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  • Writer's pictureDerryl Dumermuth

Ghosts in Tulare

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 became known as "The Ghost of Bardsley Road." The apparition story was reportedly fabricated in the 1940s by a pair of high school boys as a Halloween prank, but it soon became a local legend. According to the inspiring 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, people added details, 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. His car swerved and crashed into a house. When an ambulance arrived at the scene, he severely damaged the vehicle. The driver was 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 had reported that they had a real fear of the ghost when they were children. If their parents were driving on Bardsley, they would hide on the floor of the back seat.

In the 1960s, 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, police found a burning motorcycle and a pool of blood on East Bardsley Road on a dark and stormy night. The ghost was dead. There were no more sightings.

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