Lynne and Max Schwalbe met on a Friday. Two days after the blind date they were engaged.
“I wasn't going to let him get away,” Lynne laughed.
They were married 42 years. The Schwalbes won their honeymoon, a 10-day trip to Boston and Cape Cod, on the game show “Queen for a Day” in 1954. They bought a house on Amherst Drive in 1969, and for 48 years Max sold insurance in Burbank as ethically as he could. If there was a better insurance deal out there, Max would tell you about it, even if he wasn't selling it.
They divorced for five years but then Max came back to his beloved, and they remained together for another five and a half years in what Lynne calls their best times together. They were still together in 2007 when Max fell near the fish tank in the living room and broke his arm. He died three weeks later.
Sometime after, the pennies appeared.
Lynne has a pretty common routine when she goes out: Roll up the windows, check the doors to make sure they are locked, and grab the purse. She never puts the purse on the passenger seat, she says, which is why she couldn't explain where these pennies would come from. But on a few occasions, she would return to her locked car and find a single penny on the passenger side. That's where Max used to sit.
Other strange things happened. On the 16-month anniversary of Max's death, Lynne was on the phone with a friend, and at the mention of his name the lights in Lynne's bedroom flickered. The television and alarm clock weren't affected.
Another time, a family acquaintance offered Lynne a real estate business proposal. While she was mulling it over, her daughter called the house. Normally the answering machine with Lynne's message would pick up but on this particular occasion, the message from the old machine in Max's home office — a machine connected to a completely different phone number — popped on instead.
She turned down the business offer, which later was revealed as a scam. The other answering machine message, the one with Max's trademark “Leave a message — You know the drill,” never clicked on after that.
Lynne shared these stories with a friend one day, and that friend mentioned her grandson has a little group in town that investigates such occurrences.
Matt Fritz founded Burbank Paranormal Research in 2005 with his friend since sixth grade, Chris Rockriver, and another friend Jonine Latar. BPR uses an array of electronic devices to try to prove to homeowners that the bumps in the night are heaters kicking on, or fireplaces cooling off after a chilled winter's night, or anything but ghosts. They are called to locations throughout Southern California 10 to 20 times a year to witness the weird.
Though shows like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures have brought paranormal research to the mainstream, Fritz and Rockriver say they don't watch “ghost hunting” shows, and are careful not to say unexplained phenomena are “ghosts” or “spirits.” If a dark shape on a photo appears human, it's an “entity.” It is documented, logged, and shown to the homeowner afterward.
It's not a science — you can't hold up “evidence” of a shape on a grainy video recording for peer review. There are no experts in a field of theory — something Fritz and Rockriver are quick to point out.
So why set up video cameras and electromagnetic field detectors to sit in the dark for five hours? And why do it for free?
“It's basically community service,” Fritz said. “We're a volunteer group.”
They are called to homes because a child is inconsolable at night, claiming there's something in his bedroom. They are called because someone is seeking answers, or seeking solace.
They visited Lynne Schwalbe's house Dec. 21, 2008. That night they recorded some activity around her fish tank. Then, whenever Fritz tried to open the door to the house, it wouldn't budge. Other BPR team members walked through it freely.
On video footage after, they found what looked like a man's head wander into frame. No one was in the room at the time.
Lynne said the shape had Max's pompadour hairstyle, which he wore when he was younger. It didn't prove anything to her — but she can't discount the strange experiences.
“I still don't believe yes or no,” she said. “I used to watch (TV psychic) Sylvia Browne and thought it was silly … but how can I dismiss all these things that would happen?”
About two years ago Lynne had a quiet moment thinking of her Max. She told him, “Max dear, I love you. I always loved you, but I'm doing fine. Please be at peace.”
The pennies stopped appearing. And Lynne misses them.
BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant from the East Coast. When he's not listening for bumps in the night, he can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter at 818NewGuy.