In other words, we were looking for dead people--"just looking for ghosts," as Echo flatly told one real estate agent who asked what he could help us find--spirits who, for various reasons, would rather bang around in an attic and scare the bejeezus out of the living than kick back in paradise with departed friends and loved ones.
Echo Bodine is a professional ghostbuster, or "ghost counselor," as she also calls herself. A psychic and a spiritual healer based in the Twin Cities, she talks to ghosts, and often argues with them as she attempts to coax the more stubborn among them "down the tunnel and into the light."
Though she's been featured on shows such as "Sally Jesse Raphael" and NBC's "The Other Side," I discovered Echo through her latest book, "Relax, It's Only a Ghost: My Adventures With Spirits, Hauntings, and Things that Go Bump in the Night." Echo's otherworldly encounters were so deliciously odd, I couldn't set the book down. There was Bill, a policeman ghost who protected the women who worked in a "massage parlor." When Echo confronted him, Bill confessed that he tore down a shower curtain out of anger when he realized a john was a priest.
On another ghostbusting, Echo met a female spirit who had such a crush on a guy (living) that whenever he brought a woman home, the ghost would slap him silly and throw him against a wall. Best of all, the guy was six-foot-three and enjoyed being tossed around by a jealous wraith! To his landlady's dismay, he insisted that if Echo busted his ghost, he'd move. Ultimately, man and ghost remained united.
Wow, I thought, the dead are just as screwed up as the living.
Eager to meet some residents of the Beyond for myself, I called Echo and asked if she would take me ghost hunting. She graciously assented but regretted that she didn't have any jobs at the moment. I proposed we tour open houses. "Cool," she said, and then, after a pause, blurted, "the governor's mansion! I read that Jesse Ventura told a school tour there's a ghost in his kitchen!" I booked a flight to Minneapolis online as we spoke.
I met Echo at the curb outside the governor's residence on Summit Ave. in St. Paul, where she pulled up in a sporty Geo jeep with a "Mean People Suck" bumper sticker affixed to its rear. A tall, pretty blonde, the 51-year-old has a personality to match her car--spunky and fun, not an ounce of pretension. "I feel lots of vibes here," Echo whispered as we entered the English Tudor Revival style mansion. "I mean, lots of vibes!"
The first thing I learned about ghost hunting is that it's difficult to do when you're in a group of 25, being hustled from room to room by a tour guide who seems to fear for her job, or worse, should any of her lambs stray. "It'll be tough to pinpoint a ghost in all this commotion," Echo told me, as we crossed the main foyer. Besides the stream of tours, gubernatorial staffers and other officials were bouncing between several meetings, including, we were told, The Brain, formerly known as The Body. (We didn't see him, but a press aide did verify later that one evening, when he was alone, the governor went to check on a crash in the mansion's kitchen and found dishes all over the floor.)
I gave Echo space to conduct her psychic snooping, which she performed remarkably inconspicuously. Quiet concentration, mostly. If you didn't know better, you'd think she was trying to make out a distant sound or recall a shopping list.
After the tour, we retreated to a restaurant to debrief. "Well," I demanded, as we dug into salads, "what's the verdict?"
"Oh, the place is haunted, all right," Echo said. "There was a ghost on the first floor, beyond the hallway we weren't allowed down." She closed her eyes. "I can see him better here than I could there. He's an older man. He's got white hair, a white beard. He's very content."
As Echo spoke, her eyelids twitched and her head moved slightly side to side. "He's pleased with his house--and he does consider it his house. He likes that important people live there, that history is being made there ... OK, OK," she added, as if responding to a voice only she could hear. "He doesn't care for the tours. He likes dignitaries, the aristocrats--his word--that come and go."
"Why is he there?" I asked.
"Pride in his home," Echo said, eyes still shut. "He just sits there, often by a window, and he watches people pass by. He's probably the original owner." (Horace Hills Irvine, we learned on the tour, a St. Paul attorney who built the place in 1910.) "Uh-huh, yes, I see. He also enjoys having a cigar--or two." Echo's eyes popped open. "We should find out if anybody smells cigar smoke when Jesse Ventura is not in the mansion!"