Tucked away within a quiet suburb of Celina, Texas, in the United States, just about an hour north of the metropolis Dallas, was once the happy home of the Mabel family, composed of Travis Mabel, his wife Olivia, and their 7-year-old son Aiden. They were by all accounts a well-adjusted pleasant family, living on a sprawling property called the Footlights Ranch, and Olivia was described as a loving mother who cherished her son dearly. They seemed to have the perfect life, but then tragedy struck, followed by a very bizarre series of events and a strange death wreathed in the paranormal.

On March 13, 1990, the son Aiden was out playing on the property but did not come home as promised, and when the family went to look for him they came across a crushing sight. There lying beside a small pond was little Aiden, dead of an accidental drowning. The death shocked the entire community, but especially affected was Olivia, who had apparently been extremely attached to the boy. She reportedly simply could not handle it, devastated, totally shutting down, alienating her friends and remaining family, and failing to show up for work. The once cheerful and friendly woman devolved into a total, morose recluse, to the point that it led to Travis leaving her and their divorce in early 1991. She was seen around occasionally, and then one day in September of 1991 she just suddenly vanished without a trace. When weeks turned into months and months into years with her house abandoned and no sign of Olivia Mabel, people just assumed she had run off to start a new life or killed herself in some forgotten place out of depression, but then a series of strange events would make things very weird, indeed.

On February 27th, 1994, police allegedly received a 911 call from the Mabel house, during which whoever was on the other end stayed silent before hanging up. It was very odd, as the Mabel house had been abandoned for years, and curious officers arriving at the scene were not sure what to expect. There was no answer at the door, indeed no sign of any life whatsoever, and so the police let themselves in to find the place just as dusty and lifeless as they had expected. The place was apparently a complete mess, as if someone had ransacked it, except for Aiden’s room, which was eerily clean and well-kept, oddly devoid of the frosting of dust that covered everything else and seeming as if someone might come home there at any moment. This was all a little unsettling, but even more so was what they supposedly found sitting in the corner of the room.

There, perched upon a rocking chair, wearing a nightgown and slippers and holding a weird stick-figure doll was the corpse of Olivia Mabel, found at last. Judging by the look of her body, it appeared she had been dead for months at least, although the cause of death was not apparent. Directly in front of her was a trunk with a bedsheet thrown over it and covered with pictures of Aiden, as well as toys, candles, flowers, and an urn full of ashes. Police also found upon this strange altar a handwritten note, which purportedly read, “My Aiden, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I should have never let it get like this. I’m leaving. I will not let you keep me you ViLE, EViL CREATURE. Mommy’s coming for you, Aiden, my sweet Aiden. Mommy loves you.” At the bottom of a note was a message written in some foreign language that turned out to be Sanskrit, later translated into “construct” or “to build.” So far so creepy, but even creepier was that the date written on the note was February 27th, 1994, that very same day.

It was assumed that Olivia obviously must have post-dated the letter after lurking about her house unbeknownst to anyone worshiping her dead son before killing herself, but what did that note mean and what was that altar all about? Indeed, who made that 911 call? What was going on here? One of the officers on the scene, a Francesca Santiago, thought she knew. According to her, she had grown up with an uncle who was very into the occult, and she would say of this

I spent a lot of time in El Paso and had an uncle that was into some really dark occult stuff. I recognized it immediately. When I walked in that room and saw the symbols and the photos on that altar I felt a strong angry presence looming over me. It was honestly the last thing I expected to see in this town. One of the oddest parts for me is the date on the last letter we found. Dated the very day we kicked that swollen door down. The city concluded that she post-dated everything but I don’t believe she was alone in that house. And I don’t believe her spirit wasn’t still in the room with us that night. But then that makes me the crazy one, right?

The case remained unsolved and the house abandoned and forgotten until paranormal investigators took an interest in it and came to investigate. One of these was local paranormal researcher Drew Navarro, who was allegedly very impressed and very afraid of what he found there. He would say of the house:

In the hundreds of locations I’ve studied I’ve never felt such an imposing force. I couldn’t breathe, my heart was constantly racing. Its energy kept changing, but none of it felt inviting. Whatever is in there, it’s extremely possessive and behaves so erratically, like a jealous child throwing a tantrum. As far as I’m concerned, that house and that entire property should be avoided. It needs a serious intervention, because I’m not sure what we’re dealing with.

One idea that seems to be thrown around a lot with this case is that considering the altar and other strange items like the doll and the message in Sanskrit, Olivia Mabel had been trying to carry out a ritual in order to create a tulpa of her dead son. A tulpa, also called a “thought form” is a concept that originally comes from Tibetan Buddhism and basically means an object or entity created through sheer will, concentration and spiritual or mental discipline alone. If one does it correctly, they can supposedly bring into the world the form that they imagine, and that form can then become powerful enough to manifest physically and even develop a mind of its own, breaking free from the control of its master to become its own entity. The idea is that Olivia Mabel, in her crushing grief and desperation to see her son again, might have stayed in that filthy house secretly conducting rituals to try and create a tulpa of her dead son, which then might have spun out of control to turn on her, and was the “vile creature” she wrote of in her note and possibly even what called 911. This would also explain the insidious presence said to dwell there.

It is all a neat and spooky premise, that this grieving mother managed to conjure up a tulpa of her son, which then went on a sinister rampage. It sounds like something out of a horror movie, and indeed there was a Kickstarter campaign by ElfTree Media to make it into a film based on the case called Thought Form, which sadly never got off the ground because it sounds awesome. Yet, some have pointed out that it might actually be the other way around, and that this story was all made up as a viral ad campaign for the movie. There are a lot of red flags that point to this, such as an apparent lack of any actual news reports on the matter or any real sources rather than a few websites tied to the movie. One writer named Alyse Wax, at the site The 13th Floor, explains this all rather well, saying:

The story is good… a little too good. As far as I can figure, this is probably a hoax, in all likelihood a promotional tale for an upcoming film called THOUGHTFORM, which recently completed a failed Kickstarter campaign. A quick web search turned up no news clippings no mentions in newspapers or legitimate news sites and no other articles except for a few viral articles on some questionable websites. A website has been set up, oliviamabel.com which offers a number to call if you have any info on the case. It does not lead to a police department or investigator; just a Google Voice number. There seems to be no mention of the people in this case or the investigators, and no photos other than the ones provided on oliviamabel.com

It's hard to say for sure, as the filmmakers don't seem to have ever come clean and said anything to the effect that they made it all up, and the common idea is that the movie was based on the incident. It all leaves us with a lot of questions. So is this all a big viral marketing campaign for a failed film that never got off the ground? Is it an urban legend in the making? Or did something seriously strange go on in this peaceful, quiet town? If so, what was it? Why did Olivia Mabel vanish only to live in her filthy hovel to obsess over her dead son? Did she really somehow manage to invoke a sinister entity that could not be controlled? The case hasn't been proven to be a hoax or real, so in the end we don't know, but it is all a very strange and entertaining account no matter what the answers may be.

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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