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Creepy Content for the Spooky Season

Here in that misty level of consciousness called “Geezerville,” the month of October is celebrated as the first four weeks of the best time of the year. All Geezerville residents love to tell tall tales of Halloween parties of yesteryear, as well as of creepy experiences that still send chills down their spines.

Alameda Post - a full moon

I was sitting in the Geezerville Hotel cocktail lounge with my good friend Diane, and we were both well socially lubricated via several Bombay Sapphire martinis. In true Halloween spirit, Diane told me of a creepy time in 2008 that she called, “The week of the gaslighters,” during which her baffling interactions with others made her question her own sanity.

Alameda Post - Tillies restaurant She told of waiting for the morning O bus to San Francisco near Tillie’s Fine Foods (now Cafe Jolie), when a distinguished-looking 40ish guy in a nice black suit walked up to her and handed her a flyer, that read, in all caps, “STOP BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA AND HIS RADICAL JIHAD! JOIN THE BIRTHER MOVEMENT!”

The bus arrived, and she deliberately sat next to the man, who said his name was Jeff. She began asking questions and he told her that the Birther Movement was started as a political weapon by Hillary Clinton and was being perpetuated by Donald Trump.

According to Diane, their conversation was wide-ranging and enjoyable, and she found Jeff to be articulate and fascinating. He felt the same way about her, and as they left the bus at the San Francisco Transit Terminal, they made a date for 7 p.m. the next night at Otaez (now Ceron Kitchen).

Alameda Post - the Otaez restaurant The next night was a Tuesday, and Diane arrived at Otaez at 6:30 p.m., in order to snag a table for two in the usually packed restaurant. Three margaritas and an order of chips and salsa later, it was 8 p.m., and no Jeff.

Diane angrily pulled out the flyer Jeff had given her and called the local number for the Birther Movement. To her surprise, a woman answered and Diane asked for Jeff. The woman said, “ We have no Jeff here, but we do have a Steph, but she’s on maternity leave.”

Diane thanked her, hung up, angrily drained her last Margarita, threw some cash on the table, and stormed out of the restaurant. She marched up Webster Street to her apartment on Lincoln Avenue, and as she crossed the street, her mental moviemaking began.

“Maybe he said Ole’s, not Otaez,” she thought. “Maybe he said Wally’s, not Otaez. Maybe he thought about something I said, and got offended.”

She quickly got a grip on herself and turned off the mental movie projector. She realized the truth of the situation and she said to herself, “I’m 55 years old and I’ve just been stood up by some silly jerk who thinks that a presidential candidate isn’t an American citizen. I should consider myself lucky.”

But subconsciously, she doubted her mental acuity.

To her dismay, the week of the gaslighters snowballed after that. On Wednesday, her landlord asked for the rent, and Diane assured her that she had mailed a check the week before, or so she believed. Later that day, she took a cab to see her mother on Harbor Bay, and the driver angrily accused her of giving him the wrong address. On Thursday, she went to work , and got some odd looks, not knowing that she had been given the day off.

On Friday, the week of the gaslighters ended as strangely as it began. Diane was waiting for the morning bus again, and spotted Jeff leaving Tilly’s with a cup of coffee. She strode up to him and barked, “Jeff, what happened Tuesday? You could have called!”

Alameda Post - a billboard that says "Where's the birth certificate?"

Jeff looked at her, in amazement. “I’m sorry, my name is Jack. You must be confused.”

Diane bellowed, “You’re Jeff, all right. Your hair is combed identically, and you’ve got the same scar above your right eye. What about the Birthers?”

Jeff/Jack got annoyed. “ Look, lady, I don’t know what the hell a Birther is, and I’ve never met you before in my life. So back the hell off, or I’ll call the cops!”

Alameda Post- an AC transit busBecause a crowd had witnessed the loud and angry discourse, Diane was mortified, and had a mental moviemaking matinee. “I must be suffering from early onset senility, or my cholesterol medication is causing me to hallucinate. I’ll go straight to the Alameda Hospital ER after work.”

However, the movie ended when the bus driver greeted Jack with “Morning, Jeff. Go Birthers!” Diane’s misery was supplanted by relief, then anger, and she sat behind Jack/Jeff, glaring at him all the way to San Francisco, where he hurriedly got off the bus and disappeared.

Although Diane’s tale of creepy gaslighting was plausible, my creepy tale of the supernatural was implausible. I told the creepy tale to Diane.

My boss, Barney, owner of the electronic service shop where I worked, called me to his office and said, “I need you to go out and see Harry, one of the members of my American Legion Hall. He showed up last night drunk, pale, dirty, smelly, and looking like hell, and said his wife and kids messed up his TV. The weird thing is that his wife died a month ago, and his kids drowned up by Goat Rock in Sonoma ten years ago.”

Unperturbed by the arrogance of youth, I attributed Harry’s disheveled condition to an excessive consumption of Jim Beam bourbon, put a new TV in my van, and rolled over to Harry’s formerly pristine white cottage-like home in Oakland’s Laurel district.

Alameda Post - a small white homeWhen I arrived, I noticed that Harry’s home was no longer pristine. It had a brown, weed-filled lawn. I walked to the tiny porch and knocked on the door. There was a pervasive, nauseating smell of burnt wood and flesh.

I became apprehensive.

Harry answered the door, and I was horrified. His unkempt gray hair was down to his shoulders, his unshaven face held a forest of wisps of gray hair, and his eyes were bloodshot and rimmed with black bags. He smelled of body odor, smoke, and burned flesh. His shirt and pants were torn and scorched. But most horrifying were the blistered and shiny second- and third-degree burns on his hand, arms and face.

I set the new TV down beside the door, stepped inside the house and went into a tirade.

“My God, Harry, you’re all burnt up! What happened? You need medical help right away! I’m going to call 911!”

Harry walked to his dining room table and sat down. There was a nearly full bottle of bourbon there, and he sat and poured himself a tall glass. He motioned me in, and said “Get a glass from the cabinet, and have a shot with me. I’ll tell you the story, then you can call my brother, and he’ll get me out of here.”

Alameda Post - a melted TVHe continued. “My wife was an old-school Catholic and didn’t want to be cremated. When she died a few weeks ago. I decided to save money and cremate her myself. How will she know the difference? That’s when this sh*t started. Every few nights, she sends my two dead kids up from up from hell to torment me. They look like kids but they’re hot, all gray and burned up! Look what they did to my house and the TV!”

To my horror, I noticed that his rug was covered by the scorched imprints of children’s feet. The TV was worse. All the knobs were melted, and had the thumbprints of children impressed into them. I was speechless.

Harry gave me the phone number to his brother Dan, and after I explained the macabre scene, Dan said that he would get Harry ASAP, and take him to the ER at St. Rose Hospital near his home in Newark.

Alameda Post - a kid behind a sheet and a pair of footprints

Dan arrived within an hour in a camper truck, and he opened the rear gate. A large, fierce-looking German Shepherd bounded out and ran with Dan to the front door. Dan and the dog peered in and Dan exclaimed, “My God, Harry, look at the kid’s footprints everywhere! And the smell! What have you done?”

The dog walked in the living room, growled, then barked, whined, cowered, and ran out of the house back to the truck. Dan, still in shock from Harry’s—and the house’s—condition, walked over to the melted TV and turned pale.

Alameda Post - a German Shepherd Dog looking through a house window

“Good God,” he moaned. “Harry, this is unbelievable. The hairs on the back of my neck are standing up. There’s something else in here, but it’s beyond our senses, so only the dog saw it.”

Dan turned to me and yelled, “Gil, let’s get Harry into the truck! I’ll gather his clothes and legal paperwork, and we’ll get out of this hell-hole and whatever else is in here.”

I handed Harry the half-empty bottle of bourbon to use as an anesthetic during the trip to the ER. I wondered what Harry’s future would be after he told Dan and the medical staff his story. Dan and I walked the wobbly and smelly Harry to the truck. As we sat him in the passenger seat, the dog began to whine and howl.

Alameda Post - St Rose hospital signDan, still looking pale, got in the truck and said, “Gil, thank you and Barney for saving my brother’s life. Now, grab your TV and get the hell out of here!”

The truck sped off with the dog howling, and I braced myself to go back in the house to retrieve the new TV. I moved it, and then shut and locked the front door. Relieved to be out of there, I put the TV in my van, smelling the scorched plastic, and sighed at the tiny thumbprints melted into the knobs.

Gil Michaels loves patty melts at [email protected]. His writing is collected at

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