ESCONDIDO, CA—The ghosts of comedy legends Don Knotts and Richard Pryor were embroiled in a madcap misadventure Monday, which involved crooks, a missing diamond, and an old fixer-upper mansion haunted by the late actors.
The escapade, characterized by the ectoplasmic pair as "cockamamie" and "crazy-ass bullshit," began early last month, when the spirits of Knotts and Pryor separately took up residence at the old Mayweather place, a 20-room mansion that sits atop a hill on the edge of town. After a long and protracted episode in which the easily frightened ghosts circled the dining room, continually missing each other by a split-second, they finally came face-to-face, only to mutually scream in horror.
"I yelled out, 'A spook! A spook!'" the ghost of Knotts said. "And Richard said, 'Who you callin' a spook, honky?' So I said, 'But—but—but look at you, you're as pale as a ghost!' And Richard said, 'Now I'm pale? Make up your mind, whitey!'"
Knotts' ghost added: "It went on like that for a while, until I learned not to say things that Richard interpreted as racist."
Over the next several days, the unlikely duo were scared by such innocuous things as shadows cast by coatracks, a billowing curtain, and a mouse.
In mid-April, the Patterson family of Van Nuys, CA, moved into the Mayweather Mansion. Don Patterson, who had inherited the forgotten property from an eccentric and wealthy great-aunt, said that he thought it would be exciting to live in a big house, but soon regretted his decision to move when he saw its dilapidated condition.
"Ever since we moved into this crazy old shack, all kinds of fishy things have been happening," said Patterson, 47, a gruff, pragmatic certified public accountant. "Like the other day, I could have sworn I set a bucket of whitewash on the floor of the parlor, but when I opened the door, the dang thing spilled all over my head. But I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for all of this."
Besides their mischevious antics, the two specters have also had a positive impact. Besides helping Duncan, the bowl-cut-wearing 7-year-old son come out of his shell, they also devised a lighthearted scheme to help daughter Marley, 15, get on the high-school cheerleading squad.
And, most astonishingly, while the terrified Knotts was running from a raccoon through the house's walls, he stumbled upon a glittering, 150-carat stone: the famed Starbright Diamond.
"I tried to grab the diamond, but my hand just went through it," the Ghost of Pryor said. "A brother can't even get ahold of some bread when he's dead!"
Early Monday morning, accused serial burglars Hugo Gross and Bobby Lee Shively, who had the only map detailing the diamond's location, invaded the home to retrieve the precious jewel. Young Duncan happened upon the burglars and was bound and gagged. The Ghosts of Knotts and Pryor, who were awakened by Duncan's muffled screams, snuck up on the criminals and scared them into giving up the diamond.
"One fell right through that trapdoor the father kept forgetting about and falling through earlier, and another one backed up into a hot stove, among numerous other shenanigans," the Ghost of Knotts said.
Finally, a sagging piece of roof caved in and knocked the robbers unconscious, and Escondido police officers soon arrived and arrested them.
The Patterson family now owns the Starbright Diamond, and plans to use money from its sale to renovate the mansion. Yet Patterson refused to believe that ghosts were responsible for stopping the caper.
"I tell you, there's no such thing as ghosts," Patterson said. "And the idea of a dead African-American comedian influencing my behavior is absolutely ridiculous. Why, I probably acquired my new swagger and improved lovemaking abilities from watching the MTV with my daughter."
The Knotts and Pryor Ghosts said they will continue haunting the Mayweather Mansion, and plan to follow up the daffy caper with a sequel, unless their old comedy partners, Tim Conway and Gene Wilder, become ghosts themselves first.