Trailer-Park Ghosts, Tollbooth Spooks

Oct. 29, 2002 -- -- It's bad enough to be undead. But what if you're damned for all eternity to a dump?

You can only hope that when you shuffle off this mortal coil, you'll have a decent place to haunt — a Gothic mansion, with cobwebs, creaky steps, and tastefully placed trap doors — straight out of Martha Stewart Living Dead magazine.

Can't you see the Versace leather-upholstered coffin? In the kitchen, a stainless-steel cauldron bubbles up a traditional blood daiquiri for the sobbing hag who materializes on the staircase at midnight, pining for man who stole her heart two centuries ago.

You'll have a squalling black cloud of bats over the roof and, for hours of family fun, a torture chamber in the dungeon. Is that too much to ask?

Sadly, for many ghosts, it seems that the modest dream of having a house to haunt will never be anything more than a Stephen King novel.

Today, ghosts are being reported in trailer parks, toll booths, fast-food restaurants and laundry rooms.

Couch Potatoes of the Damned

"You'll be surprised all the places you'll find a ghost," says Leslie Rule, author of Coast to Coast Ghosts (Andrews McMeel) — who documents haunted toy chests, TV studios and brew pubs.

Perhaps it's just a sign of the times. Now, even ghosts have housing issues.

But let's not be bleeding hearts. Perhaps these ghosts are just underachievers — couch potatoes justifiably damned for all eternity to a McDonald's. Maybe if they had done more with their lives, they'd be doing more with their afterlives.

This Halloween, The Wolf Files looks at some nontraditional hauntings.

1. Unhappy Campers: Is there an unnatural feeling of unrest in your doublewide? Does the simulated-wood paneling sometimes sweat blood … even when you're not drinking malt liquor?

When a real tear streams down the face of your velvet portrait of Elvis and his eyes start to move, your trailer might be haunted — and not by regular ghosts.

Redneck apparitions are giving a whole new meaning to "white trash," according to Larry Weaver of Durham, N.C., who lived in a trailer for seven years and founded trailerghost.com

"We know ghosts haunt locations — not just houses, so why not?" says Weaver. He says he started the Web site as a joke, only to find that many trailer-park residents really believe they own a rolling haunted house that's propped up on cement blocks.

"You have a lot of strange accidental deaths in trailer parks — and that's the makings of a haunting. I heard of one guy who was killed when he was hit in the head with a nail gun. That has to make for an unhappy spirit."

A redneck ghost is just like any other, except he drinks more beer, leaves chewing tobacco canisters laying around, and may insist on midnight offerings of Cheetos.

2. The Express Lane Horseman: Here's the best reason yet to travel with plenty of quarters. Motorists in Richmond, Va., are reporting the milky-white specter of a Native American on horseback, chasing them as they cross the eastbound tollbooth on the Pocahontas Parkway.

The ghostly rider whoops and hollers a war cry, and sometimes carries a torch.

"The reports started in May, as soon as the tollbooth opened, and they've continued," says Sara Cross of the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Is the haunted tollbooth merely a gimmick to get motorists to sign up for electronic tags for express-lane service?

"No," Cross says. "Actually, the ghost is so popular, the troopers are warning ghost hunters not to get out of their cars. It's hazardous."

3. The Cappuccino Choker:

What do you do when a sudden, strange chill runs through your coffee shop and your employees feel unseen fingers around their throats?

Reports of "The Cappuccino Choker" at Java Jive coffeehouse in Centre Hall, Pa., led to an investigation by local psychics. Rather than move, owner Rose Sweeney decided negotiation was better for business than outright exorcism.

Sweeney decided that "The Cappuccino Choker" needed a PR makeover, so she decided to rename the apparition.He's now known as Harry, and if you feel his presence there late in the evening, it's only because he's had too many refills.

4. The Phantom Shoe Bandit: In the Puerto Rican countryside, mysterious monsters known as "chupacabra" slaughter goats. In the wilds of Northern California, Bigfoot's mournful cry fills the night.

And in Hanover Township, Ind. — 60 miles southeast of Chicago — a mysterious pile of shoes, sometimes more than 100, accumulates on a country road near a cornfield — and no one knows how or why.

"It started six years ago with one woman's boot at the side of the road," says Jim Ambroziak, 56. "It stood there for a week. Then, mysteriously, a man's boot appeared. Then, we saw children's boots. Then it all went out of control."

Residents now call it "Shoe Corner." It's a mysterious mishmash of footwear — sneakers, high-heels, slippers — of all sizes. Some seem brand-new. Some are so old and foul they can't be donated to charity.

As soon as residents cart off the shoes, more appear. Even the local highway department is a bit confused. Where would a prankster get all these shoes? Nobody in town will admit to it.

"Last week, I saw floppy, red clown shoes," Ambroziak says. "It's very sick and disturbing."

If it is some ghost with a foot fetish, perhaps we can soon explain the real mystery plaguing humanity — missing socks. 5. An Unhappy Meal:

At the McDonald's in Lewiston, N.Y., you sometimes get a shake, even if you order a coke. It's haunted.

What angered the ghost of William Morgan, who died in 1826? Was it a bad Filet-O-Fish Sandwich? A Not-So-Happy Meal?

In the mid-1970s, the restaurant manager said he saw apparitions and strange voices. A cleaning woman described the milky-white image of an old man who would appear in the pantry, and then vanish. After another sighting, a maintenance man quit.

Ghost hunters say Morgan was supposedly murdered after a few run-ins with the Free Masons, although mystery surrounds his death.

The McDonald's is located in Lewiston's Frontier House — where the Masons used to hold meetings. That may be why Morgan's forever ordering takeout.

The current manager says everyone in town knows about William Morgan's ghost, but there are fewer sightings now. Maybe he's decided to try Wendy's.

6. Killer Material: Talk about dying on stage: Many longtime performers at The Comedy Store in Los Angeles are not kidding when they say the nightclub is haunted.

The ghost of Sam Kinison is said to be heard screaming in the night about politics, sex and religion — much as he did when he was alive. The preacher-turned-shock-comic was on his way to a gig in 1992 when he was killed by a drunken driver.

"For years, we just took it for granted that spirits were hanging out — especially late in the evening," says Argus Hamilton, a longtime performer. "You could expect Kinison to haunt any comic who even thought of getting married."

Even before Kinison, paranormal investigators have been homing-in on The Comedy Store as a paranormal hotbed. The club was formerly Ciro's, a 1950s gangster hangout. So many ghosts have been spotted that Comedy Store owner Mitzi Shore had a team of ghost busters investigate the premises.

7. Laundry Room Gremlins: If you're a spook, you need a clean white sheet over your head. So you have to do laundry regularly.

With that in mind, don't make a fuss if you're in Eureka Springs, Ark., and an unearthly presence is hogging the dryers.

The laundry room at the Crescent Hotel is supposedly a hotbed for paranormal activity. In the 1930s, cancer patients from across the country came to Eureka Springs for an experimental treatment. But the doctor who promised them a cure turned out to be a quack, and they died miserable deaths.

Now, these detergent demons are said to rudely shove people out of the way. They've ripped jewelry from women's necks.

"The laundry room is right across from where the hospital morgue was," says Dana Petty, a ghost researcher. "So it was once an unhappy place."

Don't feel bad for the hotel operators. It's known in the resort industry that thrill-seeking tourists love ghosts. Many inns — like the Crescent Hotel — even boast that they're haunted, giving a whole new meaning to the "spirit" of capitalism.

At the Lizzie Borden House in Fall River, Mass., for $200 a night, guests can sleep in the very room where Lizzie allegedly took an ax and gave her stepmother 40 whacks. Of course, that room is booked solid every Halloween.

Should we pity all those unfortunate hotels that weren't built atop a morgue? Do you need real bloodstains on the carpet to attract Halloween tourists?

The Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando, Fla., is trying to scare up business this Halloween. If you dare, ask for a "guaranteed" haunted room. Blood oozes from the showerhead. Mirrors mysteriously crack in the middle of the night. And whatever you do — don't check under the bed. You may never check out.

These rooms are $585 a night, and that's scary enough for me. Even if the blood is just ketchup.

Buck Wolf is entertainment producerat ABCNEWS.com. The Wolf Files ispublished Tuesdays. If you want to receive weekly notice whena new column is published, join the e-maillist.

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