This event occurred when I was a teenager living in Lawton, Oklahoma. I have never forgotten it.
During one November weekend, I spent the night at my friend Steve's house. During this period, Steve's church was performing an all-weekend prayer vigil for a reason that I have since forgotten. Steve had signed up to pray during a 30-minute period beginning at three in the morning.
On Friday afternoon of the previous day, Steve invited me to wake up with him and travel to his church to pray with him. I agreed and after going to bed at Steve's house Friday night, we woke up at 2:30 to make the trip over to his church.
Steve lived a couple of hundred yards from the junior high that we both attended and his church, the First United Methodist, was across the street from that same school. It did not take long for Steve's father to pack us up in his station wagon and drive us the short distance in the frosty morning to the church.
The church was an enormous structure and as we entered, I got the distinct impression that we were entering a cave. The only lights in the whole building were the candles glowing at the altar that the prayerful had left during the prayer vigil. I could not see the ceiling and, after approaching next to the altar, I looked back and could not see the back of the church in the darkness. I could tell that Steve's father had settled into one of the back pews because I could hear him shifting around in the pew.
There was a woman at the altar and when she saw us approach, she muttered a hushed "hello" and got up to leave. I listened to her footfalls and watched her disappear into the darkness. Seconds later, I heard her open the door. When she did, the street light at the front of the church briefly lit the interior of the church before the door closed behind the woman to leave us once more in the inky, candlelit darkness.
I sat on the front pew behind Steve and watched as he knelt at the altar and began to pray. I do not recall him spending too much time at prayer before watching him grasp a nearby straw, light it on a candle, and use the lit straw to light an unlit candle. He then began to get up to join me at my pew when a cold wind from the back of the church blew over us, flickered the candles, and extinguished the candle that Steve had just lit. I looked at the back of the church to see who had just entered, but I could not see anything in the darkness. Steve was already facing the back of the church so I asked him, "Who just came in?"
"I don't know. We still have about fifteen more minutes before my prayer time here is over. It's too early for the next person. I didn't see anyone open the door in the back," Steve replied.
"Are you already done praying, then?" I asked.
"Yeah, I'm not too good at praying for more than a few minutes," Steve said.
"Well, you should at least go back and relight your candle. That gust of wind blew it out," I observed.
"Where did that wind come from?" Steve whispered.
"I don't know. I was thinking about going back there to see if your dad saw anybody, but I can hear him snoring in the back," I replied.
"Stay where you are then, I don't want to be here at the altar alone while I go back and relight my candle," Steve said.
Steve turned around and selected another straw from the altar and lit it on another candle. He then lowered the lit piece of straw onto the candle that he had just previously lit. After lighting the candle, he blew out the straw and placed it back into the holder next to the candles. It was at this time that another cold gust of wind blew into our faces from the front of the church, flickered the candles again, and again extinguished Steve's freshly-lit candle - leaving all of the other candles lit in their places!
Steve looked back at me with a look of fright - I have to say that I was also a little frightened. I immediately got up and stood next to Steve and whispered, "Steve, I think we should pray a little longer this time. Move over, I'll join you."
We both knelt at the altar and started fervently praying. I do not know how long we were there at the altar, but we were both presently disturbed by the sound of someone walking up behind us and patiently sitting in the front pew. I nudged Steve and watched him slowly light a straw and carefully place it upon an unlit candle. The candle lit. We both waited for several seconds to see what would happen. When the candle stayed lit, we both got up and walked back to the rear of the church. The man sitting on the front pew then took our place and knelt at the altar and started praying.
After waking up Steve's dad, we all left the church, got into Steve's station wagon, and drove back to the house.
The next morning, we told Steve's parents about what had happened in the church while Steve's dad was sleeping. Surprisingly, all that his dad could say was, "Well, I guess someone "upstairs" wasn't satisfied with your first efforts."
It was just as good an explanation that Steve and I could offer for the night's events.
I understand how this could have been a rather nerve wracking experience for two teenagers. At least you had the comfort of knowing that Steve's dad was waiting for you, even though he fell asleep.
I can think of two ways in which I would probably have reacted; being a typical teenage girl I would either have got the giggles (which I sometimes did in church, for the silliest of reasons) to the great annoyance of the nuns, or; I would have sent up a very heartfelt prayer to St Michael to protect me from the evil "thing" which kept extinguishing the candles!