“The Gomez House”
“The Teal House”
Compiled by Franklin P. Mason II
2024 Clayton, California
1997-10-31 04:00:00 PDT CLAYTON — Tonight, for the 17th year in a row, Richard Taylor will place his top hat on his head, don his black undertaker’s cape and lead a group of thrill-seekers on the annual Clayton “Ghost Walk.”
If all goes as planned, “Granny Norton,” the White Witch of the Black Diamond mines folklore, will appear on Main Street in her horse and carriage. Maybe the terrible wind that wrecked her funeral 188 years ago will return to whip through her flowing dress.
Taylor, who grew up in Antioch and now lives in the Clayton area, will shepherd the group past the looming eucalyptus trees. He’ll regale his guests with tales about murders and the ghosts who were left behind to haunt the city’s now-historic buildings.
“Some of it may have been made up. It doesn’t matter. The kids love it,” said Betty Maffei, director of the Contra Costa History Center in Pleasant Hill. “Everybody makes a game of it.”
At 53, Taylor is somewhat eccentric. He indulges his interest in the supernational, writing and illustrating books. His latest work being “Ghosts and Other Celebrities of Clayton.” A former cartoonist for a small weekly newspaper, he still serves as vice president of the California Cartoonists Association. He often ends his sentences with an eerie “heh-heh-heh.”
“I take it more from a point of view of folklore,” said Taylor, who blends a hearty sense of humor with a passion for preserving tales of old. “Some people, when you talk about ghost spirits, they get a little upset.
“This is more or less an educational experience, a field trip through Clayton history.” Heh-heh-heh.
Take the Gomez house on Oak Street, for instance.
As Taylor tells it, around 1957 the Gomez brothers — relatives of the house’s current resident — started hearing an inexplicable rat-a-tap- tapping on the roof and sides of the house. They got a lot of ribbing from the locals who were convinced the noise was just kids throwing pebbles at the house.
After the boys grew up and left home, the haunting stopped, so says current resident Raymond Gomez, 77.
But for Taylor’s purposes, the ghost never left. “One time, Mr. Gomez went down the street to the saloon and the chandelier fell from the ceiling,” Taylor said, ending his sentence with an ominous heh-heh-heh.
According to Taylor, there are ghosts all over Clayton.
“At the new Clayton library, the clock sometimes runs at different times. The new air conditioning-heating shuts off.” Taylor, who used to teach a class called “Clayton Past and Present” at the now-defunct Clayton Community School, eschews serious questions from skeptical students with the audacity to ask things like: “Wouldn’t you call that the work of a thermostat?” Instead, he pushes forward anew, and tells of a new, heat-activated security system at the library that gets set off — even when no one is in the building.
“Ninety-eight-point-six degrees sets off the alarm,” Taylor says. “It’s picking up heat from the building.” Heh-heh-heh.