When friends get together, they usually talk about their careers, love lives or even how little Johnny is doing at school.
But not me and my friends. We discuss creepy things that’d scare the pants off any normal human being. We even eat ice cream while we do it.
And I know this sounds – well, crazy – but my friend is about 1000% certain that her son’s imaginary friend is real. She was confused at first, but she thinks he’s been talking to a kid named Clara who died nine years ago.
Umm, do you want to fetch the holy water, or shall I?
Okay, let’s start from the beginning.
My friend, Rachel, her husband, Andrew and their two sons, Oliver and Max moved into a wonderful Sydney home earlier this year. It’s located in a safe area, it’s spacious and the neighbours even feed them banana bread occasionally.
What more could they possibly ask for? Well, I don’t know. Maybe that their house not be haunted, for a start.
Over coffee last week, Rachel revealed that four-year-old Oliver began talking about a girl named ‘Clara’ a few weeks after the family moved into their new home.
“We thought nothing of it,” Rachel said. “Kids have imaginary friends all the time. I’ve heard that some people think they’re actually ghosts and that kids are more open-minded, which is why they can see them. But to be honest, I thought that was stupid.”
And so Rachel and Andrew merely chalked Clara’s existence up to a case of overactive childhood imagination.
But then one night Oliver’s six-year-old brother, Max asked his mother why she hadn’t set a place at the table for ‘Clara – Oliver’s friend – the one with the dark hair.’
“It was a bit eerie,” Rachel said. “I remember thinking ‘what the actual f*ck?’ Max has always been a serious kind of kid. He even knows Santa doesn’t exist. We didn’t tell him, obviously – he just somehow knew. He’s smart. How could he possibly think Clara exists?”
But again, the idea that she was indeed a ghost only fleetingly crossed Rachel and Andrew’s minds. Perhaps it was more believable that two young children could believe in an imaginary human being, rather than the notion that a dead girl was living in their home.
Either way, the strange things didn’t stop there.
Oliver talked about Clara constantly. He made Rachel sing to her at night, he stayed awake chatting to her and he even asked his parents to buy her new clothes.
And it continued for months.
“By this time, we were growing tired,” Rachel admitted. “He was relentless. It was like she was his best friend. But how could we tell him to stop talking about her? We had no idea what to say, and we still don’t. He’s a four-year-old kid. We didn’t want to tell him he was lying.”
One night, things escalated and Rachel and Andrew engaged in “a huge fight full of many tantrums and tears”. Andrew wanted to confront their son so that they could put Clara to bed once and for all. However, Rachel was much more apprehensive, as all she wanted to do was protect Oliver.
The pair eventually compromised by deciding to wait it out a few more weeks. If nothing changed, they agreed they would take some kind of action.
But things only got worse.
“It’s like a switch was flipped,” Rachel said. “They were small, explainable things at first, like random blackouts and flashing lights. But then things started breaking. I kid you not, random objects fell off the counter and the computer keyboard started typing random letters. My exercise ball even started bouncing by itself. I also heard strange noises and saw black shadows. I honestly can’t explain it.”
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Andrew refused to believe that anything out of the ordinary was occurring. He contacted an electrician, as he believed the electric wiring was faulty and that it could be fixed.
Because obviously, jumping exercise balls are caused by electricity, Andrew.
Rachel wasn’t so sure, but she allowed her husband to take the reigns. She still wasn’t ready to accept the fact that a dead person was at that moment occupying her son’s bedroom.
Until the moment Oliver said something that made her reconsider her entire existence…
“I was in the lounge room watching TV when he sat next to me,” Rachel recalled. “He’s usually a happy kid, but he looked a bit sad. I gave him a kiss and asked what was wrong. He looked at me, very seriously, and said ‘Bad things are happening because nobody believes her, Mummy. She’s sad that you and Daddy were yelling, and also she doesn’t like being dead'.”
Sirens in the distance, alarm bells in the background, frantic screaming in Rachel’s head – those were the first and only things that came to mind.
“Oh my God, I didn’t know what to say,” she said. “I think I sat there, just stunned, for about ten minutes. When I finally came to my senses, Ollie had gone back up to this room.”
And that’s when Rachel commenced her long and tiring quest for answers. She went door to door, asking all of her neighbours whether they knew anything about a girl named Clara, who according to Oliver, was eight years old, small for her age, and had very dark hair and eyes.
“I didn’t have much luck at first,” she said. “But finally an older lady down the road said a family lived in our house several years ago, and that she was sure they had a daughter called Clara. She matched the exact description. The lady said Clara was a lovely girl, but that she died nine or ten years ago. She couldn’t remember the cause of death, but I’m working on that.”
Rachel has since confirmed the story with a number of other neighbours, and she’s currently considering contacting Clara’s parents.
“But I’ve been putting it off. I don’t know if I’ll be given access to their details, but I’m also terrified. How on Earth do you tell someone that their dead child is haunting your house? If anyone said that to me, I would probably call the police.”
It’s been a few months since all of this information came to light, but the family’s still living there. Oliver still talks about Clara, but the strange noises and random flying objects have thankfully ceased.
And Rachel believes this has something to do with the fact that she now believes Clara is – or was – a real person.
“I hate that my son is talking to someone I can’t see, but I’m certain she’s there and she’s just a kid. I feel sorry for her,” Rachel said. “I know it sounds crazy, but I don’t know how else to explain it. My husband’s still in denial and he refuses to sell the house. I don’t even know if I want to sell it anymore, either. It’s such a weird situation. My main priority is my family, and I just want them to be happy and safe.”
This Glorious Mess is Mamamia's podcast for parents.
Mamamia has previously researched imaginary friends and whether they are spirits. According to Sydney psychic, Denise Litchfield, children who can see them may have a connection to the spirit world.
“I know from plenty of anecdotal evidence and personally as well, that usually if you’re a child and you have an imaginary friend a lot of them aren’t actually imaginary, they are from a spirit," she said.
According to her, children haven’t yet developed a “rational mind,” and they're much more likely to be able to see ghosts.
If anyone knows anything about dealing with child ghosts, please take the floor.