Letter to the Editor, Nov. 7: You’ve got that haunted feeling

You’ve got that haunted feeling: The Tuttle Mansion

To the Editor,

With the exception of a few years, I have lived my whole life in Watsonville, and during that time I have never heard the Tuttle Mansion was haunted. That’s why the Register-Pajaronian article on Oct. 31 caught me by surprise.

Yet, just being made privy to this history of the mansion’s alleged paranormal activity, does not mean I don’t believe there hasn’t been any. In fact, my one and only experience with the mansion, in the over half century I’ve been around, was disconcerting to say the least.

The 1981 Watsonville Polk guide reveals 723 East Lake Ave. was known as “The Tuttle Mansion offices.” Suite E was Spectrum Studios. Unbelievably, the Spectrum Studios order/invoice for Watsonville High senior photo shoot still survives and reveals it took place July 8, 1981 with the “retake” happening on July 20, 1981.

From the moment I entered the Tuttle Mansion that summer afternoon, a feeling of foreboding enveloped me. I saw no ghosts. I heard no sounds. It was just quiet. Inside it smelled like an old house. Not a bad smell, but not exactly an inviting one. I made my way up the narrow stairs to the studio. A photographer’s assistant handed me a tuxedo coat, bow-tie, and white shirt to put on. She had on a lot of perfume which gained power in the stuffy room.

In 1981, I had quite a bush of hair, and combed it best I could. The assistant added hair spray, and the double whammy of the spray and perfume was a zinger. No makeup was applied and I never asked for any.

The actual photography did not take that long and I breathed a sigh upon exiting the old mansion.

A week later, in the mail, I got the proofs and a recommendation from Spectrum to schedule a “retake.” In looking over the proofs, I could see why the photogs wanted me back. A person perusing these initial images might have commented, “check out this bush with zits in a tuxedo.”

The “retake” was also in the afternoon at the mansion. This time they caked makeup on. It dried in place under the lights. To this day I wonder why I didn’t need makeup the first time and a truckload the second. It has to be that the photographer, the first time, wanted to capture the earthy, uncensored Charles.

But convention wasn’t going to have any of that. As much as zits and high school mix, zits and senior pictures do not. So what remains is a senior picture of a person dressed in a tuxedo  with clear skin and having nothing in common with me at the time. And there is something haunting about that.

Charles Birimisa



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