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Haunting Memories

Ghost Walk at Santa Paula Airport will scare up historic souls.

October 08, 1998|JANE HULSE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

You've heard of haunted houses. How about haunted hangars?

That spooky time of year is creeping up again, and the Santa Paula Airport is the place to be for chills and thrills--and we don't mean the aviation kind. The Santa Paula Theater Center is staging its weekend Ghost Walk '98 at the airport starting Saturday. And On Halloween weekend, the theater will be the setting for "Tales to Tremble By," a recreated 1940s radio program.

This is the fifth year the theater group has put on the Ghost Walk, a series of scary, often goofball skits that draw on Santa Paula area history. The vignettes are written fresh each year by locals who have no qualms about mingling fact with fiction.

That's part of the fun for the audience, according to cast member Linda Livingston. "People don't know if it's all true or partly true."

Of all the settings the group has chosen for the Ghost Walk, this year's spot may be the spookiest. The airport shuts down at night, and without any lights, the place is dark and creepy, organizers say.

The guided tours take a little more than an hour. They depart every 15 minutes between 6 and 8:30 p.m. Performance dates are Saturday and Sunday, then Oct. 16, 17, and 18; Oct 23, 24, 25; with the last Ghost Walk on Friday, Oct. 30.

Adding to the eerie ambience, Nita Arant and the Class-eeks will perform a musical, "Another Haunting--Another Show," at the airport on Oct. 23 and 30.

Tickets are $7 for adults and $4 for students and children under 12. Reservations are recommended.

Those on the tour will stroll the airport grounds, and at nine points along the way they'll meet up with ghosts who have met their demise in mysterious, tragic and sometimes silly ways.

One vignette, "The Damp Thing," rekindles memories of the 1928 St. Francis Dam disaster. Written by artist Wendell Dowling, it introduces a muck-covered victim who didn't survive the flood waters that carried him to a watery grave beneath the airport. Now the poor soul is not only water-phobic but airplane-phobic as well.

Janice Dickenson used her intimate knowledge of the airport--she runs the control tower--for an ironic ditty about a World War II pilot and his love life.

The airport was built just two years after the St. Francis Dam spilled its waters down the Santa Clara Valley. Some of the skits, like Dickenson's "Widows Walk," mine the airport's history, its assortment of aviation characters and its reputation as a home to vintage planes.

Actor Steve McQueen based his plane there, and in a skit by Dee Helsel, love smolders between a ghost and the movie star. Another piece touches on a famous aviator who taught flying at the airport in the early days.

Mary Alice Henderson, president of the Santa Paula Historical Society, scoured old newspaper clippings for the true story of T. Wallace More, murdered in 1877 near Fillmore over a land dispute.

Another skit, "I was Drowned by a Train," culls local history from about the same time. A third, "The Unfortunate Apolanair," has its roots in 1910 history. And two skits are based on local Chumash and Mexican legends.

Tour groups are limited to about 20. Because of the extreme darkness, flashlights are recommended. So are sturdy walking shoes. The event is not suitable for infants and strollers.

For those who want a different step back in time, the Santa Paula Theater will take on the look of a 1945 radio station as the actors prepare for the broadcast, "Tales to Tremble By." It's a play within a play that retells three of Edgar Allan Poe's works--"The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Cask of Amontillado" and "Dr. Tar and Professor Fether"--complete with sound effects.

The two-hour production is full of light moments as the radio cast deals with the stresses of a live performance. The show features host Jeff G. Rack, reading "The Raven"; well-known local actor "Doc" Reynolds, reading "The Death of the Raven" by Poe's cat; cast members Jim Kasmir, Toni Frisk Jourdan, Jeanie Hayes; and sound effects man Mark Halstead.

Performances are Oct. 30, 8 p.m.; Oct. 31, 5 and 8 p.m.; and Nov. 1, 5 p.m. Tickets are $12.50.

BE THERE

Ghost Walk '98 will be held at the Santa Paula Airport, Saturday and Sunday, and Oct. 16, 17, and 18; Oct. 23, 24, 25, and Oct. 30. Tours depart every 15 minutes from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 for adults, and $4 for students and children under 12. For information, call 525-3073. The airport is located in Santa Paula at the south end of 8th Street; take the Palm Avenue or 10th Street exit off Highway 126.

"Tales to Tremble By" will be performed at the Santa Paula Theater Center, 125 S. 7th St., Santa Paula, Oct. 30, 8 p.m.; Oct. 31, 5 and 8 p.m.; and Nov. 1, 5 p.m. Tickets are $12.50. (805) 525-4645.

FOR PIX SLUGGED JAUNT.1, one line

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