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Do more than surfers haunt Huntington Beach's museum?

Kate Leigh was on the roof of Huntington Beach's Shorebreak Hotel when she caught a glimpse of what she could only describe as a ghost.

Then just like that, it disappeared into the night, sucked into an air conditioning unit, she said.

These are the kinds of ghost stories that dozens of guests got to hear while gathered in the supposedly numinous halls of the International Surfing Museum at 411 Olive Ave. on Wednesday night. The event was part of "Night at the Surfing Museum," hosted by former FBI special agent turned SyFy channel host Ben Hansen.

Haunted OC, an organization that puts on tours of places in Orange County that have been identified as haunted, teamed up with Hansen on the museum program.

In what was more lecture than scary tour of darkened rooms — though an overnight paranormal investigation might be conducted there eventually — Hansen took visitors through the history of Huntington Beach, and special guests told stories about local haunts.

Brett Barnes, owner of Duke's at 317 Pacific Coast Hwy., told of the ghostly appearance of Duke Kahanamoku, the legendary surfer who inspired the restaurant's name.

Barnes said that in September 1998, before the restaurant opened, he gathered his new crew of employees for their first staff meeting. Despite the surf being big and sloppy that day, somebody in the group suddenly saw a lone bodyboarder in the water, Barnes said.

The entire crew looked and saw what Barnes believes to be the ghost of Kahanamoku, who died in 1968, based on the distinct bodyboarding style of the figure. Barnes said it mirrored Kahanamoku's unmistakable technique.

"We knew right then that building was blessed," Barnes said.

Diana Dehm, executive director of the museum, had her own stories about the mysteries within the walls of the great ode to surfing founded decades ago by Natalie Kotsch, who reportedly had never surfed.

Dehm, who started working at the museum about a year ago, said she's noticed pictures repeatedly falling off walls and lights mysteriously turning on.

She shared security camera footage from Tuesday night showing a picture falling from a frame while nobody was near it.

Hansen said he would need to investigate the footage further to see if the incident was an example of what paranormal experts call object manipulation, when spirits move objects.

Hansen, 39, who has called Huntington Beach home the past 10 years, is a former FBI agent who now sees himself as a paranormal investigator. He once hosted a show called "Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files," which ran from 2010 to 2013 on SyFy.

Hansen said in an earlier interview that he's experienced a variety of frights while on the job, including hearing traceless voices and seeing objects thrown.

Hansen said he believes that spirits roam the world, perhaps in another dimension that once in a while aligns with ours so people can feel or hear them.

At the museum event, he played recordings and showed footage of what he called possible supernatural events.

While investigating the Queen Mary in Long Beach in 2009, he caught several ghostly sounds on a recorder, including whispers along the lines of "He walked in" or "I locked it" after Hansen had gone through an area typically off limits.

Later in the investigation, he stuck his recorder in a closet. The words "Got ya" can be heard on the recording.

The eeriest recordinghe shared that night was a whispering of his name while he investigated Cincinnati's Sedamsville Rectory, which is famous for alleged hauntings.

Hansen also came prepared Wednesday night with video footage, and one in particular held the crowd's attention.

While Hansen was exploring the USS North Carolina for his television show, crew members found one of the cameras heavily damaged on the floor. They later realized it had been in the equipment bag feet away from where they found it.

Hansen said he believed a spirit had responded to a flippant remark he made about how someone died on the ship. Unfortunately, he said, the footage did not catch what happened to the camera.

Laura Bentz, 31, of Santa Ana attended Wednesday's event because she's a fan of Hansen's show and a believer in supernatural events.

Bentz said that when she was a child, she felt a tug on her hair but when she turned around, she couldn't see anyone. Bentz said she believes it was her deceased grandmother, who used to pull on her hair.

Hansen's presentation may have swayed some non-believers.

Richie Kong, 31, of Norwalk said he wasn't really open to ghosts before the event but now has an open mind.

Hansen said in the earlier interview that he was happy to finally do an event that celebrates the city's surfing culture, and he hopes to team up with the museum in the next few months to do an overnight paranormal investigation. It would be open to the public.

Hansen and friend Ernie Alonzo, director of Haunted OC , plan to collaborate on haunted walking tours in Huntington Beach during the summer.

benjamin.brazil@latimes.com

Twitter: @benbrazilpilot

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