Loyd Auerbach--his timing set more by the physics of marketing than the metaphysics of Halloween--has written a hefty how-to manual for amateur ghostbusters.
"ESP, Hauntings and Poltergeists: A Parapsychologist's Handbook" goes on sale this weekend at local bookstores, fully explaining out-of-the-body experiences, psychokinesis, psionics and things that go splat in the afternoon.
But before spending too much of the present on the hereafter, consider Auerbach's sensible conclusions:
Nobody knows what it's all about, and most of what you thought you saw probably wasn't what it appeared to be. To settle purple apparitions, try Alka Seltzer. Most basement grumblings may be exorcised by a good plumber.
Auerbach, a parapsychologist at the John F. Kennedy University at Orinda, hasn't even seen a ghost.
"Out of 100 phone calls . . . probably 10 look good for investigation," he said. "Only two out of those 10 might look genuinely psychic."
Drunks. Phonies. Auerbach remembers a woman who complained of a bad odor that seemed to follow her--and didn't think it had anything to do with her eight cats. Another woman suffered from a disturbance so deep she could raise psychomatic welts on her throat--then claimed the devil was throttling her.
There was the family who heard footsteps in their attic each evening. "It turned out," said Auerbach, "that the squirrels had a fairly regular schedule for bringing their food into the attic."
Antoinette May of Menlo Park is another author-expert who has never looked at or through a ghost. She's never seen the beslickered sea captain--apparently immune to neighborhood dress codes--who supposedly walks a nude beach near Santa Cruz. Nor a nocturnal sport in a raincoat said to have flashed the owner of the Sutter Creek Inn.
May once waited all night for the moaning and chain-rattling spooks at the Winchester (as in rifle) House in San Jose. Streaks of light. Flashes blotching ceilings. "The sconces, mirrors and chandeliers were putting on a psychedelic light show," she said. "They were also picking up the headlights of cars on Winchester Boulevard."
Ghosts remain a no-show for Mark Turck of Grass Valley whose career is a constant fluctuation between acting and compiling an International Ghost Registry. He once staked out a museum in Monterey State Park, a former boardinghouse where Robert Louis Stevenson rented a bed-sitting room. For bait, Turck planted an unpublished manuscript and a work by Jules Verne.
Next morning, the items had been moved clear across the room. "By a cleaning person the night before," sighed Turck.
Good hauntings in Southern California have always been a wispy business. There's the Stanley House at 12174 Euclid Ave. in Garden Grove with its sounds of a crying baby but no reports of anyone getting close enough for a diaper change. At the abandoned Yorba family cemetery at Orangethorpe Avenue and Fairmont Boulevard in Yorba Linda a Lady in Pink is said to appear every two years, but nobody seems to know who said .
Now comes word of Spook Duke.
John Wayne is believed to be back on board his old yacht, the Wild Goose, moored behind the Los Angeles Maritime Museum at San Pedro. Lynn Hutchins, a Santa Monica attorney who owns the ex-minesweeper, says that in death as in life, Wayne has been rattling beer glasses, stalking the bar and blocking out doorways.
Ghostbusters led by William Roll of the psychology department of West Georgia College have explored the sightings.
They concluded nothing.
Roll's report, published in Auerbach's book, notes Hutchins' deep admiration for Wayne that has created an emotional triangle between Hutchins, Wayne and the shrine-museum of the Wild Goose.
"It may be significant in this connection that no one but Hutchins has reported the sighting of an apparition," said Roll.
End of Wild Goose chase, back to the ouija board.