Haunted Lives: True Ghost Stories II Halloween DEEP DIVE Review
Written By Ezekiel McAdams
October 7 2022
This series is part of Creepy Gecko, a space during October specifically designed to embrace Halloween, supernatural, paranormal and spooky tales.
I don’t remember when I first discovered the series of three specials of Haunted Lives True Ghost Stories or Real Ghosts as it was retitled in the final special as well as in syndication or international markets.
I believe it was on one the FOX or UPN channels that we had in Canada. I remember watching the second instalment, alone in my parent’s room and then subsequently being so scared and visibly shook up that I slept with my Grandma that night.
I remember the following day at school, the ideas just rotating in my head like a rotisserie chicken on a spit. I was both fascinated with these stories and also chilled just thinking if that could happen to me?
I suddenly got anxious “what if, just thinking of the ghosts they would visit me” I pondered, just the thought shivered me to the bone.
Over the years, I never forgot the special or the stories; it was the title that escaped me. So many paranormal series or specials begin with “Haunted” or “Ghosts”.
It became a driving force when I wanted to recap and review this. Other then the blurbs in the newspapers at the time who usually came up with a pun or a joke at the special’s existence, there really wasn’t a lot of information available.
Clanton is berating his son, Rick “Ricky” (Joe Colligan) over the craftsmanship of shelves he bought, before breaking it with his fist.
Clanton then tells his son, he’s going down the road for a couple of beers and if his wife asks, he’s at the plant. Ricky’s sons come in the shed and Clanton explodes at the young child, warning his son, that if this happens again, he can find another workshop.
Clanton is drinking at the Original Sante Fe Club Saloon, with a woman, Cindy.
Clanton’s co-workers arrive, sent by union leaders from the Plant try to persuade him not to cause trouble with management. He rebuffs their advice and calls them slobs, which leads to a small altercation.
It’s not clear if Clanton is having an affair with Cindy or not but they were quite friendly.
Bumstead radiates a strong presence as Clanton. His ability to be absolutely insufferable and stubborn is glaringly memorable. Like Clanton himself, Bumstead's presence rules over the segment.
On April third of that year, Clanton is driving home from work on his motorcycle when he is sideswiped by an oncoming truck.
During the funeral, the family is shocked to discover that Clanton’s body won’t close his eyes, despite numerous attempts.
Strange occurrences continue for the Clanton family. Rick hears a disembodied voice coming from the engine of his car, a voice on the radio “saying “I know why I died.”
After repeated visits to several family members, a meeting is held and Rick’s brother Tim, wants a psychic to exercise the spirit, fearing his father’s ghost has back for vengeance. Rick disagrees believing that his father wants something. Rick ponders whether his father was set up and murdered while Tim angrily rejects the notion saying even after his father’s death, Rick is still following him.
This was one of the stories that terrified me. Braverman did such a good job at causing uneasiness and anxiety that as a child, I worried about the ghost of Bob Clanton following me around or worse hiding in an enclosed area of my house.
Behind the scenes of the haunting
The production crew interviewed Rick Clanton and his son, Christopher.
Rick claims that he has seen his father multiple times and his son, Christopher has spoken to his grandfather.
Rick’s brother Tim also claims to have seen his father.
Christopher claims to have seen his grandfather’s ghost by his grandmother’s bed trying to talk to her.
Rick still believes his father’s unfinished business is uncovering the true nature of his father’s death, still believing Bob Clanton to be murdered.
Paul claimed that Clanton had told them, that he needed to get things straight on this side before he could move on.
What's the real story? Legend vs Research
Bob Clanton died August 3 1989 in a motorcycle accident near Keller. He was 49. A former machinist at General Dynamics plant, Clanton stirred up trouble everywhere he went and made his family miserable when he was alive.
In a piece in the Fort Worth Star Telegram on September 23 1992, Valerie Harris detailed accounts of him printing anti management slogan t-shirts giving the finger. He would hand them out at work and force his family to as well.
As there have been no other public reports its unclear if Bob Clanton's ghost continues to overstay his welcome.
Terror For Rent
Their fights continued into violent, irrational rages, now the once best friends were on the brink of divorce.
In a brief hiatus from the constant combating, the couple begin to reconcile. Suddenly Kyle is alerted to the fact the lights were left on the house, despite turning them off. He begins to open the door, when he is signed by the red hot door handle.
Once inside, the couple find the temperature has been turned up up and their personalities begin to shift into their violent counterparts.
They discover the fridge door ajar and the food inside now rotten. Rita finds all the cutlery stacked in the sink and asks Kyle if this is a sick joke. Kyle feels displaced and realizes something is wrong but it is too late, Rita comes after him with a knife. “If you want a mess, I’ll give you a mess. A bloody mess” she snarls.
Kyle breaks the hold momentarily on Rita convincing her it’s the house and that he loves her. They feel a strong force trying to keep them in the house. As Rita escapes, Kyle suddenly sees a shadow figure appear and blast him backwards with a wave of red energy. Rita grabs her husband and they leave.
This story captivated me because I’ve always found the idea of a house that’s alive or a mind of its own fascinating. Those are my favourite haunted house stories such as The House on Haunted Hill or Stephen King’s Rose Red.
The idea that a house had will of its own whether spirits or demonic activity is terrifying. I remember worried that I might cross into a house that was evil and a red shape would control my every emotion, not letting me escape.
Behind the scenes of the haunting
The production team met with the couple, Rita and Kyle Matheson are likely pseudonyms.
Christopher Chacon and the team of Office of Scientific Investigation and Research were called in to see if they could help or explain the phenomena. They tried to research and document the activity for sixteen months.
Chacon explained that they documented doors closing, objects being moved and kitchen cupboards and drawers opening and the camera being damaged.
Rita fears that the entity will find them and that it wasn’t personal. Kyle recounted that he had multiple injuries; fractured jaw, broken nose, break in an eye socket and a cracked tooth. The couple recalled they couldn’t be in each other’s presence without hostility and as soon as they would leave the house they would feel normal.
What's the real story? Legend vs Research
Sadly, this one is harder to parse through. It was a private residence and investigation and Kyle and Rita Matheson are likely pseudonyms.
Christopher Chacon and partner Loyd Auerbach, renowned parapsychologist and researcher opened the Office of Paranormal Investigations in Orina, California, June 1989. At some point the organization was renamed to Office of Scientific Investigation and Research (O.S.I.R.)
If that seems familiar it's mostly likely because it shared the name with a 90's tv series, Psi Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal. A co-production between Canada and the States it was co-created by Chacon and Ghostbuster himself, Dan Aykroyd and his brother Peter. It ran for four seasons from 1996-2000 in syndication.
It is unclear what happened to the organization, Auerbach is still a researcher and Chacon now consults for Hollywood productions.
As of this publication date, there has been no public information on the case, the house, the couple who lived there in 1991 and no known reports from other residents or the home’s owner.
The last segment is written by Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin.
For many ghost story or paranormal buffs, this tale is not as obscure and is well documented.
In 1990, Doretta (Laura Waterbury) and Ron (Steven Barr) Johnson buy an abandoned hotel in Madison, Indiana that they felt they could renovate and also turn into a day care that Doretta always wanted. They have two children, teenager Steve (Jared Rushton) and a young daughter, Ashley.
Immediately, the family has strange occurrences, Doretta’s daughter Ashley telling her that someone is trying to hurt her doll. Coming home from a visit at their Grandmother’s, Steve jokes about ghosts, scaring his sister Ashley. “The noises in the attic could have been rotting mummies from hell, waking from years of cursed sleep.” He larked.
Rushton plays Steve with such affable, salty vigor.. Rushton notable known from Honey I Shrunk The Kids as Ron Thompson makes the most of every line. He easily weaves from deprecation, annoyance to fear.
Waterbury portrays Doretta with a spark of intrigue yet at her wits end and shows genuine fear and terror. She is the centre that grounds the segment.
Steve’s affable demeanour soon shifts when the family walks into the living room to dozens of dead crows and blood dripping from the wall. When Ron tries to think of a rational explanation, the light bulbs explode.
Doretta is giving Ashley a bath joking about the ghosts, when she sees an image of a ghost girl in the reflection of the water. Frightened, she hits the water but the reflection remains.
The couple bring a priest to perform an exorcism and cautions them that the house is evil and to get out.
Doretta and Ron argue about finances, with Ron feeling trapped by the mortgage. They find comfort in each other with Doretta loving joking “You may be a sucker, but you’re my sucker.”
Their comfort is soon ended by the appearance of a little ghost girl crying out “Mommy, I’m cold!” Doretta suggests helping her but a clasp of thunder prevents them and the ghost vanishes.
This was the story that scared me so bad, I ran to my grandma when I couldn’t sleep. For weeks I thought about this story. I wasn’t familiar with the Amityville house so a family fleeing their home was new to me.
For some reason, I remembered an evil magician whose ghost had a hold over the house. I remember being so excited years later when I discovered that the motel had a name and there was more information available.
Behind the scenes of the haunting
The production team interviewed Doretta, Ron and their two children, Steven and Ashley.
Doretta recalled a terrifying incident where an entity was biting her daughter, and asked to bit instead. Steven said he had bruises all over his body. Doretta told another incident where Ashley was over her bed with a butcher knife and a blank expression on her face.
The family moved but the activity followed them so they relented and retreated back to the house. Doretta explained her reasoning. “People keep saying how could you go back? There was no other choice. I had to go back to find the answers to stop the violence, the anger, whatever is attaching itself to us and follow us. It’s like a standoff.”
What's the real story? Legend vs Research
The second special is by far my favourite of the three. The stories still creep me out and linger in my mind but they also continue to engage me. I’m fascinated by the evil house in Van Nuys, did Christopher Chacon and the team have any conclusive findings? Was the house constantly for rent? How long did the Clanton family see the spirit of Bob?
I feel if people can get past the 90s aesthetic of this special that they can enjoy these fun, creepy stories.
Braverman did an excellent job with the direction. The atmosphere is tense and the actors are both engaging and convincing. The writers, Gendel, Goldman and Rabkin produce realistic dialogue even if at times if it can come across as corny or hokey.
It would be nice for a remaster or making these specials available on digital download, dvd or blu ray or on a streaming service. In a time where content and library is king, this would be a perfect addition to any Halloween catalogue.
Haunted Lives: True Ghost Stories is from Four Point Entertainment. It is not known to be on dvd, blu ray, digital purchase, demand or streaming services currently
Haunted Lives: True Ghost Stories aired on CBS September 23 1992 as part of a special. It was created by Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo. Most known for a book series of sports trivia. The duo later wrote a series of ghost stories, Haunted Kids catered to children that were purported to be based on true events.
The second special had a production change. Leonard Nimoy is no longer the narrator. Tobe Hooper who directed the first special is no longer involved. Neither are Gilbert Adler who was the producer and Nicholas Pike who did the music. Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo are still involved as well as producer Ron Ziskin.
Stacy Keach replaces Nimoy as narrator and Charles Braverman is the new director. Janice Cooke-Leonard is co-producer and the special is produced by Steve Beers.
The first segment is written by Morgan Gendel.
Keach replaces Nimoy’s previous earnest delivery with a slightly gruffer approach.
The story begins in 1989 in Double Oak, Texas, which is near Dallas. Patriarch Bob Clanton (J.P. Bumstead) is described as a hot tempered, obstinate man, who rules over his extended family with unpredictable fear.
Rick decides to peruse the idea that his father was murdered but hits a dead end when the assistant county prosecutor refused to assist lacking any evidence of foul play.
The family is alarmed when green slime begins oozing underneath the walls, and urges Rick to get help, fearing this is their father’s anger retaliating. Rick refuses, wanting to keep this a family matter, afraid what a stranger might think.
The green slime easily evokes comparisons to The Amityville Horror haunting in the novel and film adaptation as well as the ectoplasm in Ghostbusters. You could add the Monster Blood from Goosebumps as well as countless other forms of media to the list.
As an aside, why is the slime green? Do ghosts consume a lot of Jello?
Rick goes looking for the source of the green slime, which appears to be ectoplasm. Fearing his father is behind him, Rick does what most people do in these types of stories, wishes the spirit gone but when Rick turns out around he is horrified to be face to face with the grim spectre of his father’s spirit.
Now determined to rid the family of his father, Rick agrees to a séance and contacts two renowned psychics from Dallas, Dwanna Paul and Carol Williams.
The psychic contacts Clanton’s ghost and feels the pain that he brought on others. Clanton’s ghost apologizes to Rick and disappears.
The second segment is written by Lee Goldman and William Rabkin.
A landlord in Van Nuys, California finally found tenants for his house to rent in a quiet neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley. Previously tenants rarely stayed long, most left after a month, some after a night reporting the same thing, shadows and strange noises.
The landlord rebuked the claims as nonsense. How could a beautiful home with three bedrooms, two baths, a spa, pool and spacious kitchen be haunted?
Kyle (Peter Deluise) and Rita (Jeri Gaile) Matheson moved in and immediately started going at each other’s throats. Things would be peaceful but the longer they stayed inside the home, their demeanour would change from angry outbursts to vindictive rage.
Rita would criticize him about not helping with the dishes and Kyle would retort that her art classes are stupid and that he busts his butt to pick up apples she can sketch from.
The quarrels would turn violent in one instance with Rita attacking Kyle with a broken dish.
To dramatize the effect, the production utilized a red cloud whenever the house exerted its dark energy over the couple.
They contact a parapsychologist team from the university, believing the cause was magnetic field via an intersection of three power lines above their house. Relieved that help is coming, Steve boats that the tables will be turned it is then we he sees the word bad written in the steamed mirror.
They have no time to think as their children’s screams pierce the air. Their beds violently shaking, as Ron goes to collect Steve, blue light emerges and breaks the windows.
Doretta and Ron with their two children lay defeated on the lawn. “Let them have their damn house. We’re never going back” she hurls back at the house and the spirits.
While there doesn't appear to be an local Indiana articles or national ones, this case was very public as Doretta Johnson went on several paranormal docuseries including Sightings and Paranormal Witness more recently.
On the episode on Paranormal Witness, the motel was referred to as the Windrift Motel but there doesn't appear to be any local articles or public records so its possible it was created for the series.
Doretta wrote a book on her ordeal and experiences entitled The People in Attic that was published in 1995
As of this publication date, it is not known if the Johnsons still occupy the home or have had any more experiences.