I'm not sure when I first became interested in the spirit world. I know I was very young. I had not yet learned to read when my grandparents began collecting the Golden Book Encyclopedia for me, one volume at a time, from the local supermarket. When they presented me with Volume 7 (Ghosts to Houseplants), I immediately asked my grandfather to read me the article on ghosts. I was fascinated by the accompanying illustration of Marley's ghost, from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
|Marley's Ghost (original illustration by John Leech)|
Although the Golden Book Encyclopedia and my grandfather both assured me that there were no such things as ghosts, I preferred to believe otherwise.
I was obsessed with the Haunted Mansion decades before I finally got the opportunity to ride in a Doom Buggy. My favorite children's record was Disney's Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. It featured realistic sound effects accompanying such lighthearted "let's pretend" scenarios as "The Unsafe Bridge," "Chinese Water Torture," and "The Very Long Fuse." My favorite, of course, was "The Haunted House," which began:
You are a bold and courageous person, afraid of nothing. High on a hilltop near your home, there stands a dilapidated old mansion. Some say the place is haunted, but you don't believe in such myths. One night, a light appears in the topmost window in a tower of the old house. You decide to investigate, and you never return...
I was a bold and courageous person, and I longed to prove it by meeting a ghost face-to-face.
Hans Holzer. (My favorite story, chronicled in Ghosts I've Met, concerned decapitated railroad conductor Joe Baldwin, who is said to wander along the railroad tracks in Maco, North Carolina, searching for his head.) I wanted to be a professional ghost hunter too, but I had no idea how to go about it. Somehow, I doubted one would show up for Career Day at my school.
I may never have realized my dream of becoming a professional ghost hunter, but in 2004 I did meet one. I met Richard Senate when some friends and I were asked to perform a murder mystery at Ventura's reputedly extremely haunted Olivas Adobe. Richard conducts ghost tours in Ventura and has written numerous books about the ghosts hereabouts. I asked him if he had ever seen any ghosts at the Adobe. He told me he had witnessed several manifestations of the infamous "lady in black."
I spent many fall evenings rehearsing and performing at Olivas Adobe over the course of the next two years, and during that time I never once saw anything ghostly. Neither did I see any manifestations on three separate visits (one at night, two during the day) to San Diego's famous Whaley House, said to be one of the most haunted houses in America. And, as I previously chronicled in this blog, my overnight stay at a reputedly haunted bed and breakfast in Lake Arrowhead also proved to be disappointing.
I have become increasingly skeptical in my old age.
However, I have not given up hope. One of these days, I plan to visit Ireland. I hear there are plenty of ghosts there.
Until then, there's always the Haunted Mansion.