Paul Greenberg

It could have been a scene out of "Ghostbusters," only instead of Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd, it featured Alan Lowe, 55, of Roland, Ark., and his volunteers from Spirit Seekers Paranormal Investigation Research and Intervention Team. ("Where the Here and the Hereafter Meet," to quote his business card.)

Instead of wandering around the New York Public Library, these Arkansas ghostbusters were spending most of a dark if not stormy night in the friendly confines of the state Capitol, which must get a little spooky after the lights go out. Those long, echoing marble halls are a little scary even in broad daylight, especially when you remember some of the legislation that's been sneaked through those premises.

Mr. Lowe and his impressive team of eight came fully equipped with video and audio equipment, though not the 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Ambulance, aka Ecto-1, featured in the movie. Or even the particle accelerators that toasted my favorite character, the huge Stay Puft Marshmallow man. Ummm, he would have been delicious over a campfire complete with, natch, ghost stories.

So what did these intrepid Spirit Seekers come across during their eight-hour sojourn in the state Capitol on a Saturday night? Voices so faint they couldn't be heard with the unaided ear. Floating orbs with comet tails. Sounds like the psychic remains of some appropriations bills that should have been dead on arrival.

There were no signs of Slimer or the Terror Dogs from the movie, but the Capitol is still under psychic investigation. "We're still reviewing," says Mr. Lowe, Spirit Seeker No. 1, "but there's something paranormal in there." And the Legislature's not even in session.

The great god Gozer of Ghostbusters fame wasn't encountered during the night, but there were a couple of actual sightings and soundings. A spectral figure, after a grunt or two, identified himself as "Edward," and another, on being asked if he'd been a state senator, pleaded innocent. "Real lightly and faint in the background," reports Mr. Lowe, "you can hear 'No.' "

It couldn't have been Arkansas' own Jeff Davis, the Wild Ass of the Ozarks, who never spoke lightly and faintly about anything. Especially the state Capitol. In the early years of the last century, that legendary senator and governor was not at all eager to build a new Capitol in the image of the federal one - and on the site of the old state penitentiary at that. (Talk about inviting ghosts!)

To quote my favorite riff from that populist Demosthenes:


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.