Obviously thinking about Halloween, a reader asked: "Do journalists, those infamous prevaricators of fake news, believe in ghosts?
"Nay," I hesitantly reacted. In this TIME OF THE TRUMP I was trying to protect the reputation of reporters, already lower than a snake's belly.
I paused to think. Our detractors have a point. I just told a lie. I'm a fake.
Pushed into a corner I must confess. I believe in ghosts. To say I don't is fake news. Really, I have never seen a ghost but I've heard them. Yes, in this newspaper building! I've had cold chills up and down my back.
It's all better now. Our electronically controlled quarters are so secure now even a ghost can't make entry. Newsrooms have become targets of terrorists and we have to be protected.
Ghosts inhabited the old section of the Commonwealth Journal building that since has been torn down. Disembodied spirits flittered through the newspaper quarters as The Commonwealth and The Somerset Journal merged into the daily Commonwealth Journal you now hold in your hand.
As managing editor of the newspaper, many a time I'd wake in the middle of the night questioning something I had written or remembering something I had forgotten. Unable to go back to sleep I'd roll out of bed and drive the 6 or 7 miles to the office.
The sprawling old building was empty as a tomb. It was quiet; dark as the night. That pattering noise and tiny squeak, disturbing as it is, I wrote off as a mouse scampering.
Remember the old Remington typewriters? That was before these hateful computers. Manual typewriters required no code to activate, as do computers. I would pick up a strip of newsprint, cut to fit, insert it in the typewriter and begin typing.
What was that! Somebody is walking across the third floor above my head! Nobody is supposed to be in the building. Ghosts flitter and float, I thought, but this one obviously doesn't care if I know he or she or whatever is in the building with me.
What's a person to do? I had to fix my unfinished job. I wanted to get back home and grab a nap before I have to get up at 4 a.m. and be back at the office at 5, for another day.
Those who say publishing a daily newspaper is not a demanding job have never stayed in a newsroom. The clock on the wall doesn't matter. To watch the clock only makes days and nights longer.
But I digress. There is a ghost with which I must deal. I continue to type, aware that the old section of the newspaper plant was honeycombed with hallways and rooms, many of which I never was in.
Sound of steps return. I type faster, trying the obliterate the ghostly chill. I hurry. I ignore hair raising on the back of my neck.
There is some comfort in the hope my intruder is Casper, the friendly ghost. Maybe Casper is making his late-night rounds. He won't harm, and I did my best to keep a smile on my face.
I finish my task, go out and lock the door. I was not home but a few moments before the telephone rings. It is a Somerset city policeman making his nightly rounds.
"I've found a door open at the Commonwealth Journal. Can you come down and let's make a walk-through to make sure everything's OK? I did. We didn't see any ghosts but by the time I got back home it was time to get up.
Believe you me. These incidents were not a one-time thing. It happened so often that talk around the newspaper office was the building was haunted. I wasn't deemed crazy because others who sometimes worked at night had like experiences.
In those days, most editors and reporters smoked. Those who thought of themselves as sophisticates smoked cigars; not the expensive Cuban kind, but the two-for-a-quarter variety.
"Many a time I smelled cigar smoke coming from over my shoulder," a female reporter remembers. "I felt as if an editor was standing behind me reading proof. But nobody was there!"
A brave newsman tried to strike back. I won't use his name because he is still around and I don't have permission.
He recreated the LEGEND OF FISHING CREEK and frighted a young man nearly to death.
You're probably too young to remember. It was long before Lake Cumberland, and automobiles were scarce. A wagon road, now Ky. 1248 off Ky. West 80, led uphill from a crossing at Fishing Creek.
Legend has it, and it's probably true, while a team of horses was pulling a wagon up what was called Fishing Creek Hill, a ghostly rider would climb into the wagon and ride up the hill. The hitchhiker never uttered a sound and those in the wagon were too scared to speak.
Anyway, this aforementioned reporter, long gone from the Commonwealth Journal, wrote the article so vividly that one would think it was real. Without today's Photoshop, he managed to put a filmy photo of a ghost riding in the back of a wagon, The story and doctored photograph were on the front-page. Shortly after the paper hit the street, a young man, his face white as a sheet, burst into the newsroom wanting to know if the story were true.
That's it; enough time for ghost stories. I hope I didn't scare you too badly. More of this and a ghost will be sitting in my seat.