In one of the most terrifying cases of recent times, a New England family was surprised, disturbed and ultimately horrified by a series of apparitions that seemed to have one objective – to drive them from their home. The strange, horrifying events that took place in a New England home in the late 1970s and early 1980s have been documented and investigated, but never fully explained. They began as a series of benign if remarkable hauntings and escalated into one of the most astonishing cases of ghostly, paranormal activity in recent American history.
The real name of the family involved has been kept secret to protect their privacy, but the investigators for the Psychical Research Foundation provided them with the pseudonym of Berini. First names have also been changed.
The Serena Ghost
The Berini’s unsettling clash with the paranormal started after the father, Joe Berini, moved the family into his ancestral home located in a New England town. The house had been in the family for many years: Joe’s father grew up there, and several family members had died in the house. All seemed normal, at first. Joe settled in with his wife Rosa, and her two children from a previous marriage, John and Daisy. It was one night in May, 1979 that Rose began to hear a disembodied voice. It sounded like that of a little girl, Rose said, and the first time she heard it, it said, “Mama, mama, this is Serena.”
No one knew who Serena was or what the voice might mean. It wasn’t until a later investigation into family history that Joe learned that his father had a sister named Serena who died in the house at the age of five more than 50 years previous. But what was Serena’s message trying to convey? It turned out that Serena’s voice would be a forewarning of family danger – on more than one occasion. The very next day after Rose first heard Serena’s voice, Daisy was taken for a scheduled appointment to have her tonsils taken out. Something went wrong during the surgery, however. Daisy’s heart failed and she nearly died.
The girl’s voice was heard on several more occasions, once on a June night before Joe’s grandmother suffered a stroke, and again in November just before the old woman passed away. A fourth time, Joe was awakened by Serena’s voice to find Rose choking in her sleep. Upon being roused from sleep by Joe, Rose said she had been dreaming that her ex-husband was strangling her.
The Boy in White Ghost
Then, as mysteriously as Serena’s warnings came to the Berinis, they ceased. Through the end of 1979 to March, 1981, the family encountered nothing more out of the ordinary. But in that spring of 1981, a new series of haunting phenomena began when Rose was startled by the apparition of a small boy, dressed completely in white, walking along the upstairs hallway in the dead of night. “It was almost like looking through a milk bottle,” Rose later told researchers. “It was a very peaceful experience. It stayed for about two hours on and off, coming and going.” The boy’s spirit appeared again a week and a half later, and this time spoke to Rose, innocently asking, “Where do all the lonely people go?”
The boy in white also appeared before Joe, who says he saw the spirit go to each of the bedrooms and then kneel in the hallway, as if looking for something that lay hidden beneath the carpet. More than curious, Joe later took up the carpet and the floorboards at that spot and found a medallion of the Virgin Mary with a broken chain. Joe recalled that another child had died in that house – his father’s younger brother, Giorgio, at the age of eight. Again checking family history with other relatives, Joe was told that Giorgio was buried in his all-white First Communion suit.
Violent Poltergeist Activity Begins
Giorgio began to appear frequently to Joe and Rose over the next few months. The spirit would respond to questions, but seemed distressed. It would mention family members that Joe had not thought of for ages. Finally, as the apparition vanished for the last time, the telephone next to Joe and Rose’s bed was thrown off the night table by unseen hands. This was the beginning of the poltergeist activity that would terrorize the Berinis in the weeks and months to come.
More than a dozen times, Joe and Rose’s bedroom phone was thrown violently off their night table. Joe took this, along with Giorgio’s last message, as a sign that he should call his parents and warn them that the little boy’s spirit might be paying them a visit. He did so, but each time Joe uttered Giorgio’s name, the phone line went dead.
The Berinis had had enough. They sought the advice of a local priest who said they should merely ignore the spirit if it should appear again. Not good advice, as it turned out. The next time the boy in white appeared to Rose, she did as she was advised and paid it no attention. Immediately, a closet door began to slam open and shut repeatedly. On subsequent days, unexplained running was heard in the house, and box of macaroni was yanked from Rose’s hands and dashed to the floor. Again taking their plight to the Church, the Berinis invited two priests to visit the house, where they blessed it and said mass.
Giorgio’s spirit finally seemed to give up its mission, whatever it was, and appeared no more. But the Berini’s paranormal troubles were far from over. Giorgio’s disappearance only seemed to make room for another entity to enter their home and their lives – one that was not so innocent or benign.
The Sinister Hunchack Ghost Appears
In June, 1981, the Berinis began to see a sinister hunchbacked male figure clad in a black cape. Throughout that summer, the hunchback, which the Berinis described as having large feet and a gruff voice, appeared regularly in the house. The Berinis tried to get the entity to identify itself, but it only told them it was “a minister of God.”
The dark figure hardly acted like a denizen of Heaven. It frequently made its presence known, for example, when Rose was praying with her rosary, trying to distract her with various obscenities. The poltergeist-like activity increased in frequency and intensity. Joe, Rose and 15-year-old John reported that they had been struck by thrown objects. The bedroom telephone continued to fly off the table. A bedside lamp “fell,” striking Rose on the head. Furniture in several rooms were on occasion found overturned or moved: Daisy’s bedroom desk was somehow transported down the stairs. The retractable attic stairs were open and shut repeatedly and with such violence that it cracked the hall ceiling. Several religious objects were removed from walls or broken.
Rose, it seemed, was in particular the object of the entity’s violence. The door of the freezer was swung open, hitting her in the head. During an evening meal, her arm was twisted behind her back and her head pulled to one side with such force that she began to choke. On more than one occasion, Joe testified, he saw Rose pulled out of bed at night, levitated into the air and then dropped to the floor. After one of these attacks, bruises were found on her arms and legs, as if from a powerful grip.
Two months after it first appeared, the dark, hunchbacked entity became its most violent. Not long after Joe left the house to work the night shift at his factory job, a loud banging shook the bedroom walls. “The bed was raising off the floor,” Rose said. “I tried to scream and the door slammed so I could not get out of the room. The dog was growling and the door opened.” Rose struggled to get to the children’s bedrooms, but their doors slammed shut and she was dragged by the unseen force back into her room. Invisible hands began to choke and scratch her. She managed to call Joe. He rushed home and ran upstairs to the bedroom where he saw the bed jumping as high as two feet into the air, and found Rose crouching in a corner clutching a crucifix.
The Berinis Flee at Last
Remarkably, the Berinis still refused to abandon their home. Their minds changed, however, when one morning they awoke to find a heavy carving knife stabbed into the kitchen table.
Fearing that their lives could truly be in danger, the Berinis moved out of the house for a month, putting most of their belongings into storage. Once again, they sought help from a priest, who went to the house and performed a kind of exorcism. When the Berinis returned to their home, the evil seemed to have been vanquished. They no longer saw apparitions of any kind or suffered any more poltergeist activity.
Ironically, it was only after the haunting activity stopped that Joe Berini invited an investigation by the Psychical Research Foundation, based in Durham, North Carolina. (The organization is now the American Institute of Parapsychology, based in Gainesville, Florida.) The investigators were able to corroborate some of the Berini’s claims through friends, neighbors and their priest, all of whom testified that they witnessed poltergeist phenomena in the Berini home.