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Dark Sunset 

Wednesday, Feb 28 2007
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Off the icy Pacific rolls the fog, over the beach, across the Great Highway and into the streets of the Sunset. The cold ghostly mass advances up Taraval, quieting the chilly morning air, dampening the streets, and casting a gloomy shadow over the tombstone of Henry Dubbers.

That's right: a grave at the northwest corner of 43rd Avenue and Taraval. According to the stone, Dubbers was born Nov. 12, 1817, and was laid to rest here on Sept. 29, 1890.

Could this be a remnant from the Sunset's past, from a time before? As legend has it, all the local gravesites were moved to Colma long ago. Alas, no. The landlord of the adjacent apartment building, Ken Crizer, says he placed the tombstone (which he found buried in a friend's garage) there in December as a joke of sorts. More precisely, he put it there to aggravate city officials after they told him he couldn't plant a tree in the open patch of sidewalk and would be fined $700 if he did.

"I received a notice saying the tree basin had to be out toward the street, not against the building," Crizer says. "But I had just pulled out an old cypress which had been there for 47 years with no complaints!"

"So I planted a grave instead," Crizer chuckles darkly.

But not everyone in the neighborhood found the joke funny. One of Crizer's tenants, Mr. Lee (he declined to give his first name), feared that the 2-foot-tall monument would attract ghouls after dark. In fact, on the night of Feb. 12, Lee says he saw one. The phantom appeared at 2 a.m. in Lee's hallway and walked past his open bedroom door in a classic white gown. The 88-year-old man, who suspects the spirit belonged to a fallen comrade from the China-Japan war, leapt from his bed and crept after the ghost, but it vanished. When daylight arrived, Lee found seven of his prized goldfish belly up in their murky 10-gallon tank.

"In China they believe that when a ghost comes to your house, it must take a life with it when it leaves," says Lee. "This one took my fish! Twenty dollars each! That grave is bad!"

After Lee complained, Crizer removed the gravestone. Crizer says he still hopes to put something green and living in the vacant plot: "As soon as this dies down again, I'm just going to plant a new tree there. I don't care what the city says."

About The Author

Alastair Bland

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