Say hello to another Halloween, a day famous for ghosts, goblins and things that go bump in the night. That makes it pretty much like any other day for Phyllis King and Loyd Auerbach.

King, a psychic who lives in San Ramon, discovered her portal to the afterlife more than three decades ago when a deceased teenage acquaintance made a startling appearance in her room. She since has helped dozens of clients communicate with dead friends and relatives.

Auerbach, a parapsychologist who lives in Martinez and teaches at HCH Institute in Lafayette, is a specialist in paranormal investigations. He's studied more than 1,000 apparitions, hauntings and poltergeists in a career spanning more than 30 years.

Neither attaches any mysticism to Oct. 31, but the occasion does provide a dandy excuse to explore a world they have embraced and most of us prefer to ignore.

Paranormal experiences run the gamut, Auerbach said, from the explainable to the otherworldly. He cites as an example of the former his first investigation, in 1979, when a Petaluma woman reported seeing household objects moving, windows opening and closing and a ghost clad in black armor.

"There were no ghosts," he concluded after extensive study. "What the woman was seeing was an unconsciously created image of physical stuff happening. It was my first poltergeist case, caused by her unconscious ability to do mind-over-matter tantrums."


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A less explainable phenomenon came years later in Livermore, where four family members saw a female ghost move about their house but never discussed it among themselves until a 12-year-old in the family volunteered that he knew everyone was seeing a ghost.

"His mother asked, 'How do you know that?'" Auerbach said. "He said, 'The ghost told me.'"

When asked about the spirit who had talked to him, the boy shared details of the ghost's long-ago life, which he had no way of knowing but were later confirmed by her surviving relative.

Both Auerbach and King say spirits sometimes simply "hang around" a location for reasons unknown. King experienced such a presence in the company of six psychics during a convention in Long Beach. In a stateroom aboard the Queen Mary where cigar-puffing Winston Churchill was known to have stayed, they all heard indistinguishable chatter, on and off, accompanied by the smell of cigar smoke.

King reaches out to the dead only at the request of clients. She can sense a spirit's willingness to be contacted by a change in the "texture" of the energy or by a sudden chill that makes her "goosebumpy." Her clients mostly are women. Men tend to be disbelievers.

Auerbach, who said hauntings can involve people who are still alive, recalled one in Westchester County, just north of New York City. A couple who'd lived in their house for only a few months reported hearing noisy groaning and moaning that sounded like amorous activity in the next bedroom at 3 a.m. nearly every night.

Auerbach discovered that years before, when windows were left open on spring and fall nights, the young couple who previously owned the house often had awakened the next-door neighbors with their enthusiastic cavorting in the wee hours.

"Somehow," said Auerbach, "that young couple had left a real significant, positive imprint on that location."

It seems not every bump in the night has to be something bad.

Contact Tom Barnidge at tbarnidge@bayareanewsgroup.com.