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Living with a ghost

PBS host may share his Del Mar home with ‘spirit’ of late actress

By Jeff Lehmann

Host of “Weekend Explorer”

If ghosts exist, then my house is haunted.

A Del Mar native, I have lived in a dozen houses, most of them on Coast Boulevard. Nothing out of the ordinary ever happened to me - until I moved into this house in October 1999.

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I had a roommate at the time and within just a couple of weeks we were both startled from our rooms at 3 a.m. by the TV that had turned on by itself. We stood with dropped jaws as the TV showed a weird horizontal split screen of a soccer match and a fashion show. After a minute, we turned the TV off and then on again. We searched the only 60 or so cable channels we had at the time, but couldn’t find either of these programs.

I joked it must be a ghost. This television had never done anything like this in my previous abode, but now it continued at random times to turn itself on.

Shortly afterwards, local and Del Mar historian Don Terwilliger told me in conversation that World War II starlet and pin-up girl Betty Grable, famously known for her “million dollar legs,” lived in my house with her mother during the summer. Since she was the only person that I knew of that was not still alive that had lived in this house, the next time something strange happened I said jokingly, “it’s the ghost of Betty Grable.”

With my mechanical engineering background, I was convinced that there must be a logical explanation. I was sure when I got my new HD flat screen that it would be the last of Betty. Almost immediately, the new TV started being weird including turning itself on. Not only that, now the TV in my bedroom and my two boom boxes in different rooms started acting up.

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The TV in my bedroom is a small TV-VHS combo unit. I was staying up too late one work night and I heard a noise from my room. The TV screen was all snow and the VHS slot cover was opening and closing rapidly making it seem every bit like it was trying to talk to me.

I got Betty’s message and went to sleep.

The very next time I was up a little too late, a few months later, the same exact thing happened. This made the hair on my neck stand straight up! It seemed too extreme of a coincidence.

From that point on, I started to write a ghost diary and have a video camera at the ready. I have recorded a number of occurrences from the boom box playing two radio stations perfectly tuned-in at the same time to the garage door spontaneously opening and closing in the middle of the night, again as if it were trying to talk.

Still, most encounters have been too fleeting or too subtle to catch on video. These include the violent flicking of the brass handles on my grandmother’s antique china clutch to the feeling of an icy cold hand grabbing one of my feet in bed. Although disquieting, I still feel Betty is benevolent.

I have never seen Betty, and I’m not sure I believe in ghosts. Still, if I’m being haunted, it might as well be a blonde beauty with million dollar legs!