Searching for ghosts

Gloria Young, of Ghost Trackers based in San Jose, performs a

Friday the 13th isn’t a good day to carelessly walk underneath a
ladder. Keep your umbrella strapped shut and the salt shaker on a
steady surface.
Friday the 13th isn’t a good day to carelessly walk underneath a ladder. Keep your umbrella strapped shut and the salt shaker on a steady surface.

Superstition rules Friday the 13th – believed by some to be a day of bad luck and mischievousness – and very appropriately, perhaps with an otherworldly intervention, a ghost-hunting adventure came together just in time.

It was around 8 p.m. Saturday. The sun was setting, the temperature was dropping and a breeze sent dried leaves in tiny tornados in the parking lot of the Golden Oak Restaurant on Condit Road. The backdrop of the overgrowth from its two-year vacancy is U.S. 101 shrouded by a chain-link fence and weeds.

Gloria Young dressed head-to-toe in black. She opened the back doors to her SUV, revealing dozens of black canvas bags full of ghost-tracking equipment.

“We bring it all in. Some respond to different stimulation,” Young said.

Her paranormal junkie of a sidekick Maggie Davis moved with Young through the glass double doors into the foyer.

Inside, Golden Oak is packed to the 20-foot ceilings with Santa Cruz Redwood. The cross beams of the two-story building send heads leaning back and eyes to follow the bricks and wood walls around the corner of the Oak Room to the bar and fireplace.

It is in the corner of that room where now-dead Ed Lazarrini has been felt and seen.

As Saturday crept closer to Sunday, Ed was summoned.

“Nobody’s going to hurt you. We just want to talk Ed,” Young called. Her voice is efficient but with a sweet sound. She said she feels like the ghosts know her after 20 years of working with them.

All electricity must be shut off as to not interfere with the ghost hunters’ electromagnetic field meters that detect the energy often associated with ghosts.

Golden Oak, when it operated last in 2008, was a hotbed for paranormal activity according to some. Lazarrini opened the restaurant in 1984. After he died a few years later, its waiters, bartenders and patrons began to see and feel his energy.

A medium once told Dave Mito, a former bartender at Golden Oak, he saw Lazarrini sitting in the corner near the bar.

“If Ed’s anywhere, he’s right there,” current owner Simone Rosa said, pointing to that same corner Saturday night. She brought spirits for the spirits.

Young set a bottle of vodka in front of the fireplace, “Let’s have a drink, Ed,” she said.

The building was built in 1933 by the LaMalfa family as an active winery. Production stopped in 1946 due to poor sales. In 1970, it was used as a tasting room for the San Martin Winery.

Handmade shelves used to store wine still line a closet in the Mediterranean Room. The property has been vacant since 2008, obvious by the high weeds in the patio area and feral cats that roam alongside Golden Oak’s ghostly inhabitants.

Young, who specializes in parapsychology, paranormal investigating and ghost hunting, sits in a booth along the west side of restaurant. It is dead silent.

“Did you feel that? Stop. The air, it’s thick,” Davis said.

Young and Davis said it felt like it could be eaten with a spoon. After the warmth was a coolness, that Davis felt too, it moved from the floor, wrapping around at waist-level to the ceiling.

Davis looked around the area. No windows or doors were open. No air conditioning vents nearby. The spot was behind a wall, hidden from any cameras or light.

“That was awesome. That was something …” Davis trailed off a bit, concentrating. She said honing in on all five senses and keeping a clear mind is imperative to interacting with ghosts.

In every room of Golden Oak – a main dining area with booths, the Oak Room with the bar and fireplace, the kitchen, upstairs storage area and the large banquet Mediterranean Room – Young and Davis placed voice recorders, thermal cameras, motion detectors and video taping equipment.

“You want to have it over and over again,” Young said about the experience of meeting with a ghost. She’s tracked spirits at Alcatraz, the Santa Clara Mission, the Bastille in Hanford and dozens of other historic buildings and homes. Her expertise and affinity for the supernatural has been used by CBS and the Discovery Channel.

Ghost Trackers get requests daily to review tapes or sounds or go to a thought-to-be haunted site, but the nonprofit carefully picks and chooses how to use its time. The 20 or so hunters have regular jobs, such as Davis who is a pharmacy technician, and volunteer to track the paranormal when they can.

In the Mediterranean Room as Young sits on the floor with one arm outstretched behind her. Her socks have the cute-looking version of cartoon ghosts on them.

“Whoever was here with us earlier, we want to talk to you. Can you give us a sign? Why can’t you talk louder? Everybody wants to hear you. Can you do that?” Young said.

An hour before in the same room, a closet door creaked in response to Young’s asking.

She said she heard mumbling, Davis agreed, but they couldn’t make out any words.

Young said most hauntings involved noises such as footsteps or tapping, sensations such as cold breezes and the feeling of being touched by an invisible hand. Other hauntings can be described as poltergeistlike activity such as doors that open and close by themselves and manipulation of lights.

Next, Young beckoned the LaMalfas with an electromagnetic field meter in hand. Two lights went to three. The third light flickered on and off, on and off, on and off.

“C’mon you can do it, keep that light on for us,” Young said. The light – or perhaps a LaMalfa – listened.

While Young held a seance in the empty Mediterranean Room, the voice equipment revealed two voices. Young e-mailed the mp3 files – the clear evidence that was derived from the ghost hunting that night.

The deep, throaty voice did not sound of this world.

“They’re watching,” the voice said. Young said she had to noise cancel some of the hissing and popping from the recorder to get the reply: “Yes, you’re right,” a voice retorted. Those were ghosts, Young said. Indeed, no one was in the room at the time of the recording.

What’s the explanation?

“We weren’t alone. That’s the obvious reason. Who is it and why are they still there? I’m not certain. Those are questions we cannot answer. But ghosts are only able to give us minimal responses to our answers,” she said.

This generation, more so than past generations, has fewer active ghosts because of the high volume of electricity around us with computers, cell phones and so on, Young explained. Ghosts are simply free flowing energy that need other energy to speak or move or flicker lights on and off.

Twice at Golden Oak, Young’s batteries died in her camera and also in a recorder. “That was kind of weird,” she said.

While no suicides or murders occurred, according to Young’s research, on the land on Condit, the next tenants of Golden Oak will certainly have some ghoulish bedfellows.

“They’re trying to live with you, not you trying to live with them,” Young said. “Maybe the ghosts just want to see Golden Oak continue and progress.”

Bad-luck guide to Friday the 13th

With evidence all around – 12 is the number of integrity or completion – the 12 hours on a clock, the 12 apostles of Jesus, the 12 gods of Olympus, 12 months of the year, 12 signs of the zodiac.

– Thirteen for the superstitious, is considered to trespass from complete to irregular or even dangerous.

– Don’t place your purse on the floor

– Don’t spill the salt

– Don’t walk under a ladder

– Don’t open an umbrella indoors

– Don’t put your left foot on the floor first

– Don’t place a hat on a bed

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