A true ghost story

William Covington | 10/26/2011, 5 p.m.

Los Angeles resident Robert Jackson [not his real name] tells the story of a boarder who apparently never left the premises he was renting.

The problem was, he had died many years before.

Jackson's in-laws bought the property in the early 1980s. It had originally been owned by the local Catholic Church and made into a home for nuns. His wife's parents immediately turned the property into a boardinghouse and began taking in male boarders.

In 1983, one of the boarders died and, curiously, Jackson said, beside himself none of the family members remembered or ever spoke of the boarder. Of course, Jackson thought that was strange. The man was not easy to forget since he was wheelchair-bound and a dapper dresser.

On the other hand, Jackson felt the collective memory loss may have had something to do with the fact that the boarder was an inveterate complainer who constantly charged that someone was taking his things and that nothing was safe in the house. Although the family knew this was not true, it was an annoying habit that bothered the family and other boarders. However, over time the family learned to ignore the elderly man.

The boarder had another annoying habit. He liked being noticed, and he jumped into other people's conversation without being invited, often boring into their personal business.

Around the holiday season in 1984, the family turned the home into a private residence, and on any given weekend you could usually find most of the family gathered there--the elderly parents, their children and their grandchildren.

But, according to Jackson, there were always strange goings-on in the house. And there was a standing joke among the younger family members about an unofficial houseguest that was believed to reside in the front bedroom. But the owners, sweet senior citizens both, refused to accept such an idea.

Damelle, 30, a grandson who suffers from sickle-cell anemia, said he first encountered the apparition around 1986, when he was 6 or 7. The incident happened on a weekend when the house was filled with people, as it usually was on the weekends.

The youth, while in the company of several other preteens, started laughing, as if he might have been watching one of the world's funniest comics. Of course, he captured the other youths' attention, and they ran to him trying to discover what caused such an outburst of laughter.

"What's so funny, Damelle?" they asked.

Between giggles, Damelle turned the question on them, "What's wrong with you guys? Don't you think the man is funny?" He pointed to the center of the room.

"He keeps making funny faces and playing with me," said Damelle. "How come you guys are not laughing?"

Damelle pointed again. "Look, he's so funny," he said.

When the laughter subsided, a female cousin asked Damell if the man was still there.

"No," Damelle said. "He went to the back of the house, towards a bedroom."

Jackson remembers that there was a conversation among the adults surrounding the incident, conducted in such a way as to keep the grandchildren from knowing what was being said, but a few of the adult relatives felt the so-called sighting was a result of Damelle's sickle-cell medication.