My first official, real ghost hunting adventure with paranormal researchers. Remember there are no coincidences? I met Catherine a week or so ago (feels like longer), and she mentioned her next ghost tour would be Brookdale Lodge. After we wiped up all my drool, she invited me along. I am packed. What do you bring to a ghost hunting expedition, anyway? I am going without David? Gasp! We leave Friday at noon.

Now, it's Sunday night, finally home from a full, exhausting weekend of sensations and spirits, both in and outside the Brookdale Lodge bar. I am on my own bed with my computer, internet, the zoo and it feels lovely to be home. My notes include everything from a full description of the lodge, rating of the place for our travel logs, silly thoughts and quick scribbles, lots to decipher.

The Brookdale Lodge is like an elegant, classy lady of a past century, worn from age and neglect. Beneath the sagging wrinkles, unraveled, torn lace and shattered porcelain, the once exquisite beauty is still apparent, as if asleep and silently slumbering, patiently waiting. It's difficult to determine whether the Brookdale is being repaired or still deteriorating fastest. The woodsy setting is perfect for the lodge's craftsman design, a one of a kind monument.

The front lobby is quiet and tasteful with its low ceiling, rich subdued tones of wood and lush fabrics. The straight forward floor plan ends there. You can wander down the hallway to the bar, or to the band stand and dance floor with its spooky loft and lounge, the Mermaid room , which has a window directly into the side of the adjoining indoor swimming pool. Weave your way into the grand dining room built over a brook, accessible from several levels and stairways. Past that is the original log cabin lobby with an enormous stone fireplace right out of Davy Crockett, hand crafted parquet floors, log beam ceilings and a wall built around a tree.

The infamous dining room is a glory in itself, the main draw of the lodge with it's ghost stories, rumors and whispers, an ingenious design of walkways on multiple levels, all centered around the brook that gently bubbles through the center of the ground floor, surrounded by tables on several levels in delightful seating areas. At first glance you are aghast, but you don't see the intricacy of the maze of pathways required to traverse the entire room on all levels until you try to get to a another level.. You first must go down a small flight of steps in order to go up a level, right to go left. There is no end to the dark corners, winding railings and beckoning stairways that bid one more visit although you have already crossed that bridge a dozen times just today. It simply brings out the adventurous child in all of us.

The brook is all you would expect, and more. Waterfall connoisseurs would classify its melody as perfection, knowing, in our attempts to imitate this sound, you can't improve on nature. The trip, regardless of any other reason, is worth the time sitting next to that brook, listening, absorbing. My photos are fair, but can not convey the enveloping peace and atmosphere it humbly permeates.

The scene is set.

We all head out on Friday at noon, (Anne, Catherine, Josh and Kasey) and head for Los Gatos to see Imagination Land off Highway 9. From there we go up Highway 17 to the Los Gatos cats, where I greet my old friends, Catherine is cautious, Kasey falls in love, and we collect Vervain seed. Up 17 to winding, woodsy, shadowy, tree ridden Bear Creek, then back on to 9 and there she is, between Boulder Creek and Ben Lomond. Brookdale Lodge. 45 odd years later, I return.

We wander around a bit until we check in, room 1206 upstairs. I find I really need to get into shape, the stairs are killing me.  The lack of a working light bulb in the windowless bathroom should have been my first clue of things to come, or the lack thereof. I chalked up the uncomfy feeling of the room to the lack of light but Catherine found the room very active. The lodge had more beds and customers than they had pillows or pillowcases. Amazing.

Scott Gruenwald from Verify Broadcasting and Joel from Pacific Paranormal Society wander in, hugs all around make me feel right at home. More introductions include Linda, Chance, Lori, Amanda, Justin , Kim, Sandy and many others I can't remember.  A little negotiating in the lobby with management (who seems to have fallen short on the previously made arrangements including internet access and no extra charge for hunting) but all's well that ends well.

The group, now up to about 20 people, gather in the dining room for dinner. We are a noisy bunch! Dinner is finally served (after a few cigarette breaks) and the citrus salmon is exceptional if you ignore the bones and the lack of light needed to find them. Kasey loved her artichoke, Catherine had grilled mushroom and spinach, Josh loved his ravioli's. The prime rib looked really really good, if you are meat fan. The chef, Eric, makes a showing at the table to make sure we were all happy campers. I did find Eric to thank him later. The salmon really was good and I am a salmon connoisseur, but I didn't want to admit I won't be paying $26 for a such a small and delayed dinner again. No wonder they kept bringing baskets of bread.  

Ok, time to go play. We wandered down the brook, the building, the monthly rentals, the paths around the lodge, every place that wasn't locked  up.  Joel confided that when he saw me get out of the car, he flashed back to the 70's. LOL!! Two bands played and the locals gathered. A series of persistent begging to the bar keep and chef finally resulted in a pot of coffee for us, but at a hefty price of $8. For shame. Locals approach us with stories, questions and teasing hints. About two am, we all headed to the dining room, and peeked in and out of shadows for an hour. Three o'clock brought exhaustion and bed, but little sleep.

Morning and a new search for coffee, breakfast at the Brookdale Cafe, a delightful place on the first floor beneath our rooms where the girls Kim and Annie treated us like old friends. The food was good, hot and reliable, and the prices reasonable. Everyone headed for the Santa Cruz boardwalk, but we hovered and played. Another stop in at Gallery This to discover what was calling me (Catherine is the proud owner of a floor gong from Bali) - scarves that will be turned into my favorite 'hippie' dresses. We were supposedly moving across the street to the Enchanted Cottage where the one double bed for four people was a surprise, not to mention the overpowering odor of gas. The lodge moved us to the last available room, 1204, a king bed and a roll away. Funny, this room had a hair dryer, microwave, coffee pot and a frig, two ceramic cups, but no creamer and just one stir stick. Don't lose that puppy. TISSUES! I have yet to understand the difference between a regular room and a suite, but, oh well. At least the bathroom light worked. We got to see the old log cabin lobby, Sarah's room, and the pool room where we met the Banana Girl. Saturday night was dinner at the Red Pearl in Boulder Creek, the favored town of my youth. More seed snatching as we walkabout and back to the lodge for a badly needed full night of sleep after an uncomfy mirror was placed into the closet.

Sunday morning dawns, I head to the bathroom. I answer a knock on the bathroom door with, "Catherine?" No answer. Leaving the bathroom, standing right in front of the bathroom and closet door, I hear the knock again, and it is distinctly coming from the closet. I did not pass go or collect anything warm, but went straight way to the balcony, waiting for Catherine to wake, rationalizing knocking sounds and wondering how I was going to get my shirt out of that closet.

My David appears promptly at ten, what a wonderful sight. Another breakfast at the Brookdale Cafe and laughs with Kim, Catherine and the kids head to the boardwalk, we head down to Ben Lomond to find the pink castle (see Howden Castle or my original pictures from 1970's), buy a car load of plants from a delightful place, Mountain Feed and Supply, head home through Watsonville and the smoke from the many current wildfires. It's so good to be home with my zoo!

So what happened?

Others can tell many a tale. I can only speak of what I metered, saw, felt or heard. Those notes can be found in the Ghost Section.

Pictures of the Brookdale Lodge are located in the Travel Pictures.

Obsession leads me to research Brookdale's history, found here.

Thank you, Scott and Linda, Lori and gang, Hash and Oswaldo, Summer, Kim and Annie, Teresa and Jenny, for an unforgettable weekend.

The Hotel Rating:

In so far as a hotel rating, I am saddened to say the Brookdale received an all time low of negative umpteen points. I desperately looked for positive points, but never found enough to warrant even a zero. I guess you could say the spooky stuff would or could encourage me to return, but that certainly would be the only reason. Yes, the ambience of the deep woods is major, yes, the building itself is magnificent, a gem of design. It is no longer the luxurious lodge of olden days, and probably never will be again. I pray the site starts to improve soon, for return business is doubtful, leaving only the first time, ghost seekers and tourists as clientele.

The new management is trying, truly, but they have a long way to go. The purchase price was steep but the possibilities are endless, potential lurking around every corner. I realize the revenue from the rooms are required to support the maintenance, but a little time, consideration, and money devoted to resolving the most obvious and irritating flaws would be well spent towards the hope of repeat business and a solid future.

Please keep in mind that I am on an adventure weekend, not a luxurious getaway weekend, but have to rate the lodge as if I was. The defects were amusing, but none the less, quite severe. I do not want to appear to be overly critical, this is all simply factual. The rooms, in their present condition, are horrific, and reek of penny pinching, not a classy, distinguished establishment. As far as a recommendation goes, if you are looking for a luxurious, woodsy weekend getaway, look elsewhere. If you are looking for a very different, intriguing, spooky, borderline thrilling ghost haunting, I can't think of a better place in California except the Winchester, but you can't book rooms there. Bummer.

Positive notes:
* The rooms are very large, the beds vary between yuck and superb.
* Balconys are delightful, supplied with chairs and tables, and, an open, doorless passageway to your neighbor's area.
* Hash and Oswaldo bent over backwards to soothe our complaints all around. Without them, I would have contemplated leaving.
* Brookdale Cafe saved the day.
* The woods atmosphere is to die for.
* There is a bar on site (this is the bread and butter  and filled with locals) and they have Drambuie! (2 points)
* A suite includes two chilled wine glasses in the frig
* The food was very elegant, inventive, delicious, well presented with a fair selection, and the chef gets a point for his salmon, another point for being able to serve 20 plus people hot food somewhat simultaneously.

Negative points: (I'm not spoiled. I'm NOT ! I'm NOT ! I'm NOT !)
* Upon arrival, the first thing I noticed was the garbage. Everywhere. Broken light bulbs and the glass cover a common trail.
* A bar fly who was ill on the way to the toilets left a trail of vomit Friday night that was not cleaned up by 3 am, despite management being very aware of its presence. (No night time janitor?)
* The windowless bathroom light bulb did not work. The maids cleaned this in the dark before our arrival? I think not. Beer bottles in our room from the last tenant? Sigh.....Televisions, space heaters, and drawers don't work.
* The 'suites' offer extra amenities like coffee pots and hair dryers, the regular rooms do not. These don't even offer basic amenities, such as tissues or clocks.
* Pillows are missing, pillowcases are missing, extra blankets are not available for the poor person who had to sleep on the floor because they booked four people into a one bed room, and there are no extra to be had. If you have 30 rooms/beds, you should own at LEAST 60 pillows.
* Telephone lines are tied together with what appears to be plastic garbage bag strips at eye level when sitting on the balcony, right smack dab in the middle of the railings.
* Balcony carpeting stops, right in the middle of the balcony. The edges were painted with the walls. Large roofing nails peeked their little heads out of the flooring, waiting to rip open a bare toe. Massive safety issues here. (If the rooms were not presentable or ready, don't use them?)
* Reservations several months ago, were made for a cottage that only sleeps two with absolutely no floor room for any more. When we checked in, the clerk could count four people and never said a word. Maybe she didn't know about the overwhelming gas smell there, but then, when was the cottage last cleaned or opened?
* Room and hotel negotiations made in April are no longer valid upon your arrival in June.
* Procuring coffee or food of any sort after dinner is over simply isn't done, bring your own. (Keep a pot going in the lobby, guys, the cost is minimal, the return is triple fold.)
* Internet access in the lobby isn't available after all.
* Checkout is 11 am. At 11:01, you are locked out of your room.
* The rooms are priced reasonably had the hotel been in reasonable shape with standard amenities. As it stands, the price is ridiculous, $150 on up. I would expect this hotel, sans the trees and atmosphere, in San Francisco, to be at the $70 or less range.
* The service at dinner was fair to poor, the delay was a bit much, no side dishes were offered at all (salad or soup) and some portions were quite small while others were more than enough.

Assign one point per positive note. Remove one point per negative note. Add them up.