I want nothing so much as to run into a ghost face to face. Wouldn’t that be fantastic? I just don’t get it when grown men say they saw a ghost and ran away. What’s a ghost going to do to you? Rattle a chain? Go, “BOO”? I don’t have a bucket list, but if I did, I’d put two things on it for sure: I want to see a ghost, and I want to see a bear. I don’t mean like a bear in the zoo, I mean a bear in the wilds. A bear rooting through my trash. A bear on the porch. Or a ghost anyplace at all. I’d turn interviewer at once. I’d want to know all about that ghost. Name, year of birth, occupation, address, year of death, manner of death—the works. With all those questions I’d likely bore that ghost to d… Well, not to death certainly. But far from running away, I’d be interested.
I felt Errol Flynn’s ghost, as described in Errol Flynn Slept Here. I stood at his deserted home, Mulholland Farm, and I was all alone, and I felt him watching me to the point the hairs stood up on my arm. I told no one about my brush with the ghost at the time—I thought I was imagining things—and it wasn’t until 15 years later that I started to hear other, much more startling personal encounters with the ghost of Mulholland Farm. Tracy Nelson, for one, saw Flynn’s ghost up close, as did her brother Gunnar.
I felt Jean Harlow while visiting Forest Lawn Glendale a long time ago. I felt her reaching out to me, quite distinctly, and what I sensed was, Write about me. I sensed great loneliness; great sadness. A soul alone. Circumstances prevented me from doing it at the time, but I felt a heavy sense of obligation. I carried it around for years. Finally David Stenn wrote Bombshell and Darrell Rooney and Mark Vieira wrote Harlow in Hollywood and whatever needs the Baby had, these books must have satisfied because they are both fantastic—and very different—approaches to telling her complete story.
Another time I was on a ghost hunt in an old house near Pittsburgh and something touched the back of my neck as I walked down a narrow hallway. I saw nothing, but I felt a hand on my neck. Not a cobweb. Not a draft. A hand.
The most frequent question people ask me related to Fireball is, “When you were at the crash site, did you feel anything?” By that they mean, did you feel, did you see, did you experience ghosts? I wondered if I would at this spot where 22 people died in one second. I felt the sadness of the place; I held a human bone in my hand. More than anything, I felt obligation to those souls.
When you explore as much history as I do, you walk well-worn paths and you feel things. I’ve had my fair share of “stranger than science” incidents, but I haven’t seen nearly as much as I want to. One of my best friends lives in a very haunted house that’s full of residual energy. He can lie in bed in the early morning and hear commotion downstairs that’s clearly his family going through their routine from 50 years earlier. Imagine hearing noises of busy family life coming from your kitchen and knowing it’s your mother in there cooking; it’s 10-year-old you and your brothers and sisters sitting down to eat and then scraping back chairs and rushing off to school. That house also has at least one ghost, as proved by dozens of odd little incidents.
A few weeks ago I walked through several homes from the pre-Civil War and Victorian eras and felt the presence of the former inhabitants. I heard others describe ghostly encounters, but I had no encounters of my own. I’m also helping to restore a Victorian home these days and will spend tomorrow there alone. It’s a hundred years old but do you think I’ve heard one thing out of the ordinary? I’m afraid not. Maybe I need to walk in tomorrow and challenge the ghosts to show themselves. I haven’t tried that yet and who knows, maybe it will kick something up.
Do you want to make me jealous? Tell me about an encounter you had with a ghost, or an odd experience that you think may have been ghostly. Something you can’t explain. It’s the perfect time of year for a ghost story, and I want to hear some.