VENTURA, CA HISTORY...AND WHO IS SYLVIA?          The Bella Maggiore Inn is located on California St. in Ventura, California. California St. was once a major thoroughfare back in those times and extends right down to the Pacific Ocean. The hotel itself is a Spanish Colonial Revival-variety style building and its rooms are furnished in Mediterranean casual. It is noted for its richly-carved caste-stone entrance and frieze.          The inn was built in 1925 and designed by famed architect Albert C. Martin, whose other works include the famed Grauman's Chinese Theater. The hotel was considered very high-end during the great oil boom of the 1920's. As years passed, the area came to be known as a favorite spot for furloughed sailors to unwind during World War II. Eventually as the servicemen came into town, the woman of "ill-repute" who frequented the Bella Maggiore in those days saw lonely men seeking some female "company" as a boon to their industry. The inn was converted to the lovely bed and breakfast the now exists sometime in the 1970s.          It was during the flop-house years though that a prostitute staying in Room 17 named Sylvia Michaels became involved in a romantic entanglement with one of her customers, a young sailor. The relationship - at least to Sylvia - was evolving to the point where she apparently saw a way out of her profession and into a solid, normal life with a solid, normal man. As these were times of war however, Sylvia would have to wait for her love to return from his tour of duty to begin their new life together.          When the war had finally ended and the men returned home, there was one notable absence - Sylvia's beau. As the days passed with no sign or word from him, Sylvia began to walk the piers of Venice searching for some signal of his return.          Then one day Sylvia received a message from the sailor. To her horror, it read he was in fact a married man and now would be returning to his wife. Sylvia was devastated by this news. Worse, she had discovered that she was now pregnant with the man's child, an event that would make her already disreputable life even more difficult. No one knows exactly what Sylvia's mind-set was at that point, but what happened next would appear both tragic and suspicious.          After not seeing or hearing from Sylvia for days, members of the staff went up to Room 17 to check on her whereabouts. At first seeing no one inside, they moved about the room before finally checking the closet (below). It was there that they made a gruesome discovery. Inside they found the lifeless body of Sylvia who had apparently hung herself.   THE HAUNTINGS OF SYLVIA          The management of the Bella Maggiore has followed the lead of many such "haunted" inns and encourages their guests to document their encounters with the ghost of Sylvia in a guestbook they leave in the hotel lobby. Some of the entries they leave behind seem to confirm the inescapable fact that Sylvia still calls the Bella Maggiore her home.          Room 17, where she plied her trade seems to be the hot spot with lights flickering at all hours in both the room and hallway (below) though no other rooms seem to have this problem. The ceiling fan has been known to not only turn itself on, but actually switch direction by itself. Perhaps a testament to her chosen profession, men's wallets have been known to vanish only to re-appear in a different place, indicating that Sylvia also seem to have a playful side to her.          Some guests, mostly males staying alone, have either felt a presence of someone getting into bed with them, the covers moving by themselves or a pressure being exerted on the mattress as if someone was sitting or pressing on it. Many men have also felt the sensation of having their rear ends pinched by the saucy Sylvia.          In at least two cases, it was a woman who felt Sylvia's presence in the room at night. One of those women had hurried back to her room after an argument with her husband over dinner at the hotel. After climbing into bed, she heard the door open and then close. Thinking it was her husband and still angry, she did not respond in any way. She then felt someone getting into bed with her and reported a cold chill came over her as she felt whoever it was getting under the covers. Now aroused, she was about to turn over to see what it was when she heard a key being placed in the door. In walked her husband who had apparently taken some time to cool off before coming upstairs. Needless to say, the wife was quite shaken by this turn of events.            Another woman staying in Room 17, aware of the happenings in the room she was staying, openly mocked Sylvia. Soon thereafter she felt a pair of icy hands around her throat, choking her. The door of the room has also been known to lock itself from the inside when guests leave for a brief time. In the bathroom, items have been known to move or float around by themselves.        The smell of rose perfume, possibly Sylvia's scent of choice, has played a huge role in the experiences that people have there. At times it manifests itself inside the room and eventually becomes so strong that it simply overwhelms its occupants. The same scent has also been experienced downstairs in the lobby area.          The lobby (below) also has had its share of strange events, such as the piano playing by itself with no one there and the sound of phantom footsteps and a woman crying.          At one point in time, it was decided that a séance should be held in an attempt to contact Sylvia. The medium told those present that she was in fact in contact with Sylvia who proclaimed to her that she in fact did not kill herself but was murdered. Legend says it was a Chief Petty Officer that did her in, strangling her in a fit of passion and then, fearing repercussions, decided to make the killing appear to a suicide.          The medium also said that Sylvia says she will remain at the inn until the Petty Officer returns in order to exact her revenge upon him.