A true ghost story, experienced and written by Hollywood scribe Joe Hyams for the Saturday Evening Post of July 2, 1966, is a perfect illustration of the problems of borderland research. Welcome to the Club, Joe! You've been initiated into that select group of human beings who know beyond question that ghosts are real by any definition of the term, that the earth is haunted, that we must live with these "eating companions" -- even as they must live with us!

Associate Alvine Bullock sent us the story, glamorized by the fact that Joe's wife is Elke Sommer. She is a native of Yugoslavia and one of the brighter gems in the current crop of Hollywood beauty queens. Of course Elke sensed the presence of the seen and unseen visitors from the 4th Dimension. Undoubtedly it was her fears that prodded Joe to research their haunted Beverly Hills home as thoroughly as he did.

He says it all began on July 6, 1964 a few days after they had moved into this not-new home. Mrs. Elke Sommer Hyams was entertaining a woman journalist from Germany, Edith Dahlfeld, in the living room. The lady saw a man standing in the doorway staring at her. He was "husky, broad-shouldered, around fifty years old, wearing dark slacks, a white shirt and black tie. His hair was thinning at the top and he had a bulbous 'potato' nose."

Mrs. Dahlfeld asked to be introduced but the man turned and disappeared toward the dining room. Elke asked, "What man?" And got up to see who this stranger was, and was puzzled and disturbed to find no one.

Elke's mother was visiting them from Yugoslavia and staying in the downstairs bedroom. While in the cholinergic state of sleep one morning she became aware of a strange man standing by the staring at her. This shock caused her to shift the gears of consciousness from the completely relaxed, hypnogogic state between 4-D and 3-D to the completely adrenergic state of fear and excitement. Naturally the ghost "disappeared" as she focused completely in 3-D and prepared to scream.

Mr. Hyams is honest and forthright. He says he believes only in what he sees. I wonder if he has ever seen the air he breathes? If he doubts it's reality, let him try doing without it for three minutes. Anyhow, Joe convinced his mother-in-law that a prowler must have been staring at her through a picture window. A search of the soft ground outside revealed no tell-tale footprints, but he was still certain [6] that the unwanted visitor was 3-D solid. This was only a couple of weeks after the Dahlfeld vision. Then poltergeist activity was added to the phenomena, noises from the pesky dining room.

To Joe and Elke, relaxed in their upstairs bedroom "it sounded as though there had been a dinner party and the chairs were being pushed back as the guests arose." We would agree with their first hunch, that it was Mrs. Dahlfeld's "'man' rearranging the dining room furniture". We would say the two were sharing the constantly repeated memories of some earthbound spirit, who had gone through some powerful emotional crisis in that house. Joe tried to rationalize the chair-moving sounds as tree branches scraping against the dining room walls; so, there was a pruning operation on the trees.


So far, Mr. Hyams could attribute most of the phenomena to women, a comfort to the male ego; but he was soon put on the spot himself because Elke and her mother took off for Yugoslavia. The movie star was to make a film there. This left Mr. Hyams alone in the house for several weeks before he left to join them. He was to find that he never really felt alone in that house, an uncomfortable feeling.

Objective proof of his subjective impression was repeated three times in that downstairs bedroom. He methodically shut the house up tight every night -- 3-D physically, that is -- but on three mornings he found the downstairs bedroom window wide open. And of course the chair-scraping noises in the dining room continued. I believe that for these latter phenomena he was crossing the borderland into at least the chemical ethers, the next level above gasses; for he also heard the front door open and shut several times. On investigation in the morning this was found to be bolted tight. In other words it probably was not physically opened at all! This is the kind of dead-end in psychic research which tests the dedication of the researcher. If he is trying to prove and explain and prove everything by 3-D science, and he starts crossing over the borderland between the two worlds himself, he throws up his hands in disgust and quits. There is no border to the borderland; all is blurred and indistinct as matter turns to energy.

Joe then turned to electronic science and set up snooper microphones connected to tape recorders in the house and on the grounds. The one monitoring the dining room produced results. He thought also to chalk the position of the chairs there that night.

The outside mike reported no prowler footsteps coming up the driveway but there were those scraping chairs in the dining room! He picked up his gun and sneaked down quietly, turned on the lights in the dining room, and drew a blank! The chairs were still undisturbed in their chalked positions, but the playback of the tape confirmed the sounds he had heard from the dining room, including his own cough and the snap of the light switch when he got there himself! To add insult to injury the chair-scraping sounds picked up again after he went back to bed. All this made Joe Hyams uncomfortable enough that he invited a friend to stay with him until he went to Yugoslavia. The friend stayed on in [7] the house after Joe left, but he deliberately refrained from telling him anything of the hauntings.


Hyams writes that when he arrived in Yugoslavia there was already a letter from the friend, Gordon Mueller, complaining of the creepy feeling in the place, and that every time he went into the dining room it raised the hair on the back of his neck. This kind of polarity change in the body is familiar to psychic researchers. It indicates a reversal of the flow of psychic or etheric currents in the aura. Energy is being drawn from the here-living by the earthbound spirit. Mr. Mueller had been sleeping in the downstairs bedroom but when he awakened one morning to find the previously locked window wide open -- along with strange noises heard during the night -- he moved upstairs to the master bedroom.

Joe had also arranged for a private detective to check on the place periodically while he and Elke were in Europe. The dick reported that he found doors and windows open at times, though there was no indication that anyone had entered and stolen anything! Another notable poltergeist phenomenon reported to Joe occurred while the detective was keeping an all-night watch. Around two-thirty a.m. he was startled to see all the lights in the house go on! As he walked over to check up on the place the lights went off again. I doubt if this was physical 3-D. I'm inclined to think that the detective drifted into the hypnogogic state between waking and sleeping in these early morning hours, and became a telepathic partner of the earthbound spirit haunting the place. When he began to move toward the house he shifted the gears of consciousness back into 3-D physical. At this level of consciousness the house was totally dark.

The nightly chair-scraping noises became a regular part of their lives on their return from Europe, "so dependable they were less fearful". And the ghost who apparently caused them made a startlingly real, solid, 3-D appearance to another person, one who visited the place while Joe and Elke were living at the beach in 1965, to clean their swimming pool. When Joe returned for mail one day the man asked him who was staying in the house? The reply was no one, of course.

"That's what I thought," replied the pool cleaner, "but last Tuesday afternoon I saw a man in the dining room -- a big man about six feet tall, heavy-built, with a white shirt and black tie. When I went to the door to ask him when you were coming back, he disappeared -- just seemed to evaporate in front of my eyes."

An English writer-friend of Hyams asked to stay in the house for a couple of days but he didn't even last one night! As he was preparing to climb in bed in the downstairs bedroom he felt that someone was watching him, even though the house was supposed to be empty of people. He turned around and saw the burly, six-foot stranger standing in the doorway staring at him in a very menacing way! This apparition vanished down the hallway and the Englishman couldn't leave the house fast enough. He phoned Joe from a motel.



Another screen writer friend tried to convince the Hyams that a real, 3-D man had been living secretly in the house. A thorough check of the comparatively new building revealed no possible secret hiding place. This left only the Fourth Dimension and a real ghost whose presence was revealed by the family's pet dogs. Animals are not known to be suggestible yet these two would bark while staring at the apparently empty doorway of the dining room. "The puppy would frequently run to a particular spot in the dining room, then walk out of the room exactly as if following someone's heels."

I saw similar, independent proof of the presence of very real but very invisible visitors during my psychic research days in Minneapolis years ago. I was told that a 13-year old girl, recently dead and still yearning for a physical home and companionship, stood in the middle of our living room. Our pet kitten walked over and reached up to rub its neck and side against the ankle of the unseen guest -- and fell on its face! It was an obviously puzzled and disgusted cat that stalked away from that experience. Another time we had the Etheric presence of a teacher, who suggested we let the canary out of its cage. The bird fluttered to the floor of the room and then tried, time and again and in vain, to fly up and land on the outstretched arm of the Visitor who was coaxing it to do so; only to fall back to the floor from the blank wall which contained no physical landing perch of any kind.


Mr. Hyams finally made an embarrassed plea to a psychiatrist friend at U.C.L.A., who in turn put him in touch with the American Society for Psychical Research. This worthy organization offered a very businesslike check list for Joe and Elke to fill out, on the kinds of apparitions, descriptions and other data. Then the haunted house was subjected to the periodic visits of a long list of mediums of various types and capabilities. Be it said to its credit, the Society scrupulously tried to avoid telepathy or suggestion by asking that the Hyams not be present when the search-and-discovery seances were conducted.

Five seances were held in November 1965. Douglas Johnson said the dining room was haunted by a European, heavy-set, moustache, fond of music, "he spent his past life giving of himself". From a reading of the text of the story this might have been Miss Sommer's father, passed on, though Mr. Hyams doesn't say so directly. This was one level of the Lower Astral or purgatory which is so closely inter-twined with the Etheric-Physical.

Lotte von Strahl read another level of that same dining room and saw a "man who was large, untidy, full of hate and quite drunk". This spook was quite resentful of her presence. Michael Hughes looked into a third of the many possible worlds of consciousness there, skipped that controversial dining room and headed for the swimming pool outside. There he saw another astral migrant, "a blond girl about seventeen years old who died in Europe about three years ago of something in the lungs". This was a shocker to Elke. She had known the girl in Europe before [9] coming to America. Maxine Bell toured the house before settling on the dining room as the most interesting spot, "where she saw a sloppy man in his 50's", and uncovered the most important key to the hauntings as far as the Hyams' personally were concerned, especially Joe.

"I think he is a doctor," said Maxine Bell. "He died of a heart attack at the age of fifty-eight before he could finish something important with the man of the house."


Brenda Crenshaw, following Maxine Bell, confirmed her vision and added that the fifty-eight year old doctor "died of a chest or heart condition outside the country". This confused the issue by identifying the dining room "haunt" as Elke's father again.

The world is full of unfinished business and the A.S.P.R. researchers had found an important piece of it in the life of Joe Hyams. "The physical description of the male ghost seemed to fit a doctor with whom I had been writing a book. He had died suddenly before we were finished."

Like most Americans, Mr. Hyams probably believes that our responsibility to the dead stops at the grave, and their interest in us ends there also. Now, perhaps he's not quite so sure. His relationship with the doctor prior to the fatal heart stroke is his business, not mine, but I'll venture to guess that the House of Hyams will remain haunted until the unfulfilled desires of that doctor are polarized or neutralized, somehow. Shall we compare him to the Ghost in Francis Bacon's "Hamlet"?

"Doomed for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confined to waste in fires
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purged away.
But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison house . . ."

But, as Joe could not talk to the ghost of the doctor direct, to get at the root of the matter, the A.S.P.R. suggested a rescue circle using trance mediums "in an attempt to make direct contact with the alleged spirits who had chosen our home as a haunting place." Joe says five in all were held but the results were inconclusive, to him.

Then Mr. Hyams had a hunch that he and Elke were not the only ones responsible for the phenomena. A check with the previous owners uncovered the fact that they had unloaded the place for the same reasons! Poltergeist phenomena were so loud one night in the dining room that the wife of the previous owner -- alone in the house -- called a taxi from the upstairs phone, locked herself in and waited. Finally it pulled up in the driveway.

"I kept waiting for the taxi driver to ring the bell, but he did not, so I shouted to him from the bedroom window. When he answered I ran down the stairs, got into the car and asked the driver why he had [10] not rung the bell. The drive told me he saw a man standing by the door and assumed he was the fare. The man had vanished when I shouted from the window."

The A.S.P.R. sent another medium in December. Jacqueline Eastland visited the house while the Hyams were out. She was sure that someone had been murdered in the place, "by strangulation", so sure in fact that she was afraid to go back to the place. The murdered man was between forty and sixty years of age.

Crimes of violence, and their earthbound victims, create powerful vortexes in the Ethers of considerable durability. Here, I believe, we have the primary cause, the first rent in the veil between the two worlds.


Thus the Hyams could ask, with Hamlet:

" . . . what may this mean,
That thou, dead corse, again in complete steel,
Revisitest thus the glimpses of the moon,
Making night hideous, and we fools of nature
So horridly to shake our disposition
With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?"

Mrs. Hyams was now understandably frightened. Joe wasn't; but to "put her mind at rest" he agreed to have an exorcism in the place. For them, perhaps because of their racial origins, an exorcism by a Roman Catholic priest was "not feasible"; nor are they apparently aware of the powerful banishing and purifying rites of the Western Mystery Tradition outside of the Church, which are successfully performed by "rabbis after the Spirit". So they turned to Lotte von Strahl, a mystic.

Lotte and Elke sat in the dining room and prayed. Lotte said the "horrible monster" was standing beside her. She commanded him to "leave these good people alone" and in the name of Jesus Christ to get out.

"He's leaving," she said. So it was a hopeful couple that retired that night after the simple ceremonial in the dining room. "I locked the downstairs doors," writes Mr. Hyams, "checked all the windows carefully, and went to bed anticipating a quiet night. Just as I was falling asleep, Elke nudged me and said, 'Listen.' I sat up in bed and listened. The dining room chairs were moving again."

So now the two are living in reluctant acceptance of their uninvited guests. He says Elke thinks the man is her father, of whom she has no fear; and for himself, "I would not let a living man frighten me out of my house, and I certainly don't intend to let a dead one do it."

Elke Sommer dancing with her husband, Joe Hyams.

"Elke Sommer dancing with her husband, Joe Hyams."

Further Reading

  1. Joe Hyams, "Haunted", in the Saturday Evening Post (2 July 1966, pp. 28-31). <http://unz.org/Pub/SatEveningPost-1966jul02>
  2. Joe Hyams, "The Day I Gave Up the Ghost", a follow-up to "Haunted", in the Saturday Evening Post (3 June 1967, pp. 92-95). <http://unz.org/Pub/SatEveningPost-1967jun03>
  3. James Crenshaw, "Mediums Compare Ghosts in Elke Sommer's Haunted House", in Fate Magazine (Vol. 21, No. 8; Aug. 1968, pp. 34-43). <http://fatemag.com/store/product/1968-08/>
  4. Lisa Waller Rogers, "Elke Sommer's Ghost Story" (29 January 2009, blog). <http://lisawallerrogers.wordpress.com/2009/01/29/elke-sommers-ghost-story/>