The people at work thought I was crazy because I wanted to spend the night in a haunted house.
It wasn't actually a house. It was a hotel, and I was excited about the prospect of seeing a real ghost for the very first time.
Oatie, the ghost I was really hoping to meet, is the resident poltergeist at the Oatman Hotel in Oatman. They say he's the ghost of William Ray Flour. As the story goes, he was supposed to meet his fiancé in Oatman, where they were to be married.
She never came, but William Ray flour continued to wait there in his room at the hotel. Other than that, very little is known about Mr. Flour, except that he reputedly was ornery and cantankerous.
Then one day in 1930, his body was found in the hills behind the hotel. No one seems to know how he died, but the love that kept him waiting in life now holds his restless spirit in death.
Perhaps he is hoping one of the female visitors to the hotel will be his intended bride.
Regardless, Oatie has become sort of a town mascot, with many of the shop owners and residents having at least one tale to tell.
I don't think I have ever seen a ghost. But there was one time when I was 15 and awoke during the night.
I saw my grandmother, who had passed away some months before, standing in my room between the bed and the door. She was wearing one of those ugly gray-black dresses I had always seen her wear.
She appeared to be looking at me, but because she didn't speak or move, I thought I was dreaming and went back to sleep.
Years later, I learned that my mother had hung some of my grandmother's clothes on the back of my bedroom door.
My younger sister told me that she, too, had some strange experiences and hated to go into that room, even to sleep.
A cook at the Oatman Hotel told me about an experience he had when he was 15, one that had nothing to do with Oatie.
His family had moved into a large apartment house in Oklahoma, and soon after moving in, they learned they would be sharing the place with a ghost, a woman with blond hair. She usually was spotted during the day, a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of the eye.
The family apparently hadn't paid much attention to the ghostly presence until the mother walked into the kitchen and saw it standing by the stove.
As the mom entered the kitchen, the ghost fled out the back screen door, making a "zisshing" sound as she passed through the wire mesh.
But, the most astounding tale came from the time the cook was laying on the bed listening to his stereo.
Although he knew he was alone in the house, he could feel someone sit down on the side of his bed.
Then he felt a strange tingling sensation as the ghost reclined on the bed beside him.
Surprised and a little frightened, he jumped out of the bed and fled the room. Then, after thinking about it, he wished he hadn't been so impetuous. He said it was a great feeling.
One of the cocktail waitresses told of seeing the spirit of her uncle, who had been in a coma after a plane crash.
She said the phone woke her from sleep one night. As she opened her eyes, she saw her uncle's spirit standing at the foot of her bed.
He told her he loved her and admonished her to finish what she had started. Then, he said he had to leave and he disappeared.
She answered the ringing phone, and her aunt on the other end of the line told her that her uncle had just passed away.
A waitress at the Mission Café told me Oatie is a frequent visitor to her kitchen, rattling plates, playing with the stove and being a general nuisance.
Having long since gotten past the shock of his strange behavior, she calls out, "Oatie, behave yourself," and the mischief usually stops.
A maid at the Oatman Hotel told of the time she was cleaning floors and looked up to see a man with a shaggy, gray beard and wearing a long, brown coat. She knew there were no guests at the hotel at the time and she suspected she was seeing Oatie.
The figure walked down the hall, entered a room and disappeared. She said it wasn't the first experience she had had with Oatie, but it was the first time she had seen him.
I had been awake for nearly 36 hours and was beginning to feel tired. Leaving my loving and adventurous wife, Geni, to her own devices, I went upstairs at the Oatman Hotel for a nap.
I had planned to sleep for only a couple of hours, but didn't wake until 12:30 a.m.
I jerked awake and sat up suddenly on the edge of the bed. I looked across and saw that Geni was awake, too, so we decided to go out and see more of the town.
Walking the deserted, late-night streets of Oatman, I lit a cigarette and wished for a cup of coffee.
Geni told me all of the shops had closed at 5 p.m., while I was napping, and nothing would be open again until 9 a.m.
As we walked slowly down the dark street, and I asked her, "Did you see Oatie?" She is much more sensitive that I am, and I would expect her to see something if anyone could.
"I think so," she said. "Although, I didn't really seem him so much as feel him.
I woke up just a few minutes before you did and could feel someone pushing against my feet. Then, there was a bright light in the room. My eyes were closed but the light was so bright I could still see it. Then you woke up and the light vanished."
"Bummer," I thought. I had really wanted to see him. But, I guess the dead can't wake the dead-asleep.
We continued to walk. A few scattered lights illuminated the empty street.
Some shops had dim lights burning in the deep recesses of the store. I had always joked about towns that roll up their sidewalks in the evening.
We couldn't even find a vending machine where I could get a Pepsi.
Returning to the hotel, I unlocked the front door and stood for a minute longer, finishing my cigarette.
The distant barking of a lone dog was the only sound that penetrated the haunting stillness. It seemed a fitting conclusion to my night in a one-ghost town.