True Paranormal Incidents/The Sacrifice, by Elena Lasina

True Paranormal Incidents

Elena Lasina’s short book (in print terms more a pamphlet) True Paranormal Incidents (2013), also known as Paranormal Experiences (2015), recounts nine such occurrences, of various kinds, she claims to have had.  These are told in the first person, and have been compiled and edited in English by James W. Bancroft.  While the book is couched in non-fiction terms, there is no corroboration so we only have Lasina’s word for any of it.  The events are certainly strange, and will stretch the reader’s credulity.

There is little contextual information about Lasina’s life.  Details are left vague, and we launch straight into the experiences with no preamble.  What we know about her we learn in passing, such as she was born and brought up in Bucharest, but spent a lot of time during the holidays in her grandparents’ village near a city about 400 km, or six hours’ drive, from the capital.  Her father was in the army for 20 years, and when he retired the family moved to the city close to her grandparents’ village, where they turned part of the ground floor of their large house into a shop. 

Biographical details available elsewhere indicate she was born in 1986, is fluent in English and Spanish, and has written a novel, The Sacrifice (2013), the first in a proposed Legends of Transylvania series (though it seems no further instalments have appeared).  Presumably personal details have been left vague to protect Lasina’s privacy, but the paucity of verifiable information, for which no reason is provided, reduces the weight of the accounts.  As one will gather from the following, they need all the help they can get if they are to be taken seriously.

Her earliest experience involved being able to see into graves, the section’s title, ‘This man was not brain dead when he was buried,’ words she spoke to her grandmother, providing the gist.  She claims she can see things invisible to others, and this story demonstrates that ability in spades.  Visiting a cemetery aged eight, she was able to look down into graves and provide information on how the occupants lived and how they died.  As this was in her grandparents’ village there was little chance she would have prior knowledge.  One corpse she ‘saw’ lying face down.

She mentions there is a Romanian tradition of ‘Ziua Dezgroparii’, ‘unearthing day’, which actually seems to be more a Moldovan custom (that would tie in with the distance Lasina says the village is from Bucharest; also, at one point she mentions the sister of a boyfriend returning from Iași, close to the Moldovan border).  According to Lasina, seven years after a body is buried it is disinterred to allow inspection of the remains.  When this particular grave was opened, the body was found face down, as she had predicted.

The second account concerns a conversation with the father of her friend, who looked hale and hearty.  He told her he was buying candles after the death of a relative, but she had no inkling he had died the previous day.  In the third, she gives examples of her ability to affect people with her eyes: casually looking at the feet of someone who fell and broke her leg; staring at the feet of her drunk boyfriend who believed there was something horrible under his bed, the sensation stopping when she lifted her eyes; looking at her mum holding a pie, who dropped it.  This is not an example of the evil eye because there was no intention, certainly no bad intention, and it is possible that the outcomes were chance.

Precognitive dreams of her friend’s boss, in one of which his face was torn off and another featuring a car crash, were borne out when he was killed in his powerful car, in precisely the way she had dreamed, with devastating consequences for his face.  Asking whether she could have prevented the accident, she concludes she would not have been able to, fate being in God’s hands as the following account indicates.

A friend playing cards kept turning up the ‘seven black cross’, i.e., the seven of clubs, and the seventh of that month was a minor holiday, a ‘black cross day’ (major ones being red cross days).  Reinforcing the link, Lasina had dreams involving the Orthodox calendar, the seven black cross, and a terrible accident while felling a tree.  On that day the friend intended to cut a tree down with his father using a chainsaw.  Warned something bad would happen if he did so, the friend agreed to stay home and not do anything dangerous, yet died in a freak domestic accident with a curtain rail.

An incident that could have had severe consequences centred on crossroads near her house.  Aged 15, she got talking to a young man, Vali, whose girlfriend had left him for someone else.  Lasina asked him about the bride he was thinking about, implying a telepathic link, and he replied that he saw brides at the crossroads.  She told him he was under a spell and if he did not break it he would never marry.  He shrugged it off but she decided to visit the crossroads at dead of night.  There she was menaced by a pack of black dogs, then saw a woman in white, like a bride, the dogs did not seem to detect.

The dogs bared their teeth and barked at her, but the owner of a store at the crossroads came out with a torch and the dogs ran off, while the lady disappeared.  Lasina was left wondering whether the dogs and lady were connected and whether she was real.  Vali failed to remain in a relationship until he was taken by his mother to a monastery where he was blessed and cleansed, marrying shortly afterwards.  Coincidence? Lasina did not think so.

At her grandparents’ house, she had a dream in which fierce-looking creatures lurked near a swing, about the size of dogs with long thin bodies able to stand on two feet.  Going to the swing the following day she saw five or six of them, though nobody else could.  Their appearance always presaged misfortune – her uncle dropped a knife as he was walking past, injuring his foot, she caught her finger in a rat trap, her three-year old cousin fell off the swing.  Initially resistant to her pleas, her uncle eventually moved the swing.  The shadowy figures remained at the old location and she persuaded her grandmother to bring in a priest to bless the spot, at which the creatures screamed and disappeared.

When she was 11, she left her grandparents’ house to go back to school in Bucharest.  Her grandfather had cardiac problems but didn’t want to worry his wife.  One night, Lasina woke and asked her mother if the phone had rung.  Her mother assured her it hadn’t, but she had dreamed her grandfather had died and her aunt had rung to tell them.  Unsurprisingly, the phone then rang, and it was her aunt calling to tell them Lasina’s grandfather had died 15 minutes earlier.

Shortly afterwards, her father retired from the army and they moved to the city near her grandmother’s village.  Asked to choose a room in their new house she disliked the first one because she sensed a presence, and selected another.  Unfortunately, when she was 15 her parents turned the ground floor of the house into a shop, and she was told her room was needed for storage so she would have to move into the sinister room.  She felt she was being watched by an unpleasant entity, and later a neighbour told her mother that about 60 years previously a man had hanged himself in the room she was now in.  She was allowed to move to another room, after which she was fine.  She believed the presence had not wanted anyone to occupy the room and was now content.

The final account relates to Lasina’s then boyfriend. At his flat, she had a nightmare in which he got up to go to work, came back because he had forgotten his keys, and left again, but as he left some black cats appeared, the same creatures she had dreamed about at her grandmother’s house, and they were walking around her, with hot air felt on her legs.  In the morning he duly left, but rang to say he had forgotten his keys, was on the way back, and asking her to open the door for him.  When he left the second time, she felt the same sensation of hot air she had in her dream and when she looked down she saw dark shadows. 

Hurrying home. she met her boyfriend’s father who said he wasn’t feeling well, and she saw flashes of light emanating from his stomach and a ball of light on one side.  Lasina’s boyfriend told her his father had cirrhosis, and he died about a year later.  She says she has seen other’s illnesses in a similar way.  Possibly she detected her boyfriend’s father’s illness by his appearance, though she did not know the cause of his problem until told, but she then mentions an incident where she looked at a photo showing only half a man’s body, and correctly deduced he had problems with his legs.

One wonders how she is faring now, and whether she still claims to experience such strange events.  If she does, it would be worth local researchers working with her to document and test them in a rigorous manner that did not allow for the sorts of criticism to which personal unsupported testimony is open.

True Paranormal Incidents is available at the time of writing on Smashwords and Kobo as a free e-book, and on the subscription website Scribd, with the author listed as Elena Lasina.  The book was reissued as Paranormal Experiences in 2015, with the author listed under her real name as Irina-Elena Asimine, but it is no longer publicly available under that title.

23 June 2022 (revised 27 June 2022)

The Sacrifice

Elena Lasina’s self-published novella The Sacrifice, book one (2013), is the first in what is/was intended to be a series devoted to what the cover refers to as Legends of Transylvania.  The ending certainly is written with a sequel in mind, though after a decade it is unlikely one will be forthcoming.  Lasina is also the author of the allegedly non-fiction True Paranormal Incidents, and the two covers share the idea of a pair of eyes in close-up, a concept perhaps borrowed from images of Bela Lugosi’s hypnotic stare.

The plot is convoluted.  Two ten-year-old children, Alexander Ionescu and Ariana Luca, go picnicking with their parents in the Transylvanian mountains.  The pair are soul mates and seem destined for a life together.  However, hurrying home as bad weather closes in, their car leaves the road and crashes, killing both sets of parents.  Ariana’s father, who was driving, had drunk a beer, so Alexander holds him responsible but, in his absence, transfers his anger to Ariana and refuses to speak to her, despite still loving her.

Both find black roses on their parents’ graves, and these otherworldly flowers play a key role in the narrative.  Ariana takes the one on her parents’ grave, Alexander leaves his, but while picking it up is scratched by a thorn.  It lies there year after year, never withering, and never stolen.

Ariana is taken to a town on the Black Sea coast by her aunt and uncle to start a new life, but Alexander lives on his own, with no intervention by local social services.  Both are artistic, he playing the guitar and she becoming a talented painter.

Thirteen years later, both have grown to be attractive young people.  Alexander learns that Ariana’s father was not responsible for the accident, he was swerving to miss a mysterious figure who appeared in the road who turns out to be a … vampire.  This individual, Volod, persecutes the young man, popping up at odd moments to annoy him.

Fearing for Ariana’s safety, Alexander goes to her town and the two rekindle their romance, but Alexander is turning into a vampire, a side at war with the part of him which remains human.  They meet a mysterious figure, Benjamin, accompanied by black jaguar, Zinon.  His entire village was destroyed two hundred years before by Volod.

Benjamin leads a bunch of panthers who unsurprisingly are at war with Volod’s vampire clan, with Alexander and Ariana caught in the middle of the conflict.  Ariana is accidentally scratched by Zinon, Benjamin’s transformed son, and she starts to turn into a cat herself.

Despite having had many opportunities previously, Volod says he wants to kill Alexander and Ariana for tampering with the roses, though why he left them on the graves is not completely clear.  He reveals that the young pair are distantly related to each other through ancestors who were connected to Vlad the Impaler.

The battle about to reach a climax, Alexander sacrifices himself in a ritual pact with Benjamin to save Ariana.  Volod’s clan is destroyed and Ariana is assured by Benjamin that Alexander can be restored to life after seven days and nights (but why didn’t he think to mention this to Alexander before stabbing him?  OK, it wouldn’t really have been a sacrifice then).  The cliffhanger would doubtless have been resolved in the next book.

The plot packs a lot into some 50 pages (there is a lot more than in the synopsis above), and it is not always easy to follow.  The personalities of the star-struck lovers are undeveloped, with the emphasis on driving the action forward.  For no apparent reason sentences leap between present and past tenses, which makes for awkward reading.

The Sacrifice feels derivative of the Twilight films (2008-10) with some decorous sex thrown in.  It would be easy to assume the novel is some kind of parody of the genre, with wooden characterisation, clunky dialogue, and important plot points thrown away in passing.  However, it reads as a straight unironic story and it seems the intent is serious.

Sadly, it is difficult to discern any literary merit, the major sacrifice being the time allotted to reading it.  (To answer the obvious question, I was curious to see how it compared to True Paranormal Incidents.  The latter is far more readable, if no more plausible.)

(19 February 2023)

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