Is It Weird that All Three Members of the Oakland Ghost Committee Are Buried in the Same Cemetery?

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a page about the Oakland Ghost Committee: William W. Crane, Jr., J.K. McLean, and Joseph Le Conte. In 1874, this trio investigated a three-day haunting at the house of Thomas Clarke. They concluded that there was not enough evidence to say something supernatural had happened, a pronouncement that aggravated Clarke. Though Clarke and the Committee lived in Oakland, California, the story found its way into newspapers at least as far away as Ohio and Tennessee.

This week, I did some follow-up research. Information about Joseph Le Conte is easy to find; he was a pretty big deal, I gather. He taught at the University of California (now UC-Berkeley) and wrote books, including an autobiographyFind-a-Grave, a surprisingly helpful site, confirms that Le Conte was born in 1823 and died in 1901, adding that he’s buried in Oakland’s Mountain View Cemetery.

Oakland Ghost Committee
Who ya gonna call? Crane, McLean, and Le Conte!

But I wanted to also learn the birth and death dates for Crane and McLean. Turns out, they were prominent figures, too. William Crane, who worked as a lawyer, additionally served as mayor of Oakland. His term in office was cut short due to health problems, and he turned down an offer to run for California governor for the same reason. The Overland Monthly, one of the most important magazines in the western U.S. during the 1800s, ran a long obituary for him. Find-a-Grave confirms that Crane was born in 1830 and died in 1883, adding that he’s buried — well, look at that — in Mountain View Cemetery.

John Knox McLean, a Congregationalist pastor, was noteworthy enough to become the subject of a biography. He served on California’s State Board of Charities and Corrections along with its State Institution for the Deaf, Dumb and Blind. Those Congregationalists tend to be progressive folk, and in that tradition, McLean also advocated women’s rights with Susan B. Anthony, his close associate. Find-a-Grave confirms that he was born in 1834 and died in 1914, adding that he’s buriedyep! — in Mountain View Cemetery.

I don’t know. Is it funny that a committee formed to investigate a ghost would end up in the same graveyard? Odd funny more than ha-ha funny? Maybe not. Mountain View seems to be one of those cemeteries that people were just . . . must! resist! obvious! pun! . . . itching to get into. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, it’s the resting place of “author Frank Norris, artist Thomas Hill, architects Julia Morgan and Bernard Maybeck, captains of industry such as powerful railroad builder and banker Charles Crocker,” according to the cemetery’s website. Maybe it simply makes sense that illustrious Oakland residents such as Crane, McLean, and Le Conte would choose that place to be remembered.

You can read more about the three men’s jaunt to Spookyville here and find a list of other noteworthy ghost hunters from earlier centuries here.

— Tim



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