I was on a roll. Our first 1998 column (Jan / Feb) had been essentially a straight reprint, but for both March and April I took columns that had originally been exasperatingly brief, and expanded them greatly, throwing in all the stuff I'd originally wanted to but couldn't due to space constrictions.

For March I'd taken a little piece on Leprecaun origins and turned it into a full fledged homage to All Things Irish. For April I returned to a place Mike and I had visited, the Haunted Bath House in Lake Elsinore, and added my subsequent experiences, bringing the tale up to date.

Having that ghostly encounter fresh in my mind, I now turned my gaze eastward, to yet another ghostly encounter shared by Mike and myself. Additionally, I took this occasion to examine why exactly we love to be frightened, and in particular what turned me into such a connoisseur of creepiness. I'd started ruminating on the Magic of my own personal past last Christmas (1997), and would (and will) continue to do so in years to come.

Now, Lake Elsinore was something I'd known about in advance, researched, and deliberately driven to, looking to find ghosts. In July of 1988, however, we found ourselves surprised by the Supernatural, as it were.

Or, to put it another way, this time the ghosts found us . . .

What follows is based on another reprint from our BOOK AGAIN archives. Since October of 1986 we've been putting out store newsletters, and back in those primitive times I was putting the things together on an IBM XT with a whopping 20 megs of memory (hard drive, not RAM). To convince me into undertaking this arduous chore, Mom (Sheryl Anderson to you - the founder of Book Again) agreed to let me do a folklore column in every issue.

Now, exactly what constitutes "folklore" can easily lead one into a hopeless sea of semantic soup, suffice it to say that I personally choose to define the subject rather broadly. The whole great wonderful canvas of human experience is fair game - anything that touches us, that takes human beings out of the realm of the ordinary into something else, anything that mythologizes or demonizes ordinary folks, all that is fair game.

Which means I can touch on anything from the origins of a particular holiday or superstition to the Checkers Speech or the sinking of the Titanic.

In the past, time and space constraints have to some extent restricted my choice of topics, and in truth the majority of subjects this past decade have been "traditional" - the origins of holidays, debunking historical misconceptions, and of course the realm of fantasy. As far as the latter, those who've read this column once or twice are undoubtedly aware that I have a particular favorite subgenre of fantasy: ghosts.

Now, I don't know where this obsession began. I do recall being very young, and watching Walt Disney's "Wonderful World of Color." The particular episode that comes to mind was in essence a one hour promotion for the film "Darby O'Gill and the Little People," entitled "I Captured the King of the Leprecauns." At the beginning of the show they gave a little teaser of what was coming, and as I recall my parents were out of the room at the time, and for a brief moment I saw the most horrifying glimpse of a banshee, shrouded and groaning, bursting through a door.

When said parents returned I began suggesting a switch to Ed Sullivan. They patiently tried to figure out what was wrong with me, and upon learning of my fears reassured me that this was, after all, Disney, and nothing too terribly frightening was going to be shown.

Fool that I was, I believed them.

So it was that, about 35 minutes into the show, Walt Disney gave me the worst scare of my life and changed said life forever.

You see, the introduction of the Banshee in the film is scary enough, but for the television show they upped the ante a bit, and set up a rather innocent situation where someone was innocently opening a door, and



Little Joe at this point goes running hysterically for cover, vowing never to trust parents or Uncle Walt ever again.

There may be those who would put forth the possibility at this point that I was something of a weird kid. Fair enough. I avoided the show for quite awhile - to the point that when we would gather at my mom's folks in Sherman Oaks, and the kids would be sent downstairs to watch Disney, I would curl myself up in a ball on the stairs and make loud noises to myself, for at that point the very sound of the "Wonderful World of Color" theme song would terrify me. I can recall my grandfather asking if my parents had considered psychiatric help.

As is probably already obvious, the other great obsession of my life besides paranormal research is collecting as many episodes of that wonderful series as possible. I have a friend (and former brother-in-law) who has always turned queasy at the slightest sign of blood. He wound up creating gory special effects for a living. I think our deepest obsessions come out of our earliest traumas - as we grow the love/hate pendulum swings the other way and we attempt to conquer that which we once feared by owning it.

It probably didn't hurt that I entered elementary school in the wonderful monster-mad early sixties.

In 1962 two things happened. First, I saw Charles Laughton's immortal "Canterville Ghost" for the first time. Second, Ideal realeased a game that fall called Haunted House. It was a 3D game, where one actually got to move pieces around a miniature haunted house. I was in love with the thing, though, having never heard the word before, I would call it a "hunted" house. My Dad finally clued me in: "No, Joe, it's haunted."

Now, don't ask me why, but that slight difference in pronunciation had a profound effect on me. "Haunted" sounded so much cooler than "hunted."

In late '63 I had a friend who was, shall we say, given to tall tales. He swore he had a real live haunted house right next door to him. I was naive enough in those days to believe him, and can actually recall my disappointment when I finally stayed the night at his house and realized it had been a fabrication (although I did get to see the Outer Limits, which was off limits at the Nolte household).

So I headed toward adolescence in a quandary - I knew there weren't really ghosts - it was illogical. At the same time, I wished so much that such things existed.

At any rate, it's common knowledge that the great horror fad of the early sixties never did quite die, and as we mid-to-late boomers came of age we brought it all back with a vengeance. At the same time, it is not necessarily as much of a given as it once was that such things do not in fact exist . . .

Last month's column dealt with a real haunted house that affected me so much I was compelled to return with my brother Mike (Book Again manager). That visit was part of a day long "ghost tour" I may bore you with in a subsequent column.

I continue the tradition now - this is based on a column that originally appeared in the August 1988 newsletter. As before, I am expanding it and adding photos, and blessing the beauty that is the WWW all the while. It is a good thing to have a potentially global audience, and more than justifies these enhanced reruns.

In the future, however, we shall be exploring new and as yet untouched regions. There's a wealth of stuff out there (how about a column on Tecumseh's curse and how it ties in Lincoln, Kennedy and John Lennon?), and I propose to have a lot of fun.

For now, here's another true ghost story that happened to Mike and me.

New England Tale


Once upon a time, long long ago (Ford was in the White House), I formed a rock band with brother Mike called The Last. This band has been through numerous ups and downs over these many years, and its complete history does not belong on these pages. Suffice it to say we're still playing.

Some ten years ago we had just recovered from a period of inactivity during which the band had actually dissolved. After regaining sufficient contextual enlightenment we reformed the band in 1987 with three new members: Luke Lohnes, Larry Manke, and Dave Nazworthy. By the end of the year we'd signed a recording contract with SST records, by March of 1988 a record was completed, and by July of that year it was coming out and we were flying to the East Coast for a one week whirlwind tour of the New England region.

Luke's family, coincidentally and fortuitously enough, owned a rambling mansion in Connecticut at the time, and lodgings at said estate were arranged for the duration of the tour. We were all too willing to accept the generosity of his family - the romance of a different cheap hotel every night wears thin all too soon.

So it was that we found ourselves driving through the black of an unlit Connecticut night and pulling up to the house in the wee hours of the morning, after an evening of frantic stopovers, lost luggage, and loud music in Hoboken.

We filed in one by one on tiptoe, anxious to avoid disturbing the almost ominous silence that pervaded.

Which was all well and good until one of our party accidentally set off the car alarm.

At any rate, we made it inside, and found that rooms had been arranged - there were little notes instructing us as to where to go. I was married at the time, and had brought said wife, Deanne, along for the trip. We found ourselves in a little red room that seemed to have been built for a child. It was comfortable, and we turned in.

Mike, who was sharing a room with Larry our bass player, was a bit disconcerted to notice that also sharing his room was a rather vast assortment of antique dolls - all with intensely staring eyes and almost an air of expectancy. Oh well, Mike always was a bit over-imaginative.

At about four or five in the morning Deanne was awakened by a loud, insistent knocking on our door. She ran over to open the door -

and no one was there.

(I of course slept through the entire incident).

Figuring it was a typical band-type prank, we didn't bother mentioning it, and set out the following day to make more music.

It wasn't until the next night that something happened in the Doll Room - - to be precise, as Mike and Larry lay quietly in their beds, drifting off into a deep and well-earned sleep, as a light summer rain began to fall and fireflies danced flickering finales to the sound of summer crickets -

- the light went on.

All by itself.

No hidden switches, no faulty wiring, no loose bulbs or connections. It simply was turned on.

And no one was there to turn it on.

Needless to say, that incident and our own "knocking" of the previous evening dominated breakfast conversation. Our hosts seemed not at all surprised to hear of these nocturnal antics, and only wondered if any of us had heard the singing.


It seems that the house had been built at the turn of the century by a famous opera singer, who raised and subsequently lost a son in World War I. An aura of sadness had ever since permeated the place, and the singer and his wife had never quite recovered. The Doll Room (Mike's) seemed to be the center of activity, and most guests over the years reported various unexplained happenings, most frequently the faint sound of singing . . .

While most of our company predictably laughed the whole thing off, the fact remains that the light repeated its little trick of coming on of its own volition every night we were there, with the exception of the last two nights. On the second to the last night, Mike slept and Larry awoke suddenly to find a strange cloud of sparks swirling in a circular motion directly over the group of dolls.

On another occasion, some time during our stay, Mike decided to turn the dolls' frightening little faces away, facing the wall. After about five minutes, he felt compelled to return them to their original positions. We later learned that this experience was also common, and that no one had ever been able to leave the little darlings in that position for more than a few minutes!

So there you are - another true ghostly encounter by the Nolte brothers. I'll be back soon with more, I'm sure.

Oh yes, you're wondering what happened on the last night?

Why, I thought you would have guessed . . .

Larry heard singing.

That's the story - yes, it really happened, just as I've said. The house, alas, is in other hands now, but I would sincerely doubt that the coffin lid has quite closed on the supernatural encounters of Joe and Mike. As I write it is Walpurgisnacht, the eve of May Day, the Halloween of Central Europe. It seemed appropriate.

This is not going to be a "ghost of the month" column. There are too many other avenues to explore. I trust, however, that as the hot weather approaches you've enjoyed this little chill.

See you in June!


Oh yeah - you want links, don't you?


The Last, that little band I formed with brother Mike all too long ago, has their own site! Here it is.

Bill Cotter just released the definitive book on Disney TV - this site also has a complete episode guide to the Zorro series.

The Ghostweb is home to the International Ghost Hunters Society - they have over 2000 photos of ghostly encounters, plus a lot of ghostly links . . .

This is a photo from the above site - as long as we're on the subject of haunted dolls!

Paranormal Center for Research & Investigation - lots of true ghost stories sent in by contributors.

Invisible Ink is a mail order bookstore specializing in things of a ghostly nature. Although technically rivals, they cover different areas and perform a great service, so hopefully Mom won't kill me for this link! At any rate, this is a book excerpt that details the haunted "Toys 'R 'Us" in Northern California, along with the only account of a haunted doll I've been able to find on the web.

Finally, a great page detailing the history of New York's Metropolitan Opera Company. I'm assuming that the guy who haunted that house we stayed in was a member, though I don't know his name. Lots of good info on the 19th century origins of "The Met."

That's it for now - no recipes this month, I guess, but Summer's coming.

Perhaps an all-tiki issue???

heh heh heh . . .