Last night, I had the distinct pleasure of experiencing a mixture of the finest camp and history this city has to offer.
I had found a link to this trolley tour on the same page where a trolley wine cruise had been advertised, and was very happy I had clicked it. There were many pictures and accounts of how fun the tour was, and after a look on Yelp, I found many more accounts of people, young and old, who were enthralled with the guide leading the tour.
So when my husband and I boarded the double-decker bus advertising the tour, we were introduced to Gary, the guide, and Clay, the bus driver, who were both instantly friendly. Gary invited us onboard, and we waited upstairs, me being totally giddy, for what we were about to experience.
Once we were finally moving, I noted with glee that the atmosphere was also setting us up for a night of fun – there was campy horror music being blared through the speakers, the bus was tall enough to slap into many tree branches, startling me to no end, and the way Gary told each story was chock full of typical horror treats. I was massively entertained the entire time, and really enjoyed how the tour went.
We mostly went to nondescript buildings in the area, some we had already passed once or twice during our travels to Fisherman’s Wharf and the Aquarium, but of course, the nighttime sky added a necessary sense of gloom around each one. We were treated to historical accounts of many early residents in the 1800’s, and shown places where many hangings and slaughterings had occurred. Each one was dotted with an exclamation point of how Gary had recently experienced some other paranormal phenomenon recently during one of his many tours. This definitely added to the overall camp and also instilled a little good-natured heebie-jeebieness to my experience. We were then allowed to explore for a few minutes at each place, where my husband and I found windows to peer in (complete with little orbs of light….computer lights, of course), and large twisted cypress trees that were extremely creepy in the darkness.
Finally, we were taken to a graveyard, where we were walked through and over many tombstones in order to find the grave markers of those we had learned about and other poor departed souls. I found this to be one of the creepiest parts of the tour, as I have never been a fan of graveyards, and felt all the hairs on the back of my neck stand up the entire slog through. I know better than to think anything paranormal was going to happen, but it didn’t matter, as I find tramping through the final resting place of so many old and recently departed people creepy as hell, and a little disrespectful. We were also taken by the San Carlos Cathedral, which was very beautiful to behold in the darkness. I have never really been more than casually pleased by the appearance of churches, but seeing it by moonlight was memorable, and well-placed on the tour route.
The entire time I was observing things on the tour, I kept thinking about how much I have been fascinated by ghost stories. All my life, I have sought them out. I read the basic ones when I was a child, and became familiar with the Woman in White, La Llorona (The Weeping Woman), and all the urban legends. I broadened my interest by consuming horror movies, and as a college student, invested time and money in Victorian ghost stories, and the differing accounts of the same ghosts that vary from region to region. I think what has me so fascinated is the same thing that draws me to fairy tales as well – variation. There are typical formulas to both ghost stories and fairy tales, and I have always wanted to be a part of that genre. I think a good ghost story stays with you, and that is why everyone tells them around the campfire. The same goes for fairy tales – thanks to Disney, fairy tales remain the favored kind of oral story told at the bedside of children. People are fascinated with the magical tale of morality, and this extends to ghost stories, I think. A reminder to “be good or else” that is begun in our infancy and carried through to our adult lives. Yet we like to push the boundary and engage in a kind of controlled danger through the viewing (or reading) of a good horror story…to remind us that we are alive, even if by voyeuristic purposes.
The stories of these people I learned last night, and their subsequent conversion from unfortunate history to cautionary ghost tale fascinates and inspires me. I leave Monterey with a returned sense of adventure.
Gary had cheekily warned us that the ghosts he spoke of often followed us home…… I guess he was kind of right.