It was bound to happen, you know. In this nasty job climate, people are losing or abandoning unstable jobs and seeking out alternative means of income. Whether it’s inventing iPhone applications, smuggling opium or painting rocks and selling them to tourists, the financially desperate are thinking creatively.

Brother, I want some of that.

Unfortunately, the range of my skills has a limit. I could paint rocks easily enough, but I could never sell them to tourists because, as we learned in last week’s windy column, I am no Billy Mays. Even in death, Billy Mays is a better salesman than I could ever be.

So I’ve decided to become a ghost hunter.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: “Mark, this is not crazy at all. In fact, I applaud your wisdom in making this decision and would like to buy you a drink.”

And you’re right, I am a genius.

Everybody is ghost sleuthing these days so you know it’s a lucrative business. Men and women with no paranormal training at all have television shows that draw millions of truly bored viewers each week. They go into abandoned buildings, shut the lights off and set up a variety of equipment whether or not it has any practical use in the art of hunting for spirits. I’m pretty sure that on one particular show, I saw the team get by with nothing more than a gutted clock radio and a meat thermometer, and yet their audience ate it up.

I believe I can do it better. For one, I will never, ever, under any circumstances, put out the lights when I am in the middle of teasing out ghosts. There is not one bit of scientific or even anecdotal evidence that spirits of the after-world only come out in the dark. And yet there they are, ghost busters everywhere turning out the lights and bathing each other in the semi-erotic green glow of infrared.

Ridiculous. If something floats, creeps or oozes near you in the dark, it’s hard to tell what it is. I am more likely to punch emerging evidence in the ectoplasmic face than to capture its essence if the son of a gun slithers up and touches me on the shoulder.

Forget about the Civil War-era homes and abandoned prisons, too. Why would I travel all the way to some place like Pennsylvania when so much of Lewiston-Auburn is haunted? Ghosts are known to cavort in places with a history of suffering and … well, come on, it’s Lewiston-Auburn.

Consider me an urban ghost buster. We will start our ghoulish work at The Home Depot.

Several years ago, a woman wrote me a series of letters detailing how her husband once moved the bones of the dead from an overcrowded cemetery to a plot that would later become home to the massive try-to-do-it-yourself-and-fail-horribly store.

In the middle of shopping hours, my team and I will enter Home Depot and begin calling out ghosts.

“I’m definitely picking up some EMF activity near this selection of belt sanders,” I will tell the audience in a breathless tone. And then, because I mean to educate: “That stands for electromagnetic furniture and it was wicked strong over in the lawn and garden section.”

I figure the old mills in Lewiston are ripe for ghost picking, as well. I don’t know how much suffering went on there during their heyday, but we’ve all suffered because we’ve had to look at them for so long. It’s a good bet that ghosts abound.

It is 5 p.m. at DaVinci’s. Diners are filling up on linguine and meatballs, not knowing that unhappy spirits are roaming everywhere and occasionally sneaking sips from their wine.

“The Polaroid shows numerous orbs around this table of five,” I will say in a breathless tone that really pops because I’ve been working on it. “Sir? I’m going to need you to step away from the bruschetta. Official ghost police business.”

Up a few blocks and around a corner and here we are at the Sun Journal. For so many years, reporters have suffered with deadlines and meddling editors. I figure this may be the very epicenter of paranormal activity in our area.

Only, every time I try to measure it, the meat thermometer starts beeping wildly in my hand. The dials of the gutted clock radio spin out of control whenever I get near it. Do I need any more evidence than this?

In the course of this arduous investigation we have discovered that I am the ghost that haunts the Sun Journal — and how do you like that irony? It’s the kind of irony that will really sell a show and bring advertisers begging for 30-second slots.

I’d pitch it more, but now I have to go perform what is known in the business as an auto-exorcism. It ain’t pretty, but the more I think about it, it could make for fantastic entertainment.

I might even make a few bucks.

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. You can e-mail ghost-hunting tips to him at [email protected]

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