"There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophies."
-- William Shakespeare, "Hamlet"
"We are on the threshold of establishing the indispensable defense science of the next decade -- professional paranormal investigations and eliminations."
-- Bill Murray, "Ghostbusters"
Angry ghost prostitutes on Main Street?
Tina Smith believes.
Poor ladies of the evening. Their fame was ill enough. Then it took a turn for the hearse. That would make anyone peevish.
Now they just skulk about the rooms above the Alize Art Gallery and A-Team Locksmiths. They mutter nasties under their breath and occasionally break into tears.
Downstairs in the gallery, Smith aspires to a second career as a paranormal investigator.
The floating floozies have nothing to do with her career choice. They just represent one of the many ghostly stories Smith has encountered in Polk County.
Not a believer?
Neither was Christopher Read. The former Itemizer-Observer reporter was as cynical as newspapermen come. Then he took up residence above Main Street.
He soon found himself plagued by disembodied voices. Angry voices. Women crying.
It seriously freaked him out. Not that he did anything about it. People who hear voices generally keep that information to themselves.
Typical, said Smith.
She hung out her shingle as a ghostbuster several weeks ago. Even though her services are free, business is slow. Oh, people wander in.
However, they resist the idea of Smith coming out with digital camera and recording devices. That makes the whole thing a little too real.
"They'll tell you their ghost story but they don't want you to sit in their house," she said.
Better to ignore those things that go bump in the night.
If you have unwelcome guests floating and wailing about the house, you have options. Try talking to the ghosts. Many ghosts are reasonable people.
At least they were before they started walking through walls.
Be polite, Smith said. Just tell the ghost that all this rattling about makes you uneasy. He or she might stops.
Sometimes, ghosts aren't aware they're dead. They think they just lost a lot of weight. In those cases, Smith said, you can gently break the news that it's no longer 1887.
They need to change their clothes and move on.
Sometimes ghosts are just plain rude. "They just dig their heels in. They don't want to go." Such pesky poltergeists require a firmer hand. Perhaps an exorcist needs to drop by.
She is not an exorcist. She investigates and documents. She may tell the ghost to move on or knock it off, but others are better equipped to handle the hard-core haunters.
"We can let people know that they're not nuts, that these phenomena exist."
A few weeks ago, Smith wandered about Dallas Cemetery with a tape recorder. It picked up something strange.
Something very strange.
Smith said she heard a ghostly voice on the tape.
It might have been "Price inside." Smith doesn't know. She accidentally recorded over the tape. If you want to preserve evidence of life after death, she said, don't record over the tape.
"We learned that lesson."
The paranormal fascinates Smith. Always has.
However, a near-death experience 16 years ago really got her thinking about the Great Beyond.
She was on medical leave from her job as an assistant coroner in Los Angeles. An accident with a revolver on the kitchen counter punctured a whole in her abdomen.
Her heart stopped three times on the operating table. Her late grandmother and great-grandmother welcomed her to the Other Side. "I felt this overwhelming sense of love and compassion."
However, she couldn't stay. She still had work to do on this side of the veil. Nothing short of a miracle saved her life, Smith said.
"I'm not supposed to be here but I am."
She remained interested in ghosts, UFOs and the like. However, she busied herself with raising a family and operating a business.
Every now and then, a ghost popped up to pique her curiosity. While taking pictures at Cinderella's Castle at Disneyland, a faint glowing skull inexplicably showed up in one of the frames.
Then there are the tales of Main Street.
Beyond the ghostly prostitutes, people report spots in the buildings that chill the soul. Some people in the gallery swear they hear voices.
Smith's dog, Riker, sniffed out the old haunt (no pun intended) of another dog who died years before.
Legend holds the gallery and locksmith shop were once a tavern. That explains the prostitutes upstairs, Smith said, as well as the generally lively vibe downstairs.
"This is a great place," she said of the downstairs ghosts. "There's like a party going on all the time."
Other local taverns also offer spirits (OK, that one was intentional). Smith said she felt someone -- or something -- tugging at her hair while she sat at the bar.
Smith went on the Ghost Walk in Independence during the Hop and Heritage Festival with a recorder. Nothing. "Of course, with so many people, it's hard to pick up anything."
Her interest in being a paranormal investigator resurfaced when her son-in-law, Joe Wright of Albany, offered to help.
Besides some trips to the cemetery and other outings on their own, they have yet to attract a bona fide case.
Yet Smith stands ready.
The tools of the trade are relatively simple. She just uses a digital camera and a tape recorder. She hopes to get a digital recorder. Digital equipment works faster, she said.
Ghosts apparently live at a different frequency from the rest of us. A faster frequency. Digital devices stand a better chance of picking it up.
Smith also packs a thermometer. Ghosts literally give people the cold shoulder. The temperature usually drops where a ghost is standing.
Ghosts are many things, Smith said. Some are people who died with unfinished business. Others just want to stick around. Still others are not aware they're dead, a la "The Sixth Sense."
Some are not ghosts at all, she said. They are emotional residue. Some events are just so intense that they leave emotions floating about in the air like dust.
Smith attributes it to an electrical energy akin to the Force. "We're all connected," she said, "All things are connected electronically."
Some people can sense ghosts. Others can't. Smith said she definitely can. And they can sense her.
They seek her out. Smith sometimes goes to a store near a cemetery in Salem. Ghosts once threw merchandise at her from the shelves, she said.
She reported it to a store clerk. "Your ghosts are throwing things at me," she said.
He just looked at her. Some people just don't know how to handle ghosts, Smith said.
Smith knows. She offers advice to others. If you see a ghost, she said, don't panic.
"Don't be afraid. Just be aware. Observe and hear."
And if you get a tape recording, don't record over it.