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Sightings: Ghost of Brookdale Lodge

Sylvia Browne knows details about a reputed haunting. Did she have prior knowledge?

Logo for the television show 'Sightings'

Logo for the television show "Sightings"

Background

On November 27, 1994, an episode of the television show "Sightings" was aired, containing a segment titled "Ghost of Brookdale Lodge," in which Sylvia Browne investigates reported ghostly activity.

During the segment, Browne told employees of the lodge about the spirit of a little girl named Sarah, who had shown Browne a reenactment of the little girl's death by drowning. The employees confirmed that a little girl by that name had drowned on the property decades ago, and was rumored to haunt the place.

Impressive? This article examines the story.

The Story

Browne wrote about this "haunting investigation" in her 2003 book Visits From the Afterlife, and assured her readers that she had absolutely no prior knowledge of the ghosts rumored to haunt the Brookdale Lodge.

Starting on page 46 of the hardcover edition of the book, in the chapter titled "Ghosts That I Have Known and Loved," Browne tells the tale.

Here are some excerpts (emphasis mine):

Visits From the Afterlife
Browne's book, 'Visits From the Afterlife'

Browne's book, "Visits From the Afterlife"

The Brookdale Lodge

I was asked by Sightings, a TV show produced by Henry Winkler, to investigate rumors of paranormal activity at the Brookdale Lodge in northern California. At my request, no one told me the specifics of that activity, but I was filled in on the lodge's fairly chaotic history - from what I understood, it had been burned to the ground, abandoned, and sold, bought, remodeled, sold again, and remodeled again.

(...)

And so, with a handful of my staff members in tow armed with cameras and tape recorders for our own documentation, I headed off to the Brookdale Lodge with no clue what to expect.

(...)

I started in the dining room, known as the Brookroom, where many of the strange noises and unexplained sightings by both employees and guests seemed to be centered, and by the time we reached the doorway I had successfully tuned out all the people and equipment around me, and as far as I was concerned, I stepped into the dining room alone.

Postcard of the 'Brookroom' at Brookdale Lodge, circa 1940

Postcard of the "Brookroom" at Brookdale Lodge, circa 1940

No wonder it's called the Brookroom. There's a brook, an actual mountain creek, flowing peacefully right through it, every bit as captivating as it sounds. My sense of being alone quickly vanished when I heard childish laughter and looked to see a little girl, maybe six or seven years old, playfully running beside the creek, a woman I assumed to be her nanny in hot pursuit. Suddenly, to my horror, the child ran too close to the railing of a small footbridge, lost her footing, fell, and very violently hit her head. Aware as I was that I was witnessing a kind of time-warp "instant replay" of an event that had happened many, many years before, the impact was painful to watch.

I glanced behind me just long enough to realize that no one but I could see this child and her nanny, and by the time I turned around again the little girl was standing in front of me.

"Are you all right?" I asked her.

She nodded.

She was far from all right. I knew she had actually just reexperienced the sequence of events that killed her. But before I could explain to her that she was dead and help her go Home, she happily announced, "I'm Sarah, and that's my nanny, Maria" she pointed back toward the creek, to the woman I could no longer see. And with that, she let out a playful giggle and ran away, quickly disappearing among the dining room tables and chairs.

I asked the lodge employees if anyone had ever heard of a little girl named Sarah. Several of them exchanged looks before one of them volunteered that sometime around 1950, a six-year-old child named Sarah Logan, who was the lodge owner's niece, drowned in the dining-room creek.

Note that Browne states "at my request, no one told me the specifics of that [paranormal] activity" and "I headed off to Brookdale with no clue what to expect."

Are those true statements? If so, it would make her seeing both Sarah and the circumstances behind Sarah's death, very interesting.

So the question is, did Browne have prior knowledge of the lodge, and of "Sarah?"

San Jose Mercury News
Article in the archives of the San Jose Mercury News

Article in the archives of the San Jose Mercury News

One reason to believe Browne had prior knowledge is documented in an article printed in the San Jose Mercury News almost four years prior to the airing of the "Sightings" episode.

The article is excerpted here (emphasis mine):

January 4, 1991

DISLODGING THE GHOSTS? EERIE EVENTS AT HOTEL RATTLE OWNERS, LEAD TO 'EXORCISM'

Author: PAUL ROGERS, Mercury News Staff Writer

Edition: Morning Final
Section: Front

Page: 1A

A no-nonsense San Francisco cop and his family are learning what locals in the Santa Cruz Mountains have known for years: Ask for spirits in the Brookdale Lodge and you might get more than a shot of whiskey.

(...)

But since the Gilberts bought the Brookdale last year and began learning more about its eclectic setting, a series of bizarre late night events has them thinking -- dare they admit it -- as much about ghosts as remodeling and running the hotel. Wednesday night, two Gnostic ministers who work with Campbell psychic Sylvia Browne conducted a "house blessing" to try to communicate with and rid the lodge of ghosts.

(...)

The Gilberts' 24-year-old daughter, Kim, who graduated from San Francisco State University last year and has worked at the lodge as resident manager ever since, tried to ignore or explain rationally most of the events, until October. Clearing up in the bar one evening, she heard a noise in the lobby. Thinking it was her 4-year-old daughter, Gilbert said she rounded the corner and saw the ghostlike image of a little girl.

''It was very clear, like a whole person," she remembered. "It wasn't hazy like people say ghosts are supposed to look like."

The apparition, which Gilbert said wore a 1940s style formal dress and had long hair, ran silently across the lobby for about five seconds and disappeared through an office window.

''It freaked me out. I thought this must be the little girl I had heard about."

Little Ghost Named Sarah

According to Brookdale legend, the little girl is named Sarah. The niece of the lodge owner 50 years ago, she drowned in the creek that runs through the dining room, the story continues, and her spirit remains to this day in the building.

(...)

Bring In The Mystics

After hearing similar stories from local residents and dwelling on the incident with "Sarah" in the lobby, Kim Gilbert phoned the office of Browne.

Browne, 54, has long been a fixture on Bay Area morning talk shows and the college lecture circuit, where she counsels followers with an exotic mixture of pop psychology and metaphysics. On several occasions police investigators have called her for help in stalled missing persons cases.

Two of her assistants, Gnostic ministers from the Campbell- based Church of Novus Spiritis, went to the lodge for a "house blessing."

(...)

So, two of Browne's assistants definitely knew about the Lodge, and about its purported ghostly activity. But did Browne herself know?

People who were members of Browne's church in Campbell at the time tell me that the cleansing ceremony is referred to as a "haunting." They also assured me that the two assistants who performed the "haunting" at the Brookdale Lodge spoke of that experience with both ministers and staff, until the lodge's "ghostly history" - including that of "Sarah" - was common knowledge at the church.

The same people have also assured me that it was standard practice that, after ministers had performed a "haunting," they would report back the entire incident to Browne herself. Did they do so in this case? It seems quite likely.

The two assistants also returned to the Brookdale Lodge the following day to film a story about the "haunting" for a local television news show. I am currently trying to find a tape of that story.

It strains credulity to think that Browne would not have read the newspaper article or watched the TV News story, both of which prominently featured her assistants.

A Wedding

Yet another reason to doubt Browne's claim that she had no prior knowledge:

In 1983, Sylvia Browne was present at her son Paul Dufresne's wedding ceremony and reception, which took place at the Brookdale Lodge, in the Brookroom, the very room where Browne would claim to see the ghost of Sarah Logan eleven years later.

Browne neglected to mention that particular fact in her account of her "investigation" for the Sightings show, making it seem as though she was seeing the Brookroom for the first time in 1994.

Analysis

Let's look at a summary of the facts:

1. Since at least the 1970s, Browne, with a known interest in "haunted houses," lived less than a half-hour's drive away from the lodge, a local famous landmark and reputed "haunted house."

2. Browne attended her son's wedding ceremony and reception in the Brookdale Lodge's "Brookroom" in 1983.

3. Two of her assistants perform a "haunting" at the lodge in 1991, learning all about the purported ghosts there.

4. The assistants' account of that "haunting" was common knowledge at the church.

5. It was standard procedure for those who performed a "haunting" to report it to Browne in detail.

6. A newspaper account of the "haunting" was published in Browne's local newspaper.

7. A TV news story about the "haunting" was broadcast by a station local to Browne.

Given all of the above, I find Browne's claim to have had "no prior knowledge" of the purported ghostly activity at the Brookdale Lodge in 1994 to be extremely difficult to believe.

Conclusion

Is it possible Browne didn't know about the lodge's purported ghosts? Yes.

Is it likely? Not very.

The two people who could tell us for certain (aside from Browne herself) are the two assistants who performed the "haunting." If either of them wish to come forward and be quoted on whether or not they told Browne about "Sarah," I will publish their statements.

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