The thing in five-year-old Dan Mitchell’s bedroom in southeastern Wisconsin only came at night. As Mitchell lie in bed, his parents far down the hall, a thin, androgynous creature would appear and tell him stories.
It looked almost frightened.
“I would tell my mom about this and she always thought it was just my imagination getting the best of me,” Mitchell, now 33, said.
But he knew it was real, and it looked “like a harlequin.”
“Its clothes were absolutely motley and strange,” Mitchell said. “Its face looked like it was in a perpetual state of shock.”
Large, wide-open eyes – too large to be human eyes – stared at Mitchell through the gray of night as words spilled through its always open, round mouth.
“This being referred to itself as the ‘tooth fairy’ when I had asked,” Mitchell said. “For whatever reason I was never afraid of it, and I can not remember anything it may have told me.”
It did, however, appear to try and comfort the boy if he began to look afraid.
“It always attempted to be funny and almost clown-like so that I wouldn’t shudder in terror,” Mitchell said. “Was this some sort of imaginary friend I had created? I wasn’t that kind of kid.”
Mitchell’s family never saw this “Harlequin,” nor did they believe him.
“I know this sounds crazy, but I assure you that I remember this high strangeness almost as well as I remember the normal events of my childhood,” he said.
Like one night in the spring of 1981 when the Mitchell family sat down for dinner.
“I remember that my dad was very agitated,” Mitchell said. “He kept saying that he was hearing somebody walking around upstairs. I was terrified by this because my Dad was so agitated and I had never seen him scared like that. He was a very tough guy.”
Then Mitchell’s father shot up from the dinner table, terror splashed across his face.
“Immediately there was a voice that he heard coming from upstairs,” Mitchell said. “While I want to say that it sounded like a sinister and terrifying laugh, I believe it was just a howl of some sort that caused a tingling feeling up my spine.”
The next thing Mitchell remembered was his father laughing, the look of terror still gripping him.
“He was frozen with this awful look on his face,” he said. “Everybody at the table was just frozen. The next thing I remember is waking up at the dinner table with spilled milk all over myself and the table.”
His family simply resumed eating dinner, the laugh seemingly forgotten.
“This situation was so traumatic to my young mind that I honestly believe that I have blotted a large portion of this event out,” Mitchell said. “I have always thought that whatever was visiting me in my room at night was this ‘person’ walking around in the upstairs of our house, possibly looking for me or wondering where I had went.”
Mitchell recently mentioned the dinner event to his father.
“My dad turned white like he thought it was a bad dream he had,” he said. “He really was adamant about not talking about the subject any further when I kept pursuing it.”
As Mitchell grew older, the Harlequin’s nighttime visits stopped – until he was 18.
“I ran into this same being many years later,” he said. “I was driving with a few friends late at night on our way home from a party.”
The young men saw a teenage girl walking in the street in front of the car, her movements strange and jerky.
“We thought that maybe she was drunk,” Mitchell said. “Someone in the car thought it was a friend of theirs so we were going to pick her up and give her a ride home.”
As they pulled closer, the girl began to walk toward the car. As she closed to near 30 feet, Mitchell realized the person was wearing “a really bad wig.”
“My first impression was that it was a man dressed like a woman,” he said. “She looked incredibly angry and was making even jerkier movements that were almost threatening.”
One of Mitchell’s buddies whispered in fear.
“Oh, my God,” the boy said. “Look at her eyes.”
They were the eyes of the Harlequin.
Somebody in the car said, “floor it,” and Mitchell did.
“There was panic in that car,” he said. “I can tell you that every guy I dropped off that night made a mad dash to their front doors. I, unfortunately, had to drive back that way, but luckily didn’t see her again.”
He’s convinced the thing he and his friends saw that night was the Harlequin.
“I got a pretty good look at her and I can tell you that it was obvious that she was trying to disguise herself,” he said. “It was the same face of perpetual shock, but this time it terrified me completely. I had the feeling that she was yelling at me for some reason. My honest impression that night was that this person was dead or simply not human.”
Mitchell hasn’t seen this entity since that night in 1994, but he has started hearing terrifying screams in the night from a small patch of woods near his apartment building.
The Harlequin may not be finished with him.
Copyright 2009 by Jason Offutt
Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt, P.O. Box 501, Maryville, Mo., 64468, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”
Jason’s books on the paranormal, “Darkness Walks: The Shadow People Among Us,” and “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” at Jason’s blog, from-the-shadows.blogspot.com.