Author’s note: This is the first of a two-part series about encounters with an entity known as the Harlequin. The entity began visiting Dan Mitchell of Wisconsin when he was five years old. He’s found he’s not alone.
The woman walking in the street seemed odd.
Laurie Smithmeyer of Topeka, Kan., and a friend visited nearby Lawrence (home of the University of Kansas) for lunch and shopping in early 2000.
“We both enjoy art and all types of cultural events so it was common for us to go hang out there, eat lunch and shop,” she said.
They ate at the Free State Brewery, although they didn’t partake in Free State’s microbrews, and walked south down Massachusetts Street enjoying a late spring day. Then they saw the woman.
“We were approximately in front of an old bank that had been remade into a restaurant named Teller’s when we saw her,” Smithmeyer said.
The person “seemed to be a female figure,” Smithmeyer said. The individual wore a short ruffled skirt, similar to a ballet tutu, and a vest that looked like a red, purple and black velvet bustier. The figure wore long gloves and tights; her hair a dark, unkempt, wild tangle.
“Her clothing was oddly theatrical and reminded me of a carnival or circus in a way,” Smithmeyer said. “I recall dark eyes which may have been makeup or something. I did not get a very good look at her face at all, just a glimpse from the side.”
The figure went toward a park bench that sat across the sidewalk from the entrance to Teller’s Restaurant.
“As we passed her on the sidewalk, I got the impression she was going to sit on the bench and we kept on walking,” Smithmeyer said. “As we got to the curb to cross the street, we both looked at each other and said, ‘Wow did you see that girl?’”
The women both turned around to look at her and she was gone.
“Gone from the bench, gone from the sidewalk, gone from the street,” Smithmeyer said. “She just disappeared. In the space of us taking three or four steps, on a bright sunny clear day, she had vanished. Not just from the bench but from the entire area.”
Only a few people wandered the streets, so Smithmeyer is certain the figure couldn’t have gotten lost in a crowd.
“The street is level with no changes in elevation or terrain that would make it hard to see her,” Smithmeyer said. “She was not on either side street. As far as we could see, she had disappeared.”
The women looked at each other and said, “Fey,” which means elf.
“That was the impression we were left with,” Smithmeyer said. “We have both studied myth and folklore and are familiar with stories of the Sidhe (the elves of Ireland) and that was basically our feeling about that figure; unworldly and very strange.”
Smithmeyer, who read the stories of Dan Mitchell’s Harlequin encounters at “From the Shadows,” thinks she and her friend saw something similar.
“Could this have been a harlequin-type apparition?” she asked. “I remember the impression I had of the figure was not entirely human. She … it was just so bizarre and scary, ethereal at the same time. It is really hard to describe. The closest that comes is a fairy. Extraterrestrial never crossed my mind.”
Smithmeyer said she’s familiar with alternative cultures and this entity was not one of those.
“This was way beyond anything a mere costume could be,” she said. “I have seen Goth people, street performance artists, and all kinds of role players and I am very familiar with that subculture, as is the friend that was with me. There was a quality of unearthliness about her that is hard to describe.”
Next week: The Harlequin visits a woman named Karin when she was a child.
Copyright 2010 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.