MODESTO — Arrests Tuesday in a triple-homicide case. A home invasion Wednesday morning north of Modesto.
Throw in the seemingly daily stories about murder trials involving gangs, auto thefts, drug busts and the like, and, yes, the news is disturbing far too much of the time. You deserve a break from the gruesome stuff.
So here are a couple of different stories that came our way recently, the first from Yosemite National Park media officers who received a letter with two small sticks taped to it.
"Dear Park Rangers
I am a Yosemite Junior Ranger. I went to Yosemite recently and accidentally brought home two sticks.
I know I'm not supposed to take things from the park, so I am sending them back. Please put them in nature.
OK, everybody one, two, three "Awwww....!"
The second, you might say, could qualify as a home invasion in an eerie sort of way. If you believe in the afterlife or have a pirated, remastered DVD copy of "The Exorcist," it might interest you. It's the manna upon which up-the-cable-dial showbiz thrives, from "Celebrity Ghost Stories" to the "Paranormal Activity" films to "Finding Bigfoot" (which, into the show's fourth season, they still haven't found).
A couple of weeks ago, I received a call from Brian DeLise, who lives with his family in north Modesto. They've been in the home several blocks from Chrysler School since 2009. He told me strange things began to happen there a few months ago.
Brian said he began seeing people a girl in turn-of-the-century clothing, a woman in a Victorian-era dress and a man wearing a long coat and wide-brimmed hat among them in the home and yard. The man appeared in mirrors in the master bedroom and above the bathroom vanity. Visible one moment, they'd vanish in an instant, DeLise said.
His wife, Betty, said she hasn't seen any of these "people."
"I'm a skeptic," she said.
But, she said, she was home alone one day when the TV suddenly came on by itself. The remote control was across the room. The stereo also came on with no human help. Lights went on and off similarly.
At one point, Brian turned the recording feature of his cell phone on when only he and Betty were home. When he replayed it, a third person in the room could be heard mumbling in one recording and clearly saying, "Pardon me," in another.
They discussed these bits of weirdness and decided against mentioning them to their children.
"We didn't want to scare them," Betty said.
They didn't need to. The spirits, or whatever, did that well enough on their own. One night, 12-year-old son Braden had just taken a shower when he felt a presence in the room.
"I heard a voice say, 'Don't worry we won't hurt you,' " Braden said.
Another time, daughter Jennifer was alone in her bedroom when she suddenly noticed the smell of cologne. A different time, her door began opening and closing by itself to the point where she propped items against it to make it stop.
Seven-year-old Johnathan went into the garage to get his soccer ball one afternoon.
"I saw a shadow move, and the rake fell off of the wall," Johnathan said. "I ran into the house. I won't go out there again."
Twice, Brian has heard voices in the home. He said one belonged to a child saying, "There's a demon," and another telling him, "Welcome to hell."
And Brian said a neighbor also has seen the ghostly gent in the broad-rimmed hat and long coat. But the neighbor didn't want to talk to me about it when Brian called him. Didn't want people to think he's, well, you know.
Meanwhile, Brian wanted to understand why his family and home are receiving so much attention from apparitions.
He said he chatted with Lowell Beachler, a local historian, author and an expert on the Wood Colony west of Highway 99. Brian also spoke with Janet Lancaster of the McHenry Museum. From those conversations and other research, he learned that the land where he lives once was owned by a man named Nicholas Hawkins.
Brian also contacted Modesto Paranormal Investigators, who came to the house last weekend with gadgetry they claim detects voices and other ghostly actions. This week, the DeLises got a call from the paranormalists. Brian said they told him one of the voices they recorded while in the home uttered, "I'm Nicholas."
OK, everybody one, two, three: "Ooohhhh!"
Brian DeLise believes he now understands something about one of the spooks in residence. And in seeking answers, he's learned more about Modesto history than he otherwise would have. It's been an adventure, he said, and one that isn't necessarily over.
"I always feel like something's going to happen here," he said. "I'm waiting for it."
Just like the one about the girl who returned the sticks to Yosemite, DeLise's story doesn't involve murder or mayhem.
Consider them a break from the far-too-frequent gruesome stuff.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.