I’m going to preface this story by reassuring you ahead of time, I really don’t believe in ghosts.  I have no idea what happens when we die.  I’m not absolutely certain that ghosts don’t exist.  But I opt for the explanations rational to my day-to-day experience, which does not, to my knowledge, include ghosts.

I was three-years-old when my parents moved us to Moss Beach, a small coastal town south of San Francisco and north of Half Moon Bay, in 1967.  My mother was pregnant with my brother.  We moved from Cole Street in San Francisco, somewhere between Haight and the Panhandle, the home of my earliest memory snapshots.  I had only known the city, so I was blown away by the open spaces of my new reality.  Our home was on the ocean side of Moss Beach on the hills separating the airport from ocean.  We lived on the end of a road which bordered a large field which spanned to the cliffs about the ocean.  I could almost walk to the big sattelite-tracking radar which presided like a giant-king over the town of Princeton to the south, now obsolete and disassembled.

Aside from the birth of my very loud baby brother, my memories of the year we lived there are of a serene happy time.  I have memories of a big dog (which we had to give away when we returned to the city where my parents could find work).  My father was building a sailboat in Princeton and befriended fishermen there who gave us great deals.  My mother had pregnancy cravings for crab and corn with lemon butter, and I would sit at the table with her feasting on the stuff.  I developed a lifetime taste for anything coming out of the ocean.  I have memories of the heavy fog visibly blowing across the field with a pleasant chill and damp sensation on my face.  I have memories of warm sunny days laying in the grass watching red tail hawks circling above with the only noises being a slight breeze and the distant puttering of Cessnas landing or taking off down the hill.

I’m told I would wander across the field to where the cliffs were.  I have no memories of this.

I have no memories of the Blue Lady.

My mother says she was folding laundry one morning when I came running in.  “Mom, I saw a blue lady!”  Her impression wasn’t that I was scared, but excited.

“A blue what?”

“A blue lady.  I can kind of see through her.”

My mother wrote this off as a three-year-old’s imagination the first time.  And the second time.  To her memory, there was no third.  She didn’t think about it for nearly 8 years.

….

When I was eleven-years-old, we lived in Montara, a small town just north of Moss Beach.  My mother taught in the city, which meant a bit of a commute and a long day.  A family in the neighborhood watched us after school.  We’d play outside with friends.  One of my parents would come home and we’d break away from our play just long enough to transfer our school packs from the baby-sitter’s home to our own.  We’d play in the neighborhood until dinner.  That’s the last neighborhood I ever lived in with lots of kids my own age, but that’s a topic for another thread (they don’t seem to make neighborhoods like that anymore).  One day my mother pulled into the driveway and called me from down the street with just enough pitch in her voice to suggest I was in trouble.  I made my way to her wracking my brain to try to remember or figure out how I’d transgressed.  She asked me to come inside.  Uh oh.  A long talk.  What had I done?

She sat me down at the table.  “Eric, what do you remember about the Blue Lady?”

I remember the conversation well.  I was really confused.

“The what?”

“The Blue Lady.  Tell me you remember about the Blue Lady!”

My mother worked hard in those days.  She’d been through a strike.  She had struggles with administrators over various issues.  They didn’t like her politics – her job had been placed in jeopardy several years earlier when a parent had seen her in an anti-war march and complained.  They didn’t like that she made her students work and that Asian and Russian parents pushed to have their kids in her classroom.  She was called a racist for suggesting a curriculum which educated kids about eating too much sugar and told by an African-American teacher, “sugar is the staple food for the black child!”  She had conferences with parents.   She had troubled kids.  She had a difficult and tiring job.

Sometimes she would stop off and visit a friend for coffee or a drink before coming home since we were well taken care of for most of the afternoon.  On one such visit they discussed paranormal-alleged mysteries.  The Loch Ness Monster.  The Devil’s Triangle.  Ghosts.  And at one point one of her friends said, “well, we have our own mystery here on the coast.  Have you heard of the Blue Lady?”  My mother learned literally what it means to have a chill go down your spine.

….

The Distillery is a restaurant in Moss Beach, several blocks from where I lived as a three-year-old.  A business was founded in 1927 by Frank Torres who opened a nightclub speakeasy.  At the time it was a remote location from much of civilization with a long winding road over hills separating the coast side from north and east.  Businessmen and politicians from the City would make their way to imbibe on weekends.  Where the parking lot is now, next door to the nightclub, was a brothel to service dignitaries and the bootleggers who would bring booze in from Canada by the sea during the week.  It was “Frank’s Place” back then.  Eventually he would sell the business and purchase a building above the beach in Montara, serve great Italian food which declined with his death.  I have memory of one meal in the Montara location, eventually sold to a Los Angeles based chain named “the Chart House” who tore down the old building and replaced it with something resembling an Egyptian tomb which fails to take any advantage of the sweeping ocean view the location offers.  The Chart House is gone now, but the building remains.

The Distillery retains a still as an artifact, a tourist theme and tribute to a bygone era not unlike the Samoa Cookhouse.  When I was a kid it was a basic steakhouse with a nice salad bar.  It’s much more upscale now, and much more “California Cuisine” oriented, but I won’t kvetch about that right now as I’ve already done in a discussion over at Heraldo’s.  According to legend, the restaurant and surrounding areas are haunted by the Blue Lady.

The stories are numerous and varied.  The common themes involve a love triangle between a woman estranged from her husband, in love with Frank’s piano player, winding up dead either in a car crash nearby, suicide, or murder – all while wearing a blue dress.  By some accounts there were two women.  In the car crash account, the woman was very concerned for her son, dying concerned about children.  By some accounts the ghost warns children away from cliffs.  According to my mother I went near the cliffs.  I don’t remember the cliffs.  I don’t remember the Blue Lady.

The ghost supposedly manifests itself with mischievous pranks in the restaurant, as apparitions warning children, ghostly giggling, objects moved, whatever.  The restaurant has a display downstairs before you enter their grand outdoor ocean view area where you can order appetizers while waiting for a table in the less spectacular dining room upstairs.  I always preferred to stay downstairs ordering up the appetizers and drinks, hoping to see the green flash at sunset.

Okay, the mystery was covered on “Unsolved Mysteries.”  “Ghost Hunters” (which revealed what the hunters claim to have been a little bit of fraud in the form of special effects for the benefit of tourists, some of whom have paid to participate in seances).  Wikipedia. You can access a promotional video here.

….

I’ve never attended the seances.  I’ve thought about having myself hypnotized to revive any memories I may have repressed or abandoned.  I’ve theorized that I might have started the rumors back in 1967.  The more likely explanation I lean towards is that someone in the Moss Beach neighborhood shared the legend with me, making an impression on my three-year-old mind which manifested itself in precisely the experience my mother assumed it to be at the time.

But I have a little bit of an epilogue.  About 17 years ago, having just met Jana, I visited her mother’s home in Connecticut.  I discussed the legend and my conjunction with it with her family and one of her brothers suggested that I visit the restaurant after closing hours, say two in the morning.  I thought it was a great idea and resolved to do it.

That night I had a dream.  I was outside the restaurant.  It was dark inside and I couldn’t make out anything through the windows.  Pitch black.  Nothing happened, but I had this rush of terror that something was going to happen and I was drawn closer to the window, pitch black behind it, no matter if I walked backwards, I kept getting closer.  I woke up quite rattled.

Jana, who has an easier time accepting certain explanations, was unsympathetic.  “Leave her alone,” she said.

A couple of years later just after law school I was working as a legal secretary for a woman – an attorney whom I consider to be quite brilliant and rational.  During a casual conversation I told her the story, including my dream.  She smiled and said, “you’re not three years old anymore, are you? Take your wife’s advice.”

As she pointed out, I haven’t generated the curiosity or courage to go there other than during open hours.  So what do I believe?  Well, as I said.  I lean towards the rational explanation.  But just in case, I guess I can leave her the space.  Even if there is no “her” to whom to leave the space.  You know what I mean.

The images come from the Distillery site.

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