Wishing They’d Go Bump

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.

Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen

Here I am sitting on Errol Flynn’s diving board. On my return trip, all alone, I felt the ghost.

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.

Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen

From a distance it even looked haunted–Errol Flynn’s Mulholland Farm.

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.

Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen

Imagine, if you can, Flight 3 flying into the middle of this scene and crashing against the cliff. Ghosts here? I felt close to the crash victims; I knew I had to tell their story.

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.


  1. I had a friend with whom I lost contact many years ago who told me that she had seen ghosts most of her life. She said that as a little girl she would frequently see transparent beings that would quickly pass by, but thought nothing of it. Once she realized that others didn’t see them, however, she became frightened, thinking that she may be having psychological problems.

    It was only after she had read about the paranormal and realized that she had the intuitive sensitivites of a channeler (if that is the proper term) that she started to realize what was happening to her. She told me that seeing these often fleeting images of transparent beings is a “gift” that she sincerely wished she did not have.

    She often sighted these transparent images pass behind her as she would look into a mirror, particularly one particular mirror in a nightclub. She distinctly recalled one occasion in which she and some co-workers sat at a table discussing another co-worker who had just been killed in a car accident. As they were discussing her, she told me that she saw a transparent image of that deceased co-worker sitting at the table with them.

    Another friend of mine has a childhood ghost story of her own, which I will not bother to relate here. She, however, has been to my home numerous times, NOT KNOWING that 50 years ago there was a violent suicide in my house by a teenage boy. One day my friend told me that she saw a partial entity in my home. I sort of shrugged off her statement, casually asking her where she had seen it. She named the room in which the suicide had occurred. Coincidence? Possibly, yet what are the odds of that?

    One day I was cleaning out a vacuum cleaner and mentioned to that same friend that I had used the same vacuum cleaner bag for years because, if there were any replacement bags for the machine buried somewhere in my house, I didn’t know where there were.

    ONE HOUR LATER (!!!) a cupboard door swung open in front of my friend and a bag fell to the floor. You guessed it. Inside it were the replacement vacuum cleaner bags, the very ones that I couldn’t find. Coincidence? My friend considered the timing of it to be very scary. And it makes me wonder, as well.

    Finally, I once had a contractor hired to work in the telephone room at my company workplace. He worked off hours, from around midnight to 6am, for about a week. The telephone room is located in the basement of the building, and the odds are that at those hours he was the only one in the building.

    He said that as he concentrated upon his work with cross connect wires on a wall, his peripheral vision would frequently pick up on a sense of “something” at the door of the room. Whenever he glanced at the door, however, he saw nothing so continued with his work.

    This happened with enough frequency, however, that the next time it occurred he rushed to the door. Looking down a short hallway he saw a “blur” in the air that quickly rounded a corner. When he ran to the end of that short hallway (at the most, four seconds or so) he saw nothing down a longer hallway stretching before him.

    This incident of sighting what he could only describe at a “blur” in the air happened numerous times to him over the course of that week. It was almost like something peaking in upon him as he worked then quickly fleeing upon being sighted.

    When I suggested to the contractor that the hours were late, he was tired and his eyes were playing games with him, he told me that he ALWAYS worked those hours and he had never experienced anything like this in all his years of working in other buildings.

    The contractor had a co-worker who subbed for him a few nights. He told me that when he mentioned this incident to the co-worker, the co-worker resplied that he had ALSO seen the same “blur” in the air rushing away and didn’t know what to make of it.

    1. Fantastic, Tom! This is exactly what I’m looking for–stories of those odd real-life things that happen that can’t be explained other than to say, “Coincidence.” Like with the vacuum cleaner bag. Things that are too weird to be coincidental. For the record, I walked into the Victorian yesterday and loudly addressed any ghosts in the vicinity to come keep me company while I worked. But as usual, nothing happened.

  2. Robert, I did have another prolonged series of experiences that I don’t claim were the supernatural because I simply don’t know that they were.

    They would always happen when I lay in bed in that half-awake, half asleep state in the wee hours of the night. I would suddenly see a transparent being appear in my bedroom, often spotting him (and it was a he) walking through a wall. He would either stand beside my bed or sit on a corner of it and simply stare at me. It seems to be that, while transparent, he also appeared very bright like there was a light shining from within him.

    I recall being physically immobilized during these experiences, struggling to lift an arm or leg, but virtually incapable of moving a muscle. The being never touched me but I was aware of the fact that I could do nothing to prevent him from doing whatever he wanted. These were terrifying moments of feeling completely impotent, and I was always bathed in perspiration when he finally disappeared and I could move again.

    At the time I dismissed these experiences as terrible nightmares but the nightmare (or the being) kept coming back, perhaps after a few days, perhaps after a few weeks. These experiences continued for about two years, Two very long years, I might add.

    If they were dreams, I have neither before nor since had such a series of repetitive nightmares, certainly nothing that lasted two years. I haven’t had a repeat of any of these dreams/visitations/whatever they were in fifteen, maybe even as many as twenty, years now. But they did happen in the same house in which a suicide occurred and where my friend claimed recently to have seen a partial entity.

    1. All right, now this is a reason to go running from the room on seeing a ghost–except you couldn’t because you were immobilized. Your narrative answered the questions arising in my mind, which were, how did you feel when you saw this–whatever it was? Did it happen anywhere but in this one house?

      Another question: Do you still sleep in this house? Chilling stuff, Tom.

      This story is quite similar to those of Tracy and Gunnar Nelson at Mulholland Farm. Over their years growing up in the house, one or the other would sleep in a particular bed in a particular room, and something would sit on the corner of the bed, or lay down on the bed, or physically restrain them.

  3. Okay, I will confess I have had some odd things happen and here are two I can share:

    Twice during my prolonged college years I lived in apartments that had very odd energy. In one, a large, grand home split up into apartments, I would frequently wake with the sensation that someone was pressing the bed down around me, as if they were suspended above me and pressing down with their hands. And like Tom above, I felt almost powerless to move. I would silently pray for it to go away and eventually it would. By the next day it always felt like a dream, but it happened many times while sleeping in that room. It only stopped when I moved and I never experienced it again.

    In another apartment, this time an innocuous 80s split level house, I was warned before I moved in that my roommate occasionally experienced night terrors. Boy, that was an understatement. Almost every night she awoke to find a man sitting on the edge of her bed; then I was awakened by her screams. Combined with the fact that both bedrooms in this basement apartment had bolt locks on the outside of the door we were creeped out to the max. We even had Mormon missionaries come in and bless the place – to no avail. At some point the neighbors above us moved out and we slept on the floor of their living room, only running down the the basement apartment to grab our clothes. We moved as fast as we could soon after.

    In summary: Bears, Yes; ghosts, Maybe.

    1. Assuming (as I do) that all of you were indeed awake as these incidents took place, I wonder why the ghosts showed up at night, when people were sleeping or trying to sleep. Did they prefer it to be quiet? Did they fare better under those conditions? Or was it that those that confronted you, your roommate, and Tom, wanted you OUT and so they caught you at your most vulnerable?

      Fascinating stuff, Gail. Thank you.

  4. In answer to your questions, Robert, those experiences only occurred in my current home and of course, I’ve been free of them here for many years now. At the time it never occurred to me that they were anything other than terrible nightmares, though always happening in the half awake state. Only since then have I wondered if they may have been something else.

    Interesting how Gail, too, repeatedly had the feeling of someone pressing down upon a portion of her bed, as well as feeling the same sense of powerlessness.

    I might also point out that around the same of those visitations/nightmares/whatever I had another friend who shocked me one day by telling me that she indulged in voodooo practices (involving animal sacrifices for unleashing spirits). Since she was from Trinidad, it’s actually called obeah, rather than voodoo, but it boils down to the same thing.

    If I actually did have a series of visitations, it’s been speculated to me by someone who studied the paranormal that there may have been a relationship between my friend’s obeah activities and my nighttime experiences.

  5. Robert, regarding your comment about ghosts appearing at night, I recall a conversation with someone who studied the paranormal. She said that any time between 3am and sunrise is considered to be a “hot time” for sightings and activities. Ancient Romans called that time the “Hour of the Wolf,” believing that that was the time when most people were born, most died and paranormal sightings took place.

    Children seem to be particularly susceptible to these kinds of sightings, sightings that may disappear with time, particular if the child has an authoritarian figure such as a parent who dismisses any report they have as that of an “imaginary friend” and tells the child that it is not really there.

    There also, it seems to me, be a greater inclination for women to have ghostly encounters than men. That, of course, is a real generalization, ignoring whatever may or may not (it could have been a long series of dreams) have happened to me, or that contractor to whom I referred earlier working in my company’s basement. And, just as a reminder, when did he work there? During that Roman “Hour of the Wolf.”

  6. I think I’ll write my own ghost story book someday, {with help, I’m not a writer by any means} so I’m afraid I can’t tell you any of the many and varied paranormal experiences I’ve had. But I wanted to tell you something about Carole Lombard’s astrology. In case you aren’t aware of it already. It really affected me once I realized what she had in her chart, and I’m not sure if anyone ever explained it to her.

    I think you’d be interested since you were perceptive enough to notice that Carole had a theme of terrible accidents in her life – whether they happened to her or someone else. All that and more is represented rather clearly in her natal chart {birth chart}. I don’t want to horrify anyone with similar astrology, so I should say that although many astrological aspects do imply possible danger and violence, it doesn’t “have to” happen, it doesn’t mean you’ll have a violent death too.

    But to explain about this astrology of Carole’s….to give an example of the bad potential, she shared the same Uranus square the Sun aspect that JFK had. And we know how he died. Also, there was a model, Nikki {forgot her last name} , had her liver ripped nearly in half during a car accident. Yes, she has a Uranus/Sun square in her birth chart too. In an Alan Leo book of astrology it is said a Sun to Uranus {or vice versa} square or opposition is one of the worst, most violent aspects a person can have.

    The Sun also represents men. Carole had trouble with her love life. Things, crazy things occurred with some of the men in her life like her father’s problems and the death of Russ Columbo. Uranus stands for unexpected, weird happenings and disasters among other things, add that to the Sun and it can mean men plus crazy,violent things in connection and it adds to volatility not security with these things. The Sun also represents health. Carole’s health was not the best {as you wrote about her heavy monthly cycles}, and in her violent death the astrology really played out. The Sun and Uranus in a square I think would also be at least one reason for Carole’s restlessness as well. She is described as restless as in she would pace and other things. Uranus can affect your nervous system. There’s so much about astrology, Carole’s astrology, I can’t write it all down here but I feel like I could go on forever. She had an unfortunate Sun opposition to Saturn,meaning removals or limitations regarding men and health, {among other things}. Sun was also square to Neptune, can represent illusions,confusion and deception….from men. Also could have added to confusion with health issues or health that was not easily diagnosed.

    One other unfortunate planetary in Carole’s chart was Mars square Pluto. It’s not 100% “unfortunate” but it implies violence too, {among other things} adding more of that fate to her chart. Uranus made a hard but lesser known aspect to Carole’s Ascendant too, which adds another touch of possible disaster and unexpected twists of fate.

    The Mars square to Pluto square might explain Carole’s attack on, was it Bing Crosby ? He slapped her as part of an acting scene {if I understood correctly} and she freaked out and basically beat him up ? That was Mars square Pluto. It’s an aspect that can sometimes represent things like criminal behavior,violence,toughness, someone you don’t want to “mess with”.
    In Carole’s defense though, Bing {?, my memory is whacked right now}, might have hit her too hard. After the horrible accident with the glass imbedded in her face, somewhere in her psyche, for the rest of her life, Carole must have felt very protective of her face too.

    For someone with such an aspect, Carole was a lovely lady who really didn’t seem to let that Mars/Pluto influence her too much. But maybe it partly explains how she could take back her word and force airplane flights on both her mother and Otto, even while knowing they were frightened. I don’t think it’s “OK” to criticize, and Carole isn’t here to defend herself. But it floored me to think that a Libra Sun sign like Carole could have turned the tables on her mother and Otto like that, because normally a Libra wants to please others and is quite accommodating. But then I saw the Mars/Pluto square… and probably that was why it was in her nature to maybe change things, to lay down the law and to heck with what others want. Although I’m sure it didn’t make her feel great to worry her mother and Otto.

    But who is perfect ? No one. Was Carole “bad” ? Of course not. We all have energies we don’t understand, or have issues controlling or changing something within ourselves, to some extent, in some way or other. From what I’ve learned about Carole from your book and what I already knew from other books, I admire her a great deal. I just wish she hadn’t pushed her desire for a plane flight on everyone else that tragic night. And what was driving Carole emotionally to get on a plane , to worry her mother and Otto with plane flights, and to hurry home ? Sadly we all know. An errant husband. I can see why you wrote the book, because Carole’s amazing, complicated story always fascinated me as well. And made me feel quite sad. Excuse my rambling here –

    1. Wow, Lori, what an unexpected and fascinating entry. I don’t pretend to know much about astrology except that it is, as reflected here, a precise science and much more than the generalized blurbs you can find in the newspaper. From the sun signs on, there’s truth in astrology, like the fact that I’m a textbook Virgo and in one word you pretty much know all about me. Yes Carole was very much the Libra and her decision about traveling by plane was as violently anti-Libra as anything could be when you factor in how much it upset her companions. The degree of your investigation is impressive and should be part of the public record. I am very glad you took the time to share it here.

  7. I’m sure you’ve heard Lucille Ball’s story of Carole coming to her in a dream and encouraging her to take a shot at television. That’s how I want to encounter a ghost — in a dream, with insight and advice. And, of course, Carole would be my first choice for a “dream” visitor.

    1. Yes, that story is retold in Fireball, along with another told by Lucille Ball’s sister-in-law, Nazoma Ball, who was also Jill Winkler’s niece. Nazoma said that after Otto Winkler’s death, Jill drove to the heights overlooking the beach and contemplated suicide. But she heard a voice, Carole Lombard’s voice, scolding, “Don’t you do it, Jill! Don’t you do it!” So Jill turned around and drove home. Many of the people who had been close to Carole continued to feel her presence long after she passed.

  8. Hi, I’ve had many encounters since I was a teenager. At my childhood home after my father died, my mother and I would watch door knobs turn and doors open themselves and things fly off shelves. I have had many encounters hearing voices and one where I channeled a ghost while asleep according to those in near proximity to me. I have seen dark spirits on several occasions, and living in the South, feel many times that I am not alone. My people hail from Louisiana and I was told I was born with a caul, which is a “gift” if you can call it that.

  9. And speaking of Lucille Ball, I had a part-time boyfriend, Michael, who died in a motorcycle accident on the 101. His aorta was transplanted into Ms. Ball, and I believe she lived for another two weeks or so. I didn’t have any supernatural occurrences with that, though.

  10. I grew up in a haunted house. Right after my family moved in, we would hear boots walking behind us. We would hear these same boots clomping across the hardwood floors at 5am along with the smell of coffee permeating thru the whole house. There were two elderly women who lived across the street. They told my parents that their brother-in-law died in the doorway collecting the newspaper from the porch from a massive heart attack. He was the local high school coach. One of the sisters-in-law said, “Homer always wore boots”. My mom was never allowed to get onto my sister and I. If my mom were holding a drink Homer would tip it to where it would spill down the front of her. Homer would say our names but use our parent’s voices. The front door would open and shut on its own. All of us would greet him by saying, “Hi, Homer!”. I had a good experience growing up and so I’ve never been afraid. We all saw him and experienced him.

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