Haunted Lives: True Ghost Stories III (Real Ghosts) 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 specials or the stories; it was the title that escaped me. So many paranormal series or special 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.
The first story takes place at the Phi Gamma Delta frat house at Kansas State University. Josh Pickering (Christopher Daniel Barnes) is a perspective pledge at the fraternity house and meets Adam Wagner (Matthew Kaminski), Lewis (Brian McGrail) and Termite (Seth Green), Josh’s new big brother.
Josh inquires about a screaming girl running out and Termite explains it was probably just Duncan, the resident ghost who looks out for pledges.
Josh meets Michael (Rugg Williams) in “The Racks” the nickname for the frat house attic. They don’t get a moment to relax when they are hazed by Lewis. They are tasked with scrubbing the entire kitchen with a toothbrush.
Daniel Barnes is a very likeable lead embodying every man qualities that make you instantly root for. Green is fine as Termite, easily spewing exposition and making it look easy and realistic.
Josh begins to encounter strange incidents such as his laptop typing the words Duncan repeatedly, the toilet being flushed when he’s in the slower alone. Stepping out to catch the offender, Josh notices a streamed bathroom mirror with the words Duncan on it.
During an alumni meet, Josh encounters Wally Marshall (F. William Parker), an old member of the fraternity. While showing Wally the library, the old member has a vision of past events and has a heart attack. Michael asks Lewis if there’s anything wrong with the library, and he punishes them by making them sleep there
While looking through yearbooks, one of the books falls off the shelf and flips open revealing an old group photo that includes Wally Marshall and someone named Duncan Palmer.
They hear a creak and suddenly, Lewis, Termite and Adam Wagner burst in the room wearing masks.
Impressed with his prank, Lewis starts laughing until the ghost of Duncan Palmer (Ron Carlson) appears to him. No one else can see anything and wonder if it’s another one of Lewis’ antics.
Adam decides after Lewis ran off that they need to hold a seance and see if they can contact Duncan and allow him to rest.
They see a vision of Duncan’s last test as a pledge, in order to gain membership he must be paddled by the other fraternity brothers. Led by a younger Wally Marshall, Duncan is accidentally killed and his death was covered up.
After the seance Josh decides to leave the frat house, that night there is an electrical fire and Duncan appears to Josh in a dream and urges him to wake up.
Josh bolts up and gets everyone outside safely.
After the fire, Josh decides to stay and asks the brothers if they can make Duncan Palmer a member. They have a ceremony and give him a ring. After everyone leaves, Duncan’s ghost takes the ring, admires it and vanishes.
This segment wasn’t one of my favourites, its possible that haunted frat houses have become blasé, however it was a true delight to watch Christopher Daniel Barnes, voice of the 90s Spider-Man/Peter Parker himself appear in live action.
Sometimes I imagine this as an Halloween episode of Spidey and Peter infiltrates a frat house only to encounter a ghost. Peter would so use the name Joel Pickering too.
And for 90s nostalgia fans, we pretty much got an all star cast between Barnes and Green, most notably known as Scott Evil from the Austin Powers franchise or Oz from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Behind the scenes of the haunting
The production crew interviews several members of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity at Kansas State University.
Drew Green reaffirms his belief that Duncan died in the library accidentally dying as a result of being hit in the head with a paddle during a final intuition ritual. Green shows a ball of made of disposed wallpaper. Green says that red would always cover the beige wallpaper so they tore it off and turned it into a “blood ball"
Larry Keller, shared his encounter with Duncan. He was in the bathroom and the fan turned on then off, when he investigated, he was surprised the find the fan was in the off position the entire time and then the door slammed.
Joel Pickering most likely based on Josh Pickering in the reenactment. There is no mention why the names were changed perhaps a legal matter. Pickering explains that the fire is still fresh in his mind and he still believes it was Duncan who alerted him.
Sergio Lopez who lived in the house for three years, recounts a story he had heard from another brother. This individual heard footsteps walk across the floor. Sergio states that this person hasn’t set foot in the room since.
Occasionally the brothers will try contacting Duncan through a Ouija board. Green remembers that it didn’t work until they removed a bible that is in the room. Immediately after the words on the board spelled out Duncan and they felt a gust of wind and the candles flickered.
At an alumnus reunion, members of the fraternity from the 1970’s to 80s, reminisced about strange occurrences. Rod Smith detailed accounts such as doors closing that were locked and coffee cups falling off shelves.
What's the real story? Legend vs Research
The supposedly haunted fraternity house has gone through many iterations. The Manhattan Mercury Originally Beta Pi Epilson which amalgamated into the Theta Xi chapter in 1931. It's unclear where the original Beta Pi Epilson house was. Theta Xi occupied the house on Fairchild Ave until October 1960. Phi Gamma Delta bought the house in 1965 and remained until 1991. In 1993, it was purchased by Pi Kappa Phi. The fraternity remained there until the mid 2000's. There are no details why they moved. The house was eventually torn down, where an apartment complex, Fairchild Flats. was built in its place.
Regarding the resident ghost, Duncan, there appears to be no accounts until Phi Gamma Delta moved in and converted a room where the ghost supposedly died into a library. The frat removed paddles with Duncan's name and the imprint of the paddle remained even after repeated attempts to remove it. The legend persisted when Pi Kappa Phi moved in.
There are no public records of anyone named Duncan in Theta Xi or another individual dying in an hazing accident. There is also no surname for the mysterious Duncan.
Supposedly there would be records of the paddle or yearbook photos from Theta Xi.
There have no further public accounts of Duncan Sightings at the new apartment complex.
As an aside, Joel Pickering, was incorrectly named Shaun in a blurb about the Real Ghosts production.
As of this publication date, the Pi Kappa Phi are still operating at Kansas State University. A few years ago they moved to their new home on Sunset Ave.
A change of pace for Haunted Lives, we are introduced to ”GhostWatch”, It almost feels like a missed opportunity where that classic breaking news theme was intertwined. “We have to interrupt your regularly scheduled program for Ghost watch ’95!”
The segment feels off-putting from the previous entries. Possibly the series of specials was trying to become a regular series like Unsolved Mysteries or Sightings.
We are introduced the McCauley family in Connecticut who are being tormented by a malevolent spirit after moving into a self described suburban dream home.
Lori McCauley felt she was being watched and her husband, Bill added that she felt she was touched. Lori also revealed that the phone would ring only to have static on the other line. Bill said that the family would experience entities together and felt the sinister force was demonic.
The parents felt the target was their children. The two boys recounted the entity telling them “hate God, don’t trust your parents they’re liars, God is evil and stuff like that.”
Lori said the behaviour escalated with the entity dragging one of her sons across the floor. One son described a man telling him “to go out the window and hang there and I really trusted him, so I listened to him and did it.” Lori was frightened finding her son in danger. The family asked for an exorcist but still decided to move out.
The couple now run a support group for others who experienced similar phenomena. Bill wryly asserts “People ask us, what credentials do you have? We say, we have five years of on the job training”
What's the real story? Legend vs Research
There isn't much information regarding the McCauley family. Marla Paul wrote a piece for The Chicago Tribune on September 22 1996. They first experienced the haunting in 1985.
They later started their support group Victims of Paranormal Phenomenon Support in Somers, Connecticut
It is unclear if the group is still in operation.
The Ghost watch continues with another family, the Yeullings, in North Arlington, New Jersey.
The family believes that their murdered daughter Lisa is terrorizing them. Lisa had joined a street gang and when she attempted to quit she vanished. Elizabeth Yeulling stated that she got a call from the police in Newark, saying they had found the body of an unidentified white female. Lori was horrified that it was indeed her daughter, Lisa. Elizabeth’s husband, Anthony, is still in disbelief how anyone could do this to his daughter.
He stated how soon after the body was discovered, he saw her spirit walk towards him as he was sitting down. Several nights later, he felt an apparition choking him and felt being hit by an unknown object.
Arranging a séance with a medium, Anthony was told that the spirit was her daughter’s killer. The killer supposedly told the medium that they were killed in a bar fight shortly after the murder and wanted repentance. Anthony said he forgave the spirit and the experiences ceased.
Elizabeth believed that God sent her an angel for twenty years and wanted her back. She finds peace in that belief.
What's the real story? Legend vs Research
There are no additional details of Lisa Yeulling. No public records are available of her death or any other encounters that the Yeulling's experienced.
Lisa died December 13 1983. Her date of birth is unknown but presumed twenty years old, which would be around 1972-1973.
The staff named the friendly ghost pilot, Arthur. Witness included Police Officer Jerry Moore, Richard Zuenges and Louisa Hart. Hart believes the spirit is a protector of the museum.
What's the real story? Legend vs Research
Castle Air Museum opened in Atwater, California in 1981. The B-29 Bomber "Raz'n Hell" that allegedly brought Arthur came from China Lake in 1980.
It is not publicly known if Arthur still appears at the museum.
'The Headless Ghost
The special’s final segment features another well known haunting. Lovers of paranormal television, media and ghost stories should be familiar with Bobby Mackey’s Music World.
Like Doretta Johnson’s experiences at the Madison, Indiana Motel in the second special, this music venue has been featured on Sightings, A Haunting, Ghost Adventures and others.
There’s a flashback to 1896, Kentucky where an unknown woman (Khrystyne Haje) is running screaming from unknown assailants. She runs into a dead end where a ritual appears to be taking place. She is decapitated and her head is thrown down a well adorned by candles in the background.
It’s now 1978, Bobby Mackey (Michael Bowen) and his young pregnant wife, Janet (Sheena Easton) are surveying the building that will be their club. A stranger, Carl (Ed Winter), emerges seeking employment.
He cautions against Janice going to the basement. He tells Bobby the building used to be a slaughterhouse. He tries to warn Bobby of the buildings bloody history to no avail.
This segment had the most star power including 80s singer, Sheena Easton, Charlene Tilton and Krystene Haje. While not as well known, Bowen often plays the heavies in movies and tv. He’s appeared as one of the Others, Danny in LOST, Breaking Bad and Quintin Tarantino movies such as Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, Django Unchained and Jackie Brown..
Easton conveys a warm presence as she narrates the episode and seems to shrug off the supernatural as her husband continues to ignore it. Bowen draws an intense presence but it is Easton that grounds the segment. Both actors make a lot of the minimal dialogue with body language.
During renovations a ladder moves on its own, frightening Janet. Karl urges Bobby to delay, saying that in the’30s the owner was murdered by his own daughter who then took her life. He mentions previous incidents in the 1890s before Bobby brushes him off,
The couple finish the renovations and business is booming. Bobby plays on stage singing “Don’t Talk to me” but as he enjoys his success strange occurrences happen. The mechanical powered without electricity and fights regularly break out seemingly out of random. A bouncer, Richard Lawson (John Hillard), goes to the restroom only to encounter a spirit (Jonathan Chapin) who assaults leaving Karl and Janice puzzled as they call the police.
Overwhelmed the couple call psychic Patricia Mischell (Linda Cook) to investigate the building. Mischell asks to see the basement and experiences a vision of a well with a screaming disembodied human head entrenched by flames.
Mischell asks Carl if they saw the well, it is then he comes clean to the couple telling them the story of a woman brutally murdered and before the murderers were hung they cursed the ground. Mishell appears fazed from an encounter and warns Bobby unless he makes amends and digs up the well, he will be punished.
Mackey scoffs and rebukes Mischell, he then gets a phone call issuing him a subpoena from Lawson for the prior ghostly assault.
Bobby wins the case, a first where the court decided a ghost was responsible for Lawson’s injuries. Lawson surprises the couple and Carl when he unexpectedly shows up. He apologizes to Bobby and reveals to Janet that she in fact the owner not her husband.
While an interesting story it certainly didn't intrigue me like the other specials. Sheena Easton was the standout of the segment and Bowen was magnetic as the curmudgeonly club owner, Mackey.
Not sure who Charlene Tilton played. IMDB credits her as a bartender, Vicki but that is not confirmed.
Behind the scenes of the haunting
The production crew interviews Bobby and Janet. Janet believes that the real reason that the property deed is in her name is out of fear from her husband. She fears reprisal from the entities, Bobby rebuffs the notion explaining he doesn’t believe in the supernatural and listing his wife as owner was a career move.
Author Doug Hensley, who wrote Hell’s Gate, fears that Bobby’s outright mockery of the spirits and self promotion on television is only going to end with a fatal attack. Hensley stated that Bobby has denied the existence of Alonzo Walling and Pearl Bryant
Richard Lawson recounted his terrifying ordeal how the bathroom trash can violently shook and an apparition appeared to him repeating the words “die again” until he felt tingly and passed out. Lawson attests the staff had to call 911 to revive him.
Reported psychic, Patricia Mischell felt an eerie feeling and saw a mental image of a well with a head in it,
The couple bicker as Bobby continues to scoff at the idea of the supernatural. Janet fires back “I couldn’t show because you’re never down there” Bobby retorts “You show me a ghost and I’ll ride a mechanical bull in the nude.”
What's the real story? Legend vs Research
Pearl Bryan's decapitated body was found in February 1 1896 in Fort Thomas Kentucky. According to reporting by the Chicago Tribune in May 0f 1896, there were several suspects including Alonzo Walling, Scott Jackson and Will Wood. Walling and Jackson were convicted and hanged on March 1897. Pearl's head has never been located.
Robin Caraway of The Cincinnati Post reported in July 2006 of the tumultuous history.
Bobby Mackey's Music World opened October 1979. Before that the building had an interesting history from slaughterhouse when the city of Wilder was known as Finchtown. It was then turned into a roadhouse in the 20's, to a popular nightclub, The Primrose. The club's success brought the Cleveland crime syndicate who turned the spot into The Latin Quarter.
In 1970, after a citizen revolt against local organized crime, it was turned into Hard Rock Cafe. It's not clear if it was associated with the franchise chain. The nightclub was shut down in 1977, making way for local country singer, Bobby Mackey to buy it in 1978.
Bobby Mackey's club made national news, when a court case was brought against the owner for assault via ghost. J.R. Costigan later withdraw the claim, but it helped put the club's ghost stories in the spotlight. It is unclear if J.R. Costigan and Richard Lawson who appeared on the special are the same individual.
Also not known why there are two different identities.
Doug Hensley later wrote a book on the paranormal experiences and history of the club in June of 1993 entitled Hell's Gate
Gil Kaufman of The Cincinnati Enquirer reported on September 5 2008, the possible identities of the ghosts.
Other then Pearl, the additional spectres vary from Pearl's murderers; Alonzo Walling and Scott Jackson to Johanna, a young cabaret dancer.
Janet Mackey passed away February 15 2009 at 60.
As of this publication date Bobby Mackey's Music World is still in operation.
The final special felt like is weakest. The title change is odd and prompts speculation that this was a re-branding for a potential series. Bruce Nash is now credited as the sole creator.
The special also has the cast included after the title, which the others didn’t. Despite the star power in Christopher Daniel Barnes, Seth Green, Sheena Easton, Charlene Tilton and Michael Bowen who elevate the material, the dialogue isn’t as sharp and the production feels like it’s going through the motions.
Nelson’s writing didn’t have some of the snappy dialogue the other two specials did while Levine’s direction was adequate getting good performances from the actors.
The inclusion of the “Ghost Watch” segment feels out of place, forgoing any reenactments to detour and focus on three stories. The stories were interesting but it felt like two series; one a continuation of the Haunted Lives specials and a pilot for a similar program of its day like Unsolved Mysteries or Sightings.
Haunted Lives was a fun series of specials and a must for any fans of paranormal and nostalgia. While the production values are dated, the stories and some of the performances still hold up.
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 is from Four Point Entertainment. It is not known to be on dvd, blu ray, digital purchase, demand or streaming services currently
Real Ghosts aired on UPN November 26 1995 as part of a special. It was created by Bruce Nash.
The third and final special was re-titled. This feels like like a potential re-branding or a separate pilot.
Like the first special, both the previous director and writers have departed. Stacy Keach remains as narrator. Bruce Nash is now the sole creator. Ron Ziskin also returns as executive producer joined by Shukri Ghalayini.
The special is solely written by Erik Nelson also serving as supervising producer and directed by Michael Levine. John A. Jacobson produces.
Finally, in Atwater California at the Castle Air Museum, B29 WWII bomber remains active.
When the aircraft arrived in 1981, strange occurrences began, such as locked doors opening.
Witness saw a figure in a brown bomber jacket. The vintage plane will light up and glow.
Carl Lawson, unclear if there is any relation between himself and Richard. Lawson recalled the frightening experience when the ladder seemingly with a mind of its own almost toppled Janet.