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Marg-Ins - Seeking Spirits
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School's out, kids are sleeping in and, if yours is anything like mine, already complaining that "there's nothing to do." But suggest reading a book or cleaning their room and all of a sudden, they find plenty of other activities to occupy their time.

The end of the school year brings a bit of a rude awakening, though. My youngest is no longer an elementary student. In Oakdale, where we live, kindergarten through sixth grade is elementary school so she will be headed off to junior high in the fall, as opposed to already being in middle school for sixth grade like in Riverbank and Escalon. She survived her time at Outdoor Ed (and had a blast, just like I told her she would, rather than being homesick) and attended the sixth grade dance, closing out her elementary years. The only problem with the dance was that it was right after school, scheduled the same day as the fifth and sixth grade track and field meet. Maybe that wouldn't have been as bad if the meet wasn't on one of the days we had 95-degree weather. Suffice to say I was not the only mom who got a frantic phone call to bring in some clean clothes and toiletries so our girls could 'freshen up' before the dance.

Out of school just a week, she's already had a couple of sleepovers to go to and, the first one, she and her friends decided to do a little Internet surfing. Much to her horror, they happened upon a website that listed various ghost stories and sightings in and around Oakdale. The site also has links to nearby communities and it appears that Riverbank and Escalon have their fare share of hauntings to report as well.

She came home with information about who is haunting what street, what park has ghostly apparitions and which parts of town you'd better not visit at night. Plus she announced that she could no longer go to sleep, after learning about all the spirits roaming the community.

Purely by coincidence - or at least I think so - we received a faxed letter on Friday morning asking us whether the paper could look into some unusual occurrences, with possible ghost sightings in Oakdale and along the Oakdale-Waterford highway.

We all got talking about unusual incidents we've experienced and had a lively office discussion about the purportedly haunted houses in Oakdale. Our own office is said to have a spirit or two and more than once, those of us happening to be working alone or late at night can attest to a strange feeling, an odd sound or two and just a general sense of not being alone in the building.

With my daughter proclaiming she was foregoing sleep in light of the ghost invasion, I had to share with her that I myself have survived a couple of run-ins with possible spirits. Through my work in the media (radio and newspaper) I have actually been involved in a couple of ghost hunts with a famed ghost hunter from New Hampshire. It was several years ago, back in New York, and I did two hunts with him. One was at an upstate New York restaurant and the other was at the State Capitol in Albany. People at both locations had contacted him regarding unusual happenings and the first hunt was at the restaurant. He sent out an invitation to some local media in the area and, since it was roughly an hour away from the radio station I worked at, they authorized me to go cover the event. It was such an interesting process, setting up all the technical equipment, doing taping sessions while a room full of reporters sat in relative silence, listening for sounds that shouldn't be there. If any sound was heard during the taping, the ghost hunter would say what he heard - "reporter shuffling papers" or "restaurant worker closing door" so that would be indicated on the tape when we played back the session. Then, if there were any sounds on the tape not identified, it was one we didn't hear during the taping and therefore warranted further investigation to try to determine if it could be explained or should be categorized as 'unearthly.'

If you've ever seen the TV show Ghost Hunters on the Sci Fi channel, this ghost hunting was a bit like that.

At the restaurant, I caught a couple of unexplainable voices on my own personal tape recorder when I was interviewing the ghost hunter and, at the Capitol during that hunt several months later, I was among a group of reporters checking out a haunted room in the basement when we got the door slammed shut behind us ... even though nobody was there.

Just a couple of unique stories from my past. Guaranteed to keep my daughter sleepless for the summer.

Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times and The Oakdale Leader and assistant editor for The Riverbank News. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.