The Ghosts Haunting Silicon Valley Buildings: Does Yours Have One?

Image of Ghost

Tired of hearing that friendly "Howdy, Neighbor!" from the folks who live down the block?  How about the encroaching silence of a winter breeze followed by hollow footsteps falling beside you, matching your cadence as you peer over the breath on your shoulder to... nothing?

Did you ever think the odd chill you feel when you walk into a house may not be the air conditioning?  No?  Well, let's rest our left hemispheres for the moment and let our imaginations run for a little while.

As fortunes come, go, and IPO here in the only land that's had a gold rush in three different centuries, the Bay Area and its Valley of the Heart's Delight (now modern-day Silicon Valley) isn't without its own stories of mystery.

Winchester Mystery House, San Jose

Here in Silicon Valley we have the offspring of guilt and loneliness, a sprawling byzantine mansion whose body was contorted and twisted into a maze of corridors to stretching a mile into nowhere, with staircases into floorboards and windows peering nowhere else. 

The Winchester Mystery House is the progeny of one Ms. Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester Rifle Company fortune, whose story is one of unadulterated madness reflected in the continuing torture of this solitary Victorian property.  Our hero, the living mansion, was finally allowed to rest with the passing of poor, rich Ms. Winchester.

Mystery Spot, Santa Cruz

Reality is about perception and if people don't trust what they perceive to be true, what can they trust?  Q.E.D.  Quod erat demonstrandum.  Quod ego dico.  No hablo latin.

But your eyes will deceive you: they are designed to.  And with this deception comes magic and imagination, a world where your basic instincts about the rules of the universe, up and down, and what should be, are callously discarded. 

There are places where you can be an awakening child again, where the realm of possibility is once again endless and where the answers to life's basic questions are no longer carved in stone, but merely filled in with pencil.  Mystery Spot in Santa Cruz (an hour from Sunnyvale so we'll annex into Silicon Valley) is one of those places.

Revealing its hidden treasure, the eternal spring from which its power flows, would be like saying telling Virginia there is no Santa Claus or banning the Easter Bunny from Walnut Creek.  So, for its secret, make love not war... and stay away from Wikipedia.

Real Estate... Haunted?

Yes, my house is haunted but only with the Ghosts of Christmases past that I choose to reminisce about.  We laugh, we sing (offkey), and tell stories about the fish that got away.  They say that a casual glimpse into the past helps you see your future.  Yes, I'm just kidding but an active imagination helps keep you creative!

But some people can live in the world of the paranormal intuition and, in a reality where all the things great and small happen to good people, there is a site by Mary Pope-Handy. 

Dealing With Haunted Properties

Mary's site talks about what to do if you have a property which has been stigmatized in some way and includes everything from disclosing your ghosts to light-hearted pointers to recommended clairvoyants and psychics.  I have no idea what questions to use to see if their good at their jobs, but in this increasingly data-driven world, sometimes letting our minds meander off the beaten path is a welcome diversion.

Epilogue: My Experience with a Stigmatized Property, a Note to Agents

My most memorable moment in real estate came when I was previewing a stigmatized property.  An elderly gentleman there had committed suicide because of an extended illness and the family wanted to put it behind them and move out of the house.  This is understandable because the ghosts of people's memories surface all too frequently when you're being reminded of them.

I drove to the foothills and passed a gaggle or a gobble of wild turkeys that had setup camp on the road, and I figured that would be the strangest part of my afternoon.  It was a beautifully crisp day in the late autumn and I remember being slightly amused that the turkeys had survived Thanksgiving intact.  This was going to be a fun day.

The real estate agent showing me the property greeted me outside the door and reminded me that this was a stigmatized property --- which is a legal requirement here in California --- so I thought I was well-prepared.

The house itself would have been a proud, spacious mansion in my heart's home, New Orleans, but in this area, it was a peer to its neighbors and welcoming to boot.  I walked upstairs into a bedroom that had been used as a small office and saw that the floorboard had been exposed, its carpet and padding torn off recently in an eight-by-five foot area closest to a sliding mirror door obscuring an emptied closet. 

Strange, I thought, since this was the only room where the carpet was being replaced. 

Not so strange when I glanced at the ceiling... Needless to say, that was the end of the tour and I didn't contact that agent or their branch office ever again.  Come on, a little human decency please.