22 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY october 26-november 1, 2023 www.montereycountyweekly.com Randall “Randy” Reinstedt, a Monterey Peninsula native who died on July 27 at the age of 88, is the undisputed king of local ghost stories, and it’s unlikely that anyone will dethrone him anytime soon, if ever. Since 1971, he has sold as many as 400,000 copies of 21 self-published book titles, many of which recount spooky stories of dozens of haunted locations in Monterey County and California. (The family lost count of exactly how many have sold, son Erick Reinstedt says.) The very first title from the family-owned company that he named Ghost Town Publications was Ghosts & Bandits of Old Monterey…Carmel and surrounding areas, is still sold today in local bookstores and tourist gift shops, along with other titles like Ghostly Tales and Mysterious Happenings of Old Monterey, Shipwrecks and Sea Monsters of California’s Central Coast, and Ghosts of the Big Sur Coast. They come from a man who never had a ghostly encounter himself and a full-time writer for whom writing didn’t come easy, according to his wife of 62 years, Debbie Reinstedt. What drove him to write anyway was a love of history and a desire to share the stories of the people he called “old timers,” longtime residents of Monterey County who either experienced some unexplainable ghostly phenomena or who knew well the history of the region. Reinstedt got his start as a writer wanting to make history come alive for the fourth-graders he taught at Patton School on the former Fort Ord, and that he did, by telling tantalizing tales that had students on the edge of their seats. He later sparked the curiosity of a generation of school children on the Monterey Peninsula with a history textbook written in a way that was accessible and fun. History, he thought, didn’t have to be boring. Reinstedt’s path to becoming the undisputed expert on local ghost lore started over a half century ago in the 1960s in the classroom, where he was tasked with teaching the fourth-graders California history, a required subject by the state. The textbooks provided to teachers at the time were “dry and boring,” Reinstedt would say later in newspaper interviews. It pained the history buff, inspired by his travels around the world leading tours, who thought there was a better way to spark students’ interest. Since you can’t tell the history of California without telling the history of Monterey, the state’s birthplace, Reinstedt regaled his students with stories he learned from those old timers he consulted. Stories of ghosts lurking inside Monterey’s adobes, shipwrecks and sea monsters off the shore, bandits and battles. The approach worked. Students sat at the edge of their seats listening to every word. “When you’ve got 30 to 35 kids and the bell rings for recess and they all want to stay and listen to a history lesson…that’s something,” he told the Pacific Grove/Pebble Beach Tribune in 1983. As he collected more stories, he began writing articles for Western magazines, his wife Debbie says. In 1970, he felt he could step away from 15 years of teaching to write full time, with Debbie’s full blessing and her income as teacher and later working for the Monterey Bay Teachers Association, where she still works after 35 years. “It was a hard decision to get out of teaching because he did an incredible job and he had a great relationship with the children,” she says. The next year he published Ghosts & Bandits. “It wasn’t any real drive to write ghost stories, it was just that so many people, reputable people, shared stories with him,” says Debbie. “He never had a ghostly encounter but the people he spoke with he had a great deal of respect for and he trusted in what they said.” Erick says his father never sensationalized the stories. “He met with people who had experienced something not of this world and he would listen,” he says. “My dad listened and he wrote it down and shared it the way it was told to him.” The Reinstedts self-published everything from the very beginning. “We cut and paste, that was when you would get [the print] in big sheets and you would have to decide what goes on the page and what doesn’t,” Debbie says. She downplays her role in the family business, but it’s clear she was by Reinstedt’s side every step of the way. She remembers they drove “up and down California” to interview people for his books and visit libraries for research. Erick, too, remembers as a child sitting with his dad and listening to the stories people shared. The writing itself did not come easily for Reinstedt. He wrote everything Ghost Story Master Randall “Randy” Reinstedt built a self-publishing empire on disguising history as spooky tales. By Pam Marino Randy Reinstedt published 21 books with stories gathered largely from interviews of people who had mysterious encounters. He covered “tales of the strange and unexplained—mixed with a smattering of local history,” according to one of his book introductions. Spooky Season Erick Reinstedt Reinstedt with his wife, Debbie Reinstedt, during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Son Erick Reinstedt and his family would visit from a safe distance. Daniel Dreifuss