by Christopher Laursen
in my own words | extraordinary experiences
January 22, 2013
Introduction. Extraordinarium features personal experiences of the
extraordinary as a way to explore their diversity and to broaden the
conversation about how such experiences impact people’s lives. Publications
such as Fate and Fortean Times have featured such personal experiences
over the decades as a way of giving experients a voice, and part of
Extraordinarium’s mandate is to do the same – to ensure that those who have
extraordinary experiences have a forum in which they can share them first-
hand, in their own words. From there, critical inquiry and respectful discussion
can follow. (See below for details on how to share your own experience).
Welcome to the second installment of
“In My Own Words.”
Foreword by Christopher Laursen.
Cat Wheeler, better known in Ubud,
Bali, as ‘Ibu Kat’ (Mother Kat), has
been living on the Indonesian island
since 2000. A Canadian expatriate
who was raised in Vancouver, she is
a writer, social activist and Reiki
Master. Her book Bali Daze
(previously published as Dragons in
the Bath) is a lively series of brief
anecdotes about living there, building
her own house, adjusting to the way
of being on the island and even
having the occasional encounter with
strange things. Bali Daze is required
reading for anyone considering
resettling in Bali, and it is well worth
reading for all who are coming to
visit. It sets the scene for the
nuances of Hindu-Balinese culture
that is truly unlike any other in the
world. Cat writes about how one must become more flexible to live there,
respecting and adapting to the ways of the Balinese people, sharing their own
knowledge while maintaining one’s own personal integrity. She writes a
column, Greenspeak, for the expatriate English language newspaper the Bali
Advertiser, and actively converses with people – locals and those from afar –
sharing their lives and the issues they have to deal with on a daily basis. For
Cat, writing on the environment extends concerns of preserving nature, land
use, and pollution to virtually everything that may impact a person in the place
where they live.
I sat down and had tea with Cat one cool, rainy season afternoon at her shady
home in Ubud which is situated on the edge of a ravine – the place where an
alternate dimension exists, where the Orang Sungei – the River People live.
She writes in her book, “The River People are generally friendly and sociable,
but have been known to become angry when people throw rubbish down the
riverbanks. Then they will drag the polluter down, sometimes to his death.”
One of her dogs, Kasey, had met such an unfortunate fate in the gorge beside
her home. Afterward, Cat recalled to me, she would dream of him and record
these dreams – to find out that her housekeeper Wayan Manis had shared the
same dream. In Bali Daze, she recounts the joys and frustrations of living on
the island, of taking care of rescued animals, of growing gardens, and the
friendship and humour she’s shared with her Balinese staff, Wayan Manis and
Cat shared several extraordinary incidents that she experienced over the past
20 years, both in Singapore – where she lived in the 1990s – and since moving
to Bali. Here, she shares six of these moments. What I find striking about
them is the variety of experiences. Encounters with sword-wielding
apparitions, shoe-throwing energies, things going mysteriously missing, a
moment of transoceanic synchronicity that led to a friendship, and possessed
The Haunted Rowhouses
Early on in Singapore, I lived in a row of old houses that had been built by
the British. After independence, they went downhill, from being officers’
quarters to being drug dens with prostitutes and gangs – really rough
trade. It was like that for about 30 years. Just before I moved in, they'd
been all bought and gentrified, so they were old and restored. But they
were hopping! And because they were cheap for Singapore, the people
who lived there tended to be artists, writers, designers, landscape
architects, creative people who were travelling a lot so the houses were
A good friend mine [Donna]… moved into a house two doors down from
me. And because she was on the road almost all the time and her
furniture had not yet arrived, she was over at my house most nights for
dinner. One night she came over, we visited and ate dinner with some
friends and I, and she went home. A few minutes later she was back, her
eyes like saucers, saying there's something weird going on in my
bedroom. There were four of us altogether. Nicole, Donna and my friend
Jenny, who is very psychic and intuitive, and very open. She and I
learned Reiki together and had been doing very interesting work together
for several years at that time.
So we all went next door and up the stairs, opened the door to Donna's
bedroom, walked in, and there's a WHOOSH of cold energy. Whenever
I'm in the presence of something like that, my left side feels chilled. So I
knew, Ooo! something's cooking in here! Nicole and Donna went running
out in alarm and huddled together half way down the stairs. Jenny
entered the bedroom and immediately doubled over and started howling.
I didn't experience any of this; I started to channel. I put my hands on her
shoulders, just moved with her and tried to keep her grounded. And after
a little while, I thought, This is getting boring. Now what is really going on
here? I opened all of the doors and windows. For some reason, Donna
had about 40 pairs of shoes in there, and I felt moved to pitch them all out
onto the balcony. I said, Okay, that's enough! Out you go! I started
jumping up and down, making loud noises. I had no techniques at that
time. There was a kind of sound and a blast of energy went out the
bedroom door. Donna and Nicole said they felt it go past them on the
stairs as a cold wind, then it was gone. I thought, Well, I wonder what
This was my first experience, a long time ago. I wasn't so well connected
at the time. I phoned around to a few people and asked, How do you
clear spaces? No one had any idea. So I had to create a technique,
which I did. And because this kind of thing is all about intention, it
worked. After that I started to get some calls from neighbours. There
were a lot of old energies from that period of gangsters, drugs and
prostitutes – a lot of really sad, stuck, lost spirits.
I had a big upstairs room where my Reiki Master would teach when she
was in Singapore. I apprenticed with her for 18 months before I became a
teacher myself, mostly at my house. One evening after a workshop when
the students had left, several of us were unwinding over dinner
downstairs with some wine. There were five or six of us in the house --
Reiki masters, level twos, level ones. No one was upstairs. Suddenly
there were two loud bangs overhead and I was sent upstairs. My
Japanese roommate kept her shoes in a bookshelf at one end of the long
narrow hall. Something had taken her shoes and thrown them down to
the other end of the hall. So we all had to go upstairs, open up the doors
and windows and clear it. It took some time, I guess because we hadn't
cleared the room where we'd been raising energy for two or three days
and it had really built up. Finally we felt it was gone and went and
finished dinner. Donna returned home and immediately discovered that it
had moved to her house! In one way or another, we got quite a bit of
It's spiritual housekeeping. If you're in a space that's dirty, you have to
clean it! It's not dangerous. The energies are not angry or malevolent.
They're just sad and stuck. But I always protect myself well first as
standard operating procedure.
The Dinner Guest
Cat’s house seems far
from the bustling main
roads of the cultural centre
of Ubud, Bali. For visitors
to find her house, she
needs to give detailed
directions that involve
finding the narrow alley
where she lives. She tells
This is a very highly
charged piece of
land, according to the
Balinese. I've had a
couple of Balians –
shamans – visit me
here, walk around,
come back and say,
Not many people
could live here.
Sitting on a daybed
overlooking her garden
and the jungle beyond, Cat
gives me a sense of the
space around her. She
points to the north. “The
big death temple is there.”
That’s where high caste cremations occur, the final part of a long process after
Balinese-Hindu people die, which begins with ceremonies, processions, and
often a burial. When a priest chooses the right date for cremation, the body is
exhumed and further rituals are carried out before the body is paraded down
the street on a platform and taken to the cremation grounds. Cat points to the
east. “The river frontage is right below us, in a deep ravine.” This is where the
River People reside, and Cat’s house is right on the edge of it, her fence
forming a physical boundary between her backyard and an altogether separate
dimension where Balinese people generally do not venture. To the south, “The
priest’s house is there,” Cat points out. He is her landlord. “It's a very lively
piece of land,” she adds, pointing. “The dogs sometimes just stand here and
stare at that corner.” She indicates a spot where the jungle crawls up from the
river to shade the edge of her garden. What could entrance the dogs at the
edge of the deep river gorge? Cat launches into a tale about an encounter she
had with something on the perimeter of her property.
I had a dinner party once and eight people were sitting around the table.
I was sitting with my back to the forest. I was chatting to a friend who
was sitting beside me, and she happened to look past me [to the forest]
and said, Oh my god! I turned around and just caught the edge of this
huge face rising up out of the dark jungle on the other side of the wall, the
face was perhaps three metres high. Just as I was trying to focus on it, it
pixelated and just dissolved away. Colleen and I were the only people
who saw it. Did it want to join the party?
Because this is such a highly charged piece of land, because of the work
I do, I put up a barrier, a boundary wall which very clearly separates my
side/your side. I’ve asked that it be respected. It’s not unseldom that
things happen on the other side, but they do honour our agreement and
stay out of the house and garden.
One of the strangest things that ever happened to me took place before I
moved here, more than 15 years ago. I went up with a friend to
Candidasa in August, the cremation season. We were staying in a little
place near the sea. Our room was a small cottage with an ylang ylang
(grass) roof. I’m allergic to grass roofs and I asked if I could have a bed
made up on the bale in the walled garden, so I could sleep outside.
A bale, which literally translates to something like ‘space out platform’
according to my Indonesian language teacher, is a simple wooden structure
composed of a platform and a roof held up by four wooden pillars. It is
traditionally found out in the rice fields, a place for farmers to have a siesta in
the heat of the afternoon, or for friends to sit in when they visit. Such
structures are also found at hotels, in villas and in Balinese compounds. Cat
continued to recount her experience.
Of course the Balinese consider it absolutely mad and terribly dangerous
to sleep outside, because of all the spiritual activity. They themselves
sleep in closed-up rooms, usually with the windows tightly shut.
I'm a Reiki practitioner and teacher. Before I went to bed, I laid symbols
[that I use for various rituals] all around the bale. It just felt like a good
All around – at the beach, in the mountains, in the distance and not so far
away – there was chanting, gamelan music, there was drumming, all
kinds of death ceremony rituals going on in the night. Lots of energy in
the air. I had a hard time falling asleep. I opened my eyes at one point
thinking, What is going on here? It's so lively. I sat up. And coming at
me out of each of the three walls of the garden were these apparitions:
faces, masks, swords, severed hands. They’d fly out of the walls right up
to the edge of the bale. And then they'd disappear, pixilate, where I’d laid
the symbols and protection. Just like a movie! And it would not quit.
I wasn't frightened. But after quite a while I felt, Give me a break, guys!
Hours of this! Only when it began to get light did the action stop. I was
absolutely exhausted, but intrigued.
“Have you told Balinese people about this?” I ask Cat.
It's very difficult to describe what happened in Indonesian. They would
think, Why would you sleep outside? That’s crazy, all kinds of spirits walk
The Possessed Schoolgirls
One day there was a possession in the school across the street. I heard
people screaming and running and the school loudspeaker ordering
everyone to go home, quickly. My Balinese staff told me I should go help.
I asked, should a foreigner go over there and do that? Is that
appropriate? They said yes. So I put protection around myself and
climbed the steps of the school against a tide of hysterical teenagers and
teachers and started to hold the space for this girl who was possessed.
“She was what?” I ask.
They do have possession here. I looked it up on the Internet afterwards,
and it seems to be not uncommon with teenagers of a certain age in
There were two girls. One was catatonic and the other I can only
describe as crazed, enraged. I sat and held space for the catatonic one.
Her friend, to her credit, was bravely cradling her. The other girl was
possessed by a dark entity, she was full of ferocious energy. If she’d had
a knife in her hand, she would have disembowelled everyone in sight.
She would rage then periodically collapse and huddle, shivering, behind
the school temple. Wayan Manis came and joined me after a while,
which was very brave for a Balinese. This probably went on for an hour,
until finally someone sent a car around and they took the girls away. I
asked for holy water and the principal, who was also a priest, sprinkled it
over Wayan and me. The teachers told the girls to take a month off, go
see a Balian and do what needs to be done. But a week later, the girls
insisted on coming back to school and the same thing happened again.
“Catherine Wheeler, it is not your time to die…”
About thirteen years ago I was thinking about moving to Bali from
Singapore. I came here with several friends and we stayed on the south
coast. One morning four of us went walking by the sea. It was a quiet,
early morning, not stormy at all. We were walking on the sand about
three metres from the waterline. Suddenly, almost right in front of the
hotel, a huge rogue wave came up, two metres tall – a wall of water – and
hit us like a train. My three friends were swept up a surge channel. I was
luckily thrown into a breakwater because I can't swim. We were all
banged up a lot, but we all survived. It was a very traumatic experience.
Three or four years ago, maybe ten years after this event, I got an e-mail
out of the blue from a woman in Argentina. She said, You're going to
think I'm absolutely mad. She studied dreams and she wrote, Last night,
I had a dream that there was a bay in a tropical area and a boat was
rocking and the waves were high. There was a feeling of danger, but a
voice said very clearly, “Catherine Wheeler, it is not your time to die.” I
Googled Catherine Wheeler and your name came up. You must think I'm
crazy. Does it make any sense to you?
I wrote back to say that's really very interesting! [laughs] That's exactly
what happened! She’d dreamed about an event that happened to me a
decade or so before. A very immediate dream with my name very clearly
stated, so she was able to find me. What is going on there? One
person's name clearly enunciated to a complete stranger on the other
side of the world. Go figure...
We became friends. She’s a journalist and has featured me in a couple
of articles in the Argentinean women's magazine she writes for.
Dealing with Dark Forces
Ibu Kat has encountered many things
living in Asia. But, as she shows in the
following experience, she has
empowered herself to maintain control
of the spaces she occupies. It is a skill
that she’s developed over decades
through the practice of Reiki and
My first house in Bali was also by a
river, and there was a really dark
energy around it. Horrible house!
Things were constantly
disappearing. I'd be alone in the
compound with the front gate
locked. I'd put a hammer on the
table, go answer the phone, come
back and the hammer would be
gone. It was constantly
happening. Things would be gone,
never, ever to reappear, which I
thought was just very, very
Then one night, my puppy
disappeared. He was on a long
chain on an overhead line because
the fence had not yet been finished
and the house was near a busy road. I went to the gate to see off a
visitor and was gone for maybe 30 seconds. When I got back to the
house the dog was gone. The chain was gone. There had not been a
sound. I was absolutely furious by this time. This was intolerable. You
guys – this is going too far! So I stood on the porch and shouted, “Alright,
that's enough! This is my space, not your space. This has got to stop!
I'm really fed up with this. It's over! Go! And send back my puppy!” I
was so worked up, I went and sat in my office and huffed. Two minutes
later there was the sound of a rattling chain and this wet, muddy little
puppy runs in to sit at my feet. Where had he been? How had he
disappeared in utter silence trailing that long noisy chain? He was pretty
That was a big lesson for me. I learned that here in Bali especially, you
must have very strong, clear boundaries. Sometimes, the spirits are
malevolent here. There's a lot of black magic being thrown around out
there by the Balinese. People are directing black magic toward other
people all the time. It's very dangerous. I protect myself against it. It’s
sad to see the Balinese feeling very vulnerable to all of these energies.
They feel they are helpless against negative energies and can only be
protected by a priest. They don't understand that they can do that work
themselves, they can protect themselves with intention and simple rituals.
Be fearless. Fearlessness is different than courage. It's a state of being.
You get there after being frightened a lot, you eventually work your way
past it. There really is nothing to fear except fear itself.
The extraordinary incidents Ibu Kat has experienced remain mysterious and
unexplained. “Bali is an energy vortex,” she says. “There’s always something
going on. Keep your balance. And don’t be afraid.”
Share Your Extraordinary Experience. Extraordinarium regularly
features people’s extraordinary experiences as told in their own words
– written, videoed or in audio format. Our aim is to share and discuss
a wide array of experiences that fall outside of the everyday, which
carry with them wonder and mystery, and even inspire a
transformation in how one thinks about the world. For more
information and to submit your experience, please Contact Us.
Author and Reiki Master Cat Wheeler shares
a variety of extraordinary experiences from
her time living in Singapore and Bali over the
past two decades. She talks about how she
learned to clear spaces of unwanted
energies and achieve fearlessness.
STUDIES & EXPERIENCES
OF THE EXTRAORDINARY
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