They walk among us, he says.
Ghost-hunting author Jeff Dwyer, author of eight books on the subject, says he's found otherworldly spirits at multiple locations along California's Central Coast, including several well-known venues in Monterey: California's First Theater, at Pacific Avenue and Scott Street, is occupied by the spirit of Jack Swan, the man who built it in 1846-47 as a lodging house and tavern for sailors. A female ghost haunts the Point Pinos lighthouse. A male apparition lives in Custom House, which began greeting incoming ships and sailors at Monterey's Fisherman's Wharf in 1827. Supernatural experiences also have been reported at Ed Ricketts' lab, the former Wing Chong Grocery, even the Monterey Bay Aquarium, says Dwyer, whose newest book, "Ghost Hunter's Guide to Monterey and California's Central Coast," offers readers an eerie tour of those venues.
For sheer weirdness, the Monterey Hotel, an elegant, 108-year-old Victorian at 406 Alvarado St., ranks near the top of Dwyer's list.
Dwyer and his son, Michael, spent a night in Room 217, where the first hint of strangeness came in the form of electrical popping sounds crackling from a television set and clock radio, neither of which was on.
"Then we started hearing a disembodied voice talking about '75 stairs . . gotta fix those 75 stairs ...' 'gotta fix the carpet on those 75 stairs ...'" he recalls. "Then my son looked at his cell phone and the number 75 had filled up the screen."
Dwyer's subsequent investigation determined that the hotel has a staircase with 75 steps, and that a caretaker named Fred died in the hotel, possibly after a tumble down the those stairs.
He also writes that he's hardly the only person who has encountered the paranormal at the Monterey Hotel. Several members of the staff have reported hearing whispers, feeling a cold presence in certain hallways and rooms, watching doors open and close for no apparent reason, and being touched by disembodied hands, Dwyer says.
Hotel workers also have seen the ghost of a little girl sitting on the stairs near the front desk, and walking the hallways of the second and third floors. The image of a man dressed in Edwardian clothing has been spotted in a mirror that faces the front desk
Dwyer, 56, says he discovered that he was "a sensitive" as a 12-year-old child in San Francisco when he noticed a old man walking toward a nearby estuary, wearing the clothes of a sailor from a long-gone era.
"He had an old duffle bag slung over his shoulder, and at one point he stopped walking and turned and looked at me," he remembers. "It was really freaky because I noticed that he didn't appear to have any eyes. Then he started walking again and just faded away, right in front of me, in broad daylight."
More unnerving was an episode Dwyer experienced in his early 20s when he and a surfing buddy became curious about a vacant, weather-beaten Victorian mansion in Watsonville known as the Redman House.
"We decided to check it out one day and parked the car. As we stepped onto the porch and moved toward the front door I could hear the sound of two men inside the house having a loud argument," he recounts. "When I looked through the glass door, a big puff of cold air passed through both of us, and the voices of the two men came with it.
"I'm not afraid of ghosts, and that was the only time in my life I ever ran from a ghost," Dwyer said. "It scared the heck out of me, and we ran to the car as fast as we could."
For Dwyer, ghost hunting, and authoring books on the subject, is a spare-time endeavor. He holds a doctorate in medical sciences, taught nine years of medical school, and works full-time in the cardiology department of Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Vallejo.
"Despite the training I've had as a scientist, I cannot dismiss the vivid experiences I've had throughout my life," he says.
Dwyer says he tries to research the places he plans to explore, gathering information that hopefully will help him connect with any spirits that may be inhabiting the venue.
"I feel like it helps if I think I know the name of the spirit, and try to understand what he or she might be after," he said.
He says he's seen the ghost of Jack Swan at California's First Theater on three different occasions. His son, also "a sensitive," saw Swan's apparition once.
Dwyer recalls another experience late one night as he stood across the street from Ed Ricketts' lab one rainy night on Cannery Row.
"I heard the creak of a wooden door opening at the lab, but the door didn't move. It was just the sound," he says. "Then I saw a dark, amorphous cloud on the porch, kind of shaped like a person, and as the cloud descended I heard the sound of heavy boots going down the stairs.
"I ran across the street hoping to get a closer looker, thinking the apparition would become clearer as I got close, but at the bottom of the steps it vanished."
Dwyer believes the ghost at Point Pinos Lighthouse was a keeper there somewhere between the 1890s and 1915. She wanders the second floor and the ground-floor living room, he says, and visitors occasionally catch a whiff of her perfume and hear the swishing sound of the long skirts women wore during that era.
Perhaps most surprising is Dwyer's description of the area of the Monterey Bay Aquarium known as the Outer Banks.
"There's a circular fish tank that houses anchovies, and a machine keeps them circulating counter-clockwise. It's mesmerizing to watch," he says. "Some people think this is some kind of vortex, a portal through which spirits can move through their plane of existence and manifest in ours. A lot of people, including me, have heard disembodied voices in that spot very late in the day, just before the aquarium is about to close."
Dwyer, a married father of two, says his own home in Fairfield is haunted. His wife and daughter once saw a drinking glass elevate from a kitchen shelf, float across the room, then fall to the floor from a height of about six feet. The family also has seen a shrouded apparition on the second floor of the house. Neighbors across the street have described the same ghost in their own residence, he says.
Dwyer's ghost-hunting book series, all published by Pelican Press, has taken him to multiple cities and areas with supernatural reputations, including Seattle, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Portland, California's wine country and gold rush towns, and the place he says is the most-haunted city in America, San Francisco. Among the haunted destinations at the top of his wish list are Leap Castle in Ireland and the Catacombs in Rome.
Dennis Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 646-4344.