'The Colonel' made himself at home in Corning Court house
Sharing her house with a ghost has been a pleasant, almost comforting experience for Marylen Brewer for the past 35 years.
"The Colonel," as she calls him, has the run of her 1924 home, where every room is decorated with Victorian furnishings that evoke the mysteries of the past.
"He died in that bedroom," Brewer says, pointing to her master bedroom. "It doesn't bother me a bit."
The 80-year-old costume designer lives on Corning Court in east Medford, where she owns two houses — both of which are haunted.
The former Texas resident moved into the first house in 1977 and fell in love with it immediately. It was built in 1925 for Dr. Bert Roy Elliott, known as the "painless dentist," and designed by noted local architect Frank Clark.
Brewer suspected the house might have a spirit as soon as she walked in the front door.
"At first, I just noticed things moving around," she says. "Then, I would often hear an old-fashioned-type phone ringing."
From time to time, she could smell the odor of pipe tobacco. Friends and family who stopped by would sense a strange presence and notice the TV mysteriously turning off and on. Little children would describe an older gentleman playing with them in various rooms, but the adults could never find him.
Brewer felt certain she had a ghost in the house. After a little sleuthing, she determined her spirit was Col. Franklin D. Applin, who was born in 1885 and became the second owner of the house in 1946. He died of natural causes in 1967.
Brewer's business, Marylen Costume Design and Manufacturing Inc., which has created 2,000 costumes used by Disneyland and other businesses around the world, is located across the street in another historical house. She says that house also has a ghost, though not as active as her Colonel.
Brewer says it never frightened her to have a ghost in her home, and she is rather fond of the Colonel's presence.
A year or so after moving in, Brewer, who was awake at 2 a.m. — not uncommon for the hard-working designer — decided to move a bookshelf by the front door up the stairs. A slight woman, Brewer dragged it across the living room, then muscled it up a few steps before realizing she was in trouble.
She cried out, " 'Colonel, if you're ever going to help me, help me now,' " Brewer recalls. "Then, the bookshelf lifted up and we got to the top of the stairs and into the bedroom. I said, 'Thank you.' "
Like any couple, Brewer and the Colonel have had their share of disputes.
Once, when the furnace needed to be replaced, the repairman complained he couldn't get the new unit to work. There was something weird about her basement, he said.
"I told him to go to lunch," she says. "I was going to have a little talk with the Colonel. I went to the basement and told him, 'If you don't stop, I'll have you exorcised.' "
When the repairman returned from lunch, he got the furnace working in five minutes, Brewer says.
Gardeners have quit over the years because the Colonel, who took care of the yard when he was alive, apparently didn't approve of the work they were doing, she says.
"I think he's chased quite a few people away," she says.
The Colonel even chased off a former husband, something Brewer doesn't regret.
In the backyard is a koi pond that was built by the Colonel and is the focal point for the garden. Brewer's former husband disliked the pond and, without getting her permission, filled it in with sand.
"I was pretty upset," she says.
Shortly afterward, the couple were watching TV one night when they heard the sound of running water. Someone had turned on a valve and flooded the basement in ankle-deep water.
"I think the Colonel did that to get even with him," Brewer says.
Another time, Brewer was talking to a little boy who described an older-looking man mowing her front yard. Puzzled because she didn't have an older gardener, Brewer went outside, but the apparition had vanished.
Her granddaughter, Erica Braden, remembers holding tea parties with the Colonel in the "teddy bear" room upstairs. It didn't bother her then. But the 26-year-old Medford woman says she can still feel his presence in the house.
"It's just creepy," Braden says. "I would never be here alone."
Brewer says she has warned her daughter that if she moves into her home after Brewer's death, not to paint all the walls different colors like she's done in her own house.
"Not only will the Colonel come back to haunt you, I will, too," she told her daughter.
Brewer says that the Colonel's visitations have regrettably declined over the years. She saw him only once, standing in her backyard, under a tree, staring at her.
"I remember saying, 'I finally get to see you,' " Brewer recalls. "And then he just faded away."
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.