“Death is a part of life, but when the dead invade the space of the living, strange things do go on,” Taimi Dunn Gorman writes in Haunted Fairhaven: The Busy Lives of the Active Dead, a compendium of ghost stories and creepy tales focused on the historic waterfront district.
Although she’s been interested in the phenomena of things that go bump in the night since the 1980s, Gorman says it wasn’t until recently that she put her decades of research—and firsthand experience with spooky scenarios—into play to produce the book, which came out last July.
Even if you’ve never felt your neck hairs stand at attention while shopping or strolling in Fairhaven, that doesn’t mean the ghosts aren’t lurking somewhere nearby, Gorman posits. She’s not just speaking from personal experience; in addition to researching 19th century newspapers for murders, suicides, weird deaths and other odd occurrences, she’s compiled first-person accounts from those who live and work in Fairhaven and brought in teams of psychics and photographers to beckon forth the supernatural specters that reside there.
“Despite all of the growth and change, the spirits of those who have passed are still found here, wandering the old brick buildings and playing tricks on the living,” Gorman writes in the first chapter. “Read on to discover how the past interacts with the present in Historic Fairhaven and how the deceased still choose to make it their home.”
From Fairhaven’s “spirit portal,”—the Mason Block Building—to Harris Avenue haunts, the brothels of Ninth Street, and the tragedies of the Monahan Building, to the cowboy ghost of the Board of Trade Bar, chapters focus on particular spots where paranormal activity has taken place.
For example, one chapter, titled “Something Nasty in the Basement,” delves into the goings-on at the Dos Padres building on Harris Avenue. In an interview with a longtime bartender named Joey, Gorman finds out more about the ghostly activity there, as well as a 2007 fire whose cause was never determined—and eerily similar to a fire that had destroyed several buildings in the 1920s.
Unfortunately, Gorman writes, the latest fire “had burned the framed ghost pictures I had hoped to see. Ghost sightings and experiences in the building were so common they had actually posted photographs in the bar.”
As she does throughout the rest of the book, Gorman links the present-day happenings with the past, and uncovers the fact that the basement of the building used to be a meat market—not to mention the fact that other business residents in the space died in mysterious ways, such as being lost at sea, committing suicide and being shot.
With Joey and other employees telling tales of black apparitions, mysterious hair-pulling and appliances going wonky, Gorman and invited psychics set up shop one “dark and stormy” night.
To get a full report of what happened that evening—and the rest of the time the psychics and the author spent delving into the haunted hideouts throughout Fairhaven—you’ll have to buy a copy of the book or show up to ask Gorman questions at the reading she’ll be giving Oct. 28 at Village Books.
“Spirits are still active at Dos Padres, both upstairs and down,” Gorman allows. “If you’re lucky (or not), you may get to meet them.”
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