By Kathi Kresol
A family living in a haunted house or being visited by a demon isn’t a new concept anymore. You can find shows on television almost every night of the week portraying either paranormal investigation teams looking for evidence or a family getting more than they bargained for when they moved into a new house.
But when this story takes place it was harder to find investigative teams and most people thought a person was crazy if they claimed to hear disembodied voices.
A book supposedly based on true events was released in 1977. The Amityville Horror, written by Jay Anson, was made into a film in 1979. It told the story of George and Kathy Lutz who bought a house and were forced to flee due to evil forces that threatened to possess them.
What some of you might not remember is that Rockford had a case much like the Lutz family. It took place in 1982 to a family on Rockford’s east side.
Vaughn and Sherri moved into what they hoped would be their dream home with their five children. Those hopes were dashed almost a year later when the family fled their home in terror. At first, they tried to ignore what they thought was a ghost but that ended after the wife, Sherrie was temporarily possessed by a demon during a seance.
Their claims started shortly after they moved into the home in 1981. The events seemed to appear in a pattern of every three weeks. They heard footsteps walking up the stairs from the basement after which someone or something would attempt to open the basement door. The television in the living room would turn on by itself in the middle of the night even after the family unplugged it. Household items such as pots, pans, plates and silverware would disappear only to reappear in another location after three weeks. The missing items were always in sets of three.
The incidents grew more frightening until one day when Sherri was visiting with a friend and both of the women heard horrible growling noises coming from the basement. Terrified, they both fled to a neighbor’s home. The neighbor insisted on phoning the police despite Sherri’s reluctance. The police filed a report that became public and the newspapers reported on the family’s experiences. The police found no explanation for the noises. There was an article that mentioned when the police report was filed, the officer was startled by the last digits for the case number. The number ended in 666.
Sherri and Vaughn were assisted by a local amateur ghost hunter. He offered to conduct a seance with the couple to determine what exactly was in the home. It was during this seance that Sherri seemed to become possessed. Her face contorted and she began to emit a loud growling noise. The men became very frightened for her safety and shook her until she came back to her senses. Sherri had little memory of what had happened during the seance but she found several deep scratches on her body. The ghost hunter told the family that this was no ordinary ghost and that he believed their house contained a demon.
The family contacted a minister from a local Pentecostal church who agreed to help. The minister insisted that Sherri leave with the children during the exorcism. The minister was joined by his assistant, the ghost hunter, and Vaughn. They all stated later in an article in the Register Star from March 22, 1982 that they immediately sensed something in the basement. The temperature was colder wherever the presence appeared to be. The men were in the basement for an hour and a half reciting prayers and using anointing oil to cleanse the home. They continued until they felt the presence leave.
The minister came back again to conduct a final prayer service for the family. Though everyone agreed that the presence was gone and the house felt lighter and safer, the family was afraid to remain in the home. They left the house and moved to an undisclosed location.
Some people were skeptical about the family’s experience while others tormented the family by knocking on their door and requesting to see the “demon house”. But unlike the Lutz family in the Amityville Horror story, this family was reluctant to go public with the story. One can only hope that their new home brought a feeling of safety for the family.
Rockford Register Star won a third place award in the local features category for the article that Dave Daley wrote about the incident titled “The Demon Within”.
No other claims were found about the family or the location.
Kathi Kresol, local author and founder of Haunted Rockford will share stories like this at the event: Encounters with the Other Side on Sunday, January 17 at the Command Post Restaurant, 1004 Samuelson Rd., from 1-3 p.m. The cost for the event is $15 per person. Further information can be found at hauntedrockford.com.