Every community has its share of ghost stories, usually the product of someone's fertile imagination, and often fueled by one too many beers. Tulare's phantom lived on one of the city's principal avenues, and thus became known as "The Ghost of Bardsley Road". The story of the apparition was reportedly fabricated in the 1940's by a pair of high school boys as a Halloween prank, but it soon became a local legend. According to the inspired story, the ghost had no head and rode a snow-white Honda motorcycle Those he encountered were destined to suffer an accident.
As the tale circulated throughout the city, details were added, and the legend grew. In the embroidered account, the first encounter with the ghost occurred east of Tulare when a young man was driving south toward Bardsley Road. Apparently his car swerved and crashed into a house. When an ambulance arrived at the scene, the car was badly damaged, the driver still sitting behind the wheel. There was no blood, no marks on the body. Nothing seemed to be wrong with the fellow, except that he was dead. For those with imagination, the only possible explanation for the young man meeting the grim reaper was that he was scared to death by the Ghost of Bardsley Road.
For several years, groups of teenagers cruised up and down the haunted road, looking for the phantom, with no confirmed sightings. Several grown women have reported that when they were children they had a real fear of the ghost. If their parents were driving on Bardsley, they would hide on the floor of the back seat.
In the 1960’s, Dane Sturgeon, a 1948 graduate of Tulare Union High School and a son of C.R.“Budge” and Gretchen Sturgeon, wrote a song about the specter. With Dane singing the lyrics, the “Ghost of Bardsley Road” was recorded at the Gold Star Studios. “Ghost” was the lead song on an LP album of ten songs, entitled “Wild ‘n’ Tender”. Maniacal laughter precedes the song and fills the gaps between the verses and the chorus. Here is a sample:
They found him in his auto, way out east of town.
Death had claimed this teen-age kid, by the time that he was found.
There was no trace, and not a mark upon his body showed.
They say he was scared to death by the Ghost of Bardsley Road.
On his snow white Honda he drags the country side,
A ghost machine a’burnin’ up the road.
If you put him to the test you’ll come up second best,
And you'll know you’ve raced the Ghost of Bardsley Road.
And now we jump ahead to 1967, and the end of the story. In this creative version, on a dark and stormy night, police found a burning motorcycle and a pool of blood on East Bardsley Road. The ghost was dead. There were no more sightings.
Derryl Dumermuth is a retired TUHS mathematics teacher, author of A Town Called Tulare,and co-author with wife Wanda of Tulare Legends and Trivia from A to Z. Both books were written as fundraisers for the Tulare Historical Museum and can be purchased in the Museum's Gift Shop.
CAPTION FOR PHOTO
LP record cover for "Ghost of Bardsley Road".