By Trent Rentsch
Here’s a whole new definition of a bad day. You’ve been running your tail off for hours. Hot, sweaty, exhausted, all you can think about is washing off the grime, wolfing down some hot grub, and hitting the bunk for a few Z’s. You stand under the lukewarm shower, letting the water set your mind adrift to a place thousands of miles away… a refuge from the responsibility and stress that marks this time in your life. In your thoughts you float toward home, loved ones smiling and reaching out to you… when suddenly reality intrudes. It comes in the form of an enemy torpedo, which explodes through the bulkhead and into the shower facility you happen to be standing in. How long does it take to get over a day like that, a day literally from Hell? If you believe some, death plus 60 years hasn’t been long enough.
The ghost in question may still be getting his frustrations out aboard the decommissioned USS North Carolina. Now permanently anchored in Wilmington, NC, the North Carolina was one of America’s greatest battleships in World War II, and now serves as a memorial to the sailors who fought and died in that conflict. But as the caretaker of the battleship will tell you, the memorial has not quieted at least one spirit. And I tend to agree, because I heard the old spook.
The talk show host I produce did a show about ghosts on Halloween (go figure). We both hit it off with the Ghost Hunters who joined us on the air that day, due in no small part because Jerry and I are both crazy for this paranormal stuff. So when the Ghost Hunters asked us to join them on an investigation that was inspired by a phone call during the show, we were all over it. I was especially excited because when the caller had mentioned crazy things happening aboard “that old ship in Wilmington,” I could corroborate the story. I had felt something odd, for want of a better word, in several rooms the first time I visited the ship. Here was a chance to find out if I had just been creeping myself out.
Before I go any further, I want to stress that these aren’t people playing Ghostbusters. All of them were very professional and had a serious eye and ear for detail. In fact they had been quick to point out that 95% of the cases they investigated were squirrels in the attic or wind in the rainspouts. When something lands in that 5% of the unexplainable, you can be sure that they’ve exhausted all the possibilities. And while they continue to go over the evidence of our trip to the USS North Carolina, it certainly seemed that there was some 5% stuff happening.
For one thing, two of the camcorders that they set up and left in supposed “hot spots” of the ship turned themselves off. No sounds of footsteps, no fumbling with the off switch, no shadows on the tape before it happened, they just stopped. Then there was the picture they sent me after the event. It clearly showed a faint ball of light floating over some of the investigators, what they called an “orb,” that cannot be explained by a light flare or dust on the lens. And then there’s the close encounter my wife and I had while walking near the ship’s sickbay with several of the investigators. What we heard came from down the hall and around the corner; the sound of heavy yet quick footsteps, followed by a wooden door shutting. Slower to jump to conclusions that I am, the Ghost Hunters started yelling “Hello,” thinking that one of the other media-types who joined us that night had stumbled into our “sector.” When nobody called back, we ran around the corner and saw nothing but rows of wooden doors… all padlocked shut on our side.
If you don’t believe in ghosts, you’re probably thinking that I’m nuts as you read this. It doesn’t matter. I was there, I know what I heard, I know what we all experienced. I also interviewed Danny Bradshaw, who has been the overnight caretaker on the ship for over 25 years. He told us stories of his experiences with the ghost(s) that seem beyond belief, yet I could feel that he was perfectly sincere and far from a crackpot. So while the paranormal investigators are still reviewing the data, I’m already convinced that at least one sailor lost years ago has not left the ship.
To truly be creative is to believe in the unreal. The idea that “comes out of nowhere” is an example. You know the one I’m talking about… you agonize over copy points for hours with nothing to show for it, yet when you take a break for a Diet Coke, a flash of inspiration strikes as the can falls from the machine. Even more amazing are the ads that “write themselves,” the ones that immediately come to you like turning on a light switch. This is not metaphysics; it’s proof that there’s more to what’s going on in our noggins than we give ourselves credit for. Being creative is more than knowing what EQ setting will make a human voice punchier or that the sound of a blender is on sfx disc 13. Being creative requires faith in the unknown qualities that put all of pieces together, that deliver the unique twists and turns that make something REALLY creative. Ghost, Muse, or the boundless energy of the creative mind, it’s important to believe in whatever opens the locked door.