SUISUN CITY — The spirit known as Victoria was apparently drawn to the Lawler House’s front porch by the metal sculpture of the jester whose legs were bent as if he was dancing.
“She identifies with this because her own legs were twisted up by polio,” said paranormal investigator Devin Sisk who, with his group of fellow paranormal investigators, has spent the past several months researching old town Suisun City’s supernatural past.
Victoria, Sisk said, died in 1923 when she was 7 and had a brother who also died young. Sisk first encountered her across Main Street, but said he noticed she was more often found at the Lawler House.
Armed with K-2 meters to detect spiritual energy and dousing rods to communicate with the spirits, Sisk has been tracking down what he contends are spirits of those who lived and died here all the way back to the town’s early days.
While the meters find the presence, the dousing rods allow Sisk to play a supernatural form of 20 questions with the rods crossing if the spirit’s answer is yes and bending apart, if it’s no.
In the case of Victoria, Sisk asks her to move the rods when his count-up reaches the age when she died. The rods twitch together at seven. The same goes when he recites the alphabet. The rods finally move when he reaches V and then one of the psychically sensitive members of the group starts calling out names starting with V. The rods join together when she offers the name Victoria.
Sisk, in conjunction with the Suisun City Historic Waterfront Business District, is getting ready to invite both the believers and the skeptics along for ghost walks to introduce people to those spirits and to tell their stories.
Given Suisun City’s history as a rowdy railroad town, those stories can be pretty sordid and unusual.
One is Michael, who, Sisk said, was murdered by drowning in 1924 after he got involved in rum-running operation that resulted in him losing some of the illicit booze and paying for that mistake with his life.
There are a series of prostitutes he identifies as Iris, Hillary, Eleanor, Sweet Marie and Frances, whose spirits can be found at various spots along Main Street near the hotels and pool halls where they plied their business in the decades before World War II.
In what is now Waterfront Comics, there’s the spirit of a 16-year-old named Robert who “saw something he wasn’t supposed to see” in 1887 and ended up getting strangled for it, according to Sisk.
John Harter, who runs the comics store, said he didn’t know he had a ghost in the building his family owns and said he is fine with having it there.
Sisk has been conducting ghost walking tours through Benicia’s historic old town for years and was involved in organizing the first Benicia Ghost Conference in August 2013.
His investigations in Benicia have uncovered spirits there such as Ben, who was a worker at the Benicia train station; Francesca, a young girl whose spirit is particularly attached to a rocking horse in The Tannery Building on First Street; Jenny and Rosie, prostitutes who once lived in the Washington House; and Irish John, a boxer who shanghaied sailors on the waterfront but ended up drowned.
He started expanding his investigations to Suisun City and Napa last year. Downtowns in both cities have long histories complete with their own supernatural lore.
Sisk is still in the midst of researching more of Suisun City’s past as what he called “a pretty rambunctious town” with a history of railroading, brothels, saloons and the running of booze during Prohibition.
“I am not there yet with sharing all of their stories yet,” Sisk said of his research of the spirits he said he and his team have detected.
He was invited last fall by downtown Suisun City’s business association to look into the possibility of hosting ghost walks here.
Laura Cole Rowe, Suisun City Historic Waterfront Business Improvement District coordinator, heard about the Benicia walks “and thought it would be perfect for Suisun since the merchants and building owners said they have felt presences in their buildings,” she said.
Whether you are a skeptic or a believer of the supernatural, Rowe called the walks a good form of entertainment. She also notes that many of the business owners, especially the artists in the 157-year-old Lawler House itself, have said several times that they have felt presences there.
The ghost walk tours are tentatively slated to take place the second and fourth Fridays of the month through October, Rowe said. Those who want to sign for the tours, information about reservations will be posted at www.suisunwaterfront.com by this weekend, Rowe said.
Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ithompsondr.