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.

Ghost Blogger Dora Sigerson Shorter: All Souls’ Night

ALL SOUL’S NIGHT

O MOTHER, mother, I swept the hearth, I set his chair and the white board spread,

I prayed for his coming to our kind Lady when Death’s sad doors would let out the dead;

A strange wind rattled the window-pane, and down the lane a dog howled on.

I called his name and the candle flame burnt dim, pressed a hand the doorlatch upon.

Deelish! Deelish! my woe forever that I could not sever coward flesh from fear.

I called his name and the pale Ghost came; but I was afraid to meet my dear.

O mother, mother, in tears I checked the sad hours past of the year that ’s o’er,

Till by God’s grace I might see his face and hear the sound of his voice once more;

The chair I set from the cold and wet, he took when he came from unknown skies

Of the land of the dead; on my bent brown head I felt the reproach of his saddened eyes;

I closed my lids on my heart’s desire, crouched by the fire, my voice was dumb;

At my clean-swept hearth he had no mirth, and at my table he broke no crumb.

Deelish! Deelish! my woe forever that I could not sever coward flesh from fear:

His chair put aside when the young cock cried, and I was afraid to meet my dear.

Dora Sigerson Shorter (1866-1918) was an Irish poetess who could combine the ghostly and the tragic as only the Irish can. Thanks to Vicki McDonald Leppek for contributing this. She found it in Edmund Clarence Stedman’s ‘A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895′.

Guest Blogger Gregory Leppek: ‘The Spooky Church’

Nature and still-life photographer Gregory Leppek contributed this photo of a church at twilight — in our opinion, a masterpiece of macabre mood and eerie atmosphere. In other words, it’s a perfect blend of the horrific and beatific. He took it a few years ago along Colorado’s Northern Front Range.

 

Gregory has studied with some of the best nature photographers around, and his sandals have literally wandered coast to coast in search of those perfect views. See what we mean by checking out his website: www.gregoryleppek.com

Full disclosure:  Greg is my little brother and I’m proud to say that I love his work!

–  Chris