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Do you believe in ghosts? Cops can tell a few stories

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Posted: Thursday, August 9, 2012 12:00 am

My stepbrother works Downtown in an old building on Pine Street. A few weeks ago he was busy in the back room when he felt a presence nearby. He looked up and noticed an older man dressed in light clothing standing in the doorway. The man did not say anything. He just stared at my stepbrother for a few seconds, then walked off down the hallway.

My stepbrother went to check, because he did not recognize him and knew the hallway was a dead end. There was nowhere to go and the only way out was through the front of the business. He was shocked to find that the man was gone. He had simply vanished.

Some people believe spirits walk the streets of our city. Well, let me tell you, cops have ghost stories, too.

Doug Chinn and I worked bike patrol for several years. We saw many Downtown denizens meet an unexpected fate during that time. We also noticed there were plenty of signs those folks were not ready to leave the planet just yet.

The really weird stuff usually happened late at night when the psychic energy was low. There were the disembodied footsteps in the alleys near Sacramento Street. We'd turn around and find no one there.

We never located the source of the mysterious high-pitched "whale" sounds that echoed through Downtown in the middle of the night.

Once in awhile we'd notice weird red, green and yellow lights in the fog up near the railroad trestle north of Turner Road. No, funny guy, the lights did not belong to a train. The spooky thing was the lights disappeared as we rode closer to the bridge. More than once. Everyone knows that stretch of tracks has claimed many lives over the years.

There was a burned out funeral home on Elm Street near where the Merlot Hall stands today. We would check the decaying building periodically to evict the transients who set up camp there. This required us to navigate through the charred remains of the basement in the dark.

Once we were standing down there and, even though the room was empty, we both got a chill up our respective spines for no reason. We spun around and bolted for the door. I think Doug actually fell over me as we hit the stairs. We climbed over eachother a couple of times, à la "The Three Stooges," as we crawled up towards freedom. We emerged into the reassuring sunshine, dusted ourselves off, scrounged for whatever dignity we could find, and rode off, never to speak of what we had just experienced.

We later learned the basement was where the mortician prepared the bodies for burial. I guess that would account for the "tingler" effect. The funeral home burned down one more time for good measure a few months later. The portal to the netherworld had been closed.

There is still a jail in the old public safety building on Elm Street. It's used for storage now but it was once a bustling city jail. Thousands of prisoners passed through its doors during the four decades it was open. As with any custody facility, people passed away once in a while while in custody. Sometimes by natural causes, sometimes not so natural.

The jail is dark and unnaturally quiet; it has old metal bars on the cells, low ceilings, poor ventilation and thick walls. Stuff just doesn't get out of there. Anyone who says they aren't creeped out being in that lockup is a fibber. Towards the end of our stay in the building, some of the jailers refused to go in the unoccupied areas alone, day or night. I challenge those "Ghost Adventurer" guys in the way-too-tight black T-shirts to spend a night locked in the old jail.

Sometimes the ghost sightings aren't limited to old buildings. A few months ago one of the custodians in our current police facility came out of the hallway on the first floor, ashen faced, mouth agape. It was about 4 a.m. and she had been working alone near the front of the building. She was visibly shaken. She said she'd just saw a man in the hallway near the community room and he appeared he was "looking for something." He did not say anything to her. He just looked around and eventually disappeared.

Her description was very detailed, down to two particular pieces of clothing and equipment he was wearing. It turned out she was describing an officer who passed away over 10 years ago. She had seen him two nights in a row and refused to ever go into the hallway again.

Cops have ghost stories too. And sometimes they are the ghost.

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