’t know who Charlie was at first, so one day when she mentioned his name, I asked her who he was. She would whisper when she talked about him to me, because she was afraid he would hear her. She believed that Charlie was a demon and that sometimes he would get angry with her and stab and cut her with knives and torture her severely. Her clinical diagnosis was schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder. But I have to say, that after many, further years of working in the psych and geriatric fields, I still question this diagnosis.
I read her chart from cover to cover and could find no explanation or past traumatic experiences documented that would explain her condition. She had been a ward of the state for 41 years, which meant that she had spent her life in the asylum, since her early 30’s.
While I am not a doctor, I do know enough and have seen enough symptoms and behaviors in twenty years of nursing, to know how schizophrenic & multiples usually react. But, Ms. Ann was different. She would be sitting there at the desk, chatting happily about whatever and then all of a sudden, out of no where, her head would snap around as if someone had twisted her neck like a bread wrapper and her eyes would almost glow with white hot anger. Her voice would change, not to a man’s voice, but to the scariest, most evil sounding, growling voice I had ever heard. She would hiss and spit and use fowl language and threaten to kill me. She would sometimes be sitting quietly at the nurse’s station and she would let out the most blood- curdling screams and scare the living hell out of me. Sometimes, I would hear her having conversations with Charlie. She would go back and forth, from one voice to the other, as if you and I were sitting here, having a conversation. This evil sounding voice was Charlie. I would sometimes listen in on her conversations with Charlie. I was hoping to find a clue as to what had caused her multiple personality disorder. But, what I heard was not an explanation.
He would threaten to gouge her eyes out with safety pins. He would threaten to cut her breasts off with dull knives and do terrible, wicked things to her. When I asked her why he was there and where he came from, she would tell me that he was a demon who wanted her soul. She said that, he would take control over her body and she would not be able to stop him. She said, that he had been torturing her for years, but no one believed her. She told me that when she was younger, she had consulted a doctor to try and help her get rid of the demon, but he had locked her away in an asylum and told her that Charlie wasn’t real. She begged to differ.
She would cry and plead for my forgiveness and tell me how much she loved me, and how I was her angel. She would beg me not to leave her. She told me that Charlie, did not like me caring for her and that I had to be careful of him, because he was wicked and would sneak up on me and try to hurt me. Then, in the next breath, Charlie would appear and threaten me with the vilest of threats, both sexual and physical.
One night , she was sitting at the nurse’s station and she asked me for some Tylenol. I got the medicine for her and as I was holding the cup up for her to take a sip of water, her arms contorted in an almost impossible way, her white eyes flew open in a glare and appeared to burn right thru me. She hissed an evil hiss, sending spittle into my face and grabbed me by the wrist with an unbelievable amount of strength. She squeezed my wrists so hard, that I had purple bruises on my wrist afterward. She growled at me in a demonic voice and said, “You think you can save her, but her soul belongs to me and if you get in my way, bitch you will be next.” It scared me like nothing ever has. It was a very terrifying experience.
It took two nurse aides to pry her fingernails out of my skin. I only worked there for 6 more months, I could not take it anymore, after I was attacked and suffered fractures of the ribs and nose by another, out of control patient, I changed jobs. But before I left there, I would see & experience something that is burned into my mind forever.
One night, Ann had begged me not to put her to bed. She said ” Charlie is coming for me and I am afraid that I will not live through the night, Please let me stay here with you!” Before I could respond, Charlie appeared for a brief moment, He laughed a spine chilling laugh and taunted me, in a sing song voice, saying, ” go ahead sweet angel, put Ms. Ann to bed for me” It was very unnerving, but she had been up for hours, and I was worried that she would get sores from sitting in her chair so long. So I insisted that she at least, lie down and try and rest. I will forever wonder if that was a mistake on my part.
As I made my last rounds for the night, before my shift ended, I entered her room. The curtain was drawn halfway and her bedside lights were off. There was an eerie feeling in the room as if something were terribly wrong. It was very cold and dark and extremely quiet. I approached her bedside as quietly as I could, I was horrified at what I saw. As I drew back the curtain and shined my flashlight towards her bed, I saw her, she was pale and her eye sockets looked like they had sunken in. She had deep scratch marks on her arms and abdomen and face, as if she had been trying to dig something out from under her skin. She had foam on the edges of her gapping mouth and her eyes were wide open, but they still looked as if ,she were looking right at me. She had both her hands up around her own throat as if she were being strangled. I reached towards her and quietly spoke her name, there was no response. She was dead.
There was no family to notify and due to her age and basically a lack of caring on the States part, there was no autopsy, so I never, really knew what she died from. The doctor ruled her death as undetermined.
I was told that she was buried in the potters field at the city cemetery.
I will never forget her face and her eyes, her fearful pleas, that I not put her to bed and the sound of Charlie’s demonic, evil voice singing his wicked taunts at me.
If she did have schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder, I know, that it was a living hell for her to live with, especially in total darkness. But to me, it was the closest thing to demonic possession, I hope I ever see . I pray, that God is merciful, that he has spared her from her hell, as I feel that no one deserves to live that kind of tortured existence, whether in this life or the next.
I will always wonder if Charlie, really was a true demon.
by Angela L Burke