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Tangled Tales From the Crypt? : For 3 Years, Jackie Hernandez Says She Was Followed by a Pair of Puzzling--and Persistent--Ghosts

March 23, 1993|GARRY ABRAMS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

File this one under maybe. Big on the maybe.

In the winter of 1988-89, Jackie Hernandez was pregnant with her second child. But this happy event was overshadowed by a marriage as rocky as a Malibu landslide. Driven by the torments of unhappy wedlock, she left her husband and moved with her 2-year-old son, Jamie, to a drab, turn-of-the-century bungalow in San Pedro.

And that, according to Hernandez and her friends, is when trouble began, when a sad but commonplace domestic drama took a hair-raising turn down Weird Street.

During the next three years, Hernandez, now 30, allegedly became a flesh-and-blood magnet for at least two ghosts--one benign, the other vengeful. Both spirits seemed to thrive in her presence, plugging into her like viruses burrowing into a fresh and particularly vulnerable victim. The benign one, she says, led her to his grave, 13 blocks from the bungalow where he had lived before his death in 1913.

The other "took my fear and got energy from it," Hernandez says. "The more scared I got, the stronger it got."

Most unusual and disturbing, she says, was that the haunting continued after Hernandez had moved from her star-crossed San Pedro cottage. The ghosts, it seems, followed her, wreaking havoc wherever she went, including a remote trailer in northern Kern County.

The Hernandez case is nearly in a class by itself, says Barry Taff, 44, a Los Angeles parapsychologist who led a team to investigate her claims.

He says he knows of only one or two other cases in which ghosts supposedly have followed someone. And, "in the whole history of the paranormal . . . there have been a handful of cases, maybe five cases, where people have been harmed or injured. . . . This is the first case I've ever been on where the phenomenon went after the researchers."

*

The ordeal, Hernandez says, was a Grade A waking nightmare replete with strange lights, colored mists, apparitions, and stinking blood-like liquid oozing from the walls.

Even the most mundane household chores became forays into the unknown.

The ooze, for instance, began seeping from the kitchen walls while Jackie and her friend and baby-sitter, Kristina Zivkovic, washed dishes. A daybed inexplicably collapsed many times, often while someone was in it.

The haunting--if that's what it was--began slowly, Hernandez says. The cat chased eerie shadows around the house; voices muttered in the attic. Then one day she saw pencils fly out of a pencil holder. She thought she was hallucinating, perhaps because of her pregnancy.

But after her daughter, Samantha, was born in April, 1989, the events continued. A few weeks after the birth, Hernandez got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. On the way, she saw a gnarled old man glaring at her. Then he vanished.

In short order, the unexplained events took over Hernandez's life.

"In the beginning it's all we talked about," says Zivkovic. "Everyone thought we were crazy."

Real nightmares figure in the tale, too. Hernandez vividly recalls dreaming about a younger man being clubbed with a lead pipe and drowned by his assailant in San Pedro Harbor--as it looked in the 1930s. In this dream she became the dead man, experiencing his horror of being held under water, his consciousness ebbing as he fought for his life.

OK, so much of this may seem familiar enough, especially to late-night TV addicts.

Yet other aspects of the haunting transcend the bad teleplay genre, Hernandez and company insist. First, they say, the ghosts followed Hernandez around the state and attacked her friends and acquaintances, including an attempted hanging. Also, others claim to have witnessed parts of the haunting, including a team of investigatortrying to document the phenomena.

Moreover, Hernandez and friends say they established, via an Ouija board, a possible link with a 60-year-old suspicious death, perhaps the killing Jackie dreamed about.

Taff entered the case in 1989 after being contacted by a friend of Hernandez's, who had seen him on TV. During the last 25 years, Taff says, he has checked out 3,000 paranormal cases. Most, he concedes, are duds: "The majority of cases aren't worth pursuing. There's a lot of fabrication, a lot of invention, a lot of embellishment and a lot of outright fraud."

The Hernandez case intrigued him from the start.

On the night of Aug. 8, 1989, Taff and three investigators went to San Pedro to interview Hernandez. The investigators were loaded for ethereal bear, bringing sophisticated video cameras, image intensifiers, infrared detectors and other equipment that might capture images of the unknown.

During the interviews, "we kept hearing what sounded like a 200-pound rat running around the attic," Taff recalls. Everyone also experienced a sensation of "over-pressure," he says, a feeling similar to being under water and often found at the scenes of hauntings.

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