House Haunted By Spirits?
It’s the sort of house you might fantasize about. Three stories. A deck with an ocean view. A Laguna Beach address. But like the house in “Amityville Horror” or umpteen other scary movies, it creeped Lori Duarte out. She woke up screaming from nightmares. Saw things out of the corner of her eye. Heard strange noises. “It was a pretty house,” Lori says, “but it didn’t feel that way; I would rather be in a shack.” In November 2007, after a year and a half together, she and her husband decided to split up. And sell the house. It was on the market for the next seven months. There were no takers. Whatever was in that house, Lori says, was keeping buyers away. She told her ex that there was a woman in town they could hire to chase away the spirits. “If you can get it to sell,” he told Lori, “do whatever the hell you want.” Julie Belmont lives in Laguna Hills. She is an artist who works in oils and pastels and charcoal. She makes Victorian chokers. She knits scarves. And, she says, she sees dead people. Julie was 4 and living in Madrid when she woke one morning to find her aunt standing at the foot of her bed, wearing a gray dress and smiling kindly. The woman told her niece she had come to say goodbye. Then she faded away. “OK,” Julie says she remembers thinking. “I am awake.” She went to her parents and told them what she saw. She says they didn’t flinch. “Get your coat,” they told her. The family went to a hospital where the aunt had been ill. The old woman passed away soon after they arrived. It was the fall of 2007 when Lori, a flight attendant and mother of three, met Julie at the Chakra Shack in Laguna Beach. The woman who usually reads Lori’s cards wasn’t in, but Julie was. Some people might call Julie a psychic. She prefers the term “intuitive.” “People still stereotype,” Julie says. Since childhood, she says, she could see, hear and feel things that others couldn’t. The more she focused on her intuition, the more it developed. But, until relatively recently, she only shared it with friends and family. After growing up in Madrid, she moved to Toronto where she fell into modeling, becoming Canada’s first poster girl. A 1980 magazine spread titled “Battle of the Poster Girls” shows her in a bathing suit and Farrah Fawcett hair alongside cheesecake swimsuit photos of Cheryl Tiegs, Suzanne Somers and Cheryl Ladd. Soon, Julie moved to Newport Beach. She decided she wanted to be a cop. She enrolled in the Golden West Police Academy and, in a few years, she was a reserve officer for the Costa Mesa Police Department. Less than two years after that, she got pregnant and quit her job to raise what would be her only child, a girl, Krystle.
Julie Belmont has seen a rise in her services since more people are leaving their homes in foreclosure. She calls herself an"intuitional consultant" who cleanses houses of "bad spirits."For the next decade or so Julie was mainly a mom, living in Nellie Gale, making, and sometimes selling, her art. But about five years ago, some of her friends who work as psychics told her, “You’re just as good as us. Why don’t you get a job?” She got hired at the Chakra Shack, reading cards. She also does hypnotherapy and has written some books you can buy on Amazon. Then, about two years ago, watching yet another TV news report on foreclosures, Julie fell into a reverie about all those people leaving their homes in sadness and anger. What sort of negativity, she wondered, are they leaving behind? Julie arrived at Lori’s house armed with crystals, candles and rose water. Lori took her from room to room. Then Julie told Lori to go outside and wait, standard operating procedure since the person who lives in the home may become frightened. “Spirits gain strength from fear,” Julie says. Once alone, Julie walked through each room, counterclockwise, burning sage. “It’s a modern, everyday house, and that day was sunny,” she says of the house that is, at most, a few decades old. “Yet it felt dark, like something was there that shouldn’t be.” Julie emerged about 40 minutes later. Then, Julie and Lori sprinkled rose water in the backyard and said a prayer, asking for “whatever it was that was there” to leave. Julie calls what she does Spiritual Home Staging. “Don’t live in somebody else’s past,” her flier reads. Her most recent jobs were a house in Costa Mesa and an office in Long Beach. For both, she brought sage to burn and a mix of oils. “If it’s a heavy duty entity, I will call the archangels to help me.” Her fee for everything from basic “energy cleansing and balancing” to “communication with the unseen, and evacuation or dismissal of unwanted energies or other phenomena,” is $200 an hour. Does she realize that some people out there might think she is a kook, or even worse, a fake? “There’re always skeptics.” Lori is not one of the skeptics. Still, she worries that people who read about her decision to hire Julie might think she is, in her words, “a fruitcake.” “Some people just don’t believe in this sort of thing,” Lori says. “And that’s fine. But unless you’ve experienced it…” Her voice trails off. The bottom line: “I would wake up at night screaming, open my eyes, and see people standing next to me. It felt like I was hallucinating. I hated being alone in that house. It just felt creepy. “And everyone who would visit would say the same thing.” After Julie left, Lori says, her house felt lighter. The cold, dark feeling was gone. And within a month she had a buyer. Today Lori and her kids live only a few blocks from their former home, in a more modest house. Her daughter still plays with their former next door neighbor’s child, so they still go by the old place all the time. “And it looks like a different house,” Lori says. “I don’t know how to explain it. Physically, nothing’s changed. "There’s things out there you just can’t put your finger on. I don’t know. Do you believe it?”