One feature of childhood that many children experience is that of the imaginary friend. Especially for those children who are lonely or introverted, these imaginary pals offer the only source of friendship they have, getting them through tough times and always by their side no matter what happens. On the surface this is all seen as just a normal rite of passage and a harmless feature of childhood that we all grow out of, but what if there is something more to it all? What if these imaginary friends are not so imaginary after all?
There are countless cases of people claiming that their kids’ imaginary friends seem to be something more than just the imagination. One of these comes from a Reddit user calling himself Eric, who says that his 3-year-old daughter has an imaginary friend that has turned out to be something perhaps far stranger. It started out innocently enough, with the young girl talking about how a boy named Jonathan often spoke to her and liked to hide within the dim confines of the closet. While this certainly sounds creepy, the parents weren’t too concerned at this point, with Eric saying, “The story didn’t alarm us; we assumed she had a little imaginary friend and what child didn’t? We thought it was cute.”
It would turn out to be not so cute in the coming months. The family ended up selling that house and moving to a bigger place once Eric’s wife was pregnant, but would get a rather chilling phone call from the new owners. According to Eric, the new owners had found a trapdoor at the back of their daughter’s closet as they were renovating. Within this trapdoor they had found a box containing some baby pictures of an unknown individual and some baby clothes. Eerie yes, but it would get even more unsettling when the man informed Eric that the box said “Jonathan” on it. Was his daughter actually seeing a ghost?
Similarly creepy is an account from Your Ghost Stories, from a woman who says she too had an imaginary friend when she was a little girl, who she had called Samantha. This imaginary friend had begun to appear to her shortly after moving into a new house, and at first it just seemed like a child’s imagination until her mother began to see shadows flitting about and hearing strange noises around the house, and her father started complaining of having the profound sense of being watched or even followed. Despite this, Samantha always was friendly and played peacefully with her, that is until one day she started talking about burning the house down. The witness says:
One day I started jabbering about how Samantha said she was going to burn our house down. My dad was worried, obviously, that she might be a harmful spirit. So he went down to the basement to talk to her, and as he did, he started to feel something behind him. He turned around, and a little girl of about 7 was behind him. She looked perfectly normal, but she had "fire" around her. I say "fire" because it wasn't really there, more like a ghostly image. She looked angry and walked off into the furnace room (yeah, yeah, I know, how stereotypical). My dad was mad and concerned at this point and forced the spirit out of the house. For a little while, I was sad, but I got over it pretty quickly.
Again, this seems very much like the girl was more attuned to some spirit than simply conjuring up a friend in her mind. Another woman on the same site talks about her then 3-year-old daughter, Jacey, who suddenly one day started talking about her imaginary friends, and it went from cute to creepy very quickly. The witness says:
One day Jacey stopped watching TV after Dora the Explorer and headed off to her room. This wasn't unusual because a lot of times her attention was diverted at the end of a program. What I remember is she came back to me a little later and told me she had a friend. Could her friend play? Being distracted, I remember only saying, "Yes." Then things started to get weird because a pattern started to emerge, and that's when I started paying attention.
Every day at 9:30 a.m. (when Dora the Explorer ended) she had a friend. Jacey would look down the hall and say things like, "oh my friend is here!" She'd run down the hall. Sometimes Dora wasn't even all the way over and Jacey would act like she'd heard something, and say her friend was here and run down the hall. One day she came to me and said, "My friend's brother would like to come play, too. Is that ok." I said, "Sure." I started to ask questions, and I started watching what was going on around me. I have written down this information before because it was quite fascinating.
The friends came every day. Once I said the brother could come they were both at our house every day. When I was feeding Jacey lunch one day I asked if her friends wanted or needed lunch too? She told me no. I asked, "Why? Aren't they hungry?" She told me they didn't eat. I told her everyone ate, and she told me they didn't need to eat. I asked to take pictures of her friends. I even went to her room to ask about pictures, and I took a camera. She told me that they were scared of me, and didn't want their picture taken. I told her I wasn't scary and I'd really like a picture. She paused as if listening and said they were still too scared. I asked several times for permission to take pictures, but never got permission.
One time in the car while waiting to get her older sister out of school I questioned more: "Where do your friends live?" Answer: "In the forest." Question: "Where in the forest?" Answer: "In the burned out rainbow house." Almost all of Louisiana is forest, and forest isn't really a word three year olds use. Question: "What are their names?" Answer: "I don't know." I was once asked if the friends could stay the night. I agreed, and that night that more than once I kept hearing stuff behind me while I was the only one up. I did snap pictures, but sadly when I saw nothing I deleted them. I wish I had kept them to analyze them further.
This was all intriguing enough that the increasingly unsettled woman actually went out to this abandoned “Rainbow House” with her husband, and describes being overcome with a very “spooky feeling,” some undefined sense of dread and foreboding while they were there. In the meantime, Jacey kept on playing with her imaginary friends, with the whole thing slowly graduating to new levels of spookiness. The woman explains:
One day I got on my hands and knees. I crawled down the hall and peeked around the door. I saw Jacey on the floor with My Little Ponies. Her back was to me. She was having a conversation with someone. I had heard her having these types of conversations before. She'd say things, and pause like she was listening to someone else, she'd even appear to be looking at someone who was talking. This time was no different. I remember her moving her pony on the floor, and I want to add there was another set of ponies on the floor across from her as if another child was there playing. Jacey had just said something, looked at whoever was across from her, turned around toward me and said, "Mom! I know you are there. My friend told me. You scared her!" I turned around and crawled away to think about what had just happened.
These friends stayed around until Jacey eventually went to kindergarten, and I started teaching that same year. I don't know what to make of the whole event, but more things happened in that little house I loved and I will write more about it another time. Jacey is now a teen. She has some memory of her "friends" but she doesn't like to talk about them.
Were these imaginary friends or something else? There is also an account from of a woman in Sydney, Australia, who is convinced that her son’s imaginary friend is a ghost or spirit. The mother, named Rachel, has 10-year-old son named Oliver, who would often talk to an invisible girl he called “Clara” in the days after moving into a spacious new home. Like in many such cases she did not think much of it at first, but then things got a bit odd when her other son, a 6-year-old named Max, began asking why a place wasn’t set at the table for Clara, weird since the girl was his brother’s imaginary friend. Rachel says of this:
It was a bit eerie. I remember thinking ‘what the actual f*ck?’ Max has always been a serious kind of kid. He even knows Santa doesn’t exist. We didn’t tell him, obviously – he just somehow knew. He’s smart. How could he possibly think Clara exists?
This sort of odd behavior became common for both of the boys, with them asking her to buy Clara new clothes or to sing for her at night, and the two kids were constantly having conversations with the imaginary girl. Rachel began talking with her husband about putting an end to it, as she was getting tired of all of this imaginary friend nonsense, and that was when things really launched into the bizarre, convincing them that there might be more to it all. She says:
It’s like a switch was flipped. They were small, explainable things at first, like random blackouts and flashing lights. But then things started breaking. I kid you not, random objects fell off the counter and the computer keyboard started typing random letters. My exercise ball even started bouncing by itself. I also heard strange noises and saw black shadows. I honestly can’t explain it.
Was this Clara lashing out to make sure that she wasn’t separated from her two companions, perhaps trying somehow to protect Oliver and Max from getting in trouble because of her? What exactly was she to begin with? In yet another case from the site True Ghost Tales, a woman talks about how when she was 3 years old her family moved to a new home, after which she was often visited by a spectral little girl, of which she says:
When we moved into this house I noticed a little girl living there, at the time me being 3 I thought she was a real little girl. She was clearly visible, not see through or a shadow. She looked just like me but with bright blue eyes, a pink dress and blonde hair. I started to talk to the little girl and she told me her name was Sally, and that her parents had moved to North Dakota and left her here. I was only a child and didn't think anything of it so I told her that we would be best friends until her parents came to get her. I told my mom and dad about Sally and they brushed it off as she was a typical "imaginary" friend that most children have.
This did nothing to stop her from building a close relationship with “Sally,” and the two spent hours hanging out together and chatting, holding hands, and playing together, much to the amusement of her parents. This initial amusement slowly began to sour though, as they realized that something very strange was going on. She explains:
One day I came into my room and smelled smoke, I ran to the closet and I saw Sally laying on the floor with flames around her. I started to cry and I ran to my mom and dad and screamed there was a fire in my closet and sally was going to die. My mom and dad rushed to the closet and they found nothing, no fire, no Sally. But I could feel the heat of the flames and I was screaming in my mothers arms to save her. My mom took me into her room until I fell asleep.
My mother was very good friends with the land lord downstairs and they would talk often when seeing each other, so the next day my mom talked to the lady down stairs and out of curiosity she asked about the previous owners. The woman asked my mom why she wanted to know so badly and my mom replied she was just curious. The woman told my mom that the family that lived here previously had one daughter and one day there was an electrical fire in the closet off of the second bedroom and she died.
My mother being extremely frightened asked what her name was and where the parents had moved, the landlord seeming skeptical said the little girl's name was Sally and she was 4, after her death the parents moved to North Dakota to live with the wife's mother. My mother came back up stairs and started to pack. We moved out that night to a house outside of Winnipeg on Henderson Highway. It was a very large house and when we got there Sally was sitting on the stairs going up to the bedrooms and I was happy to see her and that she didn't die. I told my parents that Sally was alive and she was here, and that she had moved with us. My mother already having dealt with a lot of stress and shock just gave up and she accepted Sally.
Then a few weeks later Sally was gone, and never heard from again. But she was my "imaginary" friend for over a year and I had full contact with her at all times. My parents refuse to tell me where the house we used to live in is because they know I will go back to see if anything happens.
There are many more cases like this, and they all leave us wondering just what is going on. Of course it seems that what these children are experiencing are not merely the imaginary constructs of a fertile young mind, but rather the children making contact with ghosts or spirits that might normally be invisible to adults, and establishing communication with them. But why should this be? One very popular theory in the paranormal world is that children are typically more sensitive to these things than grown-ups, somehow more attuned to the spiritual world around them, which allows them to see beyond the veil that typically separates us. One psychic by the name of Denise Litchfield has explained of this:
I know from plenty of anecdotal evidence and personally as well, that usually if you’re a child and you have an imaginary friend a lot of them aren’t actually imaginary, they are from [a] spirit. Usually it’s a relative. It’s usually someone that has come back from [a] spirit that they know or is a relative because – why wouldn’t you? They’re watching over the child. It’s never some random freaky thing.
Is that what is going on here? Are these children’s young minds somehow tapped into some spiritual realm through means we have yet to understand, only to be shut off from it as they age? Are imaginary friends in some cases real entities that only they can see and form bonds with? There is no way to know, but it is interesting food for thought for those of you with children who have their own imaginary friends.