Mr. and Mrs. Berini and their two children moved into their New England home in May 1979. Almost immediately, the Berinis heard a voice during the night.
"Mama, Mama, this is Serena," a girl's voice cried.
The Berinis knew of no one named Serena, but when they asked Mr. Berini's father, he recalled that his sister Serena had died in the same house at the age of five. For example, Serena cried for her mother the night before Daisy, the Berinis' daughter, suffered cardiac arrest while undergoing a tonsillectomy.
Serena's ghostly crying gave way to the figure of another ghost. On March 19, 1981, Mrs. Berini awoke to see the ghost of an eight- or nine-year-old boy dressed in white clothing: shirt, pants, and shoes.
"It was almost like looking through a milk bottle," Mrs. Berini told researchers later. "The boy would walk back and forth in the hallway. It was a very peaceful experience and I was not afraid. It stayed for about two hours on and off, coming and going."
The next night, the ghost reappeared, but this time it spoke to Mrs. Berini.
"Where do all the lonely people go?" it asked. "Where do I belong?"
When she told her husband, Mr. Berini believed the ghost was that of Giorgio, one of his father's brothers, who had died at eight. He had been buried in his white communion suit. A few days later, Mr. Berini himself saw Giorgio's ghost trying to pick up a rug in the upstairs hallway. When the ghost disappeared, Mr. Berini moved the rug and found a medallion of the Virgin Mary between the floorboards.
Over the course of the next two months, Giorgio appeared two or three times a week, sometimes to Mrs. Berini and sometimes to her husband. Many times he spoke to them. Once, he told Mr. Berini, "My oldest brother is the only one who can help me." Another time, he spoke of Carlos Berini, his twin brother, who still lived in another part of town. Giorgio's ghost accused Carlos of taking something from the Berinis' house.
When Mrs. Berini mentioned the ghost to her priest in the middle of May, he suggested that the Berinis ignore it. During Giorgio's next appearance, on May 27, Mrs. Berini completely ignored his presence. In response, Giorgio slammed a closet door twenty times. A few days later, when the Berinis again ignored Giorgio, something pulled a package of macaroni from Mrs. Berini's hand, spilling its contents on the floor. On June 3, two other priests blessed the house with holy oils, but Giorgio's ghost returned the next night. Finally, Mr. Berini, following the instructions of another priest, commanded the ghost to leave in the name of Christ.
Giorgio's visits ended, but another ghost appeared, first on June 5 and again a few nights later. This figure wore a black cape and had a hump on its back. After its appearance, the receiver on the bedroom telephone kept flying across the room. Dishes and religious figurines were broken. A bookcase at the top of the stairs was twice found downstairs, and Daisy's desk once moved out of her room and down the stairs. The scene of the most violent activity was the upstairs hallway, where the retractable attic stairs opened and shut repeatedly, which caused the hall ceiling to crack. The family experienced no relief from these incidents until Daisy's birthday, August 28, when a carving knife was discovered stuck in the kitchen table. That night, the Berinis moved out of the house until a priest could perform an exorcism. When they moved back in on September 25, they experienced no further episodes.
This haunting is unusual for a number of reasons. First, three different ghosts appeared to the Berinis. Serena's and Giorgio's ghosts were seen repeatedly, while the caped ghost was seen only twice. Second, the ghosts became increasingly more troublesome. The Berinis heard Serena's voice for only six months, before Giorgio showed up. Giorgio was fairly temperamental, especially when he was ignored. But the caped ghost was positively scary, and its appearance was followed by significant poltergeist activity.
The most troubling aspect of this case, however, is that the Berinis did nothing to try to understand why the ghosts appeared. They listened to Serena cry for her mother, but not once did they ask Mr. Berini's grandmother (Serena's mother) about Serena or any specific details related to her death. Why did Serena want to see her mother so much? She had a wish that wanted to be fulfilled.
When Giorgio appeared, he, too, wanted to communicate with the Berinis, as Mr. Berini's discovery of the medallion of the Virgin Mary indicated. What did the medallion mean? Why was Giorgio's ghost so persistent? And what object was Carlos accused of taking? Rather than explore the possibilities, the Berinis ignored Giorgio, who had a major temper tantrum. If only Giorgio hadn't been ignored, perhaps the third ghost and the poltergeist activity that followed would never have happened.
The Berinis also missed the opportunity to prove that their ghosts were real. By the time ghost hunters were called in, the hauntings had stopped. What could the Berinis have done? First, they could have attempted to tape-record Serena's voice. Perhaps someone would have been able to identify the voice as Serena's. Second, they could have asked Carlos, Giorgio's twin brother, to help them understand why Giorgio was so upset. What could Carlos have taken? Why was Giorgio so troubled? Giorgio might have appeared to Carlos as well, which would have provided even more proof that Giorgio was real. Even Mr. Berini's grandparents could have been asked to help, since the ghost of their dead son was involved. Third, the Berinis could have contacted former residents of their house to see whether they had been troubled by any of the ghosts as well.
Although the Berinis did stop the haunting eventually, they missed an opportunity to understand why it happened in the first place.
Copyright © James M. Deem. Originally published as part of Chapter 9 in How to Find a Ghost (Houghton Mifflin, 1988). All rights reserved.