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Tucsonan Chris Rod serves as an editor of a new online publication focusing on the paranormal

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Tucsonan Chris Rod is a man of many parts--civil engineer, fitness enthusiast, hydrologist, aspiring novelist, and now, a co-founder and operator of an on-line clearinghouse for tales and experiences of the paranormal. The term "paranormal" is this year's PC term to take the crackpot edge off things.

Chris, who seems to be relatively normal (wife, two kids, no discernible imaginary friends), is one of the editors of a new e-publication entitled GHOST! Magazine. That's GHOST!, not just GHOST, and don't you forget it. (You can find it online at Ghostmag.com.) Chris tells me it's drawing close to a couple hundred hits a day and is showing steady growth. Plans are in the works to take it out of the ethereal electronic world and turn it into a real-life magazine that you can hold in your hand and, from which, get ink smudges on your fingers. And sometimes those ink smudges look like ancient runes, which might mean that you had a previous life ... well, more on that later. Or not.

Last month's issue had a feature on "Highly Haunted Hotels," including the Copper Queen in Bisbee. According to the article, the spirit of a young woman occupies the café and Room 318. In fact, the entire third floor is full of activity. There are doors opening and closing by themselves, electrical appliances with "minds" of their own, and cold spots. I always thought that a cold spot was something you rolled over onto at sleepaway camp.

When I lived in Douglas, I heard stories about the Gadsden Hotel being haunted. Plus, there were these three women (a mom and her two grown daughters) who ran the Circle K. The three of them had to weigh a good 750 pounds, combined, and would go out in the cemetery at night and dance around. When I asked them about it, they said they were witches. So I asked them, "Why don't you cast a spell on them damned Twinkies?"

Not long after that, my hair began to thin.

I personally am an industrial-strength skeptic when it comes to this stuff. Only once in my life have I even come close to experiencing the paranormal. I was in Los Angeles and saw a ghastly creature whose bones appeared ready to come out through its unearthly, transparent skin; it had sunken eyes and a misshapen face, hair like straw (not the color of straw, just straw). I recoiled in terror, but it turned out to be Joan Rivers.

My wife, Ana, is far more educated and level-headed than I, but she's also heard the story of La Llorona a few times, and I think she's a bit more attuned to things that are just off this plane of existence. Several times during the past few years, she has been sitting in the living room late at night, reading or watching TV, and sensed a figure walking down the hall, heading either toward or away from the dining room and kitchen. She says she senses it gliding past her silently and by the time she looks up, it's gone.

She wanted to get the house blessed, but I think it's just our 6-foot, 200-pound son sneaking in and out of the kitchen to get a soda after 10 p.m. (That's one of the arbitrary rules of the household: No soda after 10. Don't ask.)

After we saw Poltergeist, Ana wondered if maybe our house was built over an Indian burial ground. I told her that since this was Tucson, and considering the way white people have acted during ... say, the last 1,000 years, this whole valley is Indian burial ground. I wonder what's going to happen 100 years from now when people build houses where the old Desert Diamond Casino used to be. Their house is going to be haunted by an old white woman who shuffles around with a cup full of quarters and a cigarette hanging from the corner of her mouth with three inches of ash dangling off the tip.

GHOST! Magazine welcomes submissions from people who have had paranormal experiences, but "we don't want blood and gore stuff," says Rod. "This isn't about witchcraft or rituals. None of that stuff. We're more interested in people who take a scientific approach to paranormal phenomena."

Chris says he's never had a paranormal experience himself but that his partner, Melody Bussey, has. She was staying at a bed-and-breakfast when she was awakened by an older woman asking if she wanted some coffee. Melody declined, but said that she could smell the coffee. When she mentioned the story to the proprietor, her hostess freaked. "You've seen her! You've seen the maid!" (The maid had died some time before.)

This is what got GHOST! Magazine started--Melody had indeed seen the maid. I wonder if it looked like Joan Rivers.

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