Tales of a Spooky October

Twas a truly lovely October, gruesome ones, and I just had to share a few of its highlights.

First, Lisa and I traveled to Estes Park, Colo. early in the month to spend a spectral weekend with our friends and fellow spookaholics Jack and Shari at the infamous Stanley Hotel, inspiration and setting for Stephen King’s The Shining. To be precise, it was the eve of October 7, Edgar Allan Poe’s death day — always a milestone.

A cozily surrealistic image of the Stanley

We went on the entertaining “ghost tour,” saw the famous room in which King supposedly set the double murder in his fictional “Overlook” and even witnessed a demonstration of what was claimed to be (and might actually have been) telekinetic activity using tourist children as subjects.

The best, however, was in our room, the Heritage Suite, in which a bottle of wine moved, apparently of its own accord, across the counter-top. Jack-be-nimble captured the scene on his cell:

Then, in mid-October, brothers Greg and Roland and I went on a bicycling tour in the Midwest. We took bike paths that used to be railroad grades, deep into the backwoods of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Missouri. The settings were beautiful — fresh air, gorgeous autumnal colors, picturesque little towns — but toward dusk they would grow macabre, with hooting owls, the scent of damp fallen leaves and fading umber skies. The only thing missing was the spectral voice of Enya, from somewhere deep in the woods, singing Cursum Perficio.

Wisconsin’s witchy woods

It was while heading back toward town on such a twilit evening on Wisconsin’s Sparta-Elroy Trail, deep in the woods indeed, when we glimpsed, perhaps a quarter mile ahead of us, a young woman dressed in a long black robe or dress, with pale complexion and long dark hair, standing on the pathway, far away from any obvious sign of civilization. We were curious, began to advance, and then she literally laid across the path, her back to the dirt, her face to the sky. It was an unexpected and chilling scene, and even to three fully grown men in reasonably good shape, frightening. We decided not to go any further. There was simply something too spooky in this dim image of a witch lying across a forest path. We turned around and began the long ride back to town.  Call us chickens, friends, but don’t call us stupid!

Footnote:  Apparently, we weren’t the only ones to meet up with the macabre in this area. I recently found the YouTube video below, posted in 2009, which shows a rather eerie  apparition in Tunnel No. 3, the old railroad tunnel on the Sparta-Elroy trail through which we passed. In fact, our “witch” sighting occurred only about half a mile from where the video was taken. I know, I know, there are video tricks and all that. Maybe it’s a fake.  Maybe not.  All I know is that it seems a rather unlikely coincidence.

Press image for the video

A couple of days later, along the beautiful Katy Trail in Missouri, we chanced to come upon a bunch of cyclists heading to the little town of Rocheport, where midday Halloween festivities were in full swing. It was a great costume party, with a kick-ass bluegrass band and seriously good vibes. Many of the partygoers headed back toward Columbia on their bikes in full regalia, including the two dudes pictured below:

Beetlejuice and Buccaneer

Finally, we came home, sore of leg but full of creepy Halloween vibrations. The holiday itself was celebrated on an unusually non-snowy October 31st at the Leppek home in good old Denver.  A great ending to a great month!

My First (and so far, only real) Ghost Story

Back in the Dark Age of 1977, I (Chris) was serving my country in the US Navy, stationed at the Seabee base in Port Hueneme, Calif. There was a beautiful old mansion there, once owned by a Senator Bard, later appropriated by the Navy for its new Seabee force in World War II.  Legend had it that the place was lousy with spooks, and already being a journalist and nosy fellow, I somehow convinced the base commander to allow me and two companions (eyewitness and Seabee comrade Doug Jagd and base photographer Laura Beagle) to spend a night in the old manse. Long story short — we did encounter some fascinating and rather macabre things during that long and dark evening.

I told the story myself way back then, in the base newspaper, appropriately named the Seabee Coverall, along with some intriguing photos. Recently, I got a copy of the article from the base historian and am attaching it here for your reading pleasure.

Bard Mansion Haunting

Footnotes:  That summer, after I was already discharged, the article won honors as the Navy’s best story for 1977 — an honor of which I am still proud. Also, a professor at the UCLA School of Parapsychology (or some such name) looked at the spectral photo we’d sent him or her and pronounced it, rather routinely, as “an ordinary house ghost.”  Below is a scan from the original infrared print:

I can assure you that it has never seemed “ordinary” to those of us who spent the evening at the Bard Mansion. As for you?  Well, you’ll have to judge for yourselves.