The last time Jeannette Bruce's picture appeared in these pages (Jan. 19, 1970) she was perched on a cardboard crescent of a moon, 30 feet above the ice in Madison Square Garden. After all, what more suitable spot for a writer having a guest shot as the Ice Capades' Moon Maiden? And what better candidate for such an uncommon role than Bruce, who this week is seen in spectral company? Bruce has been out chasing ghosts—the sporting variety—and writing a Halloween ghost story, which begins on page 104.
She read a book about ghosts, became fascinated and started a search for domestic examples. A track in Maryland was said to be haunted by a horse named Troublemaker, dead since 1932, but when she asked around, she could find no one who had ever heard of him. Same thing with the two long-dead figure skaters who haunted the rink in New York's Central Park. And that was the way it went for her with American ghosts. New England had sailors and sea captains and the South had old plantations astir with the spirits of slave days. But of sporting wraiths she found none—especially no basketball, football, baseball types. "Those games are too young," Bruce concluded. "It takes time for a spook to mature."
So she went to Britain, which turned out to be a ghostly paradise. She found a card-playing ghost there, and the ghosts of a horse trainer, a motorcycle racer, a cricket player, a bowler and a bicyclist, and the ghost of a fencing Jesuit. In the process the hairs on the back of her neck got a good workout.
Once while she was talking on the phone, there was a knock on her hotel door. But when she opened it no one was there. In Connemara, Ireland, she checked in at Renvyle House for a one-night stay despite being warned that certain rooms were "uncomfortable" because of foul deeds that had been committed on the premises centuries before. At 5 a.m., still wide awake, she got dressed and hit the road.
"When I started this I was skeptical," she says now, "but after reading 28 books on ghosts and psychic experiences and going over there and talking to people I became a believer. There are some things we just don't understand."
Well, there are some things about Jeannette Bruce we just don't understand, such as how she manages to disappear on assignment for months at a stretch. But the stories she produces, ah, those we understand. Since descending from the moon, for example, Bruce has rumbled through Nepal on an elephant and been rescued at 15,000 feet by one of the Dalai Lama's horses. In Timbuktu she was aboard a camel, of course, and back home she soloed in a balloon that crashed into a tree. What a life.
"I really enjoy these things so much," she says. "I lose myself so completely I forget I'm supposed to be writing a story. Did you ever try writing while you're sitting on the back of a camel?"
Her next project is typical Bruce. In November she will fly to South America and board a three-masted square-rigger in Valparaiso, Chile, for a month-long trip around Cape Horn. Everyone aboard will work as a crew member. It will not be a pleasure cruise, she says, with slight apprehension. But we are betting it will be a story.
BRUCE (LEFT) AND GHOSTLY FRIEND