Vacaville Storytellers: The Girl Who Took A (Ghost) Walk

The copper divining rods lingered when Devin asked the spirit if someone in the group had gotten his name correct. The night was tinged a murky gray and no one blinked as we watched the footlong L-shaped rods clutched against Devin's chest.

The rods suddenly swiveled then crossed—meaning yes—someone had called the spirit's name. Ten of us gathered in a circle below a muted streetlamp, but only five announced the name that came to us. SAM. It materialized in my mind in red capitals as clear as if someone had typed it. We looked at each other, then focused on the rods as Devin, our overseer, and professional paranormal investigator asked Sam to point to the person who called his name. The rods swung in unison and Devin followed them until, like long frightening fingers, they fixed on me.

It was not an attempt to gain insight into the paranormal world. I have no interest in the occult. Never, have I ever looked into a mirror and called on Bloody Mary to share her wisdom. The Vacaville Ghost Walk seemed like that cool kind of creepy Halloween adventure that wouldn't require an exorcism. Downtown Vacaville resurrects folklore with historic buildings like the Old Town Hall where a majestic belfry looms over century-old structures. Sidewalks entombed secret tunnels as Devin lead us down Main Street.

ghost walk

We entered darkness through an iron gate and stopped at the steps. The classical revival building once housed a library but is now home to the Chamber of Commerce and a seven-year-old ghost named Annie who likes to play hide and seek. The little girl's dog who was hit by a car also visits. Wind scattered pumpkin-colored leaves and a whiff of garlic chilled me. Reminded me of Nana and her little garlic-scented hands. Is she here—available to communicate? I had requested her presence when Devin shared the guidelines. He said to think of the person you'd most like to communicate with. I immediately thought of Nana. My pragmatic mind tucked the possibility away.

Miss Marie, a psychic medium, with blood red lips explained that spirits aren't always locals. “They can be anyone from anywhere and come and go as they please.” Her long black hair twisted in the wind. Maybe Nana was here. Could she see me? Did she see me drink that rum and coke at T.j's Tavern? I was anxious about the Ghost Walk, Nana!

“Hit!” Two guys from Jersey yelled as they looked down at their EMF meters. The handheld devices light up when they detect spikes in electromagnetic energy and are a must-have for any professional ghost hunter. The hairs on the back of my neck straightened as a guy walked by with a Basset Hound. The kind of dog Nana had.

Creepy coincident? Serendipity? Didn't matter. We had relocated to the back of the Theatre DeVille. A charismatic 1920s art deco building that housed the spirited Flimflam Fred. He complained that he'd recently been banished from the theatre. Perhaps that's why he was hanging around this dark back alley with us. Fred crossed the rods at eleven when asked how many wives he had had. Next, all the single ladies, including myself, were lined up shoulder to shoulder and Fred was asked to point the rods at any woman he'd like to marry. The last thing I needed was another dead broke, unemployed, womanizing husband. The rods pointed to the young lady on my left. Everyone laughed. Suddenly, the rods spun to the right but zeroed in on the red-head next to me. Relief mystically morphed into that same sickening disappointment and defeat that came with online dating. Rejected by a dead guy, I questioned my inadequacies then blamed it on Nana's intimidating presence.

ghost walk tour

In a dank records room at the Old Town Hall, we bunched up like spooked sheep. Devin and Miss Marie communicated with Kevin, an eighteen-year-old male who, in 1966, did not survive his motorcycle wreck on Highway 5 in Bakersfield, Ca. I envisioned his name and the rods concurred along with a second spirit named Gayle. Her name came to mind so vividly that I even spelled it out. G-A-Y-L-E. Miss Marie's face writhed as if what she was experiencing pained her. She whispered that the woman had been tortured before being murdered somewhere near Berkley. Gayle's horrible death was too awful for Miss Marie to share. We called it a night and formed a circle. Held hands. Devin declared all communication was now closed and warned the spirits that they should not attempt to make contact or follow us home. Follow us home? I had not thought of that. What happens if they do follow me home? Do I report them? Which jurisdiction issues restraining orders on apparitions? A heavy fog condensed on the windows and ran like tears as the circle broke.

A rank and file of ghost hunters departed for the bar at Merchant & Main. I brought up the rear as we rounded the corner and deemed the entire ghost walk experience an enjoyable hoax. More of a cultural phenomenon than actual contact with the dead. But, having a drink with paranormal investigators would be informative—at the very least entertaining. My feet slapped the sidewalk as I passed my parked car. Without warning, I abandoned the group. Got in my car and drove to my room at the Hampton Inn—just in case Nana was watching.

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