of Mystery and Suspense Novels
"The only reason I'm taking this tour is
because my girlfriend is interested in this kind of crap," announced
the young man in a sardonic voice. "But I think this stuff is laughable.
There is no such thing as ghosts and anyone who believes in them
needs his head examined."
It isn't often a ghost researcher can luxuriate
in the sublime pleasure of watching a doubting Thomas eat a large
plate of crow. But on this evening I was privileged to behold just
such an unpleasant meal.
The date was November 2, 1997, a Sunday
evening, and the skeptic and his date had just purchased tickets
for the ghost tour I led along the streets of San Diego. From July
1997 to January 1999, I'd taken people on walking journeys through
the Old Town district, acquainting them with the specters. The business
allowed me to pursue my two of my greatest passions - ghosts and
The young man and his female companion
were students at a local university. By chance, they had discovered
my tour while exploring Old Town and the young woman eventually
cajoled her unwilling beau into buying tickets. She possessed a
general interest in paranormal matters, while he was a bellicose
Throughout the first half of the journey
the arrogant critic maintained a barrage of rhetorical questions
and thinly veiled insults regarding the sanity of folks who had
seen ghosts. His ill-tempered comments were so disruptive I was
tempted to refund their money and give the tour up as a bad effort.
But I persisted, little suspecting that before the evening was concluded,
a ghost would come to my rescue.
Around 8:00 p.m. we arrived in the side
yard of the infamous haunted Whaley House. As my guests sat on the
low brick wall outside the home, I began recounting the long history
of ghostly phenomena on the site. Soon, however, my attention was
drawn to the increasingly curious behavior of the insolent skeptic.
He had removed his eyeglasses and was peering intently toward a
spot near the southeast corner of the house. Then he vigorously
rubbed his eyes and cocked his head to look at the spot with his
peripheral vision. It was clear he was observing something, but
when I looked at the spot I saw nothing out of the ordinary. Finally,
I asked the man what he'd seen.
"Nothing," the disbeliever declared in
an uncertain voice. "Nothing at all. I'm just getting a headache."
The explanation was feeble and unconvincing,
but I let it go, happy the cynic was, for the moment, quiet. Near
the end of my talk, I began to tell of the numerous sightings of
a spectral dog in the Whaley House and yard. Her name is Dolly and
Whaley House employees and visitors have repeatedly seen her. In
fact, there is far more evidence of Dolly's existence than that
of the far more famous ghost of Yankee Jim Robinson.
Upon hearing this story, the skeptic raised
his hand and asked, "So, what breed of dog was she?"
Suddenly suspecting the young man had
seen Dolly, I posed him a question in return, "What kind of dog
did you see?"
"I'm not saying for a fact I saw a dog,"
the doubting Thomas unhappily replied. "Maybe it was just my imagination.
For argument's sake, let's just say I thought I saw something that
looked like a Scottish terrier near those bushes."
Trying to conceal the triumph in my voice,
I said, "That was Dolly. People have been seeing her for at least
the last three decades."
"You're making that up," protested the
"I'm not," I replied. "You can look up
the information in any number of books on the Whaley House. I'll
give you a list of the titles so you can check for yourself."
The disbeliever looked at the other customers
and asked, "Did anyone else see it?"
No one else had and I suppressed a grin
as the young man's date began to giggle.
"Maybe it was a real dog," he said hopefully.
I encouraged him to examine the bushes
to confirm that I hadn't concealed a genuine terrier there. Together
we poked through the foliage but saw nothing. When he returned to
his seat, the skeptic was plainly disturbed. In a small voice he
described the sighting.
While listening to my commentary on the
Whaley House ghosts, he'd observed the diffuse image of a Scottish
terrier amble from the house toward the clump of bushes. He was
perplexed that he could not focus his direct gaze on the dog, but
could clearly see the animal in his peripheral vision. Then, without
warning, the dog vanished.
The distressed witness concluded his account
with a weak objection: "But there is no such thing as ghosts."
"Well tonight is as good a night as any
to start believing in them," I countered. "Face the facts. Either
you saw a ghost or you've begun to hallucinate. Would you rather
admit to being mentally ill or concede you might have been wrong
about ghosts? Besides, how could you have known what Dolly looked
like before I described her?"
For the remainder of the tour, the skeptic
was silent, seemingly lost in contemplation. Meanwhile, his date
wore a smug grin and she periodically nudged the young man in the
ribs and murmured, "Woof, woof."
After the tour, I paused for a moment
at the Whaley House. The yard was dark and bushes motionless. I
squinted into the foliage, hoping to catch a glimpse of the spectral
terrier. Suddenly, I envied the doubting Thomas, for despite my
belief in ghosts I'd never been fortunate enough to see Dolly. It
was, I reflected, quite unfair.
In the end, I whispered, "Good dog," and
resumed my journey homeward.
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