The stories you are about to read are true. As the opening narration to season 4 of The Twilight Zone says, "You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension — a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas."
Yes readers, you're crossing over into the "Twilight Zone."
Another world ... and it was no soap opera
I crossed over into the realm of otherworldliness in 1997.
It was a beautiful spring day in May that started out quite normally. The sun was high in the sky, birds were chirping merrily and all was well with the world.
As the story unfolds, I was visiting my friend Norm Valentine Petersen at his Ridgecrest Avenue home in Monte Sereno. Norm, who was born on Valentine's Day, was in his mid-80s. He had a cute twinkle in his eyes and was a notorious flirt, always hanging out at C.B. Hannegan's and trying to pick up women a quarter of his age.
Knowing this, I called him my adopted grandfather, even though he spelled "Peterson" wrong.
Anyway, there was a group of us who helped him out with errands and doctor visits and so forth.
So here I was standing at his kitchen counter fixing lunch, with Norm sitting quietly in his living room, reading the newspaper. Because the day was so lovely, I had opened the top half of the kitchen's
Dutch door, leaving the bottom half latched closed. The open top half of the door was facing inward into the kitchen. Hanging next to the door was a large, gold gilt mirror.
As I said, it was a beautiful spring day and there wasn't even a slight breeze. In fact, the air was totally still.
Suddenly — bang! The door slammed shut all by itself.
I jumped about 10 feet into the air, and as I came back to Earth I saw a filmy white shadow, like flowing fabric, pass through the mirror. Then in a flash it was gone. Vanished. Nada.
After I picked my jaw up off the floor and my eyes were back in their sockets, I walked into the living room.
"What was that?" Norm asked.
I replied, "The kitchen door slammed shut all by itself."
"Oh," Norm said. "And did you see the ghost dressed in white going through the mirror?"
"Yes," I gulped and stared wide-eyed at my old friend.
"That's just my late wife, Fern, expressing her displeasure that there's another woman in the house," Norm said. "She gets upset once in a while."
Fern had passed away in the late`70s.
You'll notice I didn't tell Norm what I'd seen in the mirror. He volunteered the information all on his own.
I learned an important lesson that day: Never underestimate the power of a woman, even if she has moved on to the other side.
— Judy Peterson
Bella Saratoga? Or is it bella fantasma!
As the sun goes down over Saratoga, Big Basin Way comes alive with ornamental lights and couples looking for a good meal at one of the distinguished restaurants that line the street.
But as the families drive home and the merchants lock the doors to their businesses, there are other, more unworldly things that begin to arise. Because in Saratoga, there are things that go bump in the night.
"It's definitely a haunted house," said Claudio Nicosia, co-owner of Bella Saratoga, a restaurant that serves pasta and other Italian dishes.
The restaurant is housed in a Victorian-style building nestled in the Village on the corner of Third Street and Big Basin Way. Although Nicosia and his business partner, Clyde Zaya, have only owned the restaurant since June 2007, Nicosia said enough has happened to convince him there is a ghost that haunts the building.
"In the morning we find that the lights are turned on," said Nicosia, who emphasized that he makes sure to turn off the lights when he closes the restaurant for the night.
Nicosia and his staff have also found that things go missing or are moved without anyone knowing, which originally frustrated the restaurant owner. He said he believed in the beginning it was his staff that was moving things, but quickly figured out there was much more to the story.
If there is a spirit that inhabits the old Victorian, the question is, "Who is the ghost?"
The Bella Saratoga property was once owned by Sam Cloud. Cloud built the Victorian and the building next to it — which houses the Harmonie European Day Spa — in the 1880s.
Cloud operated a general store in the spa building and lived in the building that now houses the restaurant.
Cloud died in 1907 when he exited a Congress Springs car in front of his home on Big Basin Way and Third Street, Saratoga resident and historian Willys Peck has written. When the car started up again it knocked into Cloud, throwing him to the ground.
Cloud was taken into his home and died later from the injuries he sustained from the accident.
The problem is that those that have seen the ghost say the spirit is of a young teenage girl. And although Nicosia hasn't seen the ghost himself, he said that some members of his staff have seen a white apparition that resembles a girl passing through the upstairs dining room.
Who the girl is, though, remains a mystery.
— Brian Babcock
No full disclosure in the Roaring '20s
My husband's mother, Sally, was a teacher of French and English, and the first woman (in 1941) ever to earn a scholarship to Dartmouth College. By all accounts she was a very practical, pragmatic person. But still, she delighted in repeating her favorite ghost story.
In 1928, she and her parents moved into in a rambling Atlantic City house that featured several internal staircases and numerous doorways. Soon after the family settled in, things started going very, very wrong: At all hours of the day and night, the internal pantry doors suddenly slammed shut. Also, the door leading from the kitchen to the dining room repeatedly banged closed, as did a door at the top of the stairs.
Doug (my husband) said his grandmother told her husband that she wanted to move, because she was terrified by all of the creepy goings-on. He admitted that he'd noticed some weird things as well: One of the guest chairs in the living room often bore the unmistakable imprint of a derriere, despite the fact that no one was (or had been) in the room. With little urging, Doug's grandfather agreed to sell the house.
A few months later, the couple happened to be at a dinner party. The conversation circled around to their hasty sale of their home, after only a few months of residence, because they'd become too scared to stay there any longer. Everyone was quiet for a minute, and then one of the guests shared spine-tingling news: Many years prior, the owner had murdered his wife in the house. Subsequent buyers had been unable to live there very long, as the understandably angry wife had haunted it ever since.
Nowadays, the real estate industry has a policy of full disclosure prior to the sale of a home. But back in the Roaring`20s, there was a chance you were buying more than you knew.
Make that a ghost of a chance.
— Marianne L. Hamilton
Round and round he goes, but where he is nobody knows
One of the most popular children's attractions in Los Gatos has a little-known legacy, although this is a Casper-friendly tale.
It comes to us from Peter Panacy, who is the executive director of the Billy Jones "Wildcat" Railroad and the W.E. Mason Carousel at Oak Meadow Park.
Panacy keeps an office in the carousel building, and occasionally he gets an unexpected visitor.
"There have been a couple of weird things happen out here," Panacy said. "You hear gates opening and closing and lights turning on when no one's around. It's happened a few times. I remember being in the office and hearing the gate close. I'd go out expecting to see a volunteer, and no one's there."
Panacy said other folks have had strange experiences, too. "There have been a couple of employees who heard the bell go off." He is, of course, referring to the bell that dings when the carousel starts up.
Panacy says the goings-on at the carousel aren't really spooky. He believes it is a "friendly" apparition.
"I have a feeling I know who it is," he said. "There's an old volunteer named Paul Seaborn who worked here, putting in long hours. He passed away right around the time the carousel opened in 1990."
Panacy also speculates the ghost could be Bill Mason himself or, quite possibly, Al Smith, the founder of Orchard Supply Hardware. Smith was another volunteer who donated a lot of materials and time to the railroad and carousel projects.
Whoever the ghost may be, if you're out at Oak Meadow Park be prepared — you may be on a ride that will take you round and round into the unknown.
— Judy Peterson
Who ya gonna call? Ghost Trackers
A few years back Gloria Young was summoned to a house in Los Gatos, whose occupants were convinced it was haunted. Young piled her gear into her company van and reported for duty.
A former emergency-room nurse, Young owns and operates Santa Clara-based Ghost Trackers, which specializes in investigating and documenting paranormal activity. She and her company have been profiled on ABC, CBS and Fox, and she is often tapped to help counsel authorities on paranormal issues.
Young spent several weekends at the Los Gatos house (which she says is located by the high school), and agreed that a ghost was causing the ruckus. "The home had been renovated recently," she says. "Sometimes if things have been disrupted in a house, its ghosts will kick up their heels. They don't always like it when things get moved around."
Young sees her job as helping the "haunted" learn to embrace their ethereal inhabitants. In almost 20 years, she says she has yet to experience an evil or malevolent spirit. Still, she adds that having a ghostly guest can be disconcerting. "Some ghosts have attitude: They may stroke your hair, or touch your arm," she notes. "But they never do anything harmful. Mostly they want to be acknowledged. Once you do that and accept them, you're fine."
In a world of skeptics (some of whom are employees of Ghost Trackers, hired for their technical expertise and analytical skills), Young is admittedly an anomaly. She says she's fine with her somewhat kooky status. And she politely refuses to accept that ghosts do not exist. "No matter what we record or capture on film, someone will always say that we made everything up," Young concedes. "But, yes, there are ghosts. My advice is to accept them, let them know you know they're there and talk to them. It's good for the ghost, and it's good for you."
— Marianne L. Hamilton
Who was that boy? Uh, where is that boy?
On a clear, mildly warm afternoon three years ago, SVCN photographer George Sakkestad was on assignment in downtown Los Gatos, where he experienced what he can only describe as a chilling encounter with the supernatural.
Alongside reporter Jennifer McLain, the award-winning photographer spotted something out of the corner of his eye just as the two were passing what was then the old Chart House Restaurant on North Santa Cruz Avenue.
It was a figure that moved quickly, as if pressed for time, and was about waist-high in height, says Sakkestad, who stands 6 feet 1 inch tall.
Thinking that a young boy had just run past him, he turned around only to see nobody there. An eerie yet familiar feeling set in, causing the photographer to pause just slightly before continuing on with the assignment.
"I didn't think much of it until I looked behind me and saw nobody. And then it alarmed me and I thought,`What the hell was that?' " says Sakkestad, describing the boy as between 6 and 9 years old with blondish-brown hair.
Ten paces later, he couldn't help himself.
"Jen, did you see anything weird back there?" he asked the former SVCN reporter.
Before he could describe what he had seen, McLain stopped him, "Was it, like, a little boy running down the sidewalk?"
"Noooo ... " gasped Sakkestad in disbelief that his eyes had, in fact, not deceived him.
At that point, with no one nearby to discount that the figure could not be anything but a fleeting spirit, the two journalists realized what had just happened. Frightened, they both stopped dead in their tracks.
"We just looked at each other and just realized that we had just seen a ghost," Sakkestad said. "It was no doubt in both of our minds that it was some kind of ghost."
The historic house known as the Coggeshall Mansion has undergone a number of transformations throughout the years and is now home to Trevese Restaurant and Lounge. It was the Place Funeral Home for much of the 20th century, leading some in the community to believe the Victorian-style house could be haunted.
Sakkestad, too, points to the mortuary as the source of his wayward spirit sighting.
But the restaurant has not heard of any strange happenings since moving in and workers apparently have not had the same "sixth-sense" experiences as Sakkestad.
Strangely enough, this was not the first time spirits have come into contact with the photographer. About a decade before the Chart House incident, Sakkestad, again on assignment in Los Gatos, captured on film a dark figure on the balcony of the newly remodeled Los Gatos Opera House.
Peering through his lens, he did not notice anything peculiar at the time of the shot. Sakkestad says the figure developed in the dark room.
"This was black and white film, no digital camera or anything like that," he said.
The photo shows a "hooded figure" in the background, behind the railing of the balcony, meaning it couldn't have been a smudge on his camera lens, he said.
"Everyone who has seen the photo has determined that it is not a human, and it is probably a ghost," Sakkestad said. "So I have an official ghost on film, and that building is also reported to be haunted."
Sakkestad can still vividly describe the identical, crippling chills that ran through his body during both experiences. The two encounters have left little doubt in the photographer's mind that he is not a victim of coincidence.
"I feel that my veil is definitely thinner than most people's," Sakkestad says of his connection with the supernatural, "and that I have the ability to somehow see things, or they appear to me where other people might not see them."
— Chris Vongsarath
Communicating with the dead? It's all part of the job
Robin Lysne holds master's degrees in psychology and spirituality, has counseled the terminally ill and substance abusers and is the author of three books. But twice a month, Lysne works at Inner Journey in Los Gatos, performing an entirely different sort of counseling.
Lysne sees dead people.
As a medium, Lysne helps the living communicate with those who have passed away. "A medium sees`both sides of the veil.' We help the survivor get in touch with the deceased loved one, which in turns helps with the healing process," she says. Lysne feels no trepidation when she makes contact with spirits, but says it can be unnerving for her clients. "I've worked with young women whose boyfriends were killed in gang-related murders," she says. "Part of the energy that we both felt was what their boyfriends felt at the end, which can be scary. But I make it a point to clean out that energy."
Lysne also clears restless spirits from their former residences. She says house hauntings are usually the result of an unresolved, violent act. "I've been in houses where a child was molested, or someone was murdered, and the energy of those acts is still there. I make sure the spirit recognizes that I'm in communication with them. Then I go to a deep level with them, and help them to let go."
As young witches and warlocks ready their costumes for trick-or-treating, Lysne hopes their parents will make suitable preparation for the holiday as well. She encourages people to create Day of the Dead altars, and commune with the deceased. "It's important for people to know that the spirit world does exist, and that it doesn't have to be scary," Lysne says. "When you can connect with a loved one who's passed away, and know that they're OK, it's enormously comforting."
— Marianne L. Hamilton